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The hosts of Fox News’ “Outnumbered” aired a recent segment which covered a study suggesting that college students benefit mentally from petting cats. Their discussion was fueled primarily by anecdotes, unfounded claims and superficial heuristics as they attempted to debunk the fact that stable mental health is a prerequisite to being successful in higher education. Their raucous demeanor during the entire conversation stood out. Each of the panelists had a turn to speak, and every one of them lacked any comprehension of the study. This Fox News panel exemplified the lack of compassion and profoundness that is all too common in conversations that cover well-being not just of college students, but everyone else.

After a sarcastically toned introduction, Julie Banderas states that the option to have cats for emotional support is “another example of how we are raising snowflakes,” and that college students should just “do us all a favor,” and drop out. Emily Compagno continues that they “need a slap in the face,” rather than the feline service. Subsequently, Tammy Bruce begins with the idea that “no one’s going to hand [college students] a puppy in the real world” with Webb concluding that students needing cats or dogs for support do not belong in college. The segment is short, but the effects of public discussions like these weaponize the idea of mental health, or diminish its importance. It prevents the normalization of seeking counseling among American communities regardless of political affiliation, worsening the severe polarization currently occurring in the United States. 

McEnany and Compagno’s responses show imperceptiveness and a lack of empathy as they applied the study only to themselves. Compagno’s alternative solution, which directly referenced physical discipline, is worrying as it trivialized compassionate approaches to mental health. This is eerily reminiscent of the cause behind poor mental health in young adults

The idea that inflicting aggression would be more beneficial than reassurance and affection isn’t something a stable individual would conceptualize. McEnany’s attempts to devalue the outcome of the study fell flat as she kept using a skewed perception to determine if such a service would work by using only herself as a reference rather than considering the perspectives of others.

The panel’s primary takeaway was that the fault lies on the students, without giving a clear reason other than calling them fragile. They stayed ignorant of the fact that more than half of college students suffering from mental illness is due to a systemic issue rather than a personal one. They stressed that yearning for physical affection—from pets or whatnot—as a means to ground oneself to reality is cultivating a society of “snowflakes” and “betas.” 

A primary argument they presented throughout the panel was that if college students “can’t make it” or if they “need a cat or a puppy,” then they should simply quit. Given that 80% of them experience “considerable amounts of stress,” the argument is rendered absurd. The hosts demonstrated that they have no comprehension of the difficulty of higher education. Stress is a common byproduct of higher education, and services that alleviate it should not disqualify an individual from participating in higher education.

This panel, however trivial it may appear, shows that Fox News continues to cultivate a base that is insensitive and unempathetic. They deliberately work to increase the polarization between the two parties that make up American politics; thus preventing them from merging and engaging in bipartisanship. As long as companies like Fox News sow discord among U.S. citizens, the political conflict will be significantly more difficult to resolve.