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Uncle Sam
I've been forcing myself to sit through Glen Beck's "documentary" "The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die." In teasers, Beck claimed it contained "history" viewers haven't seen "because progressives don't want you to know about it. It is history that is not being taught in classrooms in America ... it's a ton of information. Information that has been completely wiped from the history books."

Actually, this "history" isn't being taught in classroom because, as Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College so succinctly puts it, Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe."

In the very first episode, Beck makes the astonishing assertion that Hitler was a "progressive," based on the mustached one's support for universal health care and access to education. From there he moves on to lump Hitler in with Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and so he can claim that the worst genocides in history all happened under left-wing regimes.

Georgetown history professor Michael Kazin described Beck's program as "a classic piece of anti-Communist propaganda" which selectively used some facts while ignoring others. "State inhumanity -- under different economic systems -- is a terrible fact of history," Kazin said. "And, yes, Communist regimes were among the worst of them. But Beck is only interested in `exposing' inhumanity on the left. And that's why his film is propaganda."

Beck conveniently omitted the murderous right-wing regimes of Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina and General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, to name a few. Maybe because he'd have to admit that Pinochet's military dictatorship, under which thousands were killed and tortured, toppled the Allende government with the help of the CIA. Or it might be a little embarrassing to talk about Marcos when Beck's idol, Ronald Reagan, was such a good chum.

Having someone like Beck spouting revisionist history is particularly frightening in light of a recent PPP survey, which found that 49 percent of Americans trusted Fox News, 10 percentage points more than any other network. Granted, there was a strong partisan split to the result, with 74 percent of Republicans saying they trusted the network, but only 30 percent of Democrats.

"A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news," said PPP President Dean Debnam in his analysis of the poll. "But the media landscape has really changed, and now they're turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear."

This insular thinking doesn't bode well for informed political debate and it frightens me for the future of our country. Personally, I don't trust any one news source. I try to get information from as many places as possible, including sources overseas, because having lived abroad for 15 years, I've observed the ethnocentric lens through which U.S. news is reported by its own media.

How are we supposed to have intelligent and reasoned political discourse if we only listen to what we want to hear?

Fox persists in tailoring its message, even in what is ostensibly news coverage. Whereas MSNBC and CNN aired live coverage of last week's Q&A between President Obama and the GOP conference in its entirety, Fox chose to cut away with 20 minutes remaining. It was probably once producers realized that the president was taking on the GOP talking points with intelligence and actually trying to have a dialogue about policy -- but that doesn't fit with the Fox narrative. So much for "We report, you decide." More like "We decide what to report so you don't have to question your assumptions."

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Uncle Sam
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