61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
Insightful and saddening...,
This review is from: Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (Paperback)
Mr Ames, of the ex-pat alternative paper The Exile in Moscow, has been working on this strong book for years, and now that it's here, I don't know who'll want to read it. It's devastating. I felt a little dirty bringing my copy into work. My boss asked me what I was reading, I told him about it, and then said, "You'd better watch out," because I'm something of a loose cannon. He told me to shut up, and that was that.
Anyway, the book. What Mr Ames lacks in writing ability (not much, but his language is thick with judgmental adjectives that make the reading more arduous- maybe this was his intention?) he makes up for in original thought, and this book is a complex and original work. Revolutionary would not be too strong a word. He compares post office, workplace and school shootings to slave uprisings, and goes far into his comparisons by quoting the language surrounding both rebellions. Where Columbine's murderers were motivated by base evil and video games, Nat Turner's slave army seemed to be motivated by base evil and the ingratitude and treachery of the negroes, in the media accounts of the time. Ames doesn't think these accounts cover for the hostile environments that precipitated the attacks, rather he believes that the problem was that slavery was ingrained in the value systems of Nat Turner's time, so much so that they couldn't see anything anyone would find objectional about it, in much the same way that we can't admit now that our culture has something to do with the recent epidemic of rage massacres. Can you believe?- 45 school shootings in the 2003-04 academic year alone.
It's an unwieldy topic, but Ames does a terrific job with it. One thing I would have liked to see would be a handling of the original march to unionization. I guess that at the time, the government didn't support companies killing their employees with low wages and unsafe conditions quite so much. Now, they do that stuff legally.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 22, 2008 8:38:10 PM PDT
H. Price says:
I would submit that on the contrary, Mr. Weinberg, the government did support the killing of employees, both overtly and through low wages and unsafe conditions for a long time, until FDR came into office, and it occured overtly even during his time. Certainly anti-labor violence and the orchestrated destruction of unions and worker protections, health insurance, overtime, etc that comes with union membership has been assaulted by government from the first Nixon term onward.
A railroad strike in Chicago in 1877 was turned into The Battle of the Viaduct where federal troops fired on the striking workers, murdering 30 and wounding 100. On May 4, 1886 in the same city was The Haymarket "Riot", where a police agent/provocateur threw a bomb that killed 7 policemen and wounded 67 other people. The day after before, after two days of non-violence, a fight involving hundreds broke out at McCormick Reaper between locked-out unionists and the non-unionist workers McCormick hired to replace them. The Chicago police, swollen in number and heavily armed, quickly moved in with clubs and guns to restore order. They left four unionists dead and many others wounded. Nothing happened to the cops, but after the death of the 7 cops, four leaders of the workers were arrested, charged, tried and convicted of murder without any proof of their guilt, and hanged. They had advocated workers arming themselves and armed struggle, so this was the government's and corporations way of getting rid of them.
Taking place in Wisconsin at the same time was the Bayview Massacre, where seven people, including one child, were killed by state militia. On 1 May 1886 about 2,000 Polish workers walked off their jobs and gathered at Saint Stanislaus Church in Milwaukee, angrily denouncing the ten hour workday. They then marched through the city, calling on other workers to join them; as a result, all but one factory was closed down as sixteen thousand protesters gathered at Rolling Mills, prompting Wisconsin Govorner Jeremiah Rusk to call the state militia. The militia camped out at the mill while workers slept in nearby fields, and on the morning of May 5th, as protesters chanted for the eight hour workday, General Treaumer ordered his men to shoot into the crowd, some of whom were carrying sticks, bricks, and scythes, leaving seven dead at the scene. The Milwaukee Journal reported that eight more would die within twenty four hours, and without hesitation added that Governor Rusk was to be commended for his quick action in the matter.
The Thibodaux Massacre occured on November 23, 1887. The Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of "prominent citizens," shot at least 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage, and lynched two strike leaders.
The Homestead Strike occured on July 6, 1892. Pinkerton Guards, trying to pave the way for the introduction of scabs, opened fire on striking Carnegie mill steel- workers in Homestead, Pennsylvania. In the ensuing battle, three Pinkertons surrendered; then, unarmed, they were set upon and beaten by a mob of townspeople, most of them women. Seven guards and eleven strikers and spectators were shot to death.
In 1894 troops fired on workers of the American Railway Union in Chicago striking against the Pullman Company, the strikers led by Eugene Debs. 34 workers were killed. The imprisonment of Debs and other leaders caused the dissolution of the union.
