Leading article: All out

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The Independent Online

Entertainment-loving Americans must sense an ominous pincer movement at work. On the west coast, screenwriters are on strike, threatening Hollywood's dramatic output. And, now, on the east coast, Broadway stage hands have walked out in a pay dispute, leaving many theatre-goers forlornly clutching tickets to cancelled shows such as Mamma Mia! and The Lion King. It can only be a matter of time before the neocons emerge from their fox holes to denounce a devious foreign plot to hobble the US's artistic industries and, by extension, America's "soft" power around the world.

The sight of members of the creative industries manning picket lines might seem faintly ridiculous, rather like students announcing that they will withdraw their "labour", or Premiership footballers demanding better pay and conditions. And anyway, what happened to the spirit of "the show must go on"?

Actually, there have been far more inventive strikes in literary history. Aristophanes wrote a play in which the women of ancient Greece go on "sex strike" until their husbands stop fighting each other. Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged, depicted a world in which the intellectuals retreat from public life. The result is the ruin of civilisation.

Back in the real world, which section of the American workforce will be withdrawing their labour next? Pet manicurists? Feng shui specialists? Politicians? Let's hope this present round of unlikely union militancy can be confined to stagehands and scriptwriters.