Another Overblown Conspiracy Theory

In last week's New York Magazine, Jon Chait has an article on the vast left-wing conspiracy in the media.  He uses examples from modern TV and movies to make the case that Hollywood is moving our culture in a liberal direction.

I'm not sure that holds up as well as he would like, primarily because of way our media has fractured in the last 30 years. The TV shows he cites, such as Modern Family, are getting ratings which, 30 years ago, would have gotten them cancelled after a few episodes.  We're no longer a monolithic media environment: there's a lot more available than the three networks I grew up with. And he completely omits conservative media phenomenons like the Left Behind books and movies.

The best story he has, however, comes from out of Brazil: 

Several years ago, a trio of researchers working for the Inter-American Development Bank set out to help solve a sociological mystery. Brazil had, over the course of four decades, experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. What made the drop so curious is that, unlike the Draconian one-child policy in China, the Brazilian government had in place no policy to limit family size. (It was actually illegal at some point to advertise contraceptives in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.) What could explain such a steep drop? The researchers zeroed in on one factor: television.

Television spread through Brazil in the mid-sixties. But it didn’t arrive everywhere at once in the sprawling country. Brazil’s main station, Globo, expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to Globo saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t (controlling, of course, for other factors that could affect fertility). It was not any kind of news or educational programming that caused this fertility drop but exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night. The paper also found that areas with exposure to television were dramatically more likely to give their children names shared bynovela characters.

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