Fox News is deadly

Is network causing older white males to die?

GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, Fox News kills people!

Well, actually guns kill over 30,000 Americans every year. But new research from Princeton University suggests that Fox News may be killing off more older white guys than bacon and baloney combined.

The evidence?

After decades of steady improvement in the longevity rates of all age groups in American, the new study by Angus Deaton at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs shows that older white males (45-54) are for the first time showing a decline in longevity. This marked increase in the mortality rate of middle aged whites over the past 15 years is unique to the US. No other rich country saw a similar turnaround. It so happens that this time period coincides with the rising popularity of Fox News, and…more telling…. the demographic profile of the network’s viewers (older, less educated white folks) matches the people the study says are dying off like flies at the deli.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Modern medical science (not Dr. Ben Carson science) tells us chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Doesn’t it make sense that if you’re running around constantly fretting that Nancy Pelosi is about to end all life as we know it, you are more likely to drink, smoke, shoot dope, go through stop signs, pig out at McDonald’s, and then go home drink Drano and put your head in the oven?

Anyone familiar with Fox News knows their constant apocalyptic drumbeat of “Obama-is-destroying-the-world” bad news is what turned Uncle Harry into a raging, sputtering head case at Thanksgiving dinner. Several studies have shown Fox viewers to be less informed about current events than those who watch other networks, or even no news at all, and this avalanche of right-wing misinformation seems to be having a lethal effect.

I personally know of one elderly woman who got so wound up watching Fox News that she became a ranting, terrified worrywart. Her caretaker daughter couldn’t stand it, and used parental controls to block the network. Grandma was told Fox was dropped from their cable package, and things soon calmed down. Likewise, in an online article about ways to save on your cable bill, the author – who said he was non-political – reported that his sweet and kind retired parents had become angry, unpleasant, and argumentative due entirely to watching Fox. When he turned off their cable, they miraculously returned to their normal, pleasant selves.

More evidence? Listen to the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, all of whom we can presume watch Fox. Their version of America makes the 60’s protest anthem, “Eve of Destruction”, sound like something from the Sesame Street songbook. Echoing the terrifying “America-is-being-destroyed” message Fox sends out every day, the Republican candidates:

– decry the horrible state of the American economy, despite our having the world’s strongest economic recovery from the Bush/Cheney recession (not a term they use);

– bemoan the horrible tragedy of giving over 10 million Americans access to health care, even labeling it  “worse than slavery”;

– outline plans to strengthen our desperately weak military, without mentioning we spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined;

– create panic over the dangers of immigrants and refugees, ignoring statistics showing immigrants no more likely to commit crimes than the general population, and that more Mexicans are leaving the country than coming in.

Anyone who actually believes this stuff – and Fox News viewers do – is obviously living a very stressed out life on the edge.

Fox News and the Republicans know what horror movie master Wes Craven knew: fear sells!  But the medical evidence about stress also tells us that fear kills. The law of unintended consequences is in play, and Republican attack dog Roger Ailes’ creation of Fox News as a way to strengthen the Republican Party is ironically killing off that party’s base in record numbers.

Meet the Author

Michael Shea

Democratic political consultant, Shea Associates
Do we really want to live in a world in which the familiar cry of “Get off my lawn!” is silenced forever?
We must act now to save America’s cranky old white men. Turn off Fox News!

Michael Shea is a Boston-based Democratic political media consultant.