Facts v. Fox

The continued problem cause by a lack of shared reality.

Quinta Jurecic has an accurate, if depressing, column in the NYT:  Robert Mueller Is No Match for Fox News.

The basic issue:

The story is steadily worsening for the president. But there’s an alternate story taking hold as well, or perhaps many alternate stories. Mr. Corsi has spent several weeks complaining that Mr. Mueller’s investigators attempted to force him into a false confession — a version of events picked up by pro-Trump voices such as the Fox News host Tucker Carlson. The president has likewise taken to accusing the Mueller team on Twitter of “horribly threatening” people and “ruining lives for them refusing to lie,” comments that might stem from information provided to him by Mr. Manafort.

On the facts, there are a series of seriously problematic actions from a panoply of persons directly associated with Trump which should already raise questions of whether Trump should be allowed to finish his term.

I will say that anyone who takes Corsi seriously has questionable judgment.

The bottom line on Fox News: it is infotainment-oriented programming (which is most of what they air) is oriented very directly to entertaining pro-Trump viewers.  A major problem we have, in general is that too many people do not differentiate between news/journalists and opinion/commentators.  Worse, cable news in general is predominantly about entertainment, not about informing the public.  Fox News is especially in this category for most of its programming day.*

Moreover, I would note that beyond those who are paying attention, whether it be to facts or alternative facts, the reality is that the vast number of citizens are only paying peripheral attention (at best).  They will be guided (if they have a firm opinion) by their partisans leanings, since those serve as a proxy for evidence and knowledge.  This is not unusual, and is how most people form opinions about government, especially in terms of voting.

Beyond that, the whole thing is sufficiently complicated that if one is so inclined, one can just dismiss the whole thing (despite the rather remarkable number of guilty pleas and indictments that have already been filed).

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*I am familiar with FNC’s general lineup because of past viewing coupled with ongoing family-based exposure and the fact that the faculty/staff dining hall at my place of employment has one TV on FNC and one on CNN (both silent with closed-captioning on).  I am in that room almost daily and there is a distinct contrast at times between the two channels (FNC is far more focused on talking heads and commenters during the 11-2 period–the range during which I might eat lunch on a given day).

FNC’s primetime lineup is especially infotainment heavy (not that MSNBC’s and CNN’s isn’t).  In general, I do not think that cable news, with its panoply of talking heads, is really the best way to acquire news. I would recommend newspapers, various NPR programming, and even podcasts over cable news.  In general, I think that we, as a country, need to be more self-conscious about separating journalists from commentators (and then paying attention to actual experts v. partisans).

I would note:  I am not opposed to the notion that there might be a more conservative approach to the news (editorial choices and the sympathy of participants can certainly matter).  The problem with FNC, in my opinion, is that it is clearly focused on an outrage-generating business model (and has for some time, along the lines of a talk radio approach to news).  Further, it has become too cozy with this administration (see, e.g., “Fox and Friends” and Sean Hannity) in way that simply cannot be described as journalistic in any way, shape, or form.

I will acknowledge that there are journalists at FNC–it is just that journalism is not the channel’s main focus.  I also acknowledge there is plenty of liberal outrage-generating programming elsewhere on TV.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Media, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Yeah, Fox has a knack for grabbing things that are largely irrelevant (the “Baby it’s cold outside” song stuff, infestations by gypsy’s) and banging on them until their viewers think there’s a real controversy that is sweeping the nation.

    I concluded long ago that Fox mostly exists to make people stupid. It seems to be succeeding.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    It’s a truism that ratings are everything, but not all viewers are equal to advertisers. If Fox News has, say, 2M viewers evenly distributed across the population, it’s a modestly successful enterprise. But if those 2M viewers are highly desired by a particular type of advertiser, then they are worth much more. Fox’s target market are people that are gullible and easily driven to worry. A couple of times it has been playing silently on one of the screens where I was eating and I kept track of the ads. They had a really high proportion of supplements and expensive prescription drugs for a variety of ailments. I even saw a couple for gold scams.

