Editor’s Note: A survey of habitual Fox News viewers by Fairleigh Dickinson University revealed that they become poorly informed about current events. But mere statistics fail to reveal the causes of this effect. Does habitual Foxwatching, for example, trigger some kind of brain trauma or cellular loss akin to Alzheimer’s disease? Or is the damage emotional and psychological, like PTSD? To study the Foxification Effect, we commissioned Marvin Kitman, a professional television critic who covered the box for thirty-five years at Newsday, to serve as a guinea pig in an experiment.
The terms were these: the subject would go on a strict Fox News diet for two weeks and record its effects on him. At the end of the experiment, he would submit a report of his experience and his conclusions about how Fox News achieves the effects it has had on the millions of unfortunate Americans who make up its devoted audience. His study would then be sealed in a time capsule for six months, after which it would be published here. This way we could test the accuracy of the network pundits.
We can report that Kitman apparently suffered no permanent damage from his ordeal, though we continue to monitor his case. You can’t be too cautious about these experiments. Recall the filmmaker in the documentary Super Size Me, who ate only McDonald’s meals for thirty days. He ended up overweight and with heart palpitations. Or the heroic doctors in Dr. Walter Reed’s experiment (shown in the movie Yellow Jack), who let themselves be bitten to prove that mosquitoes were the carriers of yellow fever. They ended up dead.
Herewith, the relevant excerpts from Marvin Kitman’s Fox News Diary.
On Monday, September 12, at 5 o’clock, Fox News’s rating was increased by one. My first reaction: where the hell is Glenn Beck? I was actually looking forward to seeing this journalist who I had been hearing was out there where the buses don’t run. But he was gone.
It was widely reported that Beck was fired by Roger Ailes for being too extreme, or what we progressives commonly call “all that right-wing crap.” All that right-wing crap has been replaced by a news show called The Five, which consists of five people sitting around a table talking simultaneously. What the Fab Five was talking about, I was to discover as the week wore on, were the highlights of the right-wing crap:
§ There is a liberal mob in control of the Senate and the White House trying to force things down our throats, like jobs.
§ The Republicans have been prevented from fixing the nojobsjobsjobs situation by the Democrats, who appeared to have invented over-regulation and over-taxation. Furthermore, the president’s jobsjobsjobs bill is appalling.
§ They discussed Michele Bachman’s stategy in the coming GOP debate on CNN, and shrewdly concluded that most viewers would be watching Monday Night Football.
I think that’s what they were saying. With five people all yelling at the same time, it was hard to understand them. Five newspeople all arguing might not work as communication, but it is the closest I’ve seen to a real libertarian news show.