Cartoon for January 17

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are scabs. If Americans who work had one tenth of the guts and integrity of their counterparts in other countries, they’d refuse to tune into their shows. That also goes for when, and if, the Writers Guild strike is finished. Once a scab, always a scab.

These two strike-breakers think they can justify their actions away with the sort of lame arguments they usually get paid to mock when politicians make them. Let’s take them one at a time:

1. Their staffers were in danger of losing their jobs if they didn’t come back on the air. That’s true. It could happen. It’s called collateral damage, and it sucks. It’s also called solidarity. For all of us to get ahead, we all have to pull together and suck up the hard times. The whole point of a strike is to cause enough inconvenience to force management to negotiate in good faith. If Comedy Central ordered Stewart and Colbert back on the air, they ought to have quit. That’s called integrity.

2. They’re talking a lot on the air about unionism and the strike. While that’s very meta, it doesn’t wash. The best way to make sure the corporate bosses feel the pinch would have been to stay off the air.

3. They were willing to strike separate deals with the Writers Guild. First and foremost, the Guild ought not to have negotiated separately with Jay Leno. One deal for everybody, or no deal. Nothing else works. As for Colbert and Stewart, they didn’t strike an agreement with the Guild. “Wanting” to is a laaaaaaame counter to this fact.

Today’s cartoon is a two-parter of sorts. Fellow Cartoonist with Attitude Matt Bors offers his take on Stephen Colbert. Check it out!

Click on the cartoon to make it bigger.

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30 Responses to “”

  1. Brian McFadden Says:

    I reluctantly have to agree with you guys. One nitpick however, the separate deal was with Letterman, not Leno.

  2. briank Says:

    I had this argument with a friend the other day; he suggested that Stewart and Colbert can have a greater impact for the strike by being on the air. I’m glad I’m not the online who finds this nonsensical – whatever they say on the air, it’s making money for the producers and allowing them to continue to hold out on offering a fair deal to the writers.

  3. BetterJobs Says:

    Thank you for pointing this out. I already had a big argument with a Stephen Colbert fan group.

    I want to know how the left-of-center can be so ignorant.

  4. Ryan Says:

    I agree with points 1 & 2, but not 3. The AMPTP consists of people who should be competitors colluding against the union. If a show separates itself from that collusion and agrees to the terms the union is fighting for, I don’t see why the union should try to force it back into collusion with its competitors.

  5. Geoduck Says:

    Nitpick: It was Letterman, not Leno, who made a separate deal with the union. Leno is going without any writers.

  6. Aggie Dude Says:

    Ted,

    You’re wonderful, however I really disagree with you on this one. I like the not-so-subtle reference to the mafia style union behavior, because it really can fit. But I think that we live in a radically different time that is, as you rightly put in the cartoon, not as straightforward. I disagree with what I consider to be an inaccurate framing of the business-labor relationship on philophical and contextual grounds.

    First, your account is through the lens of the Fordist compromise between labor and management, and plays strikes in industrial production of the past, which I do think is radically different from the intellectual property disputes of writers. It’s not that I’m attacking the unionism of the past, I’m just saying I don’t think applies very well; this is a new problem.

    On a philosophical level I have a hard time with your characterization of solidarity and demand for it. I understand that we’re ultimately dealing with fascists, and it’s difficult for democrats (small d) to deal with fascists because they’re less authoritarian.

    Order is predictability is security is the ability to put your kids on the school bus in the morning and know that they’ll come back home alive. It’s a very tempting proposition to most people, and it gets more tempting in an economic and social environment that breeds uncertainty.

    The sick reality that I’ve come to, which has contributed to my ardent fatalism, is that it takes a power structure to take on a power structure. We’ve been holding out for telecommunications technology to bail us out of this conundrum but it really hasn’t.

    Going after Stewart and Colbert and calling them scabs, as though you’ve defined two sides is missing the mark, I believe. And we are stuck in a situation where entrenched power seems to always escape because they’re the only ones who actually have solidarity. Maybe solidarity is not so much other people doing what you want them to do, but trusting that they’re operating in good faith, even if they’re still looking out for themselves.

    Democracy, freedom, liberty and self determination are messy propositions because dissent is not quashed, as it is in fascist hierarchies. We seem to desire order because it gives us a sense of understanding; that plays into a reinforcing of the current regime.

