CNN has branded conservative cable news networks like Newsmax and One America News as “noxious” outlets spewing “garbage” for money. Unfortunately, CNN’s analysis is based entirely on a common logical fallacy.
“One of the many noxious developments of Donald Trump’s presidency was the rise of several cable TV outlets that aimed to out-Fox Fox News,” asserts CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza in an article posted on CNN.com last Thursday.
Starting from that assumption, Cillizza claims that Newsmax and OAN have helped spread the QAnon conspiracy among the more conservative elements of the Republican Party’s base in an article titled “This is how dangerous right-wing media *actually* is.” (Emphasis in original.)
As proof, Cillizza cites “a new PRRI [Public Religion Research Institute] national poll,” which he claims “shows how corrosive the creation of a media subservient to Trump (and the various conspiracy theories that have grown up around him/he has helped stoke) is for the body politic.”
PRRI polled Americans about three core beliefs of the QAnon conspiracy and found that 15% believe in its core tenet: that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the US are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.” But the percentage is reportedly higher among those who say they trust right-of-center news outlets like Newsmax and OAN than among viewers of CNN or MSNBC.
As far as Cillizza is concerned, that settles the matter. He concludes:
The rise of far-right channels like OAN and Newsmax has led to a massive amount of disinformation flowing through American democracy. While espousing this garbage is a business model for these channels, it has massive impacts on Americans — many of whom are living in a conspiracy theory that they have been tricked into thinking is the real world.
But his conclusion rests on a basic logical error (and maybe a little self-serving ill-will), one of the most common mistakes made by any college freshmen: forgetting the fact that “correlation does not imply causation.” The fact that two things occur together doesn’t mean that one caused the other: They may be related, or the relationship could be pure coincidence.
Who knew that the number of people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool correlates with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in? And who could anticipate that the per capita consumption of cheese correlates with the number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets?
The fact that Nicholas Cage starred in more movies did not cause people to drown in swimming pools. In other words, one tendency may increase because of another one, or they have a similar cause, or there may be no relationship at all.
Since the correlation by itself proves nothing, what hard evidence does Cillizza have that Newsmax and OAN push conspiratorial “garbage”? None. CNN does not point to a single story, report, or guest who upheld the idea that Satan-worshipping child molesters run the government.
CNN may want to look at its own coverage, which liberal comedian Bill Maher recently eviscerated on his HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
“In a recent Gallup survey, Democrats did much worse than Republicans in getting the right answer to the fundamental question ‘What are the chances that someone who gets COVID will need to be hospitalized?’”Maher said. “If the right-wing media bubble has to own things like climate change denial, shouldn’t liberal media have to answer for, ‘How did your audience wind up believing such a bunch of crap about COVID?’”
For that matter, how did CNN viewers end up believing such nonsense about the Covington high school kids, or Russian collusion, or “fiery but mostly peaceful protests”?
One of CNN’s correlations seems too vague to be convincing, even as a logical error. Cillizza writes that 48% of those who say they follow conservative media believe that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.” That comment is broad enough to include everyone who believes in Proverbs 10:25 (“When the storm has passed, the wicked are gone; but the righteous are firmly established forever”) — which CNN may very well consider to be fake news, but hundreds of millions of Americans disagree.
Cillizza may protest too much, because conservative news outlets have returned to their position of cable news dominance after CNN’s one-week ratings breakthrough on January 6. Viewership of Newsmax has soared by 405% year-to-date, according to the website Cable Rankings. Meanwhile, CNN’s audience shrank by 46% over the same period. And Fox News has beaten CNN every week since, as viewers vote with their remotes.
It’s true that Newsmax and OAN’s viewers may select those networks because they don’t give QAnon theories the obsessive saturation coverage of CNN. Instead, Newsmax and OAN cover the dominant myths of our nation’s rulers: that racism is worse than any time in American history, that a man can become a woman by wishing hard enough, that killing oil pipelines has nothing to do with higher gas prices, that science has never determined when life begins, that printing money has no impact on inflation, that the Biden-Harris administration prolonged school lockdowns until next year based on science, that state-sanctioned discrimination is good if wielded against the right victim, that the government can tax Americans into prosperity, that the existence of wealth creates poverty, that pulling down the rich helps the poor, and that the answer to corrupt central government is giving the same government more money and power.
Those are the theories that are destroying America, and they’re held by the vast majority of CNN and MSNBC viewers, including those in Congress, the White House, and the federal bureaucracy. That’s how dangerously left-wing the media-government complex is.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.