Editorial Suffocation

Image of Ed Shadid from The Lost Ogle

In my last post, I suggested that the editorial page of The Oklahoman might have recently lightened up on the snark and fallacious argumentation.

It was an extremely qualified argument, and I made it only to set up my criticism of a recent editorial that essentially conflated the Oklahoma Lottery and state government. The editorial was a clear example of a false analogy, a type of fallacy used by the newspaper consistently because it doesn’t often argue much with facts and empirical evidence.

Today, I’m taking back even that qualified argument. After reviewing and rethinking the newspaper’s tirades against President Barack Obama and looking at its recent criticism of Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid, pictured right, I continue to believe the newspaper’s editorial page relies mostly on “false comparisons, rhetorical subterfuge, omissions, ad hominem attacks and its trademark put-down interjections and needless, snarky intrusions.”

That doesn’t mean the newspaper doesn’t get it right occasionally, but too many of its editorials are lousy and unethical examples of argumentation. There are ways to make certain conservative arguments with integrity, of course, but The Oklahoman primarily relies on rallying the low-information rabble with ideological mush and fear mongering. In the process, they attempt to damage people’s reputations and credibility without remorse.

The newspaper’s hysterical editorials opposing virtually any major action of President Barack Obama are an obvious case in point, and it’s simply not worth rehashing the matter. The newspaper’s recent criticism of Ed Shadid, which follows other criticism, is worth a discussion, however, because it shows just how much The Oklahoman still strays from mainstream journalistic practices.

Shadid, who represents Ward 2, recently suggested Oklahoma City might look into reconsidering the one-eighth of a cent sales tax that is dedicated to The Oklahoma City Zoo operations. The suggestion came within a broader discussion about city revenues. It was clear Shadid, then and now, has never suggested reducing funding for the zoo. His comments were actually related to money surpluses.

The Oklahoman editorial page, however, immediately went on the attack. Note this snarky bit of playground argumentation:

Shadid is questioning the dedicated sales tax of 1/8th of a cent, hinting that it could be better spent on streets, for example, those things that make it easier to drive instead of walk. The Ward 2 council member has a reputation for going against the grain. We didn’t know he wanted to go against the giraffes as well.

Note the ad hominem fallacy that Shadid is “going against the grain,” which tries to marginalize a person that many people believe is one of the city’s most foresighted leaders at the present moment. The “against the giraffes” comment is a typical type of sarcastic editorial interjection used by The Oklahoman in place of sound research and reasoning.

Shadid’s cogent comments about the zoo tax, passed 22 years ago, and the hotel/motel tax, which helps fund the fairgrounds, are clearly outlined here and are designed to produce a discussion, not a foregone conclusion. Shadid, unlike The Oklahoman, uses a heavy dose of numbers and studies, a normal intellectual approach to an issue.

But, beyond the numbers, here’s a key point Shadid makes:

Let me start by emphasizing that I, nor I believe, any other city councilor, would favor any action which would jeopardize the ongoing operations of the zoo. Our strong public investment has created a world class facility and improved the health and quality of life of our citizens as well as improved our knowledge and appreciation of animals.

The Oklahoman editorial attacking Shadid lacks context and basic integrity. When the newspaper attacks Shadid, it attacks all of us who have stood up against its basic unfairness and shoddy, unethical journalism practices. The editorial also sends the common signal that the newspaper and local corporate power structure will not tolerate discussion of new ideas unless they’ve been first approved by the city elites.

So, to get back to my original point, The Oklahoman continues to publish knee-jerk, fallacious arguments on its editorial page that dumb down the political discourse here. It’s suffocating.