I had planned on writing a response of some sort to one of Chris Morris’ worst ever News and Tribune opinion column outings: OPINION: Green Deal a little farfetched. Morris’ column truly is abominable, but Randy Smith beat me to the critique. Here it is.
Keep Chris Away from the Children.
I’m a writer and have been a writer most of my life. I’ve also been a newspaper reporter and newspaper news and copy editor (over the course of two decades), a book editor, and a published author. I also wrote a nationally distributed column on topics of my choosing for a few years.
On Tuesday, I woke to find a Twitter referral to an opinion column by Chris Morris, an assistant editor of the Jeffersonville daily newspaper. Given that Morris is a member of that paper’s editorial board, I don’t know whether that particular piece would be called an op-ed, but in my view, it certainly qualifies as an “oops-ed.”
I consider myself a fairly sophisticated reader of mainstream science and politics, so the error in the very first sentence was jarring to me.
Morris referred to something he calls the “New Green Deal.” No one else has ever heard of it, though there is a dramatic proposal circulating about a “Green New Deal.” That was either a glaring mistake by the writer or a disingenuous attempt to belittle by mis-terming something one opposes. In modern times, such mis-terming has been a primary tool for disinformation, popularized by former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his technocratic ally, Frank Luntz.
Nothing if not determined, the columnist continues to refer to his bugbear as the “Green Deal” throughout his editorial. Again, there is no such thing. There is a Green New Deal.
Morris at least acknowledges that the proposal, in its breadth and ambition, hearkens back to the second President Roosevelt’s New Deal designed to address a nation in crisis.
The column’s headline calls this new proposal “a little farfetched.” In most dictionaries, it would be “far-fetched,” but I’ll postpone further criticism of what could have been a difference of opinion on orthography.
However, as an aside, Mr. Morris’s newspaper is becoming known for its near-daily errors in facts, spelling, grammar, and word choices that are, to me, risible.
As a natural editor, I’ve made a pest of myself in pointing those out, sometimes privately but more often via social media. And sometimes, it is appreciated by the reporter, who tries to correct the errors in online editions. I’m sure others resent my suggestions.
I do this for historical reasons. I became a precocious and accomplished reader early in life because I read newspapers. My parents modeled this and I, being an eldest child, emulated their example. In short, I learned to read by reading newspapers. Over the years I developed a highly advanced ability to proofread, a skill that no longer offers remuneration.
A newspaper that has no standards when it comes to spelling, grammar, or word choice puts children (and adults) like me at risk of being “word dummies.” Beyond that, for a certain class of individual, it diminishes greatly the reputation of the newspaper. We can ill afford that.
But back to Mr. Morris’s opinion piece.
I’m generally inclined toward the ideas of the Green New Deal. I see them as ambitious but doable. Mr. Morris sees them as far-fetched.
And I’m certainly not the person within his readership who can best refute the disinformation and misinformation Morris relies on to form and express his opinion. But I’ll bet I can express mine in a more credible way than he has done with his.
Mr Morris unintentionally “blows it” in his second graf, one in which he poo-poos recent reports of climate change scientists with incendiary intent. He exaggerates:
The basis behind the Green Deal (sic) is a recent climate change report which (sic) basically states if (sic) we don’t change our ways, the Earth as we know it will cease to exist and be swallowed up by floods, out-of-control fires and will basically be inhabitable.
Inhabitable means capable of being inhabited. That is, those bad things (can we agree?) will make life on earth, “basically,” livable. If the mischaracterization hadn’t already undermined the editorial, the poor word choice essentially refutes the point Mr. Morris was (presumably) trying to make.
Later in the piece, Mr. Morris does it again. See if you can pinpoint the moment where he undercuts the credibility of his own piece.
I do believe many Americans, however, have absolutely no conscious when it comes to littering and being more environmentally friendly.
I am conscious of where Morris went wrong here. How about you? He may have meant to write “consciousness” here, but it’s more likely he meant to say “conscience.” These are different words with different spellings and meanings. One implies awareness. The other implies guilt and a need for correction.
Do I believe in a lot of what this Green New Deal [ah-ha!] is pushing [you know, like a drug dealer]? It is way too left of center for me and unreasonable.
There are many places you can go to read more about current climate science. I believe we are already seeing the effects of anthropogenic global warming and the resultant extremes in temperature, precipitation, winds, captured oxygen, etc. It’s plausible that we are very near a tipping point where we will be unable to reverse the effects of the gases we are injecting into our atmosphere.
I’m eager to see if we have politicians and policy makers who can come up with an American and a global solution.
I don’t believe I’ve read an opinion from a masthead editor of a mainstream newspaper that used such pejorative and dismissive language. The piece does little to inform while hurling insults at broad swathes of Americans. Had I been in charge, it would never have been published.
I could critique it line-by-line, but as I said, there are others who can do that better than I can. Chris Morris, after all, is paid to inform and opine. I am not.
I am, however, willing to submit an invoice if his newspaper is willing to underwrite a well-researched op-ed column.
Let’s leave it at this: Almost every paragraph is acid-tongued, deliberately insulting, objectionable, misinformative, or disinformative. That’s not what I look for in a newspaper or from a man who represents the editorial board of his publication.
And far sooner than 11 years from now, Mr. Morris will disavow this contribution to the public discourse. If his is the view from the “center,” God help us all.