“Each” is singular, you guys. The question in the poll whose results are pictured above should be “How credible is each of the following?” Informal polling finds me unpopular, still. But this formal poll from the Morning Consult brand-tracking company finds that, despite widespread abuse of the phrase “fake news,” most people still think mainstream news outlets are believable. Sixty-three percent of those polled, for example, rated The New York Times as “credible” or “very credible.” It’s kind of terrifying that a third of respondents don’t trust the longest-established journalistic institution in the United States, and the write-up suggests that this portion is larger than it has been historically. But the overall lesson to be taken from these admittedly months-old numbers is that President Trump’s gaslighting re: news has not succeeded in turning Americans against the media.
You may have noticed a more interesting nugget at the bottom of the chart, though. A combined 19 percent of poll respondents said Breitbart was a credible source for news. That’s only one point higher than the percentage of respondents who said the same thing about The Onion, an explicitly satirical venture trafficking in obviously made-up stories. The Onion beats InfoWars, which I thought was implicitly satirical until about 18 months ago. But Breitbart is a horse of a different color. It puts “news” right in its name, and its former executive chair is now the White House chief strategist. That this nominal news organization would enjoy the same credibility as The Onion is astounding, given its influence.
But here we encounter the misleading elements of polls, which are—dare I say it?—kind of fake news. You will notice that the “credible” and “not credible” numbers for these outlets don’t add up to 100 percent. The missing portion comprises people who have never heard of the outlet in question.
For instance, 42% of respondents said they had never heard of Breitbart, which is heartening. According to the crosstabs, 32% have never heard of The Onion, and another 15% said they had heard of it but had no opinion of its credibility. One presumes that a significant number of these respondents knew it it was satirical and therefore found the question of its credibility irrelevant. While we’re presuming stuff, the spike in The Onion’s credibility among 30- to 44-year-olds might be attributable to smartassery.
Anyway, The Onion and Breitbart may not be comparably trusted so much as comparably unknown. That, too, is terrifying, given the enormous popularity of one and the enormous shittiness of the other. But the larger epistemological point—that we should not take this poll to mean that people trust Breitbart about as much as they trust The Onion—holds up. Polls mislead. Also, 17% of the country has never heard of the Wall Street Journal. What a time to be alive.
Clint Sample, American hero
Probably you don’t even know this, because your state kowtows to the federal government, but last week was the deadline for state driver’s licenses to comply with Real ID requirements or stop being valid to board commercial aircraft. What’s Real ID? The Department of Homeland Security says it’s a system of standards to make state-issued identifications harder to forge. The Montana legislature says it’s an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights, which is the kind of argument that hasn’t been decided in favor of a state since, I dunno, Dredd Scott.
Nevertheless, the great state of Montana made it illegal to comply with Real ID in 2007. We also started making our driver’s licenses a little harder to fake, including the futuristic expedient of not printing everything on that clear top layer you can peel off with an X-acto knife. It’s almost as if Real ID were a good idea, and the problem was that it came from somebody else.
But the real problem, according to the legislature in 2007 and the governor and attorney general now, is privacy. The feds might use Real ID to gather information about our driver’s licenses, even though the DHS explicitly said it wouldn’t do that, and even though there’s no evidence it has. But that hasn’t stopped Governor Bullock and Attorney General Fox from declaring victory over Real ID in a press release after the DHS extended our deadline to comply by one year.
That’s a dubious kind of victory. It’s also a little unseemly for Montana’s executive branch to defy the federal government on this specious privacy issue when the DHS has been proven to invade our privacy in much more real and problematic ways. I don’t remember Bullock standing up to the feds when we learned that the NSA was collating our emails, texts, and phone records. You can read all about these contradictions in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’ll be here at my desk, watching the leaves fall gently on the unmarked van that’s been parked outside my house since Tuesday.
From “The Five” on Fox News channel yesterday
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before Congress regarding the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi. Initially reported as the outcome of a spontaneous demonstration and later revealed to be a terrorist plot, the attacks have been a black eye for the State Department and a cause celebré for Republicans. Romney made much of them in the late days of the presidential campaign, and the Tea Party caucus has seized on them as evidence that the Obama administration is soft on terror. If you don’t think Benghazi has become a partisan issue, I advice you to consider Fox News’s coverage of Clinton’s testimony, captured in the screen shot above.
Last chance to get married before queermos make it impossible to love
Maybe you’ve heard about it, but yesterday the President said that he believes gay people should be allowed to get married. It’s kind of a big deal. Obama is the first sitting President to come out in favor of gay marriage. The last one made a re-election strategy out of opposition to same, and whether it worked or not, yesterday’s announcement is likely to be a branding issue until November. The screencap above—from Fox News’s mad cousin, Fox Nation, which subsequently changed its headline—suggests the kind of discourse we can look forward to. So yeah—probably half the country will say infuriating things while the rest of us address the most pressing civil rights issue of our time.
We won, you guys. Glenn Beck announced yesterday that he will not renew his existing contract with Fox News, meaning that the network will stop airing The Glenn Beck Program and Old-Tyme Conspiracy Hour sometime between now and December. The news is startling but not surprising. Reports have swirled—swirled!—regarding Fox executives’ displeasure with Beck, whose show has lost 300 advertisers and 40% of its ratings share since the salad days of late 2009. It appears that the same principle applies to Fox viewership as applies to the nation: the more people know what Glenn Beck is talking about, the less they buy it. The bad news is that he may purchase his own cable channel—in order to, and I quote, “extract more value” from his fan base—but the interesting news is his and Roger Ailes’s mutual attempt to hide their contempt for each other. “I truly believe that America owes a lot to Roger Ailes and Fox News,” Beck said in a statement yesterday. Ailes quote and uncharitable analysis after the jump.