The Oklahoman

The State’s Dark Side

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One has to wonder how the editorial writers at The Oklahoman live within their surreal, fictionalized world of false claims and glaring contradictions.

It has to be spooky to reside on the unstable abyss in which the opposite of what one thinks and says is often exactly the truth in the most obvious ways. It has to go far beyond the personal cost of disseminating propaganda into darker regions of human experience and reality.

The recent example of the antithetical reality of The Oklahoman editorial page is this: Despite all evidence to the contrary, it recently argued that President Barack Obama was given a warm welcome during his trip to the state. What’s more, it followed this up with a sarcastic, biting editorial about the president, arguing his trip here was worthless.

Let’s go over the facts. Obama arrived in Oklahoma City last week and then traveled to Cushing to announce he was going to try to expedite the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline, which will carry oil from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. The announcement was good economic news for the state in particular and its overall energy industry.

It was understandable that the governor and other prominent Republicans didn’t greet him at the airport. The state received short notice of the trip. Gov. Mary Fallin was on vacation. The lieutenant governor was apparently away on business in Washington. What does this matter, anyway? Why quibble over perceived protocol.

But what The Oklahoman completely dismissed or ignored in its “warm welcome” claims is that the president was greeted with verbal media hectoring from four prominent business leaders, the vacationing governor and, of course, the newspaper itself. The theme from all of them was that the president had so much to learn from self-serving, ultra-conservatives when it comes to energy policy.

Despite this The Oklahoman editorial page had the audacity to claim, “Obama received a warm welcome on his arrival Wednesday night at Tinker Air Force Base and again in Cushing,” and later claimed that it was “nonsense” to think the president was given a rude welcome.

But what about the verbal hectoring from the Oklahoma power structure, led by The Oklahoman, which I wrote about here? It’s one thing when schedules don’t match; it’s quite another when Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy, Larry Nichols of Devon Energy and Tom Ward of SandRidge Energy go out of their way to compose a selfish missive, published in NewOK.com, that criticized the president on the day of his arrival. That’s rude. Nichols even appeared in a mean-spirited huff on at least one local television station as he criticized the president. That’s rude.

When Fallin and her staff take the time, even when the governor is on vacation, to issue a statement that claims, “President Obama’s rhetoric is matched with a policy record that is aggressively anti-energy,” which is completely untrue, well, that’s rude, too. When the Oklahoman piles it on with an editorial that borders on the absurd (“So demagogue all you want about undertaxed oil barons. Just remember that you didn't arrive here on a solar-powered aircraft.”), that’s rude.

Do The Oklahoman editorial writers think that Obama and his staff weren’t aware of the rhetorical fire?

Here’s an approach that would NOT have been rude and inhospitable: Simply concede good-naturedly political differences and then welcome the president to the state. Better yet, say nothing. Obviously, the state is going to give its electoral votes to Obama’s opponent this election. What’s the point with the hectoring? It actually turns him into a political martyr.

Meanwhile, the same newspaper which claimed Obama received a warm welcome followed up his visit with an editorial yesterday that argued when it comes to the pipeline the president is “enthusiastic about appearing to be enthusiastic,” further noting that the “pledge to expedite construction on the southern leg was neither needed nor worth a trip to Oklahoma.”

This is what the newspaper is obviously saying: Don’t ever come here again, Mr. President. That’s more rudeness.

Political beliefs are one thing, but the sophomoric and rude welcome given to the president shows a darker side to Oklahoma that often goes unacknowledged against the trope that the state’s residents are collectively nice and welcoming people. Editorial writers living on the unstable abyss—no, no, Obama got a real nice welcome here, sure did—make that dark side even more apparent to the world.

Vulgar Coverage

Image of personhood rally

“By reducing the story to one sign, the newspaper has also helped to jeopardize the health of every woman in this state. Oklahoma women, along with their physicians, should decide their health needs, not ideologically driven legislators.”—Kurt Hochenauer

The pedestrian fixation on what The Oklahoman has called a “vulgar” sign at the recent anti-personhood rally is just another way conservatives are marginalizing and attacking women here in Oklahoma.

Do any women who work at the newspaper use birth control? (I’ll go out on a limb here and bet that some do or have in the past.) That’s a legitimate question given how the newspaper covered the rally, at least judging from the NewsOK.com content.

The rally at the state capitol Tuesday, which attracted about 1,000 participants, was held to protest Senate Bill 1433, which has passed the senate. The anti-abortion bill grants rights to a fertilized egg in a woman’s womb. The bill, if passed, could outlaw forms of birth control, especially Plan B, and complicate the in vitro fertilization process for women trying to get pregnant. It could also lead, and this is not hyperbole, to an eventual ban on contraception here. Does anyone think conservatives will stop their assault on women's bodies if this bill passes?

State Sens. Constance Johnson, an Oklahoma City Democrat, and Judy Eason McIntyre, a Tulsa Democrat, spoke at the rally. For a brief moment, after she spoke, McIntrye held up a sign brought by the protesters. The sign proclaimed, “If I wanted the government in my womb I'd fuck a senator.” It lasted no more than a few seconds. I know. I was there right in front of her when she help up the sign.

The rally lasted three hours and featured many speakers, including endocrinologist Dr. Eli Reshef, who spoke about the problems the proposed law would create for women trying to get pregnant using in vitro fertilization methods.

So how did The Oklahoman cover the story? This was one headline on a NewsOK.com story: “Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, of Tulsa, protests anti-abortion bill with F-word.” The story under the headline, which carried Megan Rolland’s byline, didn’t even note Reshef's comments or other speakers. It didn’t even include comments from participants, some of whom were college students worried about birth control access.

For good measure, The Oklahoman followed up with an editorial calling the sign “vulgar” and arguing McIntyre’s action—again it lasted no more than a few seconds—a part of numerous “juvenile antics” among legislative Democrats.

Let’s set the record straight here: (1) McIntyre didn’t bring the sign. She simply saw it and waved it for a few seconds. (2) The crowd roared in approval when she waved the sign so it was unlikely the sign offended the vast majority of rally participants. (3) If the editors of The Oklahoman found the sign so “vulgar,” as they described it, then why did they run a photograph of it on their site?

Are the reporters and editors at The Oklahoman so detached from the real world that they don’t see the use of the f-word throughout our culture, especially on television or in films? Are they really that narrow-minded and pedestrian and offended? Or are they simply supporting the personhood bill?

So it’s the other way around. The way The Oklahoman covered the rally is vulgar. This is not just word play. The newspaper’s reductionist coverage and the bill are direct attacks on any woman who has ever practiced birth control in Oklahoma or has used the in vitro fertilization process to get pregnant or has had an abortion.

By reducing the story to one sign, the newspaper has also helped to jeopardize the health of every woman in this state. Oklahoma women, along with their physicians, should decide their health needs, not ideologically driven legislators.

‘Stupid Strain’ of 1 Percent Drivel

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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.

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