Why Do People Watch Fox News? To Affirm Beliefs

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Strangers In Their Own Land" by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why do people watch Fox News? How does Fox News promote the idea of a deep story and hold up conservative beliefs and emotional truths?

Many liberals ask, “why do people watch Fox News?” Fox News is an important platform for conservatives because it validates their worldviews, and provides them with a master narrative that builds common ground amongst conservatives.

So, why do people watch Fox News? Read more to find out.

Why Do People Watch Fox News? The Emotional Template of Conservatism

If there’s any institution more trusted by conservative Louisianans than big business or church, it might be Fox News. One faithful viewer interviewed by Hochschild described Fox News stars like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reilly as being more akin to family for her than distant television personalities. But why do people watch Fox News in the first place?

By devoting inordinate coverage to highly racialized topics like the 2014 Ebola outbreak, crime in urban centers like Chicago, and the “birther” conspiracy theory regarding President Barack Obama’s place of birth, Fox News serves up race-infused fear and paranoia to its older, conservative, and overwhelmingly white viewership. This has lead many to refer to the network as Fox News propaganda.

The right-wing news network powerfully shapes the emotional world of its viewers, providing them with a deep story or master narrative of the world, in which they are the brave, right-thinking heroes fending off the forces of liberalism, secularism, and political correctness.

Perhaps most importantly, it validates viewers’ emotional orientations, confirming their ideas about what’s right and wrong and what’s important or unimportant. One viewer said that she likes Fox News because it doesn’t try to manipulate her emotions and make her feel guilty the way other news sources do—a source of great resentment for her.

She says that the liberal media implicitly try to blame the world’s humanitarian problems on America—and, specifically, conservative white Americans like her. They are trying to impose liberal emotional rules on her, dictating to her what she ought to care about.

Fox News is comforting because it validates her deep emotional belief that the world’s problems are not her problems, and that she doesn’t have to feel guilty about them.

Since Fox News caters so specifically to one worldview instead of reporting news, many consider Fox New propaganda, and now a news network. However, this doesn’t stop conservatives from trusting and connecting with the network.

Why Do People Watch Fox News? To Affirm Beliefs

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  • What drives right-wing politics in America
  • How a lack of empathy is increasing the partisan divide
  • Why Republican politicians remain popular even if their policies don't help their voters

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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