Fake News, Real Facts

Stephen Colbert Image: (c) Montclair Film Festival

Stephen Colbert
Image: (c) Montclair Film Festival

submitted by Gene Howington

Score one for truthiness!

“According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, viewers of The Colbert Report who watched Colbert set up a super PAC and 501(c)(4) organization during the last presidential election cycle were better informed about campaign financing and the role of money in politics than viewers of actual news channels and other, actual-news shows.

‘It’s the first study actually showing that Colbert is doing a better job than other news sources at teaching people about campaign financing,’ crowed Bruce W. Hardy, lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. ‘Consistently, we found that Colbert did better than every other news source we included in our model.’

The published study tested The Colbert Report against CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and broadcast nightly news — as well as talk radio and newspapers –  as sources of political information. The study, appropriately called Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson, was based on phone survey data from 1,232 adults 18 years or older who were interviewed between December 13-23, 2012.

Watching The Colbert Report not only increased people’s perceptions that they knew more about political financing, but significantly increased their actual knowledge, and did so at a greater rate than other news sources, the study found. Reading daily newspapers, listening to talk radio, and watching Fox News Channel increased knowledge about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s — but “to a lesser degree,” the study concluded.

[. . .]

Colbert did better than any actual news source at teaching, Hardy said, because he walked viewers through the process of creating a super PAC, with every episode a continuation of that story, and because he used humor and satire, which other news sources seldom use — or seldom use intentionally, at any rate.”

Read the whole story at www.deadline.com.

About Gene Howington

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This entry was posted in Campaign Finance, Corruption, Education, Media, United States. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Fake News, Real Facts

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Having given up watching the major news media due to their bias and triviality, I would expect Colbert to be doing a better job of informing the public.

  2. Elaine M. says:

    We get better news from comedians like Colbert, Jon Stewart, and Jon Oliver than we do from the MSM. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs????

  3. po says:

    That thing was indeed quite informative, Gene,. Stephen took what was very abstract to me and made it not only relevant to what we were all dealing with politically, but he also made it three-dimensional. And it showed me that as for children, we all learn better when we do not know that we are learning. The culmination, where he gave his 501 C4 to John Stewart, was remarkable both comically and …, well, also politically.
    I record his show daily but watch it only occasionally, and each time I do, I am reminded of how smart and funny it is. I resent greatly that his word”Truthiness” did not catch on more lastingly, it is perfect.

  4. Tony C. says:

    I watch TDS and TCR regularly; I liked that whole series on the Super Pac. It was awesome. And repellent to learn.

  5. Makes it pretty easy to understand why I’m so concerned with campaign finance reform though, doesn’t it, Tony? The Right to Petition can be maintained without any of the money attendant in the PACs and other lobbying systems.

  6. pete says:

    When he takes over for letterman, will the “t” in his last name become un silent?

  7. Tony C. says:

    Gene: I don’t think campaign finance reform alone will do anything at all. The problem is the source of the money, large corporations; but money is like water, it always follows the path of least resistance, and if the pressure is there it will find the smallest leak and turn it into a rupture.

    Stop the giant hole of campaign finance and it won’t make a difference. Congress is legally allowed to engage in insider trading, for example. They are legally allowed to conduct business while in Congress. Their self-governance is pathetic, look at the fiasco of Ernie Rangel’s business dealings for which he got a slap on the wrist; look at Harry Reid’s magical ability to make six million dollars in business in sweetheart deals without even trying while spending his entire professional life in government service. Joe Lieberman’s wife was a health insurance lobbyist earning $500,000 a year, but not until Lieberman was elected to the Senate. George W. Bush, as the son of a President, was funded to the tune of millions, in multiple failed business ventures, by oil-rich Saudi’s. As I said (and have read), Congressman are allowed to keep private their conversations with lobbyists, and have exempted themselves from insider trading laws, so if lobbyists give them some stock tips — no harm, no foul.

    Stock tips do not have to be about big things to make a bundle. I follow the market closely, I trade options and am considered a sophisticated investor. In the Fortune 1000, every company must report earnings every quarter, that is 4000 reports a year, an average of 16 per trading day. They tend to clump, but their fiscal year and reporting date is up to them. For a given company, that is four opportunities per year to pay somebody off with inside information; because if you know the exact earnings announcement a week in advance you can (on some big announcements) earn ten times an investment overnight. It is the worldwide, no limit casino out there.

    Try this, Senator Howington: Get a legitimate, full interest loan from somebody sweet on you as a Senator; use that loan to become a legitimate silent trust partner in a business put together by guys sweet on you as a Senator, use the profits they generate to pay off the loan, then the profits from the business are yours.

    Or like John McCain, lease a corner of your ranch to AT&T for a superfluous cell phone tower aimed at a supposedly “expanding market corridor” that for now is primarily serving … Your ranch.

    The other problem is deferred bribery; that mechanism is also simple. Serve some time, retire, and become a lobbyist, or spokesman, or give speeches for $250,000 to the companies you helped. There is no limit on that. If you plug all other leaks and leave that one open, that is where the water will flow. Look up Henry Cisneros; HUD secretary under Clinton, indicted on numerous charges of conspiracy and fraud and lying to the FBI, plea bargained, and then pardoned. After leaving his $150K job with the government, he suddenly becomes an overnight multi-millionaire with all kinds of uncontested jobs, billionaire business partners and a “great man,” all while banging one of his married campaign workers for ten years.

    The money problem is not about campaign finance. That is one hole in a sieve. The money has to be stopped at its source; corporations have to be prevented from engaging in politics at all.

    I think Exxon or BP will find a way to pay politicians off, and politicians will find a way to make that legal (indeed, already have), even if you managed to reform campaign finance. It would be an empty victory. The sociopathic politician, which I think is the majority in both houses, just wants five or ten million dollars; and the corporations do not find that an onerous “tax” in order to have politicians act against the public interest in taxes, regulation, or law. Even if we consider 1000 politicians in strategic levels of office, and gave them all a million dollars a year in legal bribes, we are only talking about an expenditure of a billion a year.

    As we have seen, they do not need to get anywhere near that; the dumb-ass bribery cases that get caught are for as little as $5000 to $50,000. For companies with even tens of millions in expendable annual income, I do not underestimate their ability to hire ingenuity and intelligence that can move money, legally and risk free, into the pockets of politicians.

    Between banking and oil alone, their annual profits (after ALL expenses) is about 200 billion a year. A 1 billion dollar a year collective “bribe” of a thousand politicians would be a 1/2 of 1% “tax” to get their way. That is far less than being forced to pay a 30% income tax, or a 50% or 65% income tax which is where it should be.

    Please re-read my response of 5/7/2014 to your last private email.

  8. “I don’t think campaign finance reform alone will do anything at all.”

    I never said it would, Tony. It is, however, an integral part of any lasting solution. Without limiting contributions and/or criminalizing (and enforcing the law) money for access, the electoral system will remain broken. Other steps most assuredly need to be taken.

  9. Tony C. says:

    Personally I see no reason to permit any corporation a right to petition for any favor. I do not believe corporations should have any of the free speech or political influence rights of individuals; I don’t believe they are people in any sense of the word. They are financial machines alone and not citizens in any sense, they should be treated like machines that owe a portion of their income for the liability restrictions they receive in the law. They should not be allowed to spend a dime on any political purpose, influence, speech or opinion. Machines do not have opinions. Not one corporate dollar or one corporate-paid minute or one square foot of corporate owned space should ever be devoted to politics, by law. We don’t let robots vote, and they have no freedom of speech. Watson is not a citizen.

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