Dan Rather vindicates my position on Colbert’s testimony!

14 Oct 2010 01:38 am
Posted by: Donna

I caught a lot of online flak for criticizing Colbert’s testimony to Congress on migrant farmworkers, which followed a Colbert Report segment where he did some work on a farm in New York. Colbert joined with United Farm Workers to promote their “Take Our Jobs” effort.

It’s not that I don’t “get satire”, as I was accused numerous times on Facebook and internet message boards. I totally got it. But I thought, and still think, that Colbert and the UFW picked on the wrong targets (unemployed Americans) and that their decision to focus on the putative unwillingness of Americans to take on the rigors of farm labor did nothing to bring attention to the shockingly inhumane working conditions on those farms.

Dan Rather decided not to take the “jobs Americans won’t do” premise at face value and investigated the claim.

Stephen Colbert testified that he was one of only 16 people across the entire United States who’d signed up to take a field job offered by the United Farm Workers as part of their “Take Our Jobs” campaign. Millions of unemployed Americans and there’s only one faux talk show host and a handful of people willing to do this work.

Colbert, I’m afraid you’ve been duped… although, you are far from alone on this.

Even among those skeptical of the general concept of “jobs Americans won’t do” (see my recent post), when it comes to farm work, foreign labor’s long been the historical reality and the conventional wisdom. Heck, it was my conventional wisdom — until last week.

That was when a tip sent Dan Rather Reports down to Colquitt County, Georgia where we found plenty of out-of-work Americans — literally hundreds — vying for jobs in the fields. The problem, these folks told us, is that the farmers in the area would rather import foreign guest workers to pick their vegetables than hire Americans.

Of course a farmer and his accountant came forward to trash Americans who showed up to work. They describe them as convicts and “total heathens and savages” who “come out here to work at a point of a gun”. The American woman interviewed at the end of the clip doesn’t appear to be anyone like that. She looks like someone who wanted a job and got the runaround.

From the same HuffPo article:

But the labor “shortage,” worker advocates say, is often merely a fiction drummed up by farmers seeking to justify hiring guest workers, who — because their legal status in the United States is contingent upon maintaining employment — are easier to overwork and underpay.

But hey, working class people being overworked and underpaid is the New American Dream.TM. What’s really sad is that some of my fellow progressives seem to be embracing that idea.

And they wonder why poor Americans aren’t rushing out to vote for Democrats.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Comment by Diane D'Angelo on October 14, 2010 3:34 am

    Pardon the comparison (I’m hungry!), but Americans of all persuasions want fast-food answers to eight-course-meal questions. A negative side effect of instant gratification I suppose. In any case, 60’s-era civil rights motifs don’t work in a globalized economy. It takes constant discernment to parse out the manipulation behind the message, and Colbert failed in this case. There is real pain among working class folks, and it’s wrong (and stupid) to ignore it.

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