We're Not Saying Sean Hannity Literally Killed Your Nana, But, Um, These Economists Kinda Are
Wonkette has been watching way more Fox News than we ever wanted to during this time of coronavirus. We've been horrified yet not surprised by just how much dangerous bullshit they've been peddling to their viewers, many of whom are at the highest risk of dying in the pandemic, because of how they are #OldBalls and so very angry. It's all a liberal hoax, take two hydroxycuts and call me in the morning and you'll be fiiiiiiine, and whatever else. It's just been awful.
We've had headlines like "This Is What Fox News Is Telling Your Nana About Coronavirus" and "The 565,286 Worst Lies Fox News Is Telling Your Nana About Coronavirus RIGHT THIS SECOND" and "Fox News Idiots Not Sure People Even In Hospital With Coronavirus, SAYS WHO?"
And then there's the Sean Hannity-specific stuff, like Hannity calling media coverage of the novel coronavirus a "new hoax" the Left was using to "bludgeon" Trump, and "Sean Hannity Knows How To Eat Hot Dog In Time Of Coronavirus, It Is The Easiest," which was about Sean Hannity eat hot dog.
Vox is reporting on a new science paper that finds a literal actual statistical correlation between watching Hannity a lot and higher incidences of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Don't get mad, Sean Hannity, we are just writing what the paper says! And of course correlation does not necessarily mean causation, yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah go fuck yourself.
The paper, written by economists Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao, Christopher Roth, and David Yanagizawa-Drott, compares people who watched Hannity during a certain period from February to early March to people who watched Tucker Carlson during the same period (he was being waaaaaaay more serious about the virus, and he was one of the only ones at Fox doing so), and, well, this is what they found:
Using both a poll of Fox News viewers over age 55 and publicly available data on television-watching patterns, they calculate that Fox viewers who watched Hannity rather than Carlson were less likely to adhere to social distancing rules, and that areas where more people watched Hannity relative to Carlson had higher local rates of infection and death.
"Greater exposure to Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight leads to a greater number of COVID-19 cases and deaths," they write. "A one-standard deviation increase in relative viewership of Hannity relative to Carlson is associated with approximately 30 percent more COVID-19 cases on March 14, and 21 percent more COVID-19 deaths on March 28."
Sounds like telling your Boomer parents to please social distance from Sean Hannity at all times is just good science.
Good God, Hannity is gonna be pisssssed.
Vox notes that this paper isn't peer-reviewed yet, so we'll have to wait for more scientists to help confirm or deny whether watching Hannity literally is killing your Nana.
The early reviews on the paper are pretty good, though!
"It's a good paper; they took pains to control for many alternative explanations," writes Zeynep Tufecki, a professor at the University of North Carolina who studies technology and research methods.
"This really looks like a causal effect of misinformation [leading] to deaths."
Vox examines the methodology of the study, and it does appear pretty detailed! They got receipts, they got transcripts, and they did a poll of old-ass Fox News viewers to see who decided to stay the fuck home as the coronavirus wave hit, and who decided to just keep playing strip Parcheesi with their fellow olds during Strip Parcheesi Night down at the Cracker Barrel. Then they compared that to who filled their brain with which Fox News snake oil practitioner during the time in question.
And they found:
"Viewers of Hannity changed their behavior five days later than viewers of other shows," they write. "Viewers of Tucker Carlson Tonight changed their behavior three days earlier than viewers of other shows."
The final part of the paper uses two different regression models to show that, in fact, there is good reason to believe that Hannity viewership did increase coronavirus deaths relative to Carlson viewership.
They even found that around the middle of March, when Hannity (sort of) started taking COVID-19 more seriously (for like a minute), the incidence of new corona cases two weeks out (to account for the incubation time of the virus) actually dropped among the target groups and areas studied.
Vox isn't saying Hannity LITERALLY gave all those people the coronavirus, so don't accuse Vox of saying that:
To be clear, this doesn't show that Hannity viewers are necessarily the ones getting sick and dying. It could be that they're asymptomatic carriers, simply spreading the disease to others without suffering themselves. All this regression shows is that higher Hannity viewership in a particular area is correlated with higher coronavirus infection rates and deaths in that area.
See? They might just be gross dumbasses who watch Hannity a lot and happen to be disease vectors getting their sick all over innocent bystanders in the line for extra mashed potatoes during the 4 p.m. dinner hour at the Luby's.
Vox is also not saying that Hannity's words themselves caused all the mayhem, allowing that maybe Hannity's viewers are just stupider than Tucker's. Vox puts it more nicely:
Maybe there's something about people who choose to watch Hannity rather than Carlson that makes them less likely to take social distancing seriously.
OK, there is so much science in the Vox article and in the paper itself, so read all of it, but these economists also studied whether there might be differences in virus infection rates depending on whether, on any given night, Hannity or Tucker was most likely to just happen to be on the television when people were watching. In other words, they controlled for idiots who don't necessarily care which Fox News idiot is yapping at them, as long as some Fox News idiot is yapping at them. Vox explains that people are most likely to have the TV on "2.5 hours after the sun sets, regardless of what's on the air," so the study's authors looked at differences in corona rates based on what's on Fox in a given area at that prime time — Tucker or Hannity? — and found:
Places where Hannity viewership is randomly higher than Carlson viewership tend to have higher rates of infection and deaths.
"Greater exposure to Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight increased the number of total cases and deaths in the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic," the authors conclude. "Our findings indicate that provision of misinformation in the early stages of a pandemic can have important consequences for health outcomes."
Oh well, sleep well tonight, Sean Hannity, can't imagine why you wouldn't, it's not like you literally killed people's Nanas or anything.
You know, unless you did. Allegedly!
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