Another Way the Media Bend Reality

Mark Steyn and PowerLine comment on this article from The Atlantic that says that, on average, Americans think that upwards of 25% of the population is gay. No, that is not a typo–apparently, Average American thinks that one out of every four people you pass on the street or sit next to in a ballpark or go antiquing with is gay (C’mon, it’s not even 25% for antiquing).

This is a stinging indictment of American’s understanding of sociology, biology, and math. But more than that, it’s a sobering example of how media can bend our perception of reality. Sez PowerLine:

How on Earth can the average American believe that one-quarter of the men and women he sees every day are gay? Does that make any possible sense? Are one-quarter of your relatives gay, or your co-workers or neighbors? Of course not (unless you live in certain precincts of San Francisco). Glenn Reynolds’s explanation, perhaps tongue in cheek, was that there are so many gays on television, and I think that must be at least part of the answer. A vastly disproportionate number of characters in TV sitcoms and dramas are homosexual. A second and closely related factor is that homosexuality features disproportionately as a theme in movies, books and so on. It is an extraordinary instance of culture eclipsing reality. 

Another factor, along with the fictional world of television, books and movies, is the news. In recent years, news coverage of gay-related issues has been intense. Gay marriage, in particular, has been omnipresent in the news. Subliminally, many people probably assume that if gay marriage is such a big issue, there must be a lot of gays.