In September 1897, 19 striking coal miners were killed and 34 wounded by members of a posse organized by Luzerne County (PA) Sheriff for failure to disperse near Lattimer. The strikers, most of whom where shot in the back, were brought in as scabs but decided to organize themselves. Kind of ironic, huh?
March 25, 1911 the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company sweatshop, located on the top three floors of a ten story building, was swept by fire. 147 people, mostly women and young girls, were killed, some by leaping from the windows to escape the flames. The doors at the stairway exits had been locked by the company as a precaution against "interruption of work". On April 11 the companies owners were indicted for manslaughter.
Feb 1912, during a textile strike at Lawrence, MA, women and children are beaten by police.
April 20, 1914 (ironically Adolph Hitler's 25th birthday), The Ludlow Massacre. To break a strike at Colorado's Ludlow Mine Field, owned by John D. Rockefeller among others, company goons, I mean guards (sworn into the State Militia/National Guard just for the occasion) opened fire with machine guns on a camp of striking miners; then set it on fire. 5 men, 2 women and 12 children were killed.
March 7, 1932 police kill striking workers at Ford's Dearborn plant.
And even after FDR came into office:
1934 Toledo, OH Electric Auto-Lite Strike. 2 killed and over 200 wounded by state National Guardsmen, over 1300 NG troops called out including 8 rifle companies and 3 machine gun companies to break the strike. Same year two men killed by San Francisco police in a strike by International Longshoreman's and Warehousemen's Union.
26 May 1937 Police kill 10 and wound 30 during Memorial Day Massacre at Republic Steel plant in Chicago.
That's just a few of the incidents where agents of government, be it police, sheriff's, National Guard/State Militia have attacked and killed, and framed, workers and labor leaders. There was an one instance of a town police man (and former miner) named Sid Hatfield who stood for the workers against the mining company, Baldwin-Felts, in the Matewan, WV strike in January 1920. This incident was made famous in the movie Matewan. Corporte killers murdered Hatfield 15 months later.
As for courts, the Supreme Court gutted on several occasions a labor bill called the Erdman Act. In 1898 they declared a part which made it a criminal offense for railroads to dismiss or discriminate against workers for union activties "unconstitutional". Ten years later they declared section 10 of the bill unconstitutional, this again would have made it illegal for railroad employers to fire workers for union activities. In January 1925 Supreme Court upheld "yellow dog" contracts, which forbid membership in labor unions. On March 15, 1917 they did uphold the Eight Hour Act, under threat of a nationwide railway strike. June 2, 1924 a child labor law amendment to the constitution is proposed, only 28 of the needed 36 states ever ratified it. January 2, 1920, the infamous Palmer raids began by the Bureau of Investigation. Feds seized labor leaders and literature in an attempt to intimidate labor organizers. They turned over some labor leaders to state authorities for prosecution on various "anti-anarchy" laws. Feb 27, 1939 Supreme Court rules sit down strikes are illegal. June 20, 1947 Truman vetoes Taft-Hartley Act restricting union activities, congress overrides the veto. Sept 14, 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act passes, further restricting union activities. Nov 7, 1959, Taft-Hartley Act is invoked by Supreme Court to break a steel strike.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 23, 2009 10:17:11 AM PDT
Josiah Kirby White says:
The book points out our tendency to act the part of "happy slaves," whether we're happy or not. Yet you point out all these times in American history (usually omitted from conventional textbooks) where the uppity slaves rise up and say, "We're not going to take it anymore." So why aren't we getting uppity today? Sure, there are occasional protests that are huge and effective, like Seattle/WTO. But for the most part, we've been extremely docile ever since the Eisenhower years (except for Vietnam and the 60's, which were pretty unique). Although today's conservatives talk with fear and loathing about the 60's, it was really the 1930's that were the radical protest years. The 30's make the 60's seem tame by comparison. What happened to make us all so "happy"?
I can only guess. I'd guess it's the effectiveness of our propaganda. One example: the book pointed out that Reagan's funeral lasted 7 days, meaning that the TV coverage exceeded even JFK's assassination. That coverage must have been the supreme propaganda festival.
Unlike the Russians, who were fully aware their media was propaganda, we're not aware that ours is propaganda. This makes the propaganda all the more effective. The mentality of the happy, docile slave is certainly trumpeted in the media. Given what we see on the news, uprisings as in the 30's (and earlier) become almost unthinkable.
To truly see your culture for what it is, you have to stand outside it somehow. Inside it, we're blinded by the fog of our media machine. So I got the idea-- of our media being the most effective propaganda the world has ever known--from outsiders looking in: the insight came from a political discussion among Europeans, commenting about America. Over there, political discussion is encouraged much more than here, where it's often seen as too controversial.
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Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond(32 customer reviews)