The not-so-surprising results of a study conducted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the polling firm Latino Decisions shows that what you watch on TV largely affects what you think.
Research was conducted in two parts. In the first part, 900 non-Latino Americans were asked about how they received their news and entertainment and what their thoughts were concerning immigrants and Latinos. The second part asked 3,000 non-Latinos to share their views on immigrants and Latinos after watching video clips, listening to audio, and reading articles about Latinos and immigrants.
Astonishingly, about 30 percent of the non-Latino respondents thought that at least half of all Latinos in America are here illegally.
Predictably, however, people who have little experience with Latinos in their daily lives possess more negative views toward Latinos; on the flip side, positive views toward Latinos and immigrants increased with a person’s experience with such groups.
TV and radio also play a huge role, but that’s more non-news than actual news. Americans who watch Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio hold more negative views toward Latinos and immigrants than people who watch MSNBC and listen to, say, NPR. Those who regularly consume conservative media are much more likely to think Latinos are largely undocumented, on welfare, and having too many kids.
People who watch Fox News or listen to talk radio are also twice as likely to believe Latinos are taking American jobs.
It’s a very strange time we’re in now. Where once news was unbiased and independent, today, major stations are muscled by big-business interests and appeal to audience members on the far ends of the political spectrum. CNN, widely recognized as the preeminent independent news station, has been steadily trailing its more partisan counterparts, Fox News and MSNBC, stations which cater to people with petrified political stances.
The news shouldn’t be balanced, of course, only disinterested. There are two sides to every debate, but that doesn’t mean there are two sides to every issue. If one party were to contend that the moon really is made of blue cheese, CNN shouldn’t report that the two parties simply disagree. The news should report truths as well as reveal untruths.
Oh, how satisfying it is to turn on the TV or tune to a radio station and hear someone saying things that are perfectly aligned with your own politics. It feels good to be told how good and clear your perception is on important issues of the day.
But if we only get our news from Fox News or MSNBC, we run the risk of confining ourselves to the infamous bubble, where no new facts or arguments penetrate, and our ability to think critically soon atrophies.
The late polemicist Christopher Hitchens, in offering advice to the new generation of Americans, wrote that “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” Well put, Hitch.
May we all remember the importance of loving the truth more than we love our own opinions.