November 8, 2007
By Tony Blankley
As this column went to print, from Islamabad to London to Paris
to Moscow to Los Angeles - wherever a flickering video image could
reach - the nerves of the world became more frayed this week with
the images of mass demonstrations in the streets and the stunning
announcement that Hollywood writers have gone on strike for more
humane working conditions.
As a point of comparison, historians have had to reach back to the
great general strike of 1926 in Britain, which was called in
sympathetic protest against the national lockout of the coal miners
whose work hours had been extended and wages reduced 25 percent to
assure continued high profits for the coal-mine owners. The union
refused to accept those conditions of employment with the clarion
call: "Not a penny off the pay, not a second on the day." Working
men across Britain laid down their tools, stopped driving the
buses, refused their employer's instructions from Aberdeen to
Truro, from Manchester to London, in an historic expression of
solidarity with their fellow workers.
At the same time, the sons of the privileged, the well-educated,
the overfed and overdressed fastidiously stepped into the
employment breach in a desperate, if elegant, effort to keep the
British economy going and to break the back of the "red" general
strike. Sadly, the overdressed beat the underpaid. The strike was
quickly broken, and as a result, today there are no coal miners
left in Britain, while London is plagued by a surplus of
stockbrokers, public relations professionals and art
That is the challenge for all of us today. Each of us must decide
which side are we on at our moment of capital/labor crisis in the
great struggle of the downtrodden Hollywood writers living in
shabby Brentwood mansions and Malibu beach houses against the
filthy blood-sucking wealth of the Hollywood industrialists who
live in Beverly Hills super mansions and Malibu super beach houses.
It is the struggle of the owners of Gulfstream threes vs. owners of
The contract between the 12,000-member Writers Guild of America
(WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
(AMPTP) expired Oct. 31. (Who knew it took 12,000 writers to
produce the dreck coming out of Hollywood these days?) Talks that
began this summer failed to produce progress on the writers' key
demands for a bigger slice of DVD profits and revenue from the
distribution of films and TV shows over the Internet.
Producers said writers were not willing to compromise on their
Writers said they "withdrew a proposal to increase their share of
revenue from the sale of DVDs that had been a stumbling block for
producers. They also said the proposals by producers in the area of
Internet reuse of TV episodes and films were unacceptable." "The
AMPTP made no response to any of the other proposals that the WGA
has made since July," writers said in a statement.
Imminently we will be seeing the pathetic consequences of the
strike: heartbreaking images of Jay Leno telling lame jokes (well,
not all things will change), Jon Stewart silently making mere faces
at the camera (his clever lines having been unwritten due to the
strike), Stephen Colbert, denied the words written for him to mock
Bill O'Reilly, forced to pointlessly over-gesticulate. Critics will
start comparing the comedy channel stars unfavorably to the great
silent screen comedians who could actually make millions laugh
without a word being spoken. On the plus side (I suppose), hundreds
of mimes across the country will have a sudden revival.
Actually, the most striking aspect of this strike is that the
striking writers have not yet come up with as catchy a rallying
phrase as the British coal miners did last century. Recall the
aforementioned "Not a penny off the pay, not a second on the day."
Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that the writers judged
that it might not be in their interest to defend themselves to the
public with filthy words, sexually explicit references, adolescent
rudeness and jokes that only draw laughs from previously recorded
laugh tracks. Sadly, the writers seem to be out of practice writing
uplifting, motivating phrases for actors - or themselves - to
Unlike my English relatives who picked sides in their great
strike, it is hard to make a case for picking either side in this
strike. The best we can hope for is that the strike goes on
forever, Hollywood goes out of business, the writers get honest
jobs and Americans start entertaining ourselves.
Did you hear the one about the starving Hollywood mogul? It
Tony Blankley is executive vice president for global public
affairs at Edelman International. He is also a visiting senior
fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Washington Times
As this column went to print, from Islamabad to London to Paris to Moscow to Los Angeles — wherever a flickering video image could reach — the nerves of the world became more frayed this week with the images of mass demonstrations in the streets and the stunning announcement that Hollywood writers have gone on strike for more humane working conditions.
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