Thursday, May 3, 2007

Name Calling Makes You Smarter

Bill O'Reilly is a helluva TV guy. He knows the medium, knows how to work an audience, and according to a new study he knows how to call people names -- every 7 seconds!

You have to respect skill like that.

To be fair, this bad-mouthing every 6.8 seconds occurs only during that brief editorial he gives at the beginning of every The O'Reilly Factor. No way he can keep that up for an hour. No one can. I know, I've tried it in my classes.

So what does this have to do with political knowledge, with what people know? The Pew Center reports that the O'Reilly audience is pretty damn smart, at least compared with the audiences gathered by other news and entertainment outlets. Nationwide about 35% of Americans score in the "high knowledge" category in the Pew study while 51% of the O'Reilly audience scores at that rate.

The dumbest audience? Morning network television shows at 34%. Then again, you probably already knew that. The highest? Visitors to newspaper web sites and viewers of the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert tandem on Comedy Central.

So it isn't just calling names that makes people smart, it's making the news funny? No, it has more to do with the kind of audience each source draws. Fox News is only at 35%, after all, while the CNN audience is at 41%, meaning I suppose that only the smart Fox viewers watch O'Reilly's name calling while those without a clue watch the rest of the network programs.

Then again, I suspect we already knew that.

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