About Those Aliens In Roswell

Yes, Virginia, the problem is the media–but not in the way most Americans assume.

Yes, the outlets we call “mainstream” could be doing a better job. The New York Times, especially, seems to have it in for Joe Biden. (My nephew’s husband recently wrote them to complain about their “horse-race” coverage and constant normalizing of Trump, and in response got a letter so smarmy he cancelled his subscription.) But the real problem isn’t the failure of actual news organizations to abandon an unfortunate “click-bait” approach–annoying as that is. The real problem is the widespread availability of faux “news”/propaganda sources that exist to facilitate the confirmation biases of voters.

I have previously shared a statement I routinely made to students in my Media and Public Policy classes: If you really want to believe that aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico, I can find you five Internet sites with pictures of the aliens.

People living in our Internet Age inhabit an informational wild west, in which anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can claim to be a news site. People who desperately want to believe X need only do a brief google search to locate “reporters” who will assure them that X is, indeed, factual. Want to believe that the Covid vaccine causes Parkinson’s Disease? Think those “elitist” scientists are wrong about climate change? That Trump’s 92 indictments are fabricated elements of a witch hunt? Despite the great weight of evidence to the contrary, google will help you find “experts” who will confirm those counterfactual beliefs.

Most of us are aware of the prevalence of online propaganda, and a recent NBC report illuminated its effects on political preferences. It turns out–surprise!–people who follow very different news sources have very different political loyalties. (It also turns out that Trump voters are disproportionately people who know nothing about politics at all.)

Supporters of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are sharply divided across all sorts of lines, including the sources they rely on to get their news, new data from the NBC News poll shows.

Biden is the clear choice of voters who consume newspapers and national network news, while Trump does best among voters who don’t follow political news at all….

The poll looked at various forms of traditional media (newspapers, national network news and cable news), as well as digital media (social media, digital websites and YouTube/Google). Among registered voters, 54% described themselves as primarily traditional news consumers, while 40% described themselves as primarily digital media consumers.

Biden holds an 11-point lead among traditional news consumers in a head-to-head presidential ballot test, with 52% support among that group to Trump’s 41%. But it’s basically a jump ball among digital media consumers, with Trump at 47% and Biden at 44%.

And Trump has a major lead among those who don’t follow political news — 53% back him, and 27% back Biden.

Researchers say that last category is comprised of voters who have decided who they are supporting and have simply “tuned out” information that might reflect poorly on their preferred candidate. If they encounter it at all, they dismiss it as “fake news.” As one scholar put it, “That’s why it’s hard to move this race based on actual news. They aren’t seeing it, and they don’t care.”

Third-party candidates also do well with this chunk of the electorate — a quarter of the 15% who say they don’t follow political news choose one of the other candidates in a five-way ballot test that includes Kennedy, Jill Stein and Cornel West. Third-party supporters also make up similar shares of those who say they get their news primarily from social media and from websites.

There is one bit of positive news in the NBC report: those of us who rely on traditional news sites–sites that follow professional journalism ethics and guidelines–are more likely to vote. According to the report, 19% of those who voted in the last presidential election but not in 2022 and 27% who voted in neither of the last two elections say they don’t follow political news.

The NBC report helps answer a persistent question: how can people support a man who [insert latest outrage here]. The answer is: they either don’t believe the outrage, because they rely on sources providing disinformation and propaganda–or they haven’t heard about them, because they ignore all political reporting.

Ben Franklin is said to have responded to a question about what sort of government the Founders had created by saying “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The question for our times is whether a country in which millions of voters know nothing about their government or politics will even vote, and if they do, whether they’ll vote to keep it.


  1. Relying on businesses to report news has always been inherently dangerous. Entertainment is profitable, but news is a loss leader in today’s market with an insatiable hunger for more money.

    The problem is that relying on the government to keep track of the government is even more dangerous.

    The bottom line is that people can lie when they benefit from it. Ask any detective, reporter, politico, or most parents.

