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Marion On September - 11 - 2011
Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882...

Image via Wikipedia

Did everybody hear that? Did you? Did you listen to every word? Do you know what it was?

It was a good, old-fashioned labor leader exhorting a gaggle of workers gathered to celebrate the one day our country sets aside to honor its labor force. It was a rip-roarer of a speech, harkening back to the heyday of the unions – not that anyone in the political media or even in the Progressive movement would either remember that or care to be associated with it.

Jimmy Hoffa’s dad was who he was, but the son (like the father) is the sort of labor leader, Gary Hart’s first generation too-cool-for-school designer-clad Democrats would have crossed the street to avoid. Indeed, Hart threw that sort of union man (and woman) to the curb, along with the working class they represented, but that’s a different story for a different day.

I’m a linguist by profession so words mean a lot to me, and there’s nothing I hate more than someone taking words and twisting them to support a personal agenda – most generally, one that stinks.

And the media is just one big stink at the moment.

So just for the record, here’s the transcript of Hoffa’s entire speech from the Detroit shindig on Labor Day, just two days ago:-

“Are there any Teamsters in the house? This is Motown, but today, this is union town. We are union, we are workers. That is the message that we send today, and that is the message that we send to America.

There is a war on workers. You see it everywhere: It is in the unemployment, it is in the Tea Party, it is in the people that fight what we believe in. And we see the war in Wisconsin where they try to take collective bargaining from our public employees. We took two senate seats back, we are taking Wisconsin back.

That’s number one. Number two, in Ohio, we are fighting a battle there with regard to taking away collective bargaining. We will beat SB5. We’ve got a million signatures. We are going to win in Ohio — that is our number two. And in Michigan, they are thinking about right to work. It ain’t going to happen in Michigan. No way.

We have to keep an eye on the battle we face — a war on workers. And you see it everywhere there is the Tea Party. And you know there is only one way to beat and win that war.

The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what, they’ve got a war, they’ve got a war with us and there is only going to be one winner. It is going to be the workers of Michigan and America – we are going to win that war. All the way.

But it starts with your involvement, it starts with next November. We’ve got a bunch of people there that don’t’ want the president to succeed, and they are called the Tea Party – the people who don’t want him to do anything right and he is working hard for us.

President Obama is frustrated by what’s going on. Well, guess what, we’ve got the vote. And the answer to what we say is, we remember in November. We will beat the Tea Party and give this country back to workers and America. We can do it together.”

We’ve also got to talk about jobs. I get so tired about people who …(inaudible) these big corporations that send our jobs to Mexico, they send our jobs to China, and they’ve got the audacity to say ‘where are the jobs?’

Well I’ve got news for you. It’s time to bring those jobs back to America and bring America back to work. That’s what we’ve got to do.

We are going to hear from President Obama in a few minutes, and I am so glad that he has come to Michigan because this is where he sees the real America. He looks out on this army of people and you know what I say? President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. President Obama, we want one thing: Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs…(The crowd joins the chant.)

That’s what we are going to tell America…..When he sees what we are doing here, he will be inspired, but he needs help. And you know what? Everybody here has got a vote. If we go back, we keep the eye on the prize, lets take these sons-of-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.

Now, notice the last two sentences, which I’ve highlighted. Hoffa spoke the language of the people he was addressing. He didn’t mince words. He spoke plainly. The last two sentences were a clarion call for direct action – direct action in the voting booth.

Linguist, that I am, let’s parse these sentences, since everyone (especially the media) likes to parse what certain people say these days.

Everybody here has got a vote.

True, assuming everyone in the audience was over eighteen and registered, and to those who were over eighteen and not registered, a simple statement like that would shame the right sort of person into registering, having listened to the rest of the speech.

If we go back, we keep the eye on the prize …

Once, the Labor Day festivities are done and dusted, having listened to the speeches there and having listened to the President, the aim is re-election: November 2012. The “prize” is keeping the White House and the Senate in Democratic hands, increasing the Democratis majority in the Senate and re-taking the House.

…lets take these sons-of-bitches out …

Here’s the lychpin phrase: Let’s take these sons-of-bitches out. Meaning … let’s take the GOP out of power. Let’s remove them from any direct say they have in governing, keep them firmly in opposition. Beat – as in “defeat” – them, politically.

It doesn’t mean “take them out” in an assassin’s sense. It isn’t a reference to a coup, and it’s certainly not meant to incite violence. Hoffa is a plain-spoken man. He isn’t an erudite speaker, but hard times call for phrases easily understood by the masses who are directly affected by the threat – yes, the threat of a malevolent strand of Dominionist Libertarian Republicans, who don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but the Ayn Randian superhero financial wizards, who, through their political puppets will wreak havoc on this country.

There was absolutely no implication in those words for anyone listening to grab a gun and mow down Mitt Romney or to pick up a stick and beat Boehner to the bone or even to take a particulary sharp knife and decant Eric Cantor. It simply meant “take them out” at the voting booth, “take them out” of power.