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  3. @MarkedMan: Every day I look up from lunch to see some ancient celebrity pitching a dubious financial product, including gold, to the FNC audience.

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  4. Kylopod says:

    see, e.g., “Fox and Friends” and Sean Humanity

    Please tell me you didn’t type this entire post on an iPad.

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  5. Teve says:

    The average age of a foxnews viewer is embalmed.

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  6. @Kylopod: To which I can only say: “Oh, the humanity!”

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  7. Guarneri says:

    I anxiously await your essay on CNN, or MSNBC, or NBC, or the WaPo……….and their truthfulness/bias. But I won’t hold my breath as that might be fatal. All have played fast and loose. What you miss/avoid is that certain Fox shows are chaired by unabashed opinionists. Hannity, Ingraham, or Carlson. Yet you don’t acknowledge that, or deal with their honesty. Those I cite are so delusional they claim to be straight news. I refuse to believe you are so stupid as to concur. If you do not, you are past being salvageable or credible.

    Further, you conveniently forget to mention that even the opinionists bring strongly opposing views on as thei

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  8. @Guarneri: You didn’t read the whole post before commenting.

    And while I know you won’t like this: the fact of the matter is that Fox News is the problem. It creates its own ecosystem and it clearly is uncritical of the president in several key examples (i.e., Fox and Friends and Hannity). Carlson is an utter hack.

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  9. And I will tell you as well, while there are some true experts appearing as talking heads on TV, most of what we are given are just paid to talk, whether they are in opposition or not.

    The most important element for being on TV is availability far more than expertise.

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  10. guarneri says:

    As their guests. Routinely. Perhaps more importantly, when, given the issues of the day, you discount the views of the Turleys or Dershowitzs of the world who appear on the network you identify yourself as someone who simply doesn’t want to hear opposing views.

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  11. @guarneri: Turley and Derschowitz are actual experts in their realms. Dershowitz doesn’t always stay in that lane, however.

    But yes, I still discount quite a bit of it because one can only say so much of significance in faux debate in a couple of minutes.

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  12. Guarneri says:

    Actually, Dr Taylor, I’m ready to hear anything. But I find this blog site in particular to be comprised of closed minded individuals.

    I don’t really traffic the cable sites that much. I’m just a surfing jockey. They aren’t that satisfying. But the focus here on Fox is revealing. Including your comment on Carlson. Please, all the other sources have same.

    This all really started here in earnest after the 16 election. That tells one something. Trump surely deserves all kinds of criticism. But the incessant and often petty stuff diminishes this blog site. Every pol and every president deserves criticism.

    You guys have diminished your brand every bit as much as those you criticize.

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  13. Guarneri says:

    I agree, there is only so much an expert can say in a few minutes. But my observation is that CNN and MSNBC in particular only bring in the red meat critics. If I listened to them I’d believe Trump and republicans are racist, criminal goons. Much like your commenters do.

    But back in the real world the two I cited bring a level of sanity to the legal commentary I simply do not see elsewhere. Elsewhere It’s all crazed Trump-is-the- devil crap. You, or I, may disagree with his character or his policy, but the invective spewed simply makes commentators look like buffoons.

    I wish this once go to site still had a level of evenhandedness making it worthy.

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  14. Guarneri says:

    BTW. Stay in the lane??? Does that mean agree with you?

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  15. @Guarneri:

    BTW. Stay in the lane??? Does that mean agree with you?

    No, I mean that a lot of what he talks about, in my experience, is not as a expert, but simply his opinion about any number of things.

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  16. @Guarneri:

    Including your comment on Carlson.

    Do you have a cogent defense of Carlson? I find him to be an utter hack and a promoter of white supremacy.

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  17. @Guarneri:

    But my observation is that CNN and MSNBC in particular only bring in the red meat critics

    You mean like Rick Santorum?

