Television writers are on strike. TV commentators would say something about that but there's nobody on hand to put the words into their mouth. Yep, that's the way it works, folks: almost every syllable uttered by the people you see on TV is written for them by a TV writer. Sorry to burst any bubbles out there, but the ditzy sit-com stars you thought were so witty just went mute. Even the news reporters' annoying banter with one another was scripted so maybe now they'll just read the newspapers on TV news shows for a while and skip the dopey comments. When you think about it, that's a major improvement in many cases. I was wondering when some of these morons would finally ditch the comedy antics and just read the news of the day. If I want comedy news I'll watch Bill O'Reilly.

And with nobody to put the hatred in his mouth, you think maybe Lou Dobbs will finally shut the fuck up about Mexicans? Maybe this is a good thing, this writer's strike. There's a lot of people on TV who can't be silenced long enough to suit me. I won't miss any new in-depth reporting from Geraldo Rivera, a guy who can make even the largest issue all about himself. And I think we could use a rest from CSI:Vatican City or whatever the latest one is called and also the fourteen versions of Law and Order. And is anyone out there going to miss the wisdom and insight of Larry King?

But this strike isn't about the quality or lack of same of TV writing. The fact is that not one frame of video tape gets shot without a writer having provided the whole idea of the show and the words spoken by anyone in front of the camera. So they're a pretty important part of the whole TV show equation, wouldn't you think? Apparently the producers don't agree and want to stiff them on royalties being generated by brand new revenue streams, the internet and on-demand viewing technology. The writer's union was dumb enough twenty years ago to let the producers screw them out of the whole VCR/DVD bonanza that fell in their laps, figuring it was a new technology and nobody knew what it would be worth. I think it's safe to say that the new gizmos worked out okay, even if I still can't program mine.

I'm thinking the Writer's Union head honchos at the time were probably Flat Earth Society Members who said a lot of stuff like "In my day, we didn't have all these fancy contraptions! You had a two-inch black and white TV with a coat hangar for an antenna and you watched The Honeymooners when it was on and that was that!" And if they figured the new contraptions weren't going to be all that successful, well, that was beside the point, wasn't it? You negotiate in good faith with your union members' employes to pay whatever percentage of the income writers' get no matter where the show is being watched. Presumably their current crop of union leaders are a bit more tech savvy and are aware of the billions and billions of dollars being bandied about on the internet.

But producers are traditionally a miserly lot, thinking that they're the ones who drive this train and so should make all the money. Well, I seem to remember that the guy driving the train never got very far if the guy behind him shoveling the coal into to furnace took a sabbatical. He can be Casey Jones himself and that train doesn't budge without fuel. Now the writers are the guys shoveling the fuel into television's furnace and ought to be paid no matter where that train is headed. Producers will still make the lion's share of the dough and drive the biggest cars and have a biggest swimming pools so what's he big deal with being fair?

Ask the people killed in the labor wars of the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries when industrial titans were so outraged at workers wanting a window in the sweat shop they called out the National Guard to shoot them dead. While TV writers are a world apart from the soot-covered steel mill workers and coal miners we should never forget those wars or the fact that corporations employed child labor and paid no attention whatsoever to the workers' safety or the fact that most of them were mired in wage slave poverty while management made huge profits from their skill and labor.

It took actual warfare with high body counts to force the government to implement progressive legislation to finally achieve recognition of things like a forty hour work week, safe working conditions, overtime pay, workers' compensation for the injured, Social Security and unemployment insurance and a lot of other things today's workers take as a given. The workers had to demonstrate that no industry can function without them before they were treated as human beings and not draft animals to be used up and discarded. People had to die to achieve this obvious truth. And there was no shortage of fellow Americans willing to kill them to deny their dignity and fair wages.

So it's not like the ownership class is benevolent or anything. Anything resembling a fair piece of the profit pie had to be wrested from their grasp. Today's retired senior citizens for the most part live pretty well, something that is not a long tradition in America. Old people when they couldn't work anymore became poor, dependent upon their families or charity as their reward for a lifetime of labor. That's the way it was in the living memory of millions of Americans and now it's different and it's only because of the labor movement. At no time ever in history did ownership decide that they ought to take better care of the people who made their lives possible, not even once.

This is all very recent history, yet a lot of people view those times as distant as the Punic Wars and having about as much relevance in today's world. They say unions have outlived their usefulness and in some cases border on being criminal organizations for daring to continue their fight to improve the lives of workers. as if there were no room for improvement anymore. As for myself, I don't see a lot of perfection out there in the dog-eat-dog working world so I figure having some unions around to keep ownership at bay is a good thing. They haven't changed their tendencies to hog the whole pie and would revert to a sweat shop mentality in an eye-blink without an active labor infrastructure.

So while TV writers may not be your classic downtrodden laborers in the Gapes of Wrath mold, they are laborers just the same who deserve a fair piece of the pie that they baked in the first place, not the crumbs left on the table. If the producers could replace them, they would, but they can't. Writers write and most producers can't, it's just that simple. They can't act either or they'd fire those bozos too, but you need actors no matter how annoying they may be. They possess a skill most people don't have and when an actor is on his or her game they can astound us with their art and really touch our souls. Providing of course, that they have the words written by their writers. Nobody likes a mime except for other mimes, no matter what their level of skill.

So if you want original writing buy a book or read a blog for now. I can't go on strike since I work for myself and I must say that I'm a very enlightened employer. I get all the breaks I need to refresh my muse and never have to argue over money since I don't have any, so that works out pretty well. It's funny that the only way I can comment one way or another about the writers' strike is by writing about it. Seems kind of like strike breaking. Does this make me a scab? I doubt it since I'm not a TV writer plus I don't think many people would get the irony if today's blog was a blank page. I would, and about 3 or 4 other people so I'm skipping the inside jokes and just stating the obvious.

I wouldn't mind if the strike lasts a while so I don't have to listen to a lot of the awful crap these people write (I never said they were Hemingways), but I support their efforts and this strike and hope the writers get a fair deal. They're the ones that shovel the coal into the furnace of this runaway train called television and they ought to get the recognition and, much more importantly, the fair wages for their labors that they deserve. Meanwhile, I think I'l catch some episodes of The Honeymooners, a very well-written show indeed. Long live united labor.

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