There were no pictures or diagrams of names in crosshairs and no exhortations not to retreat, but to reload. Those are direct images implying violent acts; those are words commonly associated with the aggression of armed forces and the act of shooting a firearm.

So why did we get this at the White House press briefing Tuesday? It’s one thing when Fox News makes an issue of Jimmy Hoffa’s remarks. That’s their forte – taking facts and distorting them into blatant untruths to promote a conservative agenda.

So why do we see the White House correspondent of one of the three major networks in the United States adamant to the point of rudely interrupting Jay Carney in an effort to promote the spin that Hoffa was using violent rhetoric, and that the President was a hypocrite not to disown and distance himself from the remarks to the point of almost implying that the White House should apologise for the Hoffa speech -especially in view of the President’s Tucson speech last January in the wake of Gabby Giffords’s shooting?

Or just let me ask the question bluntly … when the hell did the prerequisite for becoming part of the White House press corps involve being a glorified blogger, a lazy journalist and a hack?

All of which describe the supercilious Jake Tapper to a tee. This is the man who follows in the footsteps of Sam Donaldson, who struck fear into the heart, not only of various White House Press Secretaries, but certain Presidents as well?

Donaldson was never rude. He never resorted to snark, and everything he questioned was based on fact. There was no overtly obvious gotcha questions from Donaldson, just a probing for facts, which made whatever Administration there was in power at the time, squirm.

But Donaldson came up through the ranks. Tapper didn’t. He was the Salon blogger who happened to be in the right place at the right time. He graduated from the snide frat boy who wrinkled his nose at the work-study kid, to the White House correspondent who wrinkles his nose at a black man in the White House and the white men who stand at the podium on his behalf.

Don’t forget back in 2009, when the White House reckoned (rightly, it seemed) that Fox News was anything but a news organisation, that it used its pulpit for spewing adverse propaganda regarding the President – questioning his legitimacy in holding the office, misrepresenting his agenda. The White House instituted a moratorium against Fox, choosing to ignore its representative in the Press Corps.

Jake Tapper rallied the troops against the White House, lobbying for Fox, even referring to them as a sister organisation and suggesting a boycott by the Press Corps unless the White House began treating with Fox professionally again, even to the point of rowing with the then-Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs:-

Tapper: It’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization” and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one?

Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.

Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –

Gibbs: ABC –

Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?

Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon.

Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” — why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Gibbs: That’s our opinion.

Well, it seems the White House was correct in their opinion, because earlier this year, Media Matters found that Fox’s Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, admitted Fox had wantonly and knowingly reported lies about the President’s agenda.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever a people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

We, the people, depend on reliable information being imparted by a responsible media. But what if the media is cynically manipulating our opinion, which is exactly what it has been doing – most notably for the past decade? It’s easy to blame Fox, but we get this same-shit-different-day from MSNBC, CNN and the mainstream networks as well. Even the print media is weighing in with Drew Westen’s totally conjectural article which was recently printed in the New York Times.

The so-called Progressive media numbers amongst its political contributors soccer moms, socialites, self-promoting high-class harlots, failed lawyers, sports broadcasters with parental and misogynal issues, and blowhards, none of whom have any political or political journalism experience and most of whom, until six years ago, were actually Republicans.

What are we going to do?

Oh, yes … I forgot. I have to finish the parsing of Hoffa’s last few words. Here goes …

… and give America back to America where we belong.

Give us back a country where the workers counted for something and where we received our information reliably from Huntley and Brinkley, wise Uncle Walter and Peter Jennings, instead of (up)Chuck Todd, Hack Tapper and giggly Norah O’Donnell.

This one’s for the Fourth Estate of Media Whores, heavily invested in wanting the President to fail:

8 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Dorothy Rissman says:

    Absolutely knocked out of the park. Thank you so much. The media is destroying this country.

  2. SueInCa says:

    Marion

    Great breakdown of this speech. Hoffa scares them. His dad scared them, that is why he is buried under the Jets 50 yard line at the Meadowlands. Of corse I know that is just rumor but of course the story was made up to ensure people thought the Mafia did away with him. At this point, and after all the things I have learned about our media, I would seriously question their reporting of the subject. I question everything they bring us.

    Not sure if you have seen it but if not I would recommend Orwell Rolls in His Grave. I watched this documentary several times on Link/Democracy Now tv and I have never looked at news programs the same ever since. In case you have not seen it, or anyone here for that matter, here it is on you tube:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1179175516550155628#

    In order to see it in its entirety, you might have to remove the v and watch it on you tube. Directly below the first vid is a row that contains the full video. Amazing video.

    Back to your article, I call CNN the “Breaking News” network. Everything to them is breaking news, someday they will have breaking news that is really serious and people will just pass them by. Anderson? The newman who runs away when the going gets tough and that is probably a good thing because mostly he talks about how it affects him, I could really give a shit. The reporters and journalists of WWII would put him to shame. Fake News, well my name for them tells it all. MSNBC the Nazi network. Some of their staff they try to control all aspects of their life, others get away with similar infractions. I am sure the backroom techniques have alot to do with special treatment. Three good opinion makers, Al, Lawrence and Rachel, the rest are there for theatrics IMHO. Democracy Now, I can watch online and I do. This is the reason I stopped watching any of them, I simply cannot trust the info they pass on and the ones I feel I can, I can always watch in a podcast or after the fact.