    I honestly cannot comment on MSNBC.

    I do concur that all the cable networks have a ton of infotainment.

    But the incessant and often petty stuff diminishes this blog site.

    For example?

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  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: When you ever demonstrate that you are interested in truth rather than in hearing whatever floats your boat, then I might listen to your complaints. But none of your comments have ever indicated you are more interested in what is reality rather than whatever panders to your ego.

    Very much like Trump, in that regard.

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  19. Tyrell says:

    May I get into this tag-team match?
    I will not repeat my usual soapbox, fire and brimstone, Baptist revival tent sermons about the sorry state of today’s news media with its obsession of sleaze and gossip compared with past years of reporters who were professional and respected.
    The news media today is wrapped up far too much in politics and is controlled; probably by large corporations and political activist organizations.
    There should be some sort of service that gives ratings of news networks and their people according to how political they are and how slanted they are.
    Three of the tv news top professionals of the past have recently spoken out on the politicization and polarization of today’s news: Ted Koppel, Ted Turner, and Larry King (King of talk news).
    CNN advertises “Facts First” They should be ashamed.
    “There is no news anymore” Larry King

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  20. Kylopod says:

    @Guarneri:

    But I find this blog site in particular to be comprised of closed minded individuals.

    What a spectacular case of projection. From what I’ve seen, you never engage with anyone here; you never attempt to have any genuine back-and-forth conversation with the people here. All you ever do is (a) drop snarky arguments implying the other side is so totally ridiculous as to be unworthy of serious discussion (b) whenever anyone offers concrete rebuttals to your comments, you completely ignore them and flee the thread.

    That behavior is the very definition of being “close-minded.” Likewise, our offering concrete rebuttals to your arguments is the very opposite of close-minded behavior. It shows we’re at least making an attempt to listen to what you’re saying.

    The only reason you see us as close-minded is because you’re so absolutely certain of the truth of your beliefs that you think the only reason anyone would dare disagree is that they’re closed to the obvious truth of your views.

    That’s one of the weird effects of being dogmatic: the dogmatist never sees his own beliefs as “dogma”; it’s those apostates who are consumed by “dogma,” because why else would they fail to accept the simple, plain truth?

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  21. wr says:

    @Guarneri: “I wish this once go to site still had a level of evenhandedness making it worthy.”

    I agree this once go to site is no longer worthy of you. I heartily encourage you to fuck off and find a site that equals your level of wisdom. I think Fox and Friends may be a little too intellectual for you, but maybe give them a shot.

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  22. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “Three of the tv news top professionals of the past have recently spoken out on the politicization and polarization of today’s news: Ted Koppel, Ted Turner, and Larry King (King of talk news).”

    And yet, when they were active in the news media both Koppel and Turner were routinely accused by Republicans of being hardcore lefties. I don’t know that anyone ever bothered to accuse Larry King of anything, aside from tedium. But these people you now worship as fair-minded arbiters of honest journalism — including Conkrite, by the way — were generally considered left of Mao by, well, people exactly like you. (Or the role you’re playing, whatever.)

    “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” That’s from Robert Towne. You can add it to your quote file.

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  23. SenyorDave says:

    @wr: @wr: @wr: But these people you now worship as fair-minded arbiters of honest journalism — including Conkrite, by the way — were generally considered left of Mao by, well, people exactly like you.

    Thank you for reminding everyone of this fact. It is similar to when conservatives today start lauding Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1966, two-thirds of Americans had an unfavorable view of King. I think its safe to say that almost all his support came from blacks and liberals.

    BTW, it cannot be said often enough that Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist. You can flip him on almost every night and hear him screeching about POC being the ruin of this country.

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  24. liberal capitalist says:

    @Guarneri:

    But I find this blog site in particular to be comprised of closed minded individuals.

    Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

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  25. Mister Bluster says:

    @wr:..God damn Florsheim shoe

    (I say that every time I sneeze)

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  26. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @guarneri:

    you discount the views of the Turleys or Dershowitzs of the world who appear on the network you identify yourself as someone who simply doesn’t want to hear opposing views.

    Turley and Dershowitz only appears on Fox to say what their viewers want them to say. This type of predictability is a huge problem in CNN and MSNBC, but Fox seems to be a even larger problem on this department.

    In fact, part of the problem is that if you want both sides in the end you’ll have mostly hacks from both sides.

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  27. One American says:

    @Robert Prather: Kinda like CNN?
    Disclaimer:I read my news

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  28. One American says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Really you believe that Tucker is all that? Sad

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  29. Kylopod says:

    @One American:

    Disclaimer:I read my news

    Where?

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  30. @One American: If you do not see it, that is what is sad.

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  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “The most important element for being on TV is availability far more than expertise.”

    One would think that Guarnari might be on TV 24/7 under these circumstances. Perhaps he spends too much time posting here and needs to broaden his appeal and celebrity quotient.

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  32. One American says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: If you say so I guess. Being a “hack” and white supremacy is the latest outrage? Actually I’m not sad at all.
    Have a great week!
    Kylopod – on the internet of course, it must be true!

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  33. @One American: So, you think being a white supremacist isn’t outrageous?

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  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think I understand @Guarneri’s problem. He’s aging and not working. Many years ago he was a guy on Dave Schuler’s site who took the conservative POV but was still in contact with reality. Since then it’s been rather like watching my in-laws, one with end-stage COPD and the other with advancing dementia. They become more and more irrational, are less and less capable of making sense and understanding the world around them. Understandably. Age affects different people in different ways. I have an ex-girlfriend whose father – a retired full bird Marine colonel no less – gave millions to a Nigerian prince. Not kidding.

    The FNC model is to fleece aging suckers. As pointed out above, their advertisers are largely companies that prey on the elderly. The Nigerian princes of commerce, so to speak. Older people become easily confused, and that confusion, and a vague awareness of their own failing abilities, plus a desperate need to stay relevant, leave many elderly, especially those who have lived unexamined lives, unprepared for their future, even panicky. Fear grows anger, anger subverts reason, growing more fear and more anger. Angry old men = FNC profit.

    Age affects us all, but in this case the effect has been dramatic. @Guarneri really wasn’t an idiot ten years ago. Really. He was often wrong, but he wasn’t what he is now. This in my experience is what happens when people get older and stop working. Retirement sounds like a great idea, but by the time it rolls around people have shaped their minds around their work. They have no skills for surviving idleness. Work was the discipline that kept them functional, and without it they just start to decay.

    I’ll be the first to say that this is true of me. I have no idea what I’d do with my day if I didn’t have work. It’s like suggesting I become voluntarily crippled. It’s a form of superficially attractive self-harm. Intellectual auto-castration. I don’t get the attraction, I never have. Man is meant to work, and lacking work you get, well, everything from meth addiction to early senility to Fox News viewing. Sad.

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  35. Blue Galangal says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t know if you’ve run across this article, but there is a study by Yale researchers that supports your hypothesis. There is a reason Fox News runs fear-inciting chyrons 24-7. There is a reason the conservatainment industry works so hard to scare people At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

    …before they answered the survey questions, we had them engage in an intense imagination exercise. They were asked to close their eyes and richly imagine being visited by a genie who granted them a superpower. For half of our participants, this superpower was to be able to fly, under one’s own power. For the other half, it was to be completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

    If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.

    But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. …

    All of us believe that our social and political attitudes are based on good reasons and reflect our important values. But we also need to recognize how much they can be influenced subconsciously by our most basic, powerful motivations for safety and survival. Politicians on both sides of the aisle know this already and attempt to manipulate our votes and party allegiances by appealing to these potent feelings of fear and of safety.

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  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Blue Galangal:
    Cool study, thanks. Yep, fear and conservatism are much the same thing.

