you don’t see with your eye / you percieve with your mind — Gorillaz, “Clint Eastwood”
Since today is artistic interpretation and labor blogging day, I thought I’d take a look at Clint Eastwood’s immediately beloved Super Bowl ad for Chrysler, “Halftime In America” (how’s that for a segue?). Or not immediately beloved: I’m told that it “sparks the discord it decries”:
On Monday, Karl Rove, the former aide to President George W. Bush, said that he was “offended” by the Eastwood ad, suggesting that the Obama administration had a role in its production.
“I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best wishes of the management which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they’ll never pay back,” Rove charged on Fox News.
But in Wisconsin, where the entire state is still grieving over the Packers’ loss to the Giants three weeks ago, the reaction was much different. While most cheeseheads saw the Super Bowl as a rare night off from the sucking hole of union politics, there it was in the ad — an image of the state capitol occupation by union protesters nearly a year ago.
It also seems somewhat incongruous that Chrysler would lionize the Wisconsin union movement in such a way. Organized labor’s pay and benefit demands are what brought U.S. auto makers to their knees in the first place. As George Will is fond of saying, American car companies actually became health-insurance companies that happened to sell automobiles. It’s no coincidence that the American entities who have struggled the most in recent years — car companies, the American educational system — are the ones that are the most heavily unionized. (Wisconsin, of all places, should recognize this, as a major GM plant in Janesville closed in 2008, tearing the heart out of that union town.)
Yes, that was the Wisconsin capitol. Yes, those were labor protests in the Chrysler ad. The footage was shot by a Madison-based photographer, and found its way into a Tom Morello video before reaching Super Bowl screens.
But, no, those weren’t pro-union signs. Those got bowdlerized, as BagNews explains:
The teachers union sign and logo, far left, has been replaced with a generic circle with line through it over a face. All the orange “Stop the attack on public education” signs have been eliminated.
See for yourself; they’ve got the before-and-after pictures. Their conclusion:
With these goals in mind, it may be safer to say that Chrysler’s Halftime in America ad is more accurately seen through the lens of doctored video footage to be a pro-corporate, anti-union advertisement than any other kind of political statement.
But that’s not all the rewriting of history the ad did:
The Chrysler ad also disappears the identification on a statue of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, the Wisconsin Civil War hero who rallied a Scandanavian unit to fight for the union with the cry: “Norsemen…the government of our adopted country is in danger. It is our duty as brave and intelligent citizens to extend our hands in defense of the cause of our Country…”
It’s not just anti-union, it’s anti-Union! And anti-Norsemen! If I was Dirty Harry, I’d be more worried about Thor than Karl Rove.