16 June, 2005

I am not making this up (along with Trial and Death of Stalin, pt. 3)

Italian print journalists will be on strike today (Friday 17 June). Television journalists will postpone their strike until Monday, presumably out of consideration for the populace. The reason for the strike is to protest contract changes proposed by editors that, according to union leaders, will "annull the current set of rules, above all imposing a model of production that concentrates on aspects related to marketing, publicity, and reducing the cost of labor, rather than developing the quality of information."

For this, we need a national strike that effectively blacks out certain sources of news? Why doesn't the union set up its own newspaper to serve as a model? I know, I know: they have their reasons. I wish I knew what those reasons were.

Another question: Since in Italy the newspapers are by and large mouthpieces for political parties, where do the Italian socialist and communist newspapers stand on this issue? are they actually siding with the editors? What kind of socialists and communists are they? If they are not in league with the exploiters among the editorial boards, why are their journalists also on strike?

Only in Italy!

Methinks Italians are a little too enamored of the strike. A few years ago, the benzinai (workers at gas stations) held a daylong strike. Strikes by train workers are a regular feature of life, making the daily commute no fun.

When the Euro was introduced in 2002, bank employees also took a daylong strike. I was there at the time, and made the mistake of going to the post office on the day that the bank clerks were on strike: the post office ran out of Euros, and had no way of obtaining more. At the same time, they were swamped by pensioners who didn't understand what was going on, and wanted to make sure they weren't being swindled. I had to wait two hours to send one postcard overseas.

(Note: A key difference between Americans and Italians is that Americans fear the government is about to swindle them; Italians however are convinced that the government has already swindled them, and every new law is merely an attempt to extort even more money. Remind me sometime to recount my grandfather's take on the Mafia and the government, and the taxi driver's take on seat belt laws and the point system for driver's licenses. Classic.)

Postscript 1: To be fair to the bank employees, the change in currency brought them 12-hour workdays, sometimes more. I know, because my Italian aunt works for what was then the Bank of Naples. (Now, like everything else in southern Italy, it's been bought out by a bunch of northerners.)

Postscript 2: For all my sympathy with the Italian journalists' concern with quality (and I do genuinely worry about it, seeing what CNN, MSNBC, and Fox have done to the news in this country) it's a little hard to believe in their sincerity while simultaneously reading Corti's book. In a couple of essays written in the middle or late 70s, he describes the situation first in Vietnam, then in Cambodia. There, Communists who came to power promptly engaged in massacres and purges. Corti grumbles on occasion that the Italian media reported absolutely nothing about either.

Apparently these millions of deaths were crowded out by the thousands of outraged stories about the political repression proceeding in Chile. For all of Pinochet's wickedness, at 30,000 dead, he was an rank amateur in comparison to the Vietnamese Communists or Pol Pot.

Of course, you wouldn't know that even today, if you relied on the media.

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