Why This Blog?

The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

All comments will be answered if their author provides contact info.


I have no sponsoring group(s) or agencies, and I owe no allegiance to any candidate or group.

(C) Copyright 2012 DenRita Enterprises

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Propaganda in opinion pieces

In previous blogs we’ve studied examples of propaganda. Today let’s expand our search from news and blogs to opinion pieces. We’ll consider a column and a letter to the editor, both in September issues of the Daily Pilot.

Defense criticized for what's missing

Candidate Monahan wrote, in a Pilot commentary defending the Charter:
…I can think of plenty of laws Sacramento politicians have approved that imposed costly mandates on our city, dictated how we spend our residents' tax dollars and told us how we must conduct business in our own city.
…Costa Mesa has had to listen to Sacramento politicians who are out of touch with our needs, controlled by special interests and are only looking out for themselves.
That’s generalization by Monahan. A column by Jeffrey Harlan criticized Monahan’s defense of the Charter for leaving out facts. He may have missed or obscured a few facts himself. He says,
Let's start with Monahan's central argument: Costa Mesa is somehow under the merciless thumb of Sacramento, and we need to "break free" to recapture local control.
Is that what Monahan’s piece says? Harlan’s techniques here are “exaggeration” and “out of context.”

Ludicrous or probably true?

Harlan also waxes sarcastic about Monahan’s listing of a minor benefit found in the Charter:
In what has to be the most ludicrous statement in his commentary, (Monahan) asserts that the charter provision prohibiting the city from collecting political contributions through payroll deductions …protect the workers themselves.
This is Monahan’s “ludicrous statement:”
In addition, the charter would prohibit the city from collecting political contributions through payroll deductions from city employees. This protects our city workers from having to financially contribute to political causes they might not support themselves.
Since the provision allows union members to write a smaller, or no, check, it does seem to protect (especially) the lower income union member as Monahan asserts. It’s another “tempest in a teapot.”

Prevailing wage exemption drowns aquatic center

Harlan goes on to criticize the Charter’s exemption from paying prevailing wages on contracts. He says,
Just ask the residents of Oceanside how their charter's prevailing wage exemption delivered a half-constructed harbor aquatics center by a contractor who was financially unable to perform the work and meet its contractual obligations. Ultimately, the delayed project was taken over by a surety company, and the city was forced to reduce the project's scope by $1.4 million.
I don’t understand how paying workers the prevailing-- and higher--wage would have made the contractor more solvent or the Oceanside officials more effective in their “due diligence.” Would Mr. Harlan have offered the City Council officials union wages so they’d do their job better? This is Red Herring and Straw Man techniques working to influence opinions in spite of fact or logic.

Better charter . . .better columnist, take your pick

Ironically, Harlan’s column uses “selective presentation of facts” to criticize Monahan’s selection of facts. 
Mr. Harlan also says that “We deserve a genuine charter that is thoughtfully crafted. . .” Perhaps the Pilot deserves a genuine columnist . . . who crafts thoughtfully.
Mr. Harlan isn’t alone in using opinions as facts, though.
Criticism from a Newport resident
A Newport Beach resident, “shared” in a letter that,
I heard on a National Public Radio program Sept. 13… discussing the Costa Mesa City Council and … the question of Costa Mesa's transparency regarding outsourcing costs, restructuring plans, various contracts awards, open bidding, etc. They referred to some "exceptions" when it included the council members. Information regarding much of the expenditures by council members as well as monies and favors received by lobbyists, interest groups, etc. are exempt. I guess when it comes to the council's transparency, (sic) it's opaque, not transparent.

Unfortunately, they weren't there at the time

Ms. Fitz-Gibbon, and the NPR commentators, apparently didn’t attend the same Council meetings I did. The issue was whether a Leese proposal, which had been rejected previously, be re-addressed instead of the COIN proposal. Righeimer pointed out that, 1) the COIN ordinance was part of personnel law so it couldn't duplicate the Leese proposal about all contacts, regardless of subject.
Then Righeimer said 2) he had voted against Leese’s proposal because it demanded excessive time and effort by council members and would have been onerous to use. (He and Leese were charged to develop together a practical proposal for the Council.) At that meeting Mensinger noted that about 75% of Costa Mesa’s expenses go toward personnel costs, so that is the first category to bring into the open.

Missed the boat by missing the obvious

Also, Ms. Fitz-Gibbon missed the obvious – Costa Mesa’s kudos for transparency: number one city statewide and highly rated nationally. If she were a Costa Mesa resident she could just check her City’s web site for almost any information about City personnel, contracts, or operations.
And she ignored the obvious in that Council Members are bound by the same campaign disclosure laws in Costa Mesa as in Newport Beach. What she states that NPR intimated was happening in Costa Mesa would be a crime – if the intimations were supported by facts instead of opinions.

She has an opinion just like everybody else

And she winds up with:
…I'm mournful and concerned about the "good old boys club" that has taken over the city. I can only hope that come November, the city will elect some new people. . .
Perhaps NPR or someone she knows in Costa Mesa thinks that the transparency is opaque, back room deals are done, and so forth. That’s their opinion. And, as a Newport Beach resident she learned about Costa Mesa’s “good old boys club” from . . . whom? Somebody’s opinion? All of which influenced her to assert her own opinion:
I can only hope that come November, the city will elect some new people. I want my neighbors to be represented by intelligent caring people who aren't an embarrassment throughout the country.
Maybe NPR has a program that discusses the difference between facts and opinions -- and opinions about opinions. I can only hope that come November Ms. Fitz-Gibbon understands that difference.

More to come

There are a lot more examples of selective reporting and of using opinions as facts in this campaign. It’s fun to look for them, and we’ll be back with more examples soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment