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Friday, November 16, 2007

Technological end run leads to re-runs.

I generally support striking workers, and I'm quite sympathetic to the position of the writers on this one, especially since this appears yet again to be a case of the elite using technology to upend workers power on the job not least by attempting to cut workers out of the profit they are due by redefining the means of distribution. In essence, these new technologies have been applied as a means to do an end run around writers' traditional relationships to production.

And not for the first time. Part of the reason that writers are out this time is precisely because they feel like the transition to cable and VHS both undermined their power to challenge the boss about the distribution of the profits from their labor. In essence when the bosses brought in those new technologies, they transferred power from writers' hands into their own, and billions of dollars along with it. Writers vow not to be fooled again.

Typical of a ruling class that likes to obscure the political-economic content behind a news story, the media has treated the transition to new technologies not as an attack on workers power, but as a natural phenomenon, generally referred to in the passive voice. For instance, when they remind us that "technology revolutionizes the way entertainment is delivered." Or when, as the International Herald Tribune reports it:
The strike would pit union writers, whose position has been eroded by reality television and galloping technological change, against studios and networks that are backed by big corporate owners like General Electric and News Corp., but are also unsure of the future.
As if technology is a force that drives itself, independent of the will of the elites that fund it, develop it, distribute it and apply it. Can we really say that the "big corporate owners like General Electric" would have invested billions in new technology if it would have empowered their workers interests over theirs? Even in the IHT article, while some class analysis seeps in, the fundamental myth of neutral or naturally progressing technology is maintained. But without understanding the class nature of technology, we cannot understand the writers' strike.

Nevertheless, I do have to express some solidarity with the caller to NPR the other day who asked if the writers will start writing better quality shows when they return. That would be nice. It does feel weird supporting a striking worker who writes for Touched By An Angel. It's kind of how I feel when I hear that defense industry workers have walked out. If they're just going to go back to doing what they were doing before the strike then I have to wonder which side I'm really on this time. After all, if TV stayed in reruns, maybe less people would watch it.

Although, of course, while technology is a ruling class weapon, we are sometimes able to use it to some small benefit towards our own ends. This exception doesn't invalidate the rule, however. On that note, enjoy this short bit produced on the picket line by striking Daily Show writers.

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