    Now, what’s odd is that older people become so fearful. I mean we’ve had many years – 64 in my case – to get used to the idea that sooner or later we would physically weaken, become more vulnerable, more needy. And at one level, why should we be fearful given that by this age we’ve probably reproduced which is all nature asked of us? We are protecting an asset of steeply declining value – our aging bodies. Surely if we were rational we’d be most careful in youth as we have not yet reproduced or supported a child, while in old age we’re rather less necessary to the human race and can take risks.

    Of course that’s one of the realities that subvert the minds of the elderly – they (we) know, whether we admit it or not, that we are essentially one massive sunk cost. We know we aren’t having more babies, we know we aren’t going to be on the front lines of the next war, we know we aren’t going to be setting trends, so we tell ourselves that we still have one great asset: a mind full of wisdom and experience. Unfortunately, age doesn’t make you wise, it just makes you old. Maybe you were wise, most likely not, but wrinkles don’t add value to arguments.

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  37. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @guarneri:

    Dershowitzs

    Yes…by all means…let’s talk about the credibly-accused child molester..

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  38. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “I think I understand @Guarneri’s problem. He’s aging and not working.”

    Not working? I thought he spent all his days buying and selling global mega-corporations and then buying them back and reselling them.

    You mean that’s not true?

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  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The problem with engaging with 1 American is they are not coherent. So you are kind of forced to interpret what they are saying and respond to your interpretation. But is it really worth engaging on those terms?

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  40. @MarkedMan: Some things require underscoring.

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  41. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ve discovered that as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten less sympathetic to people who complain about how lousy their lives are. Maybe it’s because I’ve tried to help a few of them and, well, no matter how much I helped them they still failed to get off the ground.

    At some point you really have to shrug your shoulders and say “this is your own responsibility.” They’ll probably continue to find excuses by being in “the most oppressed group in America”, but the only thing I can see is that self-pity is a hell of a drug.

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  42. Michael Reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Maybe it’s because I’ve tried to help a few of them and, well, no matter how much I helped them they still failed to get off the ground.

    I/we have had the same experience. I got an early preview when I was sixteen and acting as rent collector for my slumlord grandfather in Long Beach, CA along with my ne’er do well uncle by marriage. This nice lady came looking for an apartment, and she had kids. So we tried to dissuade her – not a great neighborhood, lousy school, junkies, and at least one pervert that we knew about. In fact we went so far as to find her a nice apartment in Glendale (it was nicer then) but she would not be dissuaded.

    I’ve had that same kind of experience many times. The depressing fact is that most people don’t have the wherewithal to escape their predicament even when you hand them a ladder.

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  43. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: One of my friends has been marinating himself in self-pity for so long that I think it’s physically changed his brain. He’s gone from hard left to hard right, and every single conversation now is a litany of all the things that have gone wrong and are going wrong in his life. He’s not even as old as I am, but the only thing I ever hear from him now is how his life is ruined and he can’t look forwards to anything.

    At some point I just have to shrug my shoulders and let him wallow in his misery. I’ve cut back on conversation with him and am now insisting that we’re only going to talk about stuff I can help him with (financial planning, mainly.)

    (Self-pity is indeed a hell of a drug. Doesn’t cost anything, is immediately available, very addictive, and something that will trash your life just as much as meth or heroin.)

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  44. KM says:

    This in my experience is what happens when people get older and stop working. Retirement sounds like a great idea, but by the time it rolls around people have shaped their minds around their work. They have no skills for surviving idleness. Work was the discipline that kept them functional, and without it they just start to decay.

