‘Murder by Proxy’: is the whole country going ‘postal’?

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Director Emil Chiaberi never appears on camera in his subtly subversive documentary “Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal” (RF Releasing) which could be one of the reasons why it has a lot more punch than most of the Michael Moore films.

Moore is a showman who muddies his own left wing agenda by making himself a