Fox News has produced a documentary called The Great Food Stamp Binge that focuses a great deal of attention on a California surfer dude who says on camera that he gets food stamps and he doesn’t want a job because he likes his happy-go-lucky lifestyle. And they’re also pushing polling data that shows a majority of Americans think most people on food stamps are taking advantage of the system.
A 57-percent majority believes most food stamp recipients are taking advantage of the system, while just 36 percent think they are truly in need of help…
The Fox News Reporting documentary profiles, among others, a California surfer and aspiring musician named Jason Greenslate. Greenslate shows how he supports his beach-bum lifestyle with food stamps, while dismissing the idea of holding down a regular, steady job.
“It’s not that I don’t want a job, I don’t want a boss. I don’t want someone telling me what to do. I’m gonna live my own life,” Greenslate tells Fox News’ John Roberts. “This is the way I want to live. And I don’t really see anything changing. I got the card. It’s $200. That’s it.”
This is a useful but highly dishonest tactic of using a single anecdote to give viewers the impression that this guy represents all or most food stamp recipients. They even label Greenslate “the new face of food stamps,” but if he is it’s only because they’ve made such an obvious effort to make him into that. And they know very well that what they’re doing works, that most people find anecdotes far more convincing than actual data.
Like the fact that studies show that food stamp fraud is actually less than 1%. And that 41% of those who receive food stamps actually do work but their income is low enough that they still qualify for assistance. Most of the rest are unemployed, which should hardly be a shock after the last few years of massive economic displacement. And that half of all food stamp recipients get assistance for less than 10 months and 74% get it for less than two years. The typical food stamp recipient is not a beach bum leeching off the system, it’s a single parent with children who has been laid off. But those are facts and Fox News doesn’t care about facts. That’s why they focus so much on anecdotes instead of data.
There’s a reason why 57% of Americans think most food stamp recipients are lazy and leeching off the rest of us. It’s because Republicans have worked very, very hard to convince them of that with shallow anecdotes while dishonestly ignoring actual evidence.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: