Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, left out some crucial details about the ramifications of Fox News’ decision to publish the horrific ISIS video of the execution of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh by burning him to death.
To his credit and that of host Megyn Kelly, Kurtz did offer up some real criticism of the network:
KURTZ: Megyn, I see the arguments on both sides. I understand the case that we ought to show the pure evil that is ISIS, and I thought our colleague Bret Baier handled it judiciously by just showing a couple of still images. But I disagree with the Fox decision and here’s why. ISIS—I fear that many of us in the media are helping ISIS spread its propaganda, using its fear tactics. And I felt the same way with the beheading video, still images of which became almost like wallpaper for every story about ISIS. And when that tactic became so familiar, these terrorists, these butchers, went to the even more sick and depraved and barbaric method of burning a man to death. And I just have a concern that we are helping spread the fear that ISIS so badly wants to spread.
Kelly seemed to play both sides. She said she has a personal philosophy of “going toward the light” and that to her it means “you don’t have to show the worst of the barbarities.” However, she also said her show decided to display a graphic of the pilot being engulfed by flames because, “It’s as if we’re in World War II, Howie. And there was a chance to see inside the concentration camp and inside the gas chamber as the horror was happening and at some point in this battle do we not just have to remind people of the enemy we face? …Lest we be accused later of ignoring that enemy and not doing enough to combat it.”
That’s an absurd statement. Does Kelly really think that airing the video is doing something to “combat” terrorism? It’s almost as absurd as Fox’s insistence that saying the words “Islamic terrorism” is akin to fighting it. As Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert notes, “When news consumers learn that cold-blooded killers burned a man alive and then distributed the horrific act on video they don’t quite understand what happened? They can’t conjure up the ghastly image? Instead they have to be shown the entire execution on a news website to comprehend it?”
But somehow, Kurtz missed that or else gave Fox a pass. He said, “I don’t have a great problem with showing a single image and doing it on one night. My problem was with the constant showing of the images just before the beheading that I think almost served as a recruitment poster for ISIS.”
“I’m more comfortable” with the video on FoxNews.com,” Kurtz said. But, he added, part of him also questions, “Why are we making it easier for people to see this monstrous footage?”
Kelly and Kurtz deserve some props for this mild questioning of Fox News’ editorial judgment but there’s a whole lot more to this that these two left out.
For one thing, while media critic Kurtz expressed “concern” that Fox was doing ISIS’ handiwork, real terrorism experts have unequivocally accused the network of doing exactly that. As I posted yesterday, The Guardian reported (among other, similar accusations):
Malcolm Nance, the executive director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideology thinktank and an expert on counter-terrorism and radical extremism told the Guardian that by posting the video Fox News was propagating “exactly what Isis wants to propagate”.
… Nance told the Guardian that showing the video would also further endanger other hostages, including the 26-year-old American aid worker currently held by the militant group.
“[Fox News] are literally – literally – working for al-Qaida and Isis’s media arm,” he added.
“They might as well start sending them royalty checks.”
Shouldn’t a media critic note that?
Furthermore, Fox’s decision to promote the video directly contradicts its own previous stance – when Republican George W. Bush was president. As Media Matters reported yesterday:
(B)efore Obama was in office, Fox News repeatedly criticized other media outlets for airing footage they called “terrorist propaganda,” claiming doing so threatens national security and U.S. troops. In 2004, host Bill O’Reilly declared, “the TV network Al Jazeera helps al Qaeda and other killers by broadcasting their executions propaganda.” In 2005, Fox News Watch questioned whether American journalists should continue working relationships with Al Jazeera, because “American journalists [are] helping Iraqi terrorists by showing pictures of terrorist acts provided by Al Jazeera, a TV network that seems to have strong links to terrorists.” And in 2006, Fox criticized CNN for airing footage of American soldiers being killed in Iraq, declaring they would not air the same footage and noting that “some people say the airing of what they call a terrorist propaganda video has actually put American soldiers in danger.” (Though as CNN’s Brian Stelter noted, in 2004 Sean Hannity’s radio program aired audio of terrorists in Iraq beheading an American.)
Shouldn’t that change of heart have been discussed, too?
Or would the double standard have been just too glaring?
Watch it below, from last night’s The Kelly File.