    Actors? For the most part, yes just as Henley imparted in his song. Only they were not good enough for hollywood so they went in to news acting instead.

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Sue, where’s Uncle Walter when we really need him the most??
      Real journalism is almost a thing of the past with very few exceptions.

      I agree with you about CNN and their constant “breaking news”, whether it’s a broken water main or a plane crash…they will run the breaking news banner for hours and hours. IMO, Rev. Al is doing a great job on MSNBC! I was glad that they gave him the contract for the 6pm slot. At least, he will tell it like it is. I hope the network does not try to squelch him. Lawrence is a little too taken with himself but does have good insight on the workings of the Congress. Rachel brings stories that others don’t cover, like our favorite subject, the Dominionists and C Street. At least, somebody is covering it!

  3. choicelady says:

    Thank you, Marion! I’d not really heard but bits and pieces of this speech, so it’s very helpful to have not only the video but also the parsing of the language. I agree.

    I am seeing the uprising in the MidWest and the strong and unyielding voices of labor union leaders as the equivalent of the 1937 sit downs in Flint, MI. The decline of unions in America covered about the same stretch then -- 1892 at Homestead with the violent lock out by Frick and Carnegie (who hied himself off to Scotland to avoid the mess) until the 1930s. Our anti-union years started in 1976 with the shuttering of Youngstown Sheet & Tube and the failure of Carter on to give an ounce of support to unions and their communities and Hart’s dismissal that you note. It got only worse with Reagan, but this upswelling of support for union rights and union organizing seems to mark the end of that disregard.

    Today’s Sacramento Bee carried one of the inevitable LTEs from someone out in the wealthy burbs whose only truthful words were “and” and “the”. Defending the Tea Party and bashing the unions, his assertions were not even factually CLOSE to the truth of Hoffa said. And the writer seemed to confuse Mr. Hoffa with his father which says he’s not paying much attention to anything!

    It will be a harder struggle this time because not enough of the nation has been blighted by this recession, this assault on working people. In the 1930s over 25% were out of work, there was no FOX, and the industrial base -- the natural ground for unions -- was larger. But unions are seeing how many people are still vulnerable in hotel work, service jobs, and many other areas where the traditional reason to unionize still exists -- being exploited, harmed, used, discarded.

    As people who once saw themselves as professionals suddenly face losses, people jokingly tried to find ways to fit the UAW one of the first to organize non-traditional workers: museum staff: United Antiquarian Workers; university teaching assistants: United Academic Workers, and so on. But whoever they were, unionize they did.

    What all this has done is revive the class warfare. President Obama was right -- his plan is not that. It is a RESPONSE to class warfare that has been waged relentlessly against working people, the salt of the earth, the people who make this society run on every level, who keep the nation steady economically, who give up their loved ones to defend it.

    Those who hate labor therefore hate their neighbors. Those who hate labor come with big pocketbooks to press their lies and distortions about working people. It won’t be pretty. But this is the renewed struggle to give America back to Americans -- the working people of this nation.

    • SueInCa says:

      http://www.uaw.org/node/3203

      CL

      Mildred “Millie” McWilliams Jeffrey organized the first UAW women’s conference in response to the massive postwar layoffs of female production workers replaced by returning male veterans. From 1949 to 1954, Jeffrey ran the union’s radio station. She later directed the Community Relations Department and was director of the Consumer Affairs Department from 1968 until her retirement in 1976.

      • choicelady says:

        Sue- Fascinating info! The role of women in the UAW goes back some ways and has been very powerful!

        Genora Johnson Dollinger (then Genora Johnson) founded the Women’s Emergency Brigade to stand in front of the factories between the strikers and the police. I heard her years ago at a radical history conference when she said the first day she was the ONLY woman there, but she stood up from behind the barricade and screamed, “There are women here!” and the police backed off (there WERE scruples about beating up unarmed women then.) Seeing its effect, she got other wives, mothers, girl friends and the WEB was born. It was absolutely powerful in keeping down violence and letting food supplies through to the strikers inside the plants.

        Today many of the top leadership of UAW regions and locals are women. It was one of the first unions to thoroughly integrate racially, and the solidarity is strong and enduring on those fronts.

        Good for Millie, Genora, and ALL the strong union women!

        • SueInCa says:

          CL
          I read about her in The peoples’ History of the United States -- Howard Zinn

          • choicelady says:

            Another great radical historian, Staughton Lynd, brought her to the Radical History Caucus of the Organization of American Historians conference in 1970. She was WONDERFUL -- funny, feisty, energetic and the first person I’d ever heard who told history from people’s point of view. Never forgot her! She died a few years ago, but I met him again last year, and he’s as powerful and outspoken as he was in the 70s. Good we have those people -- Staughton and his wife Mary, Howard Zinn and all the others -- they are our conscience, our memory, and our energy!


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