    So my conclusion here, and I hope you don’t take this harshly, is that going after Obama, or Colbert and Stewart, is somewhat attacking the targets you can reach because the real targets are too well defended, which means they will always win in the end.

  7. Audio Says:

    I see it quite differently. Both Stewart and Colbert use writers just like a manufacturer uses workers to manufacture a product.
    Why fault the managers to get their hands dirty and make the product themselves during a strike, with less features and less quality?

    That’s what Stewart and Colbert do. They come up with their own material this time, unlike Letterman.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    The Daily Show and The Colbert Report both agreed to the terms that the guild wanted. They even got the approval of comedy central however the union did not want to make that deal. The problem though is that they made a make seperate deals with Letterman and did not extend that same courtesty to the daily show. So clearly the union is at fault.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Gee, even a number of Ted’s kool-aid drinkers seem to have issues with him on this one. Good.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    The Union is smart to Support Letterman. He has a more liberal viewer. You want to reach to most with the best. If you want funny and original watch Letterman. If you want shlub humor watch Leno and, or the others. The unions, have been backed against a wall for the last 25 yrs. Time to put up or shut up. Eat the scabs!

  11. SDS Says:

    Can someone answer a simple question that has been bugging people I know?

    Of the people back (Conan, Letterman, Leno, Colbert, Stewart), who is using writers and/or writing and who isn’t? It seems impossible that Stewart has not written SOME of his work while it seems plausible that Conan isn’t actually doing anything but improv.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I agree they are scabs. Labor has lost so much, the days of employees being worked to crippling injury for starvation wages, then fired is fast returning. If losing a high paying cushy job is scary, check out when people formed unions to get enough pay to eat and sometimes faced the police arresting them as “Communists” and then killing them ‘accidentally’ and throwing their bodies in trash cans. Anyone against unions raises his hand against every working man and is a toady for the parasite capitalist pig.

  13. Seb Says:

    Although I disagree with the tenet of the comic – I don’t think any “artist” should belong to a union (if you’re in it for the money you’re a sellout by definition)-I really admire how Ted’s piece gets to the core of Stewart’s vaguely and safely political college smartass persona.
    Matt Boors’ cartoon however falls flat, I think, because one could definitely imagine Colbert pronouncing those EXACT words on television.
    But seriously, though, with oil futures reaching 200 dollars, does anyone really give a rodent’s behind about how much money the people who write “The Bold and the Beautiful” make?

  14. Aggie Dude Says:

    Anon 10:09 PM:

    I still stand by my objection to this demand for the issue to be framed as a hegemonic ‘capitalist vs worker’ approach. This is why I dislike interacting with people in the humanities. They lament that society is not out on strike so that they can read about it (and write about it in the Journal of Radicalism) from their cozy positions at NYU. This view is shamefully simplistic, and whenever an issue is forced into a dichotomy between two competing extremes, everyone who doesn’t fit those two categories precisely is then disenfranchised. Simply put, it is not 1935.

    Don’t forget that unions are power structures and hierarchies which can became just as suffocating as any other group. The key is to focus on using democratic facilities to put in place people who understand whose rights are most important and then building off of that to establish decision making based off of serving those interests.

    The government controls the military, and as John Edwards correctly points out, the only way corporate elites will give up their power is when “we” take it from them. Underlying ALL of his rhetoric is the basic reality that property can be seized for the public good, regardless of what the libertarians and corporate fascists want you to believe.

    When it comes to ‘national security,’ anything can be justified, and has been in the past 7 years. We need to start recognizing that this concept is not simply the indulgence of military contractors and power mongering politicians. It is the government’s responsibility to advocate for individual citizens and not corporate enterprises. The consequence of not doing that is not only our loss of livelihood, but the colonial project as a whole, for joint stock companies were really behind imperialism, nationalism is always an idea used to get people to go along with it.

    Attacking other individuals for simply being ‘less extreme’ then you smacks of the Cultural Revolution and other periods of terror where labels condemn innocent people to suffering. . .”scab” is not really that different. It’s offensive to me because it creates scapegoats and easy targets out of people who actually aren’t doing anything wrong, they’re just not participating in your insurgency.

    Levying legitimate government authority, backed by a democratic process, is a far better answer than continuous strong arming in the private sector. The key is it must be democratic in nature, and it must happen in the core, not the periphery. But as I said earlier, Americans simply won’t take ownership of their government. . .fascism won.

