But do you know who people do trust? The TV news channels. For reasons that frankly escape us, people watch 'em and talk about 'em and act on what they see and hear. We suppose this is some sort of atavism, a vestigial reflex from the old days when Walter Cronkite and the New York Times were accorded a cultural standing second only to, well, to your government and your minister.
Those, of course, were the days when the news media made a great show of parading their even-handed probity, their -- in a word that seems positively quaint -- "objectivity." Cue the nostalgic violins. We live in different times now.
And so even America's brief for talking heads is in decline, according to a recent poll by something called the Public Policy Polling Center. The most fascinating result of the poll, though, is how the trust breaks down along partisan lines:
We find once again this year that Democrats trust everything except Fox, and Republicans don't trust anything other than Fox. Democrats put the most faith in PBS (+61 at 72/11), followed by NBC (+45 at 61/16), MSNBC (+39 at 58/19), CBS (+38 at 54/16), CNN (+36 at 57/21), ABC (+35 at 51/16), and Comedy Central (+10 at 38/28). Out of the non-Fox channels Republicans have the most faith in PBS at -21 (27/48), followed by NBC (-48 at 18/66), CNN (-49 at 17/66), ABC (-56 at 14/70), MSNBC (-56 at 12/68), CBS (-57 at 15/72), and Comedy Central (-58 at 8/66).It is hardly surprising that Republicans place so much trust in Fox, nor that others decline to do likewise. But -- and this is important to note -- among Americans overall, as well as Democrats, it is PBS that is most trusted. (And Fox, by far, is the least trusted overall.) Please do remember this the next time some GOP congressman (or presidential candidate) starts to make noise about defunding public broadcasting, and ask yourself why.
We regret that this poll restricts itself to television news, as we would very much like to see where National Public Radio falls on the scale of trust.
But, parenthetically, do you know how old Father Anonymous is? Forget the grey hair, potbelly, and reading glasses; there's a better marker of superannuation these days. He is old enough to be genuinely shocked that the poll treats Comedy Central as a source on par with, say, ABC News.