    We used to be willing to pay for news, but now we have decided to get free mixtures of news and entertainment and sort it out in ways that please us individually.

  2. Isn’t everything market driven?
    If folks want an alternate reality, don’t they search for it? And as they’re searching, are there others aware, waiting to provide what they’re searching for, delusional or not?

    It’s just commerce, this service is being provided to the incomprehensible and delusional believers no matter how bizarre. Aren’t they filling a needed niche in fake reality? Lies are valuable commodity! There is a large desire to consume untruth because reality is unacceptable.

    And where these commodities are manufactured, and consume at an increasing rate, current their advertisers willing to purchase advertising time to reach those happily deluded consumers.

    And once those lies become acceptable, by a large portion of the deluded, The so-called Patriots and those who claim to be in the know, The deal is sealed. And the money flows which is always the main driver.

    The problem with such a large percentage of the happily ignorant, is that society will collapse under the weight of that ignorance!

    Be prepared, I’d say get your popcorn, but it will affect everyone in a negative way.

  3. Did the survey say anything about those who are committed to FAUX News? I’m wondering if they were in the “uninformed” classification with the rest of the Trump voters.

    NYT’s problem is their misinterpretation of “balance”. They seem to believe that, if they print something that might be interpreted as bad for tRump, they then have to print something bad about Biden. It might be balanced, but it’s certainly not fair. One has close to ninety criminal counts against him, while the other has the clown caucus looking for anything to impeach him with. So far, the only thing they’ve accomplished is to make themselves look even more idiotic than they are.

  4. John writes, “And the money flows which is always the main driver.”

    The same is true for many pollsters. If you hire them, they can produce whatever outcome you want. Also, the pollsters use landlines for registered voters for most of their poll-taking. We all know who still uses landlines. #Boomers

    Anybody getting their news from a TV is getting lied to, period. Radio is the same. These are all owned by corporations, and if you cross their red lines, you’re out of a job. All the journalists and broadcasters who won’t toe the company line were culled years ago.

    What cracks me up is that ALL major media has a presence on social media like X or Facebook. If not, you’re missing eyeballs. Furthermore, nearly all American-owned social media sites will censor folks for the government. That is why the owner of Telegram refuses to relocate to CA. You’ll add a Telegram channel if you want international news directly from the source. These channels are mostly user-supported. The same goes for X if you have a sufficient following.

    The government cannot directly censor the media, but CEOs and COOs can undoubtedly do it. In the US, this has been the primary shift of responsibility. Disney and other oligarchic owners censor themselves. You tote the corporate line, or you’re toast. By the way, who has funded most of Silicon Valley?

    As for straight-out lying, follow the politicians directly. It’s a constant lie-fest, and those being pandered to sop it up—absolutely zero critical thinking. Any media entity that doesn’t antagonize a politician on their show is allowing them to spew propaganda.

    Caveat emptor. With all the yellow journalism, muckraking from the 30s has returned.

  5. and most are too lazy to read. some feel thier existance/protections are guarenteed.is there a word for a spoiled citizen?

  6. There may be an occasional bit of truth in the propagandic press, but we need to be critically observant to ferret it out and, as an earlier writer noted, we are lazy. Critical thinking is also not numero uno on the educational scoreboard of readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. Conclusion: A perhaps majority of us are thus not equipped to make (inter alia) intelligent political choices through both private and public failures. Critical thinking is unnecessary when digging ditches and putting cars together in an assembly line, so why teach it? Per the oligarchy, those robots might want a raise or a union, or both, and we’re running this show! Keep ’em dumb!

    Yes, per the lazy and thoughtless there were aliens in Roswell, Trump pulled a 1/6 as his patriotic duty, all liberals are commies, Biden is a thief, etc., and we know it’s so because we saw it on the internet! I recall many moons ago a riff that my parents had about something or other and that my mother triumphantly declared that she knew she was right because she “read it in the paper,” but as one old WW II veteran wisely told me once: ” That paper’ll lay still. You can write anything you want to on itl”
    I here note that in this digital universe one can read any point of view or manufactured “fact” and that all are available to those who can read. So yes to Trump’s patriotism and Biden as a pedophile because I saw it on the net. So what’s next? Jesus was a cannibal? Don’t ask!