    Amen to this. My parents and most of my aunts and uncles have retired and it’s *really* affecting them badly. My mother in particular has gone down hill rapidly because she has no set schedule now and nothing to really anchor her to the world. She often has no idea what day of the week it is and maybe leaves the house once a week. She watches the same TV schedule religiously and her mind is suffering for it after a decade of retirement. This was a woman who was a well-respected nurse with a fantastic career, several publications and accolades to her name. Her skills are all gone now – I had to show her how to start an IV recently and I learned it from her! She’s not even 70 yet. Thank god she’s not a Foxbot though – I made damn sure that channel isn’t in the house and taught her how to use the internet to look up sources. She’s the only one of her siblings to escape that fate sadly as the other retirees have gone full Trumpkin.

    Retirement is the death knell for intelligence and skills. We are creatures of work and habit – take that away and the mind rots. Even if you need or want to work for pay, go do *something* that gets you out and on someone else’s schedule. Every single centenarian has stated the key to a long, fulfilling life is to do have a purpose. Without it, we die by degrees.

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  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM:
    I’m beginning to think some of my many idiocies were long-term clever. Because I have a genius for pissing money away, I still have to work when a more reasonable fellow would be living off interest and royalties. And my pathological refusal to have age peers (some call them ‘friends’) means my human contacts are with my wife, kids, and a bunch of teenagers, so my ‘world’ skews young. I don’t have some bunch of old fuds to play golf with. (Also, I don’t golf.)

    It’s like the notion that sooner or later every out-of-date fashion comes back around and becomes hip – sometimes the stupid sht you do ends up being clever, later. I’m still waiting on proof that physical laziness, cigars, booze, pot, red meat and TV watching are all good for you.

    I am buried under work, and I bitch about it – it’s de rigueur – but having no work would scare hell out of me.

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  46. Grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I remember my mother telling my father she didn’t mind if he took early retirement if he really wanted to—but that she would insist on him getting out of the house for at least 8 hours a day. (Unfortunately both of them died young so the question never really came to fruition.)

    I may “retire” soon, but that’s only in order to start a new career.

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  47. just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I see your point but offer an alternative. It could be that he’s simply “upping” his troll game, if you will. I’ve never known him anywhere but here, and it seems that, as has become common with conservatives, he seems to need to find new more… impactful/stinging/outrageous things in order to keep his schtick fresh. And just like Limbaugh, Imus, and Howard Stern before him, he’s now left with only incredibly stupid crap to feed his ego and relentless need to stay on “the cutting edge.”

    It’s part of my suggestion above that he consider upping his celebrity quotient. As the panel talking head that sources from Zero Hedge, he’d never need anything original to say and might even eventually get a cut from Goldline. It has potential. He NEEDS to consider it.

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  48. Blue Galangal says:

    @Michael Reynolds: For some reason, this cracked me right up. I chuckled for about 3 minutes. Thanks for that.

    I don’t have some bunch of old fuds to play golf with. (Also, I don’t golf.)

    I’ve recently changed positions to one that has a much more reasonable workload expectation (~50 hrs/wk instead of ~70) and I’m having what I suspect is adrenaline withdrawal. Who knew a 40 hr work week would be like a vacation?

    I think the main reason I have always looked forward to the concept of “retirement” is to have time to do all the things I love to do (starting with buying another loom, since I had to let mine go several years ago), but this position switch has been a jolt of reality. If/when I do retire (I’m in a state teachers’ system and I have no idea what Ohio’s going to do to it), I’m going to have to be a lot more proactive with my schedule and my time; the benefit of 70 hrs a week lurching from fire to fire and emergency deadline to emergency deadline was that I never really had to plan how to fill my workday and I was brain dead at night. Now I have to be precise about planning my activities and I have the luxury of real deadlines, not constant brush fires, so I can see that in retirement, whoosh – those days/weeks/months would rapidly get away from a person, because they’re getting away from me now.

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  49. grumpy realist says:

    The one major benefit I can see of retiring is to finally be able to get a dog.

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  50. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    No, I mean that a lot of what he talks about, in my experience, is not as a expert, but simply his opinion about any number of things.

    This. And it’s a problem on both sides of this equation.

