One of the funniest extended sketches that SCTV ever ran was the episode where the Soviet Union hacked into the broadcast feed of fictional Mellonville’s best-known TV station:
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As you can see by the screen capture on the YouTube clip above, a big part of the joke were the 1950s-era buzzcuts and cheap clunky shoes these parody Soviet TV stars were wearing. Not to mention 3CP1’s broadcasting infrastructure, with its giant Playhouse 90-era TV cameras (the “new Soviet minicam!”) and enormous strap-on lavaliere microphones, in contrast to the sleek, technologically-advanced west. All of which was a reminder that Khrushchev promised that the Soviets would “bury” the US, but they couldn’t even bury Florsheim or Radio Shack. Or as P.J. O’Rourke wrote, when he tagged along a Nation magazine cruise on the Volga, right around the same time this sketch aired in the early 1980s, his fellow passengers were American leftists “who believed everything about the Soviet Union was perfect, but they were bringing their own toilet paper,” just to be on the safe side.
But there’s something about leftism that really makes its proponents want to live in the past. For American unions, it might be because the mid-1950s was when white collar workers began to outnumber blue collar, organized labor in the US. For the Bay Area left, hey, wasn’t Santana just totally bitchin’ at Woodstock?
Which brings us first to Moe Lane on “The Hysterically Outdated SEIU Intimidation Manual:”
Seriously, are these people idiots or something? They’re using an unrevised contract negotiation manual that’s old enough to vote? The font alone is a dead giveaway that nobody’s critically thought about this thing in over a decade and a half: in fact, the generally poor condition of the copy given to the courts as part of the case suggests that the SEIU may not even have a clean version of it in digital form in the first place. There’s probably one kind-of OK copy somewhere in the files of the central office, and they use that to make as many photocopies as they need, when they need it** – and no, this isn’t nit-picking: it reveals a serious problem in their training system. I’ve been in office situations where the training manuals were done once, then never ever ever corrected or updated; and, after about three years or so, new hires quickly learn to never bother with the manuals, because they’re useless.
And there’s my point: this manual may be great on walking union goons through the finer points of descending en masse on people’s homes and scaring teenagers, but it’s less than useless when it comes to controlling the media narrative. It’s amazing that what’s supposed to be a standardized collection of labor relation wisdom does things like:
Click over for the rest. And then click over to Zombie’s post at the Tatler, which catches some Bay Area protestors angry with the Trader’s Joe chain for some reason, and doing their damnedest to raise California’s unemployment even higher than its current 11.7 percent:
Now we move on to Stage Two of the Trader Joe’s protest, a sophisticated elaboration of Alinskyite tactics that even Alinsky himself didn’t envision. Since this protest is not a naturally occurring public uprising, but rather a planned maneuver by a clique of activists, one must generate one’s own media coverage, since it’s unlikely that any news outlet will deem your stunt worth covering.
So as part of the protest, you bring along your own photographer to immortalize Trader Joe’s public humiliation. But how to make it seem “important,” a historically significant protest that will be remembered for generations? Simple! Just switch the digital camera to “black-and-white” mode, so the images look like historical artifacts from the protest glory days of the ’60s and ’70s! Ah, those old black-and-white pictures of Cesar Chavez trying to unionize the farmworkers, these images are imprinted indelibly on the public consciousness. So we can replicate that importance and glory by making the pictures of our protest also be black-and-white. Instant gravitas!
Incidentally, if the current far left seems like a cult, well, in his later years, Chavez got there first, much to the chagrin of this recent Atlantic author:
Located in the remote foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains, the compound Chavez would call La Paz centered on a moldering and abandoned tuberculosis hospital and its equally ravaged outbuildings. In the best tradition of charismatic leaders left alone with their handpicked top command, he became unhinged. This little-known turn of events provides the compelling final third of Pawel’s book. She describes how Chavez, the master spellbinder, himself fell under the spell of a sinister cult leader, Charles Dederich, the founder of Synanon, which began as a tough-love drug-treatment program and became—in Pawel’s gentle locution—“an alternative lifestyle community.” Chavez visited Dederich’s compound in the Sierras (where women routinely had their heads shaved as a sign of obedience) and was impressed. Pawel writes:
Chavez envied Synanon’s efficient operation. The cars all ran, the campus was immaculate, the organization never struggled for money.
He was also taken with a Synanon practice called “The Game,” in which people were put in the center of a small arena and accused of disloyalty and incompetence while a crowd watched their humiliation. Chavez brought the Game back to La Paz and began to use it on his followers, among them some of the UFW’s most dedicated volunteers. In a vast purge, he exiled or fired many of them, leaving wounds that remain tender to this day. He began to hold the actual farmworkers in contempt: “Every time we look at them,” he said during a tape-recorded meeting at La Paz, “they want more money. Like pigs, you know. Here we’re slaving, and we’re starving and the goddamn workers don’t give a shit about anything.”
They also bitterly cling to their guns and religion, too.
All of which is a reminder of something Christopher Hitchens said a few years ago, “Those who do think they’ve got a critique of capitalism turn out to be reactionaries. They prefer feudalism or agrarianism; they’re pre-capitalists.”
They’re certainly living somewhere in the past, which brings us to Pajamas alumnus Richard Miniter’s new essay in Forbes. Richard wonders how long the left can hold out its entry into the 21st century:
The Democratic Party, as we have known it for the past 70 years, is now in its last days.
Yes, the House Republicans may raise the debt ceiling for a mix of spending cuts and revenue raisers. Yes, Barack Obama may win the 2012 presidential contest. Yes, bureaucrats and judges will continue to impose new and costly regulations on the economy.
But it doesn’t matter. The long-term trends are almost all bad news for the left wing of the party.
This week’s fight over raising the federal debt limit exposes a key weakness in the warfare-welfare state that has bestowed power onto the Democratic Party: Without an ever-growing share of the economy, it dies. Every vital element of the Democrats’ coalition — unions, government workers, government contractors, “entitlement” consumers — requires constant increases in payments, grants and consulting contracts. Without those payments, they don’t sign checks to re-elect Democrats.
Like it or not, Obama is not the new FDR, but the new Gorbachev: a man forced to preside over the demise of a political system he desperately wants to save.
Don’t worry, 2008 will look pretty even more nostalgic in black and white photos. The lavalieres are a lot smaller these days, though.