The alarming headline on the liberal website Salon signaled a frontal attack on the cable network it holds in contempt.
“Fox News has nothing but fear: Here’s how we fight back against lies—and win.”
In case anyone missed the point, there were big photos of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly.
But scroll through the lengthy historical essay about Democrats battling against GOP scare tactics and there is not a sentence—not even a syllable—about Fox.
This is part of a relentless pattern at Salon, using Fox’s name as clickbait in dramatic headlines for pieces that have little or nothing to do with the network.
Hey, I have no problem with anyone attacking Fox. It is by far the nation’s biggest cable news network. It’s at the center of many controversies. And many of its commentators, including high-profile conservatives, aren’t shy about vehemently criticizing others.
So it’s hardly surprising that the San Francisco-based website regularly rips Fox (along with Republicans and others that it deems right-wing nutjobs). But Salon also deploys the F-word in a ghostly fashion, with eye-popping headlines obviously designed to boost web traffic and lure folks using search engines.
Just the other day, there was this impassioned headline on a first-person piece by Benji Hart: “Fox News will not quiet me: I beat back death threats and vicious name-calling after my Baltimore story went viral.”
So what awful assault did Fox lead against the author? Here’s the passage in its entirety:
“Fox News called for an interview, as did the Huffington Post and several radio shows.” Which, by the way, Hart declined.
How did Salon react to two Comedy Central titans stepping down? “Who will factcheck Fox News now? We’re lost without Stewart and Colbert.” There was, to be sure, a photo of Stewart with a picture of O’Reilly over his shoulder, but no mention of Fox.
Global warming? “Take a lesson, climate deniers and Fox News know-nothings,” the headline said, with photos of Hannity and O’Reilly along with Ann Coulter. But the historical book excerpt, which began with the Royal Society of the 1640s, never got around to mentioning Fox.
Sometimes Salon manages to muster only an imaginary scene to squeeze in a Fox angle. Under the headline “Right-wing lunatics gun for Jeb at nutty confab,” the site ran a picture of Sean Hannity and Jeb Bush—this to illustrate Hannity’s role as the questioner of several candidates at the upcoming CPAC gathering. But there was this bold if humorous prediction: “ For Jeb, at least, it will be Sean Hannity in his underpants shouting ‘U DID BENGHAZI!!!!!!!’”
Predicting the future, in fact, makes it easy to toss Fox into the boiling liberal stew. As in this headline: “Trevor Noah’s Fox News problem: The real challenge facing the new ‘Daily Show’ host.” Which is this: “If he mocks Fox News, as we all may hope he will, it could seem like he is just mocking the whole nation—leaving all of us the butt of the joke.”
On and on it goes.
“Rand Paul’s Fox News problem: Why warmongers still won’t accept the newly converted hawk.” No mention of Fox.
“Bobby Jindal just splintered the GOP: The unholy alliance between Fox News and the 1 percent can no longer stand.” No mention of Fox.
This is what passes for subtlety: A story headlined “The Charlie Hebdo Hypocrites” has a big photo of Sean Hannity with an on-screen graphic, “Media In Denial.” The article has no mention of Hannity--or Fox.
Some of the stories that do lambast FNC, at least as an all-purpose bogeyman, take on a horror-movie tone:
“I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria.”
“I was a teenage Fox News robot: Sean Hannity destroyed my childhood.”
Others are more sweeping: “Fox News hates men.”
Perhaps my favorite Salon headline required dragging Fox, which has been around for 19 years, back to the Civil War:
“Fox News would have hated Lincoln.”
Why? When Abraham Lincoln spoke of how both the North and South were equally Christian and prayed to the same God, “One can only imagine what Fox News, the GOP presidential field, and our benighted pundit class would have said about that.”
One can only imagine.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.