The Oklahoman

Demeaning Conflations In The Oklahoman

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A recent editorial in The Oklahoman is a subtle but classic case of how the newspaper continues to demonize gay people as it panders to its right-wing readership.

The editorial, “On abortion, left's stance is far afield from U.S. general public” (July 9, 2013), is also a typical example of cherry picking evidence and drawing illogical associations between two non-related issues. The editorial does this, it appears, to criticize gay people and same-sex marriage, not just to make a supported argument about abortion.

Note the subtle association in the editorial’s first paragraph:

The U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage issues left liberals jubilant and proclaiming that conservative critics of gay marriage are out of step with modern life. Yet those same liberals are often unflinching supporters of abortion on demand, a position strongly rejected by the broad public.

Following the basic illogic of the argument is not difficult here. “Gay marriage”—not “same sex marriage”—is supported presumably by a lot of gay liberals and other liberals who crave “abortion on demand” for all, according to the newspaper. In other words, the newspaper’s logic implies, if you’re gay, you probably support the demanding of abortion anytime, anywhere. Give me my abortion, NOW!

Of course, that’s not the case. There’s even an organization, Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, that proves that assumption wrong. I’m unsure how viable this organization really is, but I do know people in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community and those who support and love them hold varying political and cultural views.

So the leap from “gay marriage” to liberals to “abortion on demand” makes the editorial not only a basic non sequitur but also a sleazy, lazy and stereotypical smear of the LGBT community.

The editorial then goes on to allegedly present evidence that the country is solidly against this “abortion on demand” concept by citing a 2012 Gallup that shows 64 percent of Americans want to ban abortion from the second trimester of pregnancy. It also cites another obscure poll and a Texas poll that shows there’s majority support for prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.

What the editorial doesn’t do, of course, is mention more recent Gallup polls, which show majority support for abortion in general terms. In May of THIS YEAR, Gallup published this on its site:

As Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell awaits the jury verdict in his capital murder trial, Gallup finds 26% of Americans saying abortion should be legal under any circumstances and 20% saying it should be illegal in all circumstances. The majority, 52%, opt for something in between, as has been the case in nearly every Gallup measure of this question since 1975.

In other words, support for the abortion procedure has remained steady for 38 years, which is a far more telling statistic in terms of where the country stands. Note as well that only 26 percent of Americans, according to the poll, believe abortion should be legal under any circumstance. I guess these would be the abortion on demanders (AODers). Yet more than 50 percent of Americans support same sex marriage, according to another recent Gallup poll. So about half of those people who support “gay marriage,” using the newspaper’s illogic, aren’t even AODers.

The newspaper also conveniently omits the fact that studies show that abortions are rarely performed beyond 13 weeks of pregnancy. One academic study showed that in 2007 less than 9 percent of all abortions were performed beyond that time and only 1.2 percent of all abortion were performed after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

In other words, second trimester and late-term abortions remain extremely rare in this country. The anti-abortion crowd often doesn’t note this small percentage when it makes arguments about banning abortion after a certain time in a woman’s pregnancy.

Frankly, I’m unsure how reliable polls remain in our culture today, but 38 years of steady support in Gallup polls for the abortion procedure means something substantial. The fact that second trimester abortions are rare shows that reproductive education is the answer to preventing them, not draconian laws pushed by religious extremists. Late-term abortions are often for medical reasons or when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

And, to reiterate, abortion has nothing to do with celebrating same-sex marriage decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indifferent Oklahoman Bullies

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There are some encouraging signs on several fronts that widespread tornado safety improvements in this area will be one result of the May 20 killer tornado that struck Moore and parts of Oklahoma City.

But if we allow the underlying tone of recent commentaries in The Oklahoman about the tornado to prevail as we recover from the devastation, all this recent energy to make this a better place to live will be for nothing.

First, the good news. As I posted earlier, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has formed a task force to study the tornado safety issue, including making our schools safer. (Two schools were demolished by the tornado. At one school, seven children died.) A non-profit group, Shelter Oklahoma Schools, has formed to raise money to build shelters in schools, most of which lack them. State Rep. Joe Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat, has even called for a bond issue to fund shelters for schools.

There is a lot more to do, for sure, including building stronger houses and buildings, a lesson that somehow wasn’t learned in Moore after the May 3, 1999 tornado. I’ve even offered an idea about building a research center, museum and first-responders station in the heavily damaged area in Moore as a way to advance our knowledge about tornadoes and as a tribute to those who have lost their lives there.

The bad news, though, is The Oklahoman editorial page is basically repeating the negative attitude that has plagued the entire state since statehood. That attitude goes something like this: Stuff just happens here. There’s nothing we can do about it.

The initial reaction from The Oklahoman on its editorial page after the tornado was to rerun an updated commentary published after the May 3, 1999 tornado. In that overly religious editorial, Opinion Page Editor J.E. McReynolds gives us a short prayer for Oklahoma towards the end and then closes with the word “selah,” a Hebrew word meaning “God has spoken.” In other words, the destruction and death was all dictated by God so what’s the point of tornado safety or stronger buildings?

