INVENTING THE OTHER: Salon invents Kurtz!

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013

Part 2—Seitz-Wald toys with his readers: Halfway across the globe, “Buddhist lynch mobs” run in the streets, the New York Times has reported.

Last week, here at home, things weren’t entirely different. At the devolving, highly tribal Salon, a set of pseudo-liberal writers staged a series of interventions on behalf of pure tribal belief, waging war against Serena Williams and Paula Deen, among others.

Williams and Deen were hunted down for imperfections of utterance concerning sexual assault and race. Beyond that, they don’t know how to apologize correctly!

We’ll get to those cases before the week ends. For today, let’s consider the clownish way Salon instructed its readers with regard to the behavior of Howard Kurtz, who became especially vulnerable when he accepted employment at Fox.

For the past fifteen years, Kurtz has hosted Reliable Sources, one of the oddest programs in the history of cable news. As of this coming Sunday, that era will come to an end.

Kurtz is leaving CNN for the Fox News Channel, where he will host Fox News Watch, another of the oddest programs in cable news history.

For quite a few years, Fox News Watch was one of the smartest programs on cable news. It was perhaps the only program on Fox which was actually “fair and balanced.” If anything, it tilted a bit to the left, due to the fact that Jeff Cohen, a very bright, genuine progressive, tended to dominate discussion as a weekly panelist.

Week after week, year after year, Cohen would beat the tar out of Jim Pinkerton, the lumbering fellow Fox employed as Cohen’s conservative foil. Eventually, Cal Thomas was brought on board to help Pinkerton out. But even with two conservatives battling Cohen, Cohen tended to win the day in the program’s discussions.

Later, Fox News Watch featured Neal Gabler, another smart liberal—and the program’s capable host, Eric Burns, was plainly not a movement conservative.

Finally, Fox put an end to this nonsense, dispensing with Gabler and replacing Burns with a reliable hack for a host. But for many years, this was one of the most progressive-tinged programs on cable.

Now, Kurtz will host Fox News Watch. At Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald was brought in to kill the pig.

In one way, you can’t really blame Seitz-Wald. As a 2008 Brown graduate, he may be innocent of much of Kurtz’s history, which has sometimes been good. But Seitz-Wald wrote a truly clownish account of the new Fox host—a clownish account designed to please the Buddhist lynch mobs which currently run at Salon.

Seitz-Wald invented Kurtz as The Other, misleading and flatly misinforming us liberal rubes as he did.

“Howard Kurtz & Fox News: A true love story,” the headline atop his profile reads. “The purported media critic has long treated the ‘fair and balanced’ network with awe and romance.”

Those headlines are striking—but are they accurate? Without question, Kurtz has never done enough to address the lunacy of Fox. But that can be said of many people and many sites, including the hapless Salon.

That said, has Kurtz really staged a “true love story” with respect to Fox? Has he treated the disgraceful channel “with awe and romance?”

Hungrily, we fell on the evidence. Implausibly, Seitz-Wald offered this, larding his prose with the links you can find in his original text:
SEITZ-WALD (6/22/13): Kurtz took Sean Hannity’s side in his battle with Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison after the Fox host called the congressman an Islamic “radical” comparable to the Ku Klux Klan; he defended the network after the Shirley Sherrod scandal; downplayed News Corp.’s $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association; favorably profiled anchors Bill Hemmer, Shepard Smith, and Megyn Kelly, along with chieftain Roger Ailes; seemed to take the network’s side in its dispute with former host Glenn Beck; and declared that Karl Rove is “generally fair-minded in his commentary.”

In the early days of the Tea Party rallies in 2009, Kurtz equated “whatever role Fox played in pumping them up” with mainstream reporters who were “late in recognizing the significance of the protests.” Journalists at CNN and MSNBC who “also performed badly on April 15th,” he wrote in a Washington Post Q&A with readers by being a few days on their importance. When another reader questioned the bleeding of opinion programming into Fox’s straight news block, Kurtz pointed to the quality work of Major Garrett, a good reporter who later left his job as Fox’s White House correspondent because he said wanted to “think more.” Garrett’s work is solid, but he’s a single anchor and reading the Q&A, it feels like Kurtz is going a bit out of his way to defend the network. He played the same Major Garrett card in an interview with former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn during the height of the White House’ war on Fox News.
In his original text, Seitz-Wald includes eleven links to help establish his claims. Unfortunately, four of the links go to, a site which only presents the first few paragraphs of the pieces in question. (Unless you “try us out for 7 days, FREE!”)

We don’t know why Seitz-Wald linked to Highbeam rather than to the actual reports by Kurtz, which are available in their entirety. For example, here is Kurtz’s full report on the Sherrod firing, in which he made a blindingly obvious point about Fox’s limited role in the matter.

Whatever! We don’t know why Seitz-Wald linked to Highbeam. But we will guess that few of Salon’s tribal readers ever bother clicking such links. In its modern incarnation, Salon exists to give tribal succor and to invent tribal belief, not to offer serious analysis or real information.

Who needs real links, Seitz-Wald seems to say. We’ll paraphrase: Who needs facts?

Has Kurtz been a hack for Fox in the way Salon suggests? We decided to check Seitz-Wald’s examples—though on the surface, we couldn’t help noting their rather limited nature. The second paragraph we have posted largely turns on a single on-line Q-and-A session, not on anything Kurtz ever wrote. And good lord!

When we checked, we discovered that the Q-and-A which follows was the offending passage. Tell the truth: Does this sound like the stuff of a major love story?
Question from New York City: In your chat last week, you included Neil Cavuto as one of the "commentators who are paid for their opinions." Really? According to his Fox bio, "Neil Cavuto was named anchor and managing editor of business news for the Fox News Channel in July 1996. He is now the senior vice president of Business News and host of 'Your World With Neil Cavuto.'" Senior VP of Business News is an opinion position? It sounds like straight news to me.

Howard Kurtz: Well, Cavuto wears two hats. He is a Fox News executive, yes, but he is also a daily host and I don't think he would deny for a second that he dishes out plenty of his own opinions on the air.

It's important to make these distinctions. At the tea party tax protests last week, the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity served as cheerleaders and star attractions, whipping up the crowd with anti-tax, anti-spending and in some cases anti-Obama rhetoric. Cody Willard, a Fox Business Network anchor, delivered a brief rant: "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"

On the other hand, I erred during last week's chat in saying that Greta Van Susteren was among those leading the charge. She covered one of the tax protests but was not endorsing them or taking an ideological stance. I've never seen her as having a particular agenda, unlike some of her Fox colleagues.

There were particular journalists at CNN and MSNBC who also performed badly on April 15th. And the mainstream media, including the WP, were late in recognizing the significance of the protests, whatever role Fox played in pumping them up. So I think it's important to be as specific as possible in these critiques and not paint with an overly broad brush.
Is that the stuff of a love story? Speaking about his beloved Fox, Kurtz derides the way two Fox stars “whipped up the crowd” at those tea party rallies “with anti-tax, anti-spending and in some cases anti-Obama rhetoric.” He then describes another Fox anchor engaging in “a brief rant” about the fascism that seems to be sweeping the country.

Kurtz then retracted an earlier error in which he had wrongly criticized his beloved! And yet, this one on-line Q-and-A plays an extremely large role in Seitz-Wald’s invention of Kurtz as The Other—an indictment which led Salon’s headline writer to portray a “true love story” in which Kurtz has treated Fox “with awe and romance.”

Those Buddhist lynch mobs were misled when they read Seitz-Wald’s account of that lonely Q-and-A—as they were when Seitz-Wald criticized Kurtz for his comments about Sherrod. And by the way: With whom was Kurtz supposed to side in the fight between Beck and Fox?

Much of this was pure clowning. Meanwhile, has Kurtz written “favorable profiles” of Fox personnel?

You be the judge! With headline included, this is the way Kurtz’s profile of Smith began. Remember, this profile is supposed to be part of Kurtz's love affair with Fox:
KURTZ (11/16/09): Shepard Smith, leaning against prevailing winds on Fox News

Shepard Smith had barely started his program when a Fox News producer told him that their reporter had snagged an interview with Chris Christie, the challenger locked in a tight race with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

"Here I am, the face of the network, it's a week before the election, and our station is about to put a Republican on live and have nothing from the Democrat," Smith recalls now. He reacted viscerally at the time, telling viewers: "Wow. . . . My apologies for the lack of balance. If I had control, it wouldn't have happened."

