The Jack Black "Mis-Informant" Video Campaign: Can It Counter False Rumors about Health Care?
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Research indicates that unique among major news outlets, Fox News viewing is significantly related to belief in false rumors and misinformation, especially for conservative viewers predisposed to accept these claims. Examples include the persistent post-invasion belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the belief today that the proposed NYC mosque has ties to terrorist organizations.
Progressive organizations, Democratic leaders, and academics have debated the best way to counter these false beliefs. Research, unfortunately, shows that attempting to engage audiences predisposed to accept these claims by providing factually correct information can actually backfire. On the topic of weapons of mass destruction, when researchers provided conservatives fact-based refutations (citing a post-invasion report concluding that Iraq had no such weapons), the refutation actually strengthened belief in the original misinformation.
But what about comedy and satire? Researchers have been tracking the growing influence of political parody, as captured in the multiple impacts for The Daily Show and similar "fake news" programming. Can parody be an effective antidote to false beliefs and the spread of misinformation?
The Jack Black "Mis-Informant" Campaign: Who Does It Impact? What is the Goal?
This week, the progressive organization Health Care for America Now has launched the Stop Spewman: Stop the Lies campaign featuring comedic actor Jack Black in a viral video series playing Nathan Spewman "The Mis-Informant." Spewman infiltrates elementary schools to spread Fox News-style false rumors about health care, including that "Obama care" takes choices away from doctors and that Obama is setting up death panels to kill Grandma.
In the second video in the series, Black's influence turns an 8 year old girl into a youthful Glenn Beck, who sends her teacher running from the classroom after calling her a communist. You can watch the Hollywood style videos below.
But what impacts are the videos likely to have? Who are they likely to influence and with what outcomes?
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