Writers Guild Strike Primer: Part 3, Disinformation Guidelines

Okay, cadets. Now that the WGA strike has been called for Monday, it's important to get some practice dealing with disinformation, a deceptive tactic meant to flummox the bewildered.

As I mentioned the other day, I love "Three Kings" for which John Ridley' wrote the story. He's a great fiction writer. In fact, his fiction carries over into his Huffington Post blogs about the Writers Guild negotiations.

Now, there are few things in life I care to do less than respond to someone else's blog. However, whenever someone is so wrong, so utterly disingenuous, it's inappropriate ever to leave that on the table as if it's reality.

Keep in mind that Mr. Ridley previously dared compare the WGA to communism. That alone should discredit any other words from his typing fingers on the subject. Yet impressively he continues discrediting himself in his latest attempt.

I will use a device Mr. Ridley is unfamiliar with. It's called "facts."

For example - he knowingly describes the recent WGA membership meeting: "The meeting was attended by an estimated smattering of the guild's 12,000 members."

That sounds pretty, darn damning doesn't it? There are just a few problems with it.

For starters, John Ridley wasn't there.


"I would've gone to the meeting," he says, "except -- for real -- I'm on the jury of the AFI fest." Yes, he had to go to a movie! On the other hand, he does quote someone who was there. Well, okay he sort of quotes. The expert witness was "anonymous."

And his "expert" smarmily refers to all the Maseratis there. Note: probably 90 percent of WGA members earn less than $20,000 a year. (That's one tire on a Maserati, providing you don't want to eat.)

Oops again.

But he's just getting warmed up. That 12,000 member number Mr. Ridley quotes. Remember? Er, sorry - in truth, the Writers Guild, West, has under 8,000 members. (Oops.) The Writers Guild, East - related, but a separate guild - has the additional 4,000 members. Unfortunately, being across the continent three time zones away, it was a little hard for them to make the commute. Even in a Maserati.

But as long as we're dealing with facts, how many people were in this "smattering"? All news reports say 3,000. To John Ridley, that might be a "smattering." In the real world, that means about 40 percent of the Writers Guild, West, membership drove across town to attend a four-hour meeting. Some "smattering."

Let's put this in factual perspective. In the last general U.S. election, 2006, voter turnout was 41.3 percent. That means almost the exact same percentage of Writers Guild, West, members gave up their evening as did patriotic Americans who voted in the last national election. Some "smattering."

Oops, again.

In comparing this "smattering" to his own evening, John Ridley denigrates the real-life issues that impact the income and lives of writers to - a movie he saw. I'm sure "Lions for Lambs" is "a very moving film," but...well, it's still a movie. Those writers willing to give up their jobs? They're actually real human beings. Mr. Ridley's relating real life to a movie is akin to Ann Coulter talking to Donny Deutsch the other day about inter-racial marriage and using an episode of "Seinfeld" as her proof. Of course, thanks to writers, she had her fake evidence.)

Practice Case Study


John Ridley bluntly says the Writers Guild is "trying to annex the Internet" and refers to the "still non-unionized net." How do you respond?


You use a clever device known as "reality". Mark this down in your notebooks, it is a helpful implement.

The Writers Guild isn't remotely trying to unionize the Internet. Obviously. Here's what the Internet issue actually is -

When movies and TV are streamed on the Internet or downloaded, and the companies make money from that, the WGA want to be paid, as well. When companies ask Writers Guild members to write original content for the Internet, and the companies make money from that, the WGA would like the writers who do the work to also get paid.

"Oh, that's totally different from what John Ridley suggested. Oops. Right?"

Yes. Actually, most of the negotiations are totally different from John Ridley suggested. But I digress...

But it gets much better than what John Ridley left out. You know much money the companies want to pay writers for the use of most of their work on the Internet?


Yes, you read that right. Zero. The studios contend that they can show an entire TV show, an entire movie even, and make money from it, but they don't want to pay a single penny to writers, because they want to call that "promotion."


"Well, that's not good. And totally different from what John Ridley suggested."

Right-o. Then again, most of what John Ridley suggested...oh, wait, you know that already.

In the end, Mr. Ridley once more tosses in his obligatory bone, saying seriously how he seriously wishes all writers success in everything, seriously. It's like hitting someone over the head and wishing them a speedy recovery.

Honestly, I'm glad to hear John Ridley's opinions of the negotiation issues. A fair and open discussion of proposals is a good thing. (Moreover, he's already called the proposals "valuable.")

The only thing I wish is that in voicing his opinions, Mr. Ridley would be accurate.

[NOTE: This post edited for a correction about the screen credit for "Three Kings."]

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