    Tom Nichols on his book tour talked about how he made the decision to *stop* speaking on topics he wasn’t an expert and how bookers for talking heads news programs could not fathom that decision.

    The reality is that the “fast turnaround, feed the beast” nature of these programs means that booker will, more often then not, pursue people who are known commodities regardless of the topic expertise over finding new experts.

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  51. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Now, what’s odd is that older people become so fearful. I mean we’ve had many years – 64 in my case – to get used to the idea that sooner or later we would physically weaken, become more vulnerable, more needy. And at one level, why should we be fearful given that by this age we’ve probably reproduced which is all nature asked of us?

    Interesting question. The follow up to ask is: have they done something they consider worthwhile with their lives? From what you write about yourself, you’ve had an interesting and productive life, and you’re still productive. Perhaps you have few regrets (the next person without regrets will be the first), and don’t look back and think you were wasteful with your life.

    What about other people? People who have nothing to show for decades of work but a modest retirement and declining health? They may fear they’ve wasted their lives, death is fast approaching, and they won’t ever amount to anything. I can see not just fear, but willful cruelty towards others as a result.

    Justa a thought.

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  52. One American says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I haven’t spent 5 minutes of my life thinking about that subject until this post. I have better things to do. Peace

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  53. @One American: And therein lies a problem.

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  54. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    OK, but if they feel they’ve wasted their lives, surely they don’t imagine they’ll turn that around in old age. If you’re a retired plumber, 70 years old, and you’ve decided your life was a waste (there’s a bad joke waiting to happen) why would you be thinking, “I’d better cling to this with all my might!”

    The stupid thing is that people fear the thing they should not – death, and don’t fear what they maybe should – staying alive when life is a misery. By definition we cannot experience death, we can only experience its approach. What’s awful isn’t death, but suffering and death absolutely ends suffering.

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  55. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    OK, but if they feel they’ve wasted their lives, surely they don’t imagine they’ll turn that around in old age.

    No. But much of human activity is directed towards feeling good. Often the strength with which people cling to beliefs or ideologies is not for what they can accomplish, or what they do for them, or the rightness or justice of it, but how it makes them feel.

    One thing Rand got right is that rationality is optional. Or rather the exercise of one’s reason to all aspects of one’s life is optional. If you begin with conclusions and won’t question your assumptions, you end up merely rationalizing your beliefs. That’s why you see so much bad logic among various types of conservatives.

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  56. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: This isn’t a critique of your conversation with 1 American, but rather speculative curiosity. This latest post makes me suspect even more that 1 American is a bot. Note that it doesn’t really reference what you said but rather talks about “that subject”. You know all those annoying bot-posts that start (roughly): “I would just like to thank you for your very interesting post on this topic which is very important to me”? Well 1 American seems to be a negative rather than positive version of that.

    Perhaps they are a real person, because sometimes they do seem to reply to something specific (speculation about their time zone, for example) but more often it is meaningless replies like this. They rarely state anything that can be cogently tied to a specific predicate post. Rather, vague generalizations with some random buzzwords. This draws people in to respond, not to what was said, because what was said is content free. “Semantically Null” in the (future) words of the great Salvor Hardin. Instead, we respond to what the buzzwords make us think they said.

    Are bots this… sophisticated? (I’m not sure that’s the right word. I haven’t really read up on them for the past few years other than the Pew Interest piece this past April, in which they estimated that two thirds of tweets that link to websites are generated by bots. Given those numbers it seems at least plausible that some of the traffic in comments section are bots. After all we know that posts like the one I mentioned above are generated by bots, albeit for commercial reasons (Once a “poster” is on the approved list, they will then post something like “I can’t believe how much money I made by…” followed by a link to a scam.) It certainly seems likely that at least some of these are done just to tweak the commenters in the age old trollish tradition.

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  57. @MarkedMan: To be honest, the thought had occurred to me. However, there is usually sufficient specificity that if this commenter is a bot, then bots are more sophisticated that I assumed was the case.

