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Friday, December 9, 2016

A grisly beheading at a food plant in Moore, Oklahoma last week reinforced some Americans’ greatest current fear: that the Islamic State terrorist group has infiltrated the U.S. Murder suspect Alton Nolen severed the head of his victim, just as an ISIS killer severed the heads of two American journalists and a British aid worker, among many other victims of the Islamist group. Coupled with Nolen’s reported ties to Islam, that was enough to warrant FBI involvement. Although the agency hasn’t yet determined Nolen’s motive, it doesn’t believe that he represents a further threat to us by ISIS or Islamists. But Fox News sees things differently.

“Sounding the jihadist alarms, Fox News and the right-wing media are eager to label the ghastly crime an act of Islamic terror,” writes Eric Boehlert on the liberal watchdog website Media Matters. “Law enforcement officials, however, aren’t in the same rush, noting that the attack came immediately after Nolen was fired and stating that they’ve yet to find a link to terrorism.”

Boehlert goes on to contrast Fox News’s coverage of the Oklahoma beheading with its coverage of an actual terrorist attack. On Sept. 16, marksman and anti-government extremist Eric Frein allegedly murdered one cop and attempted to kill another two. Hiding out in the Pocono Mountains, officials say Frein is “extremely dangerous” and perhaps in possession of an AK-47.

“We have a well-trained sniper who hates authority, hates society, hates government, and hates cops enough to plug them from ambush. He’s so lethal, so locked and loaded, that communities in the Pocono Mountains feel terrorized,” said Philadelphia columnist Dick Polman. According to the criminal complaint, Frein also collected “various information concerning foreign embassies.”

According to Boehlert’s research, Fox News only mentioned Frein and his killing spree six times in the two weeks since the shooting, and in none of those reports were the assassin’s anti-government sentiments even noted.

Ever since 2008, when Barack Obama began his first term in the White House, Fox News has been building a narrative to destroy him and his legacy. The president is routinely portrayed as having an alarmingly lax stance toward terrorism. Some conservative pundits even stoop so low as to emphasize his middle name, Hussein, to rile up Islamophobic viewers. If details of a story — or the story itself — don’t align with Fox’s ulterior purpose, they’re omitted.

Just as the most important news of the day receives front-page coverage in newspapers, it tends to be allotted the most time in newscasts, signaling its relative importance. Fox News has dedicated hours upon hours to covering the Oklahoma beheading. With such headlines as “Terror in the Heartland,” Boehlert argues, Fox politicized a tragic killing, which investigators reckon was nothing more than a disgruntled ex-employee gone berserk.

“In other words,” notes Boehlert, “on Fox News a Muslim who killed a co-worker in Oklahoma and who remains in police custody represents a much bigger story than a suspected anti-government assassin who killed a cop and remains on the run, eluding hundreds of law enforcement officials while terrorizing a Pennsylvania community.”

The Fox coverage of Nolen’s crime was only the latest in a long history of journalistic misconduct (if the word “journalistic” even applies). To tarnish Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state as well as her reputation before the next presidential election, the network aired almost 1,100 segments on Benghazi across five programs between the date the attack occurred and the formation of a select committee last May to investigate it, according to another Media Matters report. Even though no evidence of a cover-up was found over the course of 13 hearings and 50 briefings, 41 percent of Republicans continue to call Benghazi the biggest scandal in U.S. history, according to the results of a PPP poll.

Fox News had been equally powerful in convincing its viewers of the voter fraud “problem” in America, a problem “more rare than death by lightning,” a study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice finds. Nevertheless, Fox spearheaded the crusade for the enactment of voter ID laws – motivated, one can reasonably assume, to suppress Democratic votes.

The results of a 2013 Gallup poll showed Fox News to be the nation’s leading news source, while a 2012 survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind revealed viewers of Fox News to be worse informed than even those who watch no news at all.

In April, CNN’s Peter Bergen observed that since 9/11, “extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies … have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology.” But because the top dogs at America’s No. 1 right-wing news channel are better served touting the improbable threat that ISIS poses to the homeland, the network elects to keep its viewers in the dark, distracting them from actual threats: the millions of unlicensed guns, unabated climate change, armed anti-government fanatics, and, of course, all the irrational fixations of Fox News.

Aimee Kuvadia is an editor and freelance journalist covering issues of national and political interest. She earned her M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter @aimeekuvadia.

Photo: ario via Flickr

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