Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Terrorist Worker

The Terrorist Worker
The night the subway strike was called, I knew the media were going to make it ugly.
The Indypendent

The night the subway strike was called, the TWU headquarters was crammed with TV anchors sending news to a city holding its breath. The mood was sour. NBC anchor Melissa Russo whispered loudly into her cell phone, “Who do these workers think they are, throwing a whole city into chaos if their demands aren’t met.” I knew two things, the strike was on and the media were going to make it ugly.

And ugly it was. The subway strike of 2005 can be summed up by a phrase: “Black workers are Evil Doers.” When the Transit Workers Union 100, a majority Caribbean, Latino, Asian- and African-American local, walked off the job, the corporate elite began to attack. The first target was the minds of working-class New York, and the first battle to be fought was to keep them from identifying with TWU strikers and imitating them. The media immediately fused images of criminals, terrorists and spoiled children to the picketing workers.

It began when Mayor Bloomberg said the TWU had “thuggishly turned their backs on New York.” He was quickly criticized for it. Soon, as the New York Times and Village Voice reported, on the public message board of the TWU website the mostly Black union was called monkeys and Toussaint was called Osama Bin Laden’s sweetheart.

The relentless framing of strikers as criminals continued in the New York Post as “Jail ’Em” was stamped over a photo of Toussaint behind bars and inside a photo of a cell on Riker’s Island. Eventually the strikers went from criminals to terrorists. Mayor Bloomberg was relatively subtle, using the code word that the TWU had “hijacked” the city.


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