  15. Kurt Says:

    An artist in a union is a sell-out? Give me a break. What a load of CRAP. As a musician, I have spent the last 20 years practicing 3-10 hours a day just to achieve mediocrity. When somebody wants me to show up at their bar/studio/wedding/festival and play, don’t I deserve some compensation for my years of hard work? I also have an MA in a much less interesting pursuit. I get paid a pretty penny for my education outside of music, why wouldn’t I get paid for music too? This kind of thinking has led to the theft of people’s intellectual property, and a union is one way an artist can protect themselves.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    this is pretty simplistic thinking. the writer’s strike has been mismanaged from the start. though the writer’s do need a deal on new media, the guild has done a horrid job pursuing this goal. i’d scab if i were in the industry.

  17. TheDon Says:

    I don’t normally post “Ted is AWESOME” comments, but I want to weigh in here.

    A Daily Shame and The Cold Bear Report are of, by, and for scabs. Everyone appearing on their shows, or on the other scab shows (Leno, Conan, That Idiot Who is Defiling Sarah Silverman, etc) is crossing a picket line. PERIOD

    Letterman’s production company struck a deal with the union and that’s fair on both sides. Comedy Central belongs to Viacom, one of the bad guys in this, so the union won’t strike a separate deal. Good for them.

    I have removed the offending shows from my DVR list, and don’t plan on returning any of them. Of course, removing soft Republican corporate humor guys like Leno is easier than removing snarky pseudo-lefties, but that’s how principles work.

    I will admit that I was tempted to watch when I read that Stewart beat up on Jonah Goldberg, then I realized that my 8 year old nephew could do the same thing.

    These writers are being cheated out of income from their work – a classic example of why we need unions and why they deserve our support. Hopefully the contract with the directors will open the door to a settlement and we can get back to full-time mindless entertainment for the fun and profit of our corporate overlords.

  18. TheDon Says:

    Stewart and Colbert are also members of the union, and should be tossed out. They cross a picket line every day, they run a scab show, and they are writing, in violation of the strike. I just don’t buy the utter bullshit of “we’re not really writing, we’re just winging it”.

    Whatever dude, you’re writing and should have your memberships revoked.

  19. Matt Bors Says:

    anonymous: “i’d scab if i were in the industry.”

    You’re despicable.

    You can’t even post under your name.

  20. comsympinko Says:

    I just wonder if this not-so-thinly-veiled call for mob violence would be so clarion if it was you that was to be responsible for an entire team of cast and crew getting whacked over a bunch of poorly-led idiots participating in the wrong strike at the wrong time.

    I’m all for union solidarity to a point, but not all strikes make sense. This one certainly doesn’t.

    By striking these WGA fools have already lost more money in lost wages than most of them would have earned from ten years of internet and DVD residuals.

    They also have exactly zero chance of inconveniencing the plutocrats in charge of the networks into negotiations in good faith, regardless of self-inflicted collateral damage.

    Why would execs that can easily do without writers by broadcasting shitty reality TV and canceled shows with episodes already in the can want to negotiate with them?

    The WGA are a bunch of idealistic suckers who produce nothing of real value as compared to your straightforward 1938 era strikers.

    Those people were responsible for producing the goods their families lived on, were totally united in a common cause and rallied entire communities to their side.

    They had significantly more at stake than a diverse group of writers with ridiculously varied goals, most of whom have little in common with the other members of the WGA, which should probably be broken up into five or six different unions with their own goals and leadership. They’d be a lot more effective.

    So this leads us to some questions.

    Are Stewart and Colbert scabs? Absolutely.

    Should they be accepting pay for their work? No way.

    Should they be paying their writers during the strike? Why not? They’re millionaires.

    Should they have taken responsibility for the well-being of the majority of their employees and their families in the face of the overwhelming stupidity of and odds against the WGA strike? I find it hard to fault them for it. The gaffer’s family can’t eat principles or heat the house with good intentions.

    Should they be beaten half to death with lead pipes, spiked flails and bricks? That seems a bit excessive.

    Should thinking people boycott their shows? I haven’t watched a minute since they were back on the air, and it hasn’t cost me a dime. Funny how easy it is to take measures that require personal no sacrifice.

