Fascinating research on disinformation: who buys into it?

I’m a bit behind in my New Yorkers. Last night, I got to The September 14th issue, in which an article by Joshua Yaffa,”Believe It Or Not: How concerned should we be about online Russian manipulation?” grabbed my full attention.

After all, my book, How I Learned The Facts of Life, is about factual information versus fake information, i.e., disinformation. So I’m definitely going to read anything that pertains to my own subject matter.

Since I don’t watch Fox, the only way I hear what crap they’re passing off as “news” is via Twitter. But I didn’t know how Fox’s reach correlated with the behavior of its audience. Did Fox viewers not only believe what they were hearing but act on it?

So here’s the paragraph in Yaffa’s article that caused my mouth to drop open. I’ve highlighted a couple of sentences:

When it comes to COVID-19, the apparent result of the combined disinformation campaign of Trump and Fox News has been devastating. A working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research in May analyzed anonymous location data from millions of cell phones to show that residents of Zip Codes with higher Fox News viewership were less likely to follow stay-at-home orders. Another study, by economists at the University of Chicago and elsewhere, suggested a disparity in health outcomes between areas where Fox News viewers primarily tuned in to Tucker Carlson, who, among Fox hosts, spoke early and with relative urgency about the danger of COVID-19, and places where viewers preferred Sean Hannity, who spent weeks downplaying its severity. The economist found that, in March, viewership of Hannity over Carlson, in the locales they studied, was associated with a thirty-two-per-cent increase in infections, and a twenty-three-per-cent increase in COVID-19-related deaths.





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