Seated in his Sixth Avenue office with an erect posture that matches his caffeinated style, Smith says he was unaware that correspondent Shannon Bream had grabbed Christie on the fly. "I came off looking condescending," he says. "I handled it poorly."

But the on-air rebuke underscored Smith's status as an outspoken newsman at the network defined by high-decibel conservatives, a stance that has earned him respect even from some Fox-hating liberals.
Oops! In his profile, Kurtz praised Smith because he isn’t like the partisan crackpots at Fox! As Kurtz correctly noted, even some Fox-hating liberals had made this obvious observation by this time.

(For ourselves, we were impressed by Smith’s passionate on-scene reporting during Katrina. We were grateful for his performance and remain so today.)

Seitz-Wald’s pseudo-profile of Kurtz represents terrible journalism. In fact, it isn’t “journalism” at all; it represents the latest attempt to pleasure the tribal mobs which now comprise the base for the floundering, low-IQ Salon as it apes the horrible conduct pioneered by Fox.

Day after day, readers are handed this crap at Salon, a site which featured high quality journalism when it began in the 1990s. Last week in particular, Salon’s misued readers were handed this crap all week long.

With some exceptions, Salon no longer attempts to provide real journalism. Like other publications, it has followed the tribal imperative, handing utterly stupid shit to its misled, irate tribal readers.

On a budget basis, this may be the way to survive in the current tribal environment. But it’s clearly the way to create stupid gangs of furious, misinformed citizens—to create Buddhist lynch mobs.

Seitz-Wald’s piece is pure imitation—an imitation of journalism, an imitation of life. Whatever the truth about Kurtz may be, it certainly can’t be found here.

Presumably, Seitz-Wald was better than this when he emerged from the groves at Brown. But life at Salon has dumbed him down. His profile of Kurtz is invention.

Might we note one other fact about Seitz-Wald’s hapless piece? We refer now to his opening complaint, the one involving Sean Hannity.

Hannity is one of the most destructive forces in modern pseudo-journalism. Salon has been too dumb and too feckless to report on his horrible conduct, or on the way his deceptions are permitted by the major upper-end news orgs to which Salon writers defer.

That said, the fact remains—Hannity is a beast. Leave it to Seitz-Wald to locate an instance where he was basically right! In short:

Did Howard Kurtz really “[take] Hannity’s side in his battle with Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison after the Fox host called the congressman an Islamic ‘radical’ comparable to the Ku Klux Klan?”

We’re tribally sorry, but no—he did not. Seitz-Wald is either mistaken or he is lying. Either path works at Salon.

In this case, you can actually click the Seitz-Wald link and see Kurtz taking Hannity’s side. In his on-line commentary, Kurtz is discussing Ellison’s appearance on the February 26, 2013 Hannity program.

We hate to tell you, but Ellison actually was quite buffoonish on Hannity’s program that evening. Seitz-Wald links to the on-line assessment Kurtz made on the following day, February 27. In that assessment, we’d have to say that Kurtz was basically right.

But uh-oh! Seitz-Wald gooses readers by saying that Kurtz defended Hannity even after he called Ellison “an Islamic ‘radical’ comparable to the Ku Klux Klan.”

Sorry! Hannity made that unpleasant remark on his February 28 program, one day after Kurtz's on-line assessment. And when he did, Kurtz responded on Reliable Sources. We join his commentary in progress:
KURTZ (3/3/13): I have a record of calling out Sean Hannity when I think he is wrong, but in this case [on February 26], he wasn't wrong. Ellison told me in a statement, “I stood up to Sean Hannity because of what the sequester will mean for millions of Americans who have already been forced to work harder while they get by with less. The president is not being an alarmist-in-chief or president panic when he talks about these cuts, he is leading.”

If you're not a Fox fan, check out the video and make up your own mind. But I do have to deduct points over what Hannity did later in the week [on February 28].

