Last week Greg Gutfeld, co-host/pseudo comedian of “The Five” on Fox News, stated that “with age comes wisdom and it’s a known fact that the older you get the more conservative you become.” Most understand that Fox News eschews nuance; preferring to excoriate through repeated non-sequiturs instead. Yet, this specific statement reflects the overall cultural and intellectual vacuousness of Greg Gutfeld and Fox News. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgment that Fox News downplays the critical importance the youth play in contemporary politics, and that since their average viewership is around 67 years old, why not discredit the intuition of the age cohort they’ve continued to let slip away?
All too often, Fox is embraced influentially in projecting assumptions as natural facts while devaluing, and subsequently effacing substance. Perhaps this has been the primary reason that “the more wisdom we gain through age, the more conservative we get” is so readily accepted. A review of 92 scientific studies, published by the American Psychological Association, showed that “intellectual curiosity tends to decline in old age, and that this decline explains age related increases in conservatism.”
It’s quite simple really: The older we get, the more we become creatures of habit.
Inherently, conservatism attracts an older generation that clings to the society of old. Sure, the older we get the more life experience we’ve accumulated and, as wisdom accompanies this experience, it enables the older generation to provide a wisdom from various vantage points. But, does general wisdom replace a furtherance of education? A perspicacity into the mentality of a generation whose issues and values require constant upkeep? Was it predominantly the older generation that foisted the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, labor, or environmental movements? As an idealistic young adult myself, and being accustomed to dealing with many older citizens in constituent offices as well as my loving grandparents, I’m no stranger to the political perspectives many in the older generation come from. It’s a mix- for many when they become that age-of intellectual ignorance, infallibility, and self-interest.
Now, before I go further, I’m by no means devaluing the older generation of voters nor am I describing many of the older generation of voters. I’ve admired and been inspired by a plethora of older social justice heroes who have devoted their entire lives to various causes and issues. What I am doing, however, is echoing the sentiments of aggregate psychological studies that identify that, while wisdom may accumulate with age, it doesn’t correlate with active citizenry or being correctly informed of contemporary issues.
The final review of the American Psychological Association’s study points at two other factors: Judgement and Familiarity. In most older people, the “speed of information processing substantially decreases after their 60’s.” In fairness the study does acknowledge that this by no means makes the older generation dumber; in fact they are better able to rely on knowledge, experience, and expertise. But, as the study further points out, “..older people are also more likely to make categorical judgements about events, things, or people. This often involves acting in more prejudiced ways because in older ages preserving old knowledge is more important that acquiring new knowledge.”
The psychology of many older people has an interconnectedness with the psychology of Fox News. By catering information-however unsubstantiated and inflammatory- in a myopic fashion, the older generation can retain the news without the dissection of facts, stats, and empirical/investigative data that may pose a threat to their already embedded philosophy. A first lesson of political science is that one’s ideology becomes their identity. This is ever more true for the older generation.
As referred to earlier, we become creatures of habit as we age; and as the American Psychological Association further points out: “This is partly adaptive; order and structure enable us to navigate the world in autopilot, whereas change requires proactive adaptation, effort, and improvisation. Thus, conservatism increases familiarity, which in turn increases conservatism.” The research further correlates self-esteem and conservatism in that, “remaining open minded when you are old may cause not only counterproductive uncertainty, but also insecurity and doubt.”
Not Conservative Because of Wisdom
Greg Gutfeld, while not knowing it- and probably never willing to admit it- pointed to a much larger discussion. The information processing of the older generation and Fox News align to a dangerous degree. Suspending critical thinking, clinging to familiarity, devaluing idealism in the youth, and purporting specious assumptions and canards is Fox News’ modus operandi.
Why would there be a need to change when they are the highest rated news show because of their senior citizen base? But, in an era where intellect, tolerance, and societal progress have been increasingly valued, the latest PublicMed poll showing that Fox News’ viewers are less informed on the news than people who don’t watch any news at all, are rapidly turning off the 25-54 year old demographic who have been ditching Fox News en masse.
The dichotomy of the older generation and modern citizenry is not as simple as “they have more wisdom thus they become more conservative over time” or their “too out of touch and passé to impart immensely valuable wisdom in what direction society should head”. It is a far more nuanced debate- something Fox News has difficultly detecting. While Greg Gutfeld’s braggadocio may obscure his gratuitousness in glorifying the older generation in an attempt to appeal to his one and only base, it is clear that the younger generation have left him a long time ago (questionable if they ever arrived at all for him). And for that, perhaps I understand his hostility.