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Damning Evidence In Their Own Words

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Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.

In the matter of the WGA v. AMPTP, or David v. Goliath, Part 1 billion -- here is a useful bit of video [via Deadline Hollywood Daily]. It was put together by UnitedHollywood.com.

If this were a trial, the clip you are about to see would be the sine qua non of smoking guns, the glove that fits that won't acquit, the alpha and omega and the silencing final word in the matter of "the Internet and downloads and online content are for promotion only."

But of course, it's Hollywood, and the gentlemen on the tape who have been caught blatantly contradicting themselves, swanning about and engaging in puffery of the first order, are shameless enough, and arrogant enough not to care.

I used to sort of have an odd respect for these brutalists, these guys who get stuff done. Now I am so deeply grateful not to be one of them. It must be awful to live with that much chaos in your head and that much rot in your heart. How do they look in the mirror, how do they look at their kids? (Well, Sumner doesn't bother, Lear-like, but without the ending; he simply goes on wreaking havoc.)

Will this make a difference? I don't know, a smarter man than me would give them room to find a dignified and graceful exit policy from their miscalculation. But I can't help it. Watch this clip and if you still do not understand why the WGA is striking -- with the full support of actors and teamsters, little old ladies and dogs all over the world -- then it is hopeless.

Because this gorgeous little Exhibit A is quite simply all you need. Behold, in all their glory, going boldly into the future, the men who gave you the strike:

So now the CEOs stand revealed, naked. Emperors without a stitch of Hermes, Prada, Etro or Purple Label.

I have a small theory about disconnectedness on that high a level: The rise in private jets, for CEO travel, and the subtle and vulgar contest they all have with one another to be the highest paid, the endless ease of access and egress, causes them to lose a sense of place. Of man and god, of the proportion and what Lacan would call "The Actual." Of the real world. It is why Warren Buffett, for example, seems so refreshing to so many, with his apparent personal sense of scale.

Now -- how do we move to reconciliation? How to end this strike? it would be great to find a way for the WGA and the studios to move into this future together. I would love to be less inflammatory in my writing on this struggle; the entire business of this fight is sickening. I have good relationships with the executives at ABC, and respect them, and enjoy them. Honestly. Brothers & Sisters, the TV show I helped create, would not have survived had it not been for their patience and understanding. On that level, the studio execs are well intentioned collaborators. Trust me, this is fact.

However, watching this bit of brilliantly-edited video, it is clear that at the highest level of the giant media corporations there exists a shockingly woeful arrogance and a volatile, viral moral adaptability. Very twentieth century, and terribly hard to sustain today when evidence is as readily available as the clip you just watched.

The writers are voicing the common sense insistence that if, after so many experiments in exclusion (say DVDs), the studios make money from these new media markets -- then so too, should we. Period.

I am sickened by the suffering of the crews. The lay-offs. The spreading collateral damage to actors and the domino effects on other professions dependent on movies and TV.

I am sickened by the posturing and penis-measuring, and I am sickened by the empty negotiation rooms as I write this. But when you see this video, it becomes very clear that the AMPTP position is riddled with sophistry, and insupportable. They had to walk away -- it is impossible to sit there, and with straight face argue that there is no money to be made when their bosses are saying the opposite.

A week and a half ago, one of my best friends, a young screenwriter and playwright of great talent and greater soul, reminded me that my first thoughts on this subject were clouded by my feelings about how the business works, and my place in it. (Without going into details, my urges as a playwright sometimes fly in the face of the realities of a top 20 network TV show like Brothers & Sisters. ) He reminded me that whatever I may go through personally, I had a responsibility and a forum. As I have said, hearing his anguish broke my heart. I took stock. As I have thought about the issue, my bitterness and sorrow over the limitations of my own abilities and even value as a TV writer have been replaced by the greater understanding that I care deeply about my colleagues -- from the crew, up to the executives -- because that is called citizenship. That is called continuity.

I realize, after watching this clip, that I am sentimental. Ever was it thus. That is a blessing as much as a curse. No such sentiments exist in the hearts of Moonves, Murdoch, Iger, Silverman. I do not envy them. They are sloppy dissemblers. Somehow having risen to power, they are soul-sick and awash in shameless double-speak and reflexive corporate arrogance. These are not enlightened positions from which to lead their businesses into a new age.

Perhaps the stockholders of Disney, Viacom, News Corp and Time Warner, etc, should insist that from now on, flying coach should be an iron-clad condition of their CEOs' contracts.

PS: This writer owes Nikki Finke a debt of gratitude for her tireless and fierce coverage of the issue. Anybody interested in breaking Hollywood news could not do better than to check with her site frequently.

Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.