Fox News ratings speak for themselves: so what are smart people watching?

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We live in highly publicized political times, where networks, publications, blogs, podcasts, tweets and more feed us a daily stream of information revolving around the state of our country and its place in the world.

One such entity: Fox News, the bastion of Right-wing conservative media that has steadily increased its viewership and following since the early days of the G.W. Bush Presidency (what with all of its diplomatic controversy in dire need of positive spin in the public eye and all).

The “Fair and Balanced” network, ironically home to strictly-conservative-only pundits such as Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Dobbs, Ingraham, Morris and more recently Palin and Huckabee, enjoys overwhelming ratings for its nightly “news” programs when compared to competitor networks like CNN, MSNBC and CBS as well as American audiences of internationally-based BBC and Associated Press (AP).

recent ratings analysis by Media Bistro (and subsequently lauded by conservative blog – that oh-so-credible watchdog of media bias that simply ignores its own anti-progressive slant and abhorrence to history) shows how Fox is seemingly trampling the competition amongst American audiences, particularly in the political arena.

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But with the state of media and entertainment reflecting our educational mindset in this country being what it is, how reputable are high ratings? While I am not arguing against Fox’s ratings-dominance, I am also not surprised. Why? Because sometimes (most times) the loudest, most sensational voices, while disregarding reason and accountability, draw the biggest crowds.

Apparently, ignorance is power

Look, I am not discounting the “loudmouths” over in the Leftist camp, either. The difference is, though, who they are attempting to inform and empower. And, more importantly, how.

Consider this: Reality TV. Or, better yet, ridiculous, dramatized, stupefied TV – television programming that caters to lack of thought, lack of insight and lack of cultural understanding. You know the ones: The Bachelor. The Bachelorette. Jersey Shore. American Idol. America’s Next Top Model. So You Think You Can Dance. Dancing with the Stars. Harry Loves Lisa. The Hills. The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Keeping up with the Kardashians….

The list goes on and, sadly, represents a collection of ratings behemoths that time and time again crush competitive programming. But, why? Are the trumpet-scored trials and tribulations of the latestBachelorette more intellectually engrossing than a well-thought out, creative drama? Is the fist-pumping, hair-waxing, alcohol-induced sexual debauchery of MTV’s Jersey Shore crew more gratifying than a program that actually explores and celebrates musical achievements in the 21st century? Are The Real Housewives of New Jersey that fucking interesting?

Or is mind-numbing media just a hell of a lot easier to absorb in mass quantities than actual intelligence?

If high ratings are supposedly a tell-all on the mindset of the American masses, as Fox and its cohorts would have us believe, what are they saying about America in general? Is there really some sort of value (beyond brainless entertainment) to these programs that hit the top of the charts, or are scores of American households simply mindlessly tuning into whatever sensational, outlandish crap is coming on next?

The “cast of characters” dominating the ratings over at Fox News are perhaps the absolute epitome of modern day sensationalism rather than actual credible journalism – to the point where the line between entertainment and ethics is completely obliterated. Fox Newsknows this, and it uses it – well.

Households across the country are not tuning in to Fox to be informed or enlightened, they tune in to be fed a daily dose of entertainment hysteria almost as scandalous as Snooki’s mugshot photo. It’s just more fun this way – easier to understand since the pundit on screen does all the talking, thinking, rationalizing, judging, criticizing and convicting for you. And, for a large majority of the country, their opinion just happens to match yours.

Pandering to a majority base

And what opinions are those? Fox News loves to tout how it is “in tune” with the “American people”. Only, they forget to mention exactly which American people.

With racism, sexual discrimination and religious intolerance still widely rampant in this country, it is easy to see not only why Fox’s numbers are so high, but also why they do/say/imply the things that they do.

Fox, like most news media networks these days, is a business before anything else. And businesses like to make money. So it only makes sense that they would tailor their narrative to cater to the largest majority in each population sector: Race? White. Religion? Christian. Education? High school at best. Had these demographics been different, in a separate alternate reality somewhere, Fox would have an entirely different agenda – because high ratings means fat wallets. But in this reality, Fox is making a killing playing off the country’s own hate, prejudice, ignorance and perhaps worst of all, apathy.

They and their contributors often speak of the country’s urban centers like New York, Boston and San Francisco as well as educational institutions like Harvard University as being “elitist” and “out of touch” with regard to the American people. Ironically, however, the education statistics and cultural diversity of such urban centers as well as the historical, intellectual significance of some of the country’s most renowned higher education institutions positively display true Americanism; the pursuit of knowledge and the creation of a better society through progressive thought and rational discourse.

And rational discourse is not something often seen on Fox News.

From Glenn Beck’s almost incoherent conspiracy theories and violent, call-to-arms propaganda against some make-believe “liberal agenda”, Sean Hannity’s continual appeasement of anything and everything Republican, Lou Dobb’s incredibly hypocritical and largely uninformed stance on immigration and “birtherism”, Sarah Palin’s ludicrous assertions of the country’s founding as a Christian nation and determination to undermine scientific knowledge and advancement, you can easily pinpoint the message Fox News is subliminally broadcasting to a sub-nation of non-intellect: Simple. Stupid.

Fox builds its numbers by simply agreeing, distorting, promoting and in turn strengthening the very uninformed sentiments that are unfortunately running rampant in the country (this month’s midterm elections are a perfect example).

Fox’s rhetoric, from headlines to Twitter updates, is anything but “fair and balanced”. Instead, it is a one-sided dichotomy of the easily-manipulated mindset of a nation off its rocker – and the ratings agree.

– Joe Ascanio, | Twitter | Facebook