Conservative Rhetoric Promotes Hate; Study Confirms

A study by the UCLA Chicano Research Studies Research Center indicates that conservative talk shows and talk radio shows cause social media reverberations that promote hate speech towards minorities, women, and basically anyone who isn’t a white male. The study summary is as follows:

This study analyzes how social networks that form around the hosts of commercial talk radio shows can propagate messages targeting vulnerable groups. Working with recorded broadcasts from five shows gathered over a six-week period, involving 102 scheduled guests and covering 88 topics, researchers determined hosts’ and guests’ ideological alignment on the topics discussed most frequently—including immigration and terrorism—through a content analysis of on-air statements and website content. The findings reveal that the hosts promoted an insular discourse that focused on, for example, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and pro-Tea Party positions and that this discourse found repetition and amplification through social media. Of the 21 guests who appeared more than once, media personalities (57 percent) and political figures (19 percent) accounted for 76 percent. Fox News accounted for nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of appearances by guests representing an organization. Political figures accounted for 27 percent of all guests, and the Republican Party and the Tea Party accounted for 93 percent and 89 percent, respectively, of all political figures appearing on the shows. Eighty-nine percent of the scheduled guests were white, and 81 percent were male.

A link to the study is provided here and is definitely worth a read if you have the time. It includes multiple graphs and schematics showing cross-references between different guests on the five different shows in the study (The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, The Glenn Beck Program, The Savage Nation, and The John and Ken Show), as well as general attitudes toward different social issues. Other conservative shows, including The O’Reilly Factor, are mentioned in the study but were not studied in-depth.

The following graph is very telling of the ideologies of the guests:

The conclusion of the study is very telling as well:

The data demonstrate the mutual referencing among a relatively small cluster of nodes that include hosts, guests, and other affiliated individuals and groups. The findings reveal that these individuals and groups were connected by certain ideological sentiments targeting vulnerable groups. For example, discussions around immigration and Islam were framed in oppositional and absolutist terms: immigrants as “illegal” and law breaking, and Islam as the context of terrorism.

If talk radio and social media sustain a social network, they do so within a narrow range of ideological positions reflected by the hosts and guests. What’s more, the predominance of guests that represent media organizations not only minimizes alternate voices but also facilitates the mass broadcast and echoing of the shared ideologies that are discussed on the air. What emerges is a discourse that remains insular rather than open and that finds alignment, repetition, and amplification through social media. This becomes even more significant in light of the fact that social networks, rather than search engines, increasingly becoming “gateways” to the Internet; in this scenario, network members are more likely to be directed to sites, and therefore connect with nodes, with similar points of view (Jones 2011, 127).

What is surprising about this insularity is the extent to which it is dominated by political figures and media personalities, and less so by issue-driven organizations, advocacy groups, and experts. The 28 political figures listed in table 9 account for 27 percent of all guests, and among them there is an almost complete overlap between Republican Party membership (93 percent) and Tea Party affiliation (89 percent). Among the 21 guests appearing two or more times, political figures (19 percent) and media personalities (57 percent) account for 76 percent of the total. There is also overlap between these two categories, with a number of former elected officials and candidates working as media commentators. In contrast, the frequency of pro-religion discussions and the number of representatives of religious organizations were relatively minimal on these talk shows. While we have focused on program hosts as the central nodes in this social network, Fox News plays a notable role with regard to the centrality of program hosts and guests. The data showed that Fox News accounted for 24 percent of the talk radio appearances by guests representing an organization (data from the program-based analysis) and 35 percent of the ties to the programs by way of Pamela Geller (data from the guest-based analysis). Further study can expand on the role of Fox News and other organizations identified in the program-based study with regard to the catalytic role of commercial talk radio in the development of social networks. Of particular interest to us is how biomedical research into physiological and psychological effects can provide indicators of the impact of hate speech targeting vulnerable groups as it circulates through social networks sustained by talk radio.

Conservatives listen to conservatives alone it seems, instead of thoroughly researching their opinions and knowing both sides of the argument. No wonder their talking points are so simple. Unfortunately, hate also breeds hate, and that is something that needs to be fixed.


Political Writer, Justin Acuff Please join me on Facebook, or visit my home site.You can also follow me on Twitter.