I’ve been trying to respond to each of The Oklahoman editorials, published on NewsOK.com, that criticize that Occupy Wall Street movement to highlight the sheer inanity and cluelessness of perhaps the most conservative newspaper in the country.
The newspaper, which is now owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, doesn’t “get” the Occupy movement, and it has undoubtedly spent thousands of words proving it. But what the newspaper lacks in basic cultural understanding it makes up for in ad hominem, demeaning attacks on people who basically want a decent economic future for themselves.
The newspaper’s lastest inane offering (“Occupy protests to the contrary, bigger isn’t always badder,” Jan. 17, 2012) essentially argues that monopoly companies such as Walmart are good for the country, and it’s only a “naive and sometimes stupid strain of populism,” i.e. the Occupy Movement, that would dare criticize them.
Here’s the telling paragraph in the commentary:
A local gadfly, speaking at an Occupy OKC rally late last year, evoked this idiocy in urging his audience to shop only at small, locally owned businesses “and stay out of big box stores that feed the 1 percent and wreck local economies.”
Note the words “gadfly” and “idiocy” and the previously cited “stupid strain of populism,” which shows the editorial must rely on name-calling and demeaning language in an effort to make a point, which is obviously strained. In the end, the editorial’s argument is archaic in its simplicity: Walmart good, protesters bad. The words in italic are a mimic of the editorial’s ending, which goes “Two stores good, 400 better.”
The criticism of Walmart has a long history, and I won’t spend much time rehashing the complaints, which center around the monopoly’s impact on communities around the country. The basic narrative, given by the company’s detractors, is that Walmart pushes out independent businesses in communities and pays extremely low wages. A good source of information for this type of criticism, which has cultural validity and is remarkable for its contemporary importance, is Walmart Watch. Here’s an example of the arguments presented on the site:
From small businesses to major chains, all grocery and retail establishments that compete with Walmart are impacted by the company. Competitors are often forced to lower wages and standards. By using a model based on low-wages, high-efficiency transportation, and imported goods, Walmart has a history of destroying once thriving downtowns across rural America.
That the local editorial didn’t refer significantly to the huge, historical body of Walmart criticism is fairly typical because the fallacy of omission is one of the newspaper’s best weapons in protecting the wealthiest 1 percent from any critique. But, once again, the newspaper misses the most salient point of the Occupy Movement, which is 99 percent of the country is essentially enslaved politically and economically by the top 1 percent. That’s an argument that’s been made here and across the country, and not just among Occupy protesters. The great wealth disparity in this country threatens democracy, and, paradoxically, capitalism itself.
So, given what the movement is really about, here’s some information unlikely to be found on The Oklahoman editorial page when it criticizes the “idiocy” of the “naïve” protesters and their “stupid strain of populism.” According to Wikipedia, the three children of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, using 2011 numbers, are worth the following: Alice Walton, $20.9 billion, S. Robson Walton, $21 billion and Jim Walton, $21.3 billion.
As of 2010, Anschutz, the new owner of The Oklahoman, is worth $7 billion, according to the site.
For weeks, the editorial page of The Oklahoman has mocked and sneered at the Occupy OKC participants and the entire Occupy Wall Street movement, employing demeaning, sarcastic right-wing rants to make its points.
On Wednesday, an editorial published on NewsOK.com (“Continued overnight stays in Kerr Park would only hurt Occupy OKC cause,” Dec. 14, 2011) about the local protesters dropped the silly snark, for the most part, and offered its sanctimonious advice for Occupy OKC: Leave the downtown Kerr Park encampment for the good of your cause.
Of course, the editorial was published as the Occupy OKC protesters were actually already breaking camp after a federal judge’s ruling that they had to leave the park at night because of city park regulations. The Occupy OKC argument was essentially that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes “the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . .”.
That The Oklahoman should now be a source of advice for the OWS movement is about as absurd as it gets. This is a media outlet that, at least in its editorials, has made it clear it favors the interests of big corporations and the wealthy—or the 1 percent—above anything else. This has been the newspaper’s modus operandi under the Gaylord family and now apparently under the ownership of Philip Anschutz.
Perhaps worse than the unwanted and self-serving advice, though, is the newspaper’s failure to even remotely understand the local and national protests, which are sure to continue through the winter and erupt in full force during the spring. That’s the fault line between establishment media outlets and the OWS movement. If the movement can’t be presented as a list of points in a press release, then corporate media outlets are going to marginalize it. But this is a beginning of a movement, here and elsewhere, that might never lend itself to the artificial rhetorical frames still widely practiced as “journalism.”
There are two points of misunderstanding in the most recent editorial about the OWS movement in The Oklahoman.
