While network news has faced its own problems lately, we'd like to pause from that discussion to consider the daily enigma that is cable news.
Viewers of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are dwindling, but they still number in the millions during prime time. What the producers decide to flash onscreen might matter less and less, but plenty of people are still going to see it -- and, once in a while, be very confused.
Below, our favorite screenshots from cable news shows remind us of the things they've taught us over the past few years:
1. Everything is terrible.
Actual Fox News poll question: Is everything going to hell in a handbasket? pic.twitter.com/MwHswxQkoW
— Media Matters (@mmfa) October 16, 2014
Ahead of midterm elections last fall, Fox News chose to ask a sample of registered voters just how bad things were in the world -- from really, really bad to just really bad (but probably fine in the end). A majority of the 1,012 randomly selected respondents, who were polled via landline and mobile phone, believed the world was, indeed, totally doomed. We’re not entirely sure what to do with this knowledge aside from writing a pretty neat headline.
2. Ebola is just like ISIS.
In October, CNN asked whether we could compare one terrible thing to another terrible thing, based on the fact that both are terrible things. The answer, if you’re a cable news network, is yes! Although if you’re burnt out on all this ISIS talk, you might try thinking of Ebola as “the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb of Stage IV brain cancer.”
Interestingly, using fear-based tactics to hype the Ebola threat didn’t lead to any spike in cable news viewership last fall.
3. ISIS has an arsenal of kittens and Nutella.
Exactly the sort of dirty trick nice girls like me always fall for. ON MY GUARD. pic.twitter.com/x5ID28YCNN
— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) February 18, 2015
And is using them to lure Western women -- notorious lovers of chocolate-hazelnut spread and fuzzy-wuzzies -- to its occupied territories. Apparently ISIS supporters had casually mentioned their secret lady traps because they “want people to believe their life on the battlefield isn’t so different than yours,” CNN anchor Carol Costello explained. Which kind of makes sense, except that people who have studied the terrorist organization say it’s probably not true.
4. Global warming may not be real because winter still exists.
When it snows, it becomes clear to Fox News that Mother Nature is actually calling out 97 percent of the world’s scientists on their “Earth is in trouble” bullshit. If Earth’s average temperature is slowly creeping up over the span of centuries, then why do we have goose bumps right now?
Although this screenshot is 4 years old, a report published last spring showed Fox News is still at it with misleading climate coverage. Only 28 percent of the network’s coverage on the subject in 2013 was considered accurate by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists, compared with 70 percent accuracy at CNN and 92 percent accuracy at MSNBC.
5. Hong Kong moved to Brazil.
What's bigger news?! That giant hornets kill 42 in China or that Hong Kong relocated to South America? CNN reports... pic.twitter.com/sKVXQ7LVuz
— Mary M. Lane (@MaryLaneWSJ) August 7, 2014
Hong Kong is still sitting next to China, but the giant hornet part was real.
6. The Titanic sunk.
— Will McAvoy (@WillMcAvoyACN) April 16, 2014
Last spring, CNN broke the news of the 102nd anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking on April 12, 1912.
We’ll have to tune in to find out whether a 103rd anniversary occurs on April 12, 2015, but you can bet CNN will have the scoop.
7. The viral catcalling video deserves some mansplaining.
When a women’s advocacy group released a video showing the incredible number of times a woman experienced catcalling over one day on the streets of New York City, there was backlash. Particularly, some -- women and men alike -- thought that men of color had been overrepresented. Fewer people had a bone to pick with the concept of the video, which showed street harassment to be intrusive and degrading for women. But here’s where CNN seized an opportunity to give that underrepresented male voice a microphone.
"There is nothing more that a woman loves to hear than how pretty she is," some dude named Steve Santagati actually said aloud on national television, prompting the reactions above. “I’m more of an expert than you, and I’ll tell you why. Because I’m a guy.”
8. There are Blackberry phones on other planets.
— Michael van Poppel (@mpoppel) October 13, 2011
Life in outer space was also probably not pleased with the Blackberry service outage in 2011.
9. 52 + 58 = 100
— dan barker (@danbarker) September 18, 2014
Math is hard, though.
10. We need to debate which of these words is worse.
And everyone quoted John Mulaney: "If you're comparing the badness of two words, and you won't even say one of them, that's the worse word."
11. The problem with race relations in the U.S. is rap music.
— Lauren Girardin (@girardinl) August 29, 2013
Whatever racial problems persist in America 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech -- eh, whatever, let's just blame rap music. Rap is probably the reason far fewer black Americans own homes than white Americans, and it’s probably why schools with more black students spend less on each one. Rap is likely to blame for the relatively low number of black college students, high rate of black people being arrested for drug offenses, and similarly high likelihood of black people being sentenced to prison for drug offenses.
Rap music has its problems, but they kind of pale in comparison to the breadth of racial disparity in America.
12. Working women are the problem.
Just a year after an all-male Fox News panel discussed the troubling implications of having more women in the workforce earning enough to support their households, the network returned with the segment above. Female “alphas” are still an issue because of a "biological, innate need for men to be the caveman,” and none of their lizard brains can handle social change.
13. The homophobic guy from "Duck Dynasty" is an expert on radical Islam.
When you want to discuss radical Islam, what better expert to confer with than Phil Robertson, better known as the reality TV star who said some homophobic things and meant them. For his part, Robertson recommended dealing with the extremist Islamic State fighters by either converting them (to Christianity, of course) or killing them.
14. We need experts to tell us that skiing is sometimes dangerous.
Can't believe CNN needed an expert to figure this out. pic.twitter.com/BGXG7mHNIk
— jessica cutler (@jessica_cutler) December 31, 2013
Unfortunately, we don't need an expert to tell us skiing can be deadly.