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Workers of the World, Unite! — In Front of the Boob Tube

Strange doings on the political Left these days. The Left, so one has always heard, is committed to defending the workingman, the little guy, the unempowered person, against the might — and the wiles — of a capitalist economic-cultural complex that is bent upon turning us from real people into mere pawns. The Left is supposed to defend us against a corporate culture intent on making us its thralls through its monopoly of the public forum and the public airwaves, its specious advertising and junk entertainments, its reduction of civic life and even private life to a conformist consumerism. The Left is supposed to fling back the stale bread and sad circuses dispensed to us by the shadowy figures who dictate our cultural values.

How disturbing, then, to read in the venerable left-wing weekly The Nation (Sept. 27, 1999) a capitulation to the most insidious of cultural forces: television. A writer named Morales goes on at length about the small number of “prime-time roles” for “people of color on the small screen” (“Although Latinos make up 11 percent of the country’s population, they are represented by only 2 percent of the characters on network programs”). Morales applauds various racial groups who are pressuring broadcasters to mitigate “the whiteness in TV casting.” Fine so far: It sounds like good old-fashioned political action in support of fairness in the job market. Then comes this servile conclusion:

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