Robert Greenwald, the producer and director of Outfoxed--which takes the conservative minded Fox News Network to task--has taken a peculiar path towards high-minded social consciousness. His breakout film was directing Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu. Four years later, he directed Farrah Fawcett as an abused woman in Burning Bed. Since then, Greenwald has become a factory for socially aware films, producing documentaries on uncomfortable topics like teenage bulimia and the cover-up of a gang rape of a retarded girl by popular athletes. More recently, Greenwald has turned his attention to the Bush Administration and the conservatives' grip on the national psyche. We recently spoke with Greenwald, whose film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism opens this week. (See page 47 for review.)

Mercury: Ever feel like you're on a crusade?

RG: No, not a crusade. I have a limited skill set, but one that allows me to make movies that are poised to raise awareness at a crucial time. It's a good job for a workaholic.

The Fox News Channel reaches 200 million Americans, and your film shows that the network is little more than a vehicle for right wing propaganda. Do you actually expect Fox viewers to rush out to see "Outfoxed"?

I don't expect the hardcore Fox viewers to change their habits. But the "Fox effect," which we talk about in the movie, affects managers, editors, reporters, and producers of other news organizations. I hope we'll be able to show the direction Fox news is headed in terms of less and less news and more and more opinion. That is not a direction news organizations want to be going in, especially in an election year.

One of your gripes is with Fox's slogan, "Fair and Balanced." How did you go about telling this story without the same sort of bias Fox uses?

Eight or nine employees spoke to me about the political instruction they were given. Not one or two, but eight or nine. We also commissioned a study that looked at the Brit Hume show over 25 weeks; their guests were 80 percent Republican, 20 percent Democrat. There is also the use of daily internal memos for political instruction, and then there are the hundreds of thousands of clips that are in the movie that make it very clear who and what they are.

What would be a better slogan for Fox?

"Republican and Proud"? It's funny; I don't know why they're so ashamed to admit it. Is it such a bad thing to be a Republican in the circles they travel? Is someone going to burn their houses down?

Have you ever met Rupert Murdoch?

No, I have not.

What would you say to him if you did?

Good afternoon, Mr. Murdoch. [Laughs.] You know, it all depends on the context, but I would be happy to have a discussion with him about the negative effects of Fox on a democratic society.

What news sources do you trust?

I read all sorts of things: Alternet, The Nation, The New York Times.

The backbone of your film is made up of former Fox reporters--a few who are reluctant to speak without anonymity. How did you find your sources? Did they seek you out?

No, I sought them out. I've interviewed people for 50 films and this was the most difficulty I've ever had in getting people to speak. They were very fearful; they hung up the phone; they said, "don't email me," because their email was monitored.

I read that part of your motivation in making films is your four children and the future they face. Are they socially active?

Yes. One of my daughters lives in Portland, and she's just taken the bar exam. She's worked with the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, and her interest is social justice law. My oldest daughter is a teacher in the inner city, working with at-risk youth, and my two other kids are too young.

Do you think people have a responsibility to get socially and politically engaged?

I don't know if I want to say that, but I will say that it's one of the great joys in life.

How would you argue with someone who says that ignorance is bliss, and that as long as you're not harming anyone, you're fine?

Well, I think there's a time when inaction is harming people. And when bad things are being done to your fellow citizens, being ignorant is not, in fact, blissful; it increases the harm. We can't hide behind the shield of "I didn't know, therefore it's okay."

Michael Moore has become a household name, and has directed the first documentary blockbuster. Are you jealous?

No. Michael is a good colleague.

Are you at least a better dresser than he is?

I think we're at the same level of dressing... Kmart specials. He's a lot taller than I am. I don't wear a hat, though. And I work out more.