Glenn Beck yesterday on Fox News was puzzling over those Time magazine and Pew Research polls showing that more Americans than ever -- and particularly conservative Republicans -- believe President Obama is a Muslim. As he put it:
Beck: Now that doesn't make sense, because as you learn more and more about the President of the United States, those numbers should be going down. Why are they going up?
He posits only three possibilities:
Beck: Maybe it's because, as so many on the left think, Americans are just stupid, ignorant or racist. I don't believe that.
Is it because, as CBS' Bob Schieffer said on Sunday, he believes the Internet, the Internet is just a breeding ground for freaks.
... Could it be something else, Bob? Could it be? Is it because the American people have observed Barack Obama for 18 months now? And they don't know what to believe!
... Let me be clear: President Obama is not a Muslim. I'm taking his word that he is a Christian.
But here's where it falls apart for many Americans: It's a Christianity that many Americans just don't recognize!
To which we say: See Answer #1. Because Obama's brand of Christianity is obviously, simply the same kind many millions of us practice: ordinary progressive protestantism. Of course, we know all too well that evangelical Christians don't consider us real Christians -- which no doubt is where Beck gets this idea.
Beck then -- somewhat dishonestly -- runs through some of the numbers from the Pew poll about where people are getting this misinformation. Take a look, if you will at the actual question and response:
Q.58a And how did you learn about Barack Obama’s religion?
Jul 21-Aug 5 2010
60 Media (NET)
36 Media or news (non-specific)
1 Book (non-specific)
1 Obama’s book(s)
11 Obama’s behaviors or his own words
7 Things heard or read (non-specific)
6 Things heard or read during presidential campaign
4 Views of family or friends
4 Obama’s ancestry – family background, name, appearance
1 My own opinion
1 Obama’s policies towards Muslim countries or religion in the U.S.
Funny that Beck manages to omit the 36 percent who simply say "the media", or the fact that 60 percent of them total named various media, isn't it? Instead, he fixates on the 11 percent who answered that they got that perception from "Obama's behavior or his own words." Nevermind, of course, that a portion of the people who answered thus also happened to believe he's a Christian.
And FWIW, Beck is right that Schieffer's insistence that this mass ignorance/delusion is product of the Internet is bogus, considering that only 7 percent named that as their chief source of this information.
The point that eludes Beck is very clear from these numbers: This wave of ignorant bigotry is largely fueled by "the media" generally, and far and away the largest component of that is TV news. Moreover, far and away the TV network far most likely to suggest that Obama is a Muslim -- or at best, a radical foreigner who does not share our values -- is Fox News.
So let me suggest a fourth possibility to Glenn Beck: There are millions of conservatives who believe Obama is a Muslim because conservatives watch Fox News almost exclusively, and that propaganda channel -- with the help of right-wing radio talkers, including those with Fox shows -- constantly reinforces the view that he is a dark-skinned foreigner with secret allegiances.
There, that wasn't so hard, was it? And it certainly makes more sense than blaming Obama himself, who has made his Christian faith clear constantly throughout his presidency.
Though of course, it's not surprising that this possibility doesn't cross Beck's radar.