  7. Irrational people are at a disadvantage precisely because they are irrational. Those who practice critical thinking and maintain touch with reality will prevail in the long run. Knowing that makes today a little less scary.
    I just heard that Samuel Alito claims that the President must be allowed to commit felonies in order to preserve democracy. Oh, yes. In order to preserve our freedom, we must agree to give it up. In order to insure food security we must agree to starve to death. In order to live we must agree to commit suicide. War is peace. Ignorance is knowledge. Big Brother is watching you.

  8. Todd, Gerald, and Big Jack,

    There is a term for a spoiled mollycoddled citizen, it’s called a lemming, lol!

    And absolutely, someone can write whatever they like on paper, the paper will never talk back, it lays there until the week and delusional Read it as absolute truth. People lack a necessary trait in this day and age, it’s called discernment. If you see a sign that says bridge out, do not enter, do you fly by it because you might not believe the author? No! Most would not, that’s called discernment, or using discernment. Those that fly around that sign, because someone told them it was all fake, the signs are not real, find out too late that they’ve just killed themselves.

    Todd, thanks! Hope you are doing well. I need to remember, proofreading is fundamental! Lol 😵‍💫.

    It’s really interesting how muckrakers are really pointed to as enemies of the state! Without those muckrakers during Roosevelt’s fight with the robber barons, he probably would not have been very successful. That’s why there’s such an attack on media, and, why it’s been infiltrated by those robber barons that Roosevelt attempted to reign in. He had some success, but, those robber barons have actually learned some lessons from history. If those robber barons had the media in their pockets back then, things would have been much different for them. Unfortunately, they have most of the media in their pockets now!

    The citizens of this country and basically the citizens of the world, are just commodities to be squeezed! People are the ultimate commodity, because without them, whatever is worthless. So they continue to squeeze the people. And history shows, eventually, the squeezees become the squeezers. Hence, the Boxer revolution, the French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, endless wars and tumult! After a few decades, the new Robber Barons are hatched, and it starts all over again.

    Roosevelt broke up shell, now we have the current robber baron, a Texas oil executive colluding with OPEC to drive up oil prices, doesn’t matter if it affects everyone adversely, (especially the poor and infirmed as well as the elderly) as long as he can stuff his pockets. I suppose you can’t really kill off the The morally corrupt, conscienceless Robber Roaches!


  9. Sure, some people are unaware of or disbelieve unfavourable stories about TFG, but I’m willing to bet at least as many _are_ aware and _do_ believe, but just don’t care. It’s either irrelevant to them, or seen as a plus.

    There’s a significant segment of the right that _loves_ outraging liberals. It’s childish, of course, but it’s a very real driver.

  10. Seems the fourth estate as protected by the first amendment could be held to a higher standard of reporting facts without biased political spin. When some report facts. the political counter narrative is soon reported to confuse the issue and maintain their narrative to their follower. Some Americans feel like we’re the jury in the middle of the media wars, without the rules of the courtroom.
    I watched “Rather” documentary last night. Interesting history of Kennedy assassination, Viet Nam War, Watergate, and Reagan years. The rights attacks on what they called the “liberal” press cast a pejorative shadow on the watchdog function of the press. It’s like firing all the IG’s overseeing how tax monies are being spent, no overview.
    It seems to me that in this day and age of mass direct media that words have taken on the impact of actions. When those words are injurious due false information then they should be actionable, similar to consumer safeguards and fraud that have civil remedies.

  11. No aliens in Roswell??? Of course not, they’re in congress!
    If I do not “see” the lies here, tomorrow, Happy Mother’s Day.

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