(I make a couple of points about Bradley Manning and my minor participation in the protest against his inhumane treatment at the end of the main post. Thanks for reading Blue Oklahoma-Kurt Hochenauer.)
Every once in a while The Oklahoman publishes a hateful, ignorant editorial that goes even beyond its normal level of absurdity and outrageousness. These editorials make one ask, “Can the writer truly be serious?”
This was the case with a recent editorial (“JFK’s nephew has elitist, skewed vision,” April 24, 2011) that, for no apparent reason except that he visited the state, attacked Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmentalist and a member of one of America’s most well-known political families.
Here’s the first paragraph of the editorial and “welcome message” Kennedy received from The Oklahoman when he attended a sustainable energy event in Tulsa:
He’s been called the “Kook of Camelot.” He thinks 9/11 resulted from the relaxation of fuel economy standards under Ronald Reagan. He’s hobnobbed with South American dictator Hugo Chavez, and he thinks President Kennedy’s assassination was due to a right-wing climate of hate in Dallas in 1963.
Let’s parse this paragraph. A cursory Google search of the phrase “Kook of Camelot” only referenced back to The Oklahoman and this other right-wing site. (The late President John F. Kennedy’s wife once used the word Camelot, invoking the King Arthur Legend, to describe her husband’s presidency.) Robert Kennedy’s comments about fuel standards were not definitive and only tied the issue of imported oil to a general claim about U.S. foreign policy, a claim many others have made. The Hugo Chavez reference appears to come from obscure material that is not obviously apparent on the Internet. Here’s one reference. A lot of people agree with Kennedy’s point here about Dallas during the time period of JFK’s assassination.
Essentially, the editorial piles distortion upon distortion, and, well, it’s just plain rude. Where’s that legendary Oklahoma hospitality? (Folks here are so nice. Right.) Kennedy came here to be part of an energy forum with Boone Pickens; he’s not running for office. I bet Pickens got to express his worldview as much as Kennedy. The editorial offers no real critique of Kennedy’s contribution to the Tulsa forum. By all means, make an intellectual argument against Kennedy’s remarks at the forum. Let’s debate the issues, but The Oklahoman editorial page and the newspaper’s editor Ed Kelley don’t allow political debate. The newspaper publishes typical, right-wing ad hominem attacks and lies and pretends it’s mainstream journalism. (As I’ve offered before, I will debate Kelley publicly about The Oklahoman editorial page or any other issue he wants to discuss. We can do it at my university or wherever he chooses.)
Then there’s this wild accusation in the editorial:
Kennedy loathes conservative talk radio and TV and would abolish them if he could. His vision of America is diametrically opposite that of most Americans.
This claim comes from Kennedy’s support for the now-repealed Fairness Doctrine, which once required broadcasters to provide some type of balance when it comes to political views. It was repealed during former President Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Here’s how Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) defines the Fairness Doctrine:
The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials.
Sounds so radical, right?
The Oklahoman, of course, has failed to allow consistent, dissenting views to its warped right-wing drivel for decades so, of course, it would take a stand against any notion of political fairness in the media. But to argue Kennedy would or could abolish “conservative talk radio and TV” is simply ludicrous.
The editorial ends by noting Kennedy got a “polite welcome” in Tulsa. You can’t say that about Oklahoma City, where the largest newspaper made it clear Kennedy should stay out of the state. Here’s what I say to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: The Oklahoman doesn’t speak for thousands of us here in Oklahoma. You’re welcome to come here anytime you want, Mr. Kennedy.
For the record, I was one of the initial some 250 academics who signed a letter protesting the apparent inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning. He allegedly gave U.S. government documents to Wikileaks. The letter was published in The New York Review of Books, and it was one action that has drawn attention to Manning’s plight. Manning was recently moved from a military prison in Virginia to Fort Leavenworth, where hopefully he will receive better treatment, but there’s no guarantee. President Barack Obama, a constitutional lawyer, has not only denied Manning basic constitutional rights and sanctioned what I and others across the world think is torture but has now made an inane comment about Manning breaking the law. The problem is that Manning hasn’t been tried, and Obama’s statement about Manning’s guilt ignores the basic right that people are innocent before they’re proven guilty. What a terrible comment coming from the so-called U.S. commander-in-chief and the leader of the “free” world.