All posts tagged: France

“World update: Strikes force Lady Gaga to postpone shows” (Wow, France… pt. 2: parroting)

originally published on November 1, 2010

In my post last week (Wow, France… Why can’t we do that here?!??), I asked, as the title suggests, what prevents the kind of broad, committed, collective action that we’re seeing in France from happening here in the United States.  This is especially perplexing, given that their strike is about opposing the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62 – whereas here our retirement age is already later than that, our college tuition rates promise a lifetime of debt, our health care system is all sorts of effed up, our hours are longer, our vacations shorter, our social safety net far less comprehensive.  I could go on.

I started to answer my own question, discussing the mechanics of how collective action and protest have been negatively branded here, so as to effectively inoculate many people against participation.  In response (over at Daily Kos), Pesto asked:

The $64,000 question WRT inoculation is why it hasn’t worked as well elsewhere.  It’s not as if multinational corporations in France never considered trying to break French workers’ solidarity or willingness to shut the economy down to win what they want.  They certainly understand the basic concepts of propaganda that have worked so well in the US.  But whatever they’ve been trying in France hasn’t been working very well.

Big question.  Where to begin?  Well, why not start with Lady Gaga?  More specifically, let’s start with CNN’s utilization of Lady Gaga as a cultural intermediary in their “coverage” of the strikes:


World update: Strikes force Lady Gaga to postpone shows

France strike – Some 200 demonstrators blocked France’s Marseille-Provence airport for more than three hours Thursday as strikes and protests continued across the country.  The action comes ahead of a final vote on the country’s Pension Reform Bill.  Pop star Lady Gaga postponed two Paris shows this weekend because of “the logistical difficulties due to the strikes,” her website said.

Wow, France… Why can’t we do that here?!?? (pt. 1: inoculation)

originally published on October 21, 2010

Do you ever look at newspaper articles about worker and student strikes in countries like France or Greece or Argentina-you know, the kind of activity that shuts down the whole country-and think to yourself, “Holy shit, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!  Those people know how to protest!?”

Well, I sure do.

Not to glorify any particular tactic for it’s own sake, but geez, the spirit of collective action and common purpose that’s displayed in those moments-let alone the negotiating power it awards to grassroots movements, unions, and progressive political parties-is something that sometimes, um, feels a little lacking here in the good old U.S. of A.

So what are you waiting for.  Go ahead.  Try that here.  See how many people you can turn out.  See where it gets you.

Likely.  not.  very.  far.

We have a situation here.  We’re stuck in a Catch 22.  As a society, we presently seem to be inoculated against the means necessary for our own collective advancement. (If you’re at the top of the plutocratic order, now’s the time to congratulate yourself on a brilliant system.)  And I’m not talking about any one particular style of collective action or protest – we’re not France or Greece or Argentina, and I don’t particularly want us to be.  I’m fully ready to embrace an all-American style, and I would settle for whatever kind of collective action (within ethical and strategic limits) powerful enough to challenge entrenched power and privilege.  Is that such a tall order?