First, the editorial claims Occupy OKC participants “do indeed have a right to ‘stand up for what they believe in a public space.’ But the First Amendment doesn't say that other rules or laws don't apply.”
But the First Amendment also doesn’t say the right to peaceably assemble IS subject to all “other rules or laws.” Kerr Park’s hours are not, to be obvious, specifically a part of the constitution. The key word here is “peaceably.” One basis of the Occupy movement is to occupy, to be redundant, in both an actual and symbolic sense. It says, We claim this space because it’s ours as citizens. We’re going to live here. We want a voice in making “other rules or laws.” Of course, the temporary or even permanent suspension of some “other rules or laws” is valid when there are pressing social concerns presented peacefully by a widespread, national movement.
It’s difficult to imagine that our country’s forefathers would have considered a small park’s hours of operation more important than peaceful protest.
Second, the editorial asks why the protesters chose Kerr Park and not some other public space. The answer to that, at least from my perspective, seems obvious. The park was donated to the city by the long-gone Kerr-McGee Corporation, a once prominent oil and gas company in Oklahoma City that was sold in 2006 and became part of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in Houston. In a sense, because of the nomenclature, a historical, now non-existent corporation “occupies” the park 24 hours a day. What better place to protest the outsized role corporate money and influence plays in our political system?
As I’ve written before, once the Oil Age comes to an end, companies like Kerr-McGee will seem like a blip on the city’s and state’s history. Let’s hope that the expression of valid protest and the exercise of free speech will live on and that maybe one day Kerr Park will be known as Occupy Park.
It comes with the standard irrelevant comparison and right-wing qualifications, but even the largest, conservative newspaper in U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s home state disagrees with his recent declaration that there has been a “complete collapse of the global warming movement.”
As I wrote earlier, Inhofe produced a somewhat bizarre victory video last week in his war against the environment as the United Nations Climate Change Conference continued in Durban, South Africa. In it, Inhofe sanctimoniously declared himself the victor in what he perceives as a fight between “a one-man truth squad”—that would be him—and cap-and-trade proponents.
It was complete nonsense, of course, and, as I’ve long argued, Inhofe can only get away with these types of absurd, political antics because the local, corporate media never challenges him or his ties to the fossil fuel industry. The state’s corporate media outlets, most notably The Oklahoman, seem far more concerned with preserving the right-wing status quo than seeking truth and publishing it.
So, to its partial credit, an editorial about the video published on the web site of The Oklahoman actually stated the obvious:
The global warming debate is far from over, despite Inhofe's pronouncement.
By itself, the admission might seem significant. Here’s the largest newspaper in Oklahoma essentially arguing one of the state’s U.S. Senators was not only wrong on an important issue but significantly so because “debate is far from over.” (Note the word “far” here.) So does this mean the editorial writers at The Oklahoman are going to challenge Inhofe on his belief that global warming science is a “hoax”? Hardly.
The editorial’s blunt statement about Inhofe’s error is followed by this irrelevant comparison and typical, right-wing political rhetoric:
In this standoff, the egotism and smug self-assurance are mostly on the side of the embracers (Boxer and allies) rather than the deniers (Inhofe and company).
The editorial point here is that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is the arrogant one, not Inhofe. It’s a false comparison and ultimately not a significant point. Boxer supports the views of the vast, vast majority of the world scientific community about global warming and doesn’t present her evidence in terms of political victory. The editorial is simply perpetuating the Inhofe myth that there’s a controversy over global warming science. There isn’t. The controversy has been manufactured to protect big energy companies.
So here’s the editorial’s logic: Well, Inhofe is wrong, sure, we’ll say that, but he’s not as egotistical as people who rationally accept the scientific method, research and critical inquiry so that makes it okay.
Here’s a couple of underlying messages in the editorial, messages repeated often in The Oklahoman and throughout the corporate media here:
- Knowledge is not important. It’s okay to dismiss science based on political reasons. This is a particularly tragic message to promote in Oklahoma given the state’s low college graduation rate. Why go to college to study when seeking the truth and research and science are simply components of a conspiracy perpetuated by egotistical people?
- It’s okay to use false or irrelevant comparisons to present an argument. This message sanctions distortions and even lies as a method of argumentation and reasoning. This, too, sends a tragic message in terms of education. It leads to a somewhat prevalent idea here that since religious and political beliefs are morally superior to critical inquiry, they can be presented in less than honest academic terms.
The Oklahoman editorial page often argues for the importance of education, but it undercuts that argument when it tries to offer cover in the form of rhetorical subterfuge for someone as anti-science as Inhofe.