The political content on cable TV is symptomatic of the highly polarized era we live in. In this study of Fox and MSNBC, we sampled primetime evening programs on both and analyzed each major story presented. Our approach conceptualized each segment as a narrative and, as such, we coded the political arc of these stories and focused on the villains animating each set piece. On Fox the villains, who are harshly denounced, are disproportionately people of color. In contrast, on MSNBC, the villains are rarely minorities. Likewise, women are disproportionately the villains on Fox, frequently described as unintelligent and out of control. On MSNBC, women are almost never the villain. Despite the abrasiveness of its content, Fox’s business model works as there is a substantial audience for this type of outrage programming.
The authors thank Alexis Tatore and Bennett Fleming-Wood for their assistance in preparing this article.
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