    Are the wounds the GMA have inflicted upon themselves of the sucking chest variety? They’ll be lucky to survive as various factions within the union begin to wonder why they’re striking for residuals they’ll never earn.

    Unlike Stewart and Colbert’s cast and crew, there’s no EMS on the way for them.

  21. Harpfrmhel Says:

    Jon Stewart has become so full of himself. I used to be a big fan of “The Daily Show”, but then I saw him on some talk shows (MSNBC, Larry King, etc.) and he was just snotty through out much of it.

  22. whatever dude Says:

    “It’s called collateral damage, and it sucks. It’s also called solidarity.”

    Interesting. So everyone else who makes their living in the industry should support the strike even though the WGA is acting against their interests?

    I know you’re convinced that central planning and government paternalism are the only legitimate response to the problems of poverty and economic exploitation, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you’d make such an arrogant statement, but that’s really taking it to a whole new level.

    “Sorry about destroying your village, Mr. Nguyen, but you see, it was in the way. Whaddya gonna do, that’s war. Let’s not forget who the real enemy is.”

    If you really support the troops, you oppose unnecessary, unwinnable wars of aggression. If you really support the working class, you oppose foolish strikes for frivolous demands and you definitely don’t stand in solidarity with the unions that carry them out.

    I find it doubly odd that you would even support the existence of the WGA in the first place. I presume you’re aware that under US law copyrightable works are automatically considered the intellectual property of their creators. However, the WGA insists that its members’ work be done on a for-hire basis, robbing them of the ownership of their output.

    Why? Because the vast majority of it is so undistinguished that a non-competition agreement is the only way any of them will ever make any money at it. Their copyrights would be essentially valueless on the open market due to the sheer volume of mediocre hackwork available to prospective producers. Is that how you feel about your own work? Or do you think you occupy your particular market niche because of your work’s merit?

  23. angelo Says:

    aggie said: “it takes a power structure to take on a power structure”

    Couldn’t agree more. Key word: Power.

  24. Aggie Dude Says:

    Angelo,

    Cheers….power corrupts, and power structures are inevitably corrupt, yet we continually replace one power structure with the next. Western neo-liberals harp about the central planning of the soviet system, but are not corporate conglomerates and vertically integrated pseudo-monopolies equally central in their planning? Who decided that “unions” defined the battle grounds? It’s a very American view “you’re either with us or against us”…no room for neutrality.

    At some level, one is forced to acknowledge that we are simply stuck with certain realities, life is full of double edged swords, catch 22s and classic Greek tragedies.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    WTF?? Who drew this horribly ignorant cartoon? You think it’s funny to blend Jon with Stephen. You’ve mixed the guys up. Is it Jon or is it Stephen? Have you actually ever seen their shows?

  26. Ted Rall Says:


    I know you’re convinced that central planning and government paternalism are the only legitimate response to the problems of poverty and economic exploitation…

    As opposed to…what? The magic of the marketplace?

  27. Aggie Dude Says:

    Until businesses have democratically elected management and leadership, your so-called ‘government paternalism’ is essentially the best we’ve got, because the government operates (ideally) on authority gained through a democratic process.

    Poverty and exploitation occur due to a lack of balance in power; one person-one vote in representative fashion is precisely the mechanism by which that imbalance is amended.

  28. Andy Says:

    Couldn’t we just get back at the networks by never watching the broadcasts but still downloading torrent videos? I’m sure it’s pretty dramatic for TDS and TCR anyway but, heck, we get the professional production quality and their ad revenues go to crap.

    But the strike as a whole is strong of principle and not so practical. The networks told everyone they were going to be fine with the strike and redo their business models, airing live shows, canned shows, repeats, news, and reality. What they produce is also a tiny portion of media people ingest. This isn’t like steelworkers or carpenters shutting down and having a near-immediate effect.

  29. latenac Says:

    I have to admit I’m sure there’s some irony in Jon Stewart being called a scab when he was the one to get his writers into the union in the first place.

    Too bad the writers are on strike maybe your cartoon and Mr. Bors would have been more interesting, amusing, a true strike at the heart of the matter, etc, etc.

  30. angelo Says:

    aggie,

    Love the idea of electing the employer’s board of directors, but in the meantime, not choosing sides in this case is very convenient for the guy writing the checks.

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