He attacked Ellison, who is Muslim, over having written two papers supporting Louis Farrakhan as a law student and suggesting that Ellison might be the, quote, "equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan." Even Hannity had to allude to the fact that the congressman apologized a half dozen years ago for once having supported Farrakhan and with that, Hannity surrendered the high ground.
Seitz-Wald linked Salon readers to a commentary Kurtz made before Hannity made the statement in question. He forgot to tell readers that Kurtz criticized Hannity for this remark after it was made.

But then, Salon has become a reliable junk heap, a tribute to tribal pseudo-journalism. Last week, Salon worked hard at its dual tasks, inventing The Other and running us rubes.

Salon’s readers are being treated like fools as this process continues. They're being turned into a tribal mob, the kind of mob hacks have inflamed all through the annals of time.

Tomorrow: Can Serena Williams say that?


  1. When Walter Pincus was Seitz-Wald's age he was spying on American students.

    Yet TDH says:

    Walter Pincus is one of the country’s most respected reporters.

    Whatever. Hey, once you've bought into Megan McArdle's "new mandarin" fantasy, I guess writing these pieces is a breeze.

    1. Naturally, saying that someone *is* respected is far from saying that *you* respect them -- and even further from saying that you think everything they've done has great merit, but from the link:

      "Same old same-old, Pincus seemed to be saying."
      "It seems to us that Pincus is wrong."

      Whatever. Hey, once you've bought into... Oh I can't be further bothered. But clearly, posting irrelevant bullshit to comments threads is a breeze.

    2. Sockpuppet to the rescue!

    3. I don't like being refuted, so I call you a name without addressing the fact that my comment was eviscerated.

      Yep, it does expose my "thinking" process -- whuduvit?

  2. Anon 1156,

    That's a good legalistic sort of defense, but why is TDH slagging Seitz-Wald and not Pincus? Pincus wrote an article implying that Snowden's revelations weren't really news. Like everyone knew all that NSA spying stuff already...well, were not all spies, Walter.

    Seitz-Wald wrote a couple hundred words on how Kurtz had never been particularly ferocious as a watchdog toward Fox and now would likely fit in well there. Pretty much all TDH readers would agree with the gist of that.

    So who does TDH call out for terrible journalism? The "new mandarin!" Sick.

    1. TDH wrote that Pincus column awready. It's the one mentioned above in comments and liked to on the sidebar, dopey.

    2. "awready", "liked to", and you're calling someone else "dopey"?

    3. No, TDH's very deferential Pincus post did accuse him of clowning or imitation jouranlism, so that Pincus column hasn't been written.

  3. Boo hoo hoo...Salon doesn't criticize Kurtz (who is very smart) in exactly the way Bob would.

    Can this site get any worse?

    1. It does with every idiotic comment you post.

      What exactly is it about you that compels you to troll the comment section of this blog? I ask out of genuine interest, as I cannot imagine what the reason could be.

    2. M in the C,

      I used to like the site years first, I thought I could criticize some aspect of a post and it might make a difference to the author--especially since there aren't that many comments. But apparently I do not understand the author's aims, because these posts get more sour and more curdled each month.

      Who does does Somerby expect will embrace these picayune attacks on people like Sirota, Ezra Klein and the rest? Maybe in addition to asking why I troll these comments, you could ask why Somerby trolls Salon and the like?

    3. Matt,

      Do you agree with TDH that "Salon has become a reliable junk heap?"

    4. Comments Section Enforcement Officer (aka Matt in the Crown): "What exactly is it about you that compels you to troll the comment section of this blog?"

      A simple variation of "How long has it been since you've stopped beating your wife."

      What a "genuine" maroon.

  4. I wish you other anonymouses would pick some sort of identifier if you are going to argue with each other. I'm the non-arguing anonymous in this thread.

    Anyway, I'm commenting on this--

    "For quite a few years, Fox News Watch was one of the smartest programs on cable news. It was perhaps the only program on Fox which was actually “fair and balanced.” If anything, it tilted a bit to the left, due to the fact that Jeff Cohen, a very bright, genuine progressive, tended to dominate discussion as a weekly panelist.

    I wish I'd known about that when it was on. It probably is a sign of lefty provincialism that I didn't. I never once encountered anyone who told me, online, in the print press, or in real life, that this show existed and was worth watching. The way Bob describes it it would have been better than any MSNBC show, with the exception of Hayes when he had his Saturday/Sunday two hour gig.