Over the last several days, the newspaper has also chimed in with typical rah-rah commentary about rebuilding Moore and a whiny, self-defensive commentary about what it called “crass” reactions to the tornado.

On Thursday, the newspaper published an illogical, unsupported straw-man argument about the tornado. After claiming some unidentified person on cable television used the term “polluting our weather” about the tornado, the editorial gets to its main argument: “Storms will be with us always. They've always been with us and they weren't related to ‘polluting the weather.’” The Oklahoman editorial page, just like U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, is obsessed with disproving the science of global warming, but it never deals with the actual science.

“Selah.” “Storms will be with us always.” These are code words for doing nothing but relying on the federal government to bail us out once again and rebuilding flimsy houses in an area that has suffered through three major tornadoes since 1999. Used in this specific context, they are the words of complacency, laziness and indifference.

As the state’s largest newspaper, this editorial indifference to future destruction and death can maintain a cultural tone here that locks in as time unfolds and people forget about that terrible day in 2013 or 2003 or 1999. The newspaper will say it supports school shelters, of course, or a discussion about such shelters, but when it comes to the details and as time passes we’ll see if that support holds up.

Don’t listen to the indifferent bullies at The Oklahoman. We can make our world much safer from tornadoes.

Inhofe, Lankford Lead Major Assault On Environment

I think it’s fair to say that at least some members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation and the corporate power structure here are waging a carefully constructed rhetorical war against the environment.

The principal ammunition is money given by the oil and gas industry in campaign contributions to politicians, such as Republicans U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, who represents Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District. The principal tactics—or to put it another way, what that money buys—are relentless science denial, linguistic subterfuge and reductionist sloganeering.

The victim, of course, is the environment. Our planet faces the major threat of global warming caused by man-made carbon emissions. By supporting the interests of the oil and gas industry above environmental protection, politicians like Inhofe and Lankford, the corporate energy sector here and their mouthpiece, The Oklahoman, have not only positioned themselves on the wrong side of history but have also sold out the future of the planet for money and power.

Take just this week. On Wednesday, Inhofe announced he, along with other senators, have introduced a legislative plan for a “full global embargo against Iranian oil” that also includes a requirement that the federal government open up more of its land for energy production. Of course, as even Inhofe concedes in a press release, the United States doesn’t import any oil from Iran, but that doesn’t matter because the new production of oil by big corporations on federal lands would somehow help those countries who do import oil from Iran. All this will result in the “defeat” of Iran, according to Inhofe, which is a somewhat fantastical concept in itself.

Of course, traditional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands will also damage the environment and only exacerbate the real problem of climate change through the burning of fossil fuels, but, as we know, Inhofe doesn’t buy into the science of global warming and calls it all a hoax.

On Friday, Inhofe also issued a statement arguing that the Department of Interior needs to back off any re-proposals of rules over fracking on federal lands, which are going to provide the oil needed to defeat Iran. In the statement, Inhofe makes the claim that “over one million wells have been fracked and there has not been a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination in that time.” It’s not surprising that argument has been refuted. (Click here as well.) Fracking has also been related to earthquakes here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

It’s also not surprising that Inhofe doesn’t mention in his press releases that he has received at least $550,950 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2007.

Inhofe’s ties to the oil and gas industry through campaign funding ultimately result in an assault on the environment as he does the bidding of big energy companies.

One of his anti-environment colleagues in Washington, Lankford, does the same type of bidding. Lankford received $160,350 in campaign money from the oil and gas industry in the 2011-2012 campaign cycle. What does that amount of campaign money get the oil and gas industry?

On Thursday, Lankford criticized the federal government during a hearing for not expediting drilling permits on federal land. He has argued that new rules related to fracking are not needed for drilling on federal lands because apparently states do such a good job regulating the oil and gas industry. The Oklahoman, of course, extensively covered Lankford’s predictable remarks.

To round out the week, the newspaper, which is a propaganda mouthpiece for Inhofe, Lankford and all of Oklahoma City’s large energy companies, such as Devon, Chesapeake, Sandridge and Continental Resources, published an editorial Friday mocking protesters of the Keystone XL pipeline currently under construction in the state.

The editorial focused on one quote by a protester, who was arrested at a construction site, and the editorial made the sophomoric argument once again that people who fight for the environment most likely also use cars fueled by gasoline and thus have some type of conflict of interest that renders their arguments invalid.

The real conflict of interest is that the newspaper is owned by Philip Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire, who became rich drilling for fossil fuels, and that the newspaper conveniently never allows consistent, dissenting views to its one-sided, conservative myopia when it comes to the environmental destruction. Has Oklahoma become the epicenter of an anti-environment campaign waged by corporate interests for short-term profits?

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