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  58. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan & @Steven L. Taylor:
    In terms of a pure textual analysis, there’s an outside possibility that OneAmerican is a hybrid account — one that is sometimes a bot and sometimes a human. In the past she(?) has participated in back and forth conversations involving personal history, that have way too much internal coherence to be a standard bot (i.e. back chaining references).

    However, her more recent posts are far more untethered from the subject matter and not much more than right wing sound bytes (far more than they used to be). Sadly, the reality is that in this case it’s hard to tell the difference between an aging (she has stated that she’s either a grandmother or a great-grandmother, though she’s still working) Fox News/Hannity listener and a bot when it comes to conversational skills.

    The Occam’s Razor side of me still leans towards “its a human” in cases like these.

    (Background: used to research bots and conversational agents and have published on the topic ages ago… I’m not as into the topic as I used to be)

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  59. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius: Thanks for the context. It’s going to be a sad, sad day when bots get the level where they are like say, Harvard92 or Kathy, and win your trust before they start casually mentioning how much they love their new Samsung smart phone…

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  60. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:
    There is one strategy for bots where a human is used initially and then transitioned to being a bot going forward. Again, this doesn’t seem like it’s the case.

    That said, there has been a noticable change in the way she is posting in the last few weeks. So who knows.

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  61. Mister Bluster says:

    It’s going to be a sad, sad day when bots…

    It’s already a sad day when one ugly American gets this much attention trollbot or not.
    I am a marionette with a wooden head and it has taken me this long to realize that responding to it makes as much sense as pissing into the wind.

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  62. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Thanks for the context. It’s going to be a sad, sad day when bots get the level where they are like say, Harvard92 or Kathy, and win your trust before they start casually mentioning how much they love their new Samsung smart phone…

    Uncanny. I do love my Samsung smart phone. But she isn’t new. I inherited her form someone else. I love her slower sister, too, issued by my employer (newer, but not new), even if she’s crippled by low memory.

    It’s really nice to have a connected computer literally at hand, literally at all times.

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  63. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Sometimes it freaks me out. An hour ago my wife asked how old Jimmy Carty was and I pressed a button on my watch and said “How old is Jimmy Carter” and my watch (Siri) answered “Jimmy Carter is 94”. What will a kid born today think of Star Trek? The communicator already looks ridiculously clunky and by the time they are adults the tricorder will be equally blasé.

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  64. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: Some years ago when I asked Siri who was president in a particular year, she would answer using the president’s birth name rather than the name he was best known for: so Ford was called Leslie King, and Clinton was called William Jefferson Blythe III. They’ve since corrected that glitch.

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  65. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: In 1988 when I was 11, my family visited a tourist attraction in Florida called “Xanadu: House of the Future.” Among the features of this house was a voice-activated machine that controlled all the lights and stuff. The machine was called “Godfrey.” Our tour guide had trouble turning the damn machine on, because he had to speak “Godfrey” in the exact right pitch and tone to get it to respond, or else it ignored him.

    Some time in the 1990s we happened to pass by the place in the car and we saw that it had been shut down.

    One of the Windows versions around that time (was it 95? 98? Can’t remember) had a voice-recognition option, but it didn’t work very well. I remember my dad trying to play Solitaire entirely using his voice, and this went on for several minutes before the program misinterpreted one of his commands as “close” and then the window just shut down without warning.

    I am frankly amazed at how much voice recognition has improved. It’s still not perfect–I sometimes have to enunciate clearly or it misunderstands me. But for the most part it’s almost as good as a human, and I know it’s only a matter of time before it becomes better than most humans.

    Here’s a skit from a while back about voice recognition that pretty much captures my old experiences with it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAz_UvnUeuU

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  66. One American says:

    @Kylopod: I actually found this website linked to a very conservative website called MOTUS (mirror of the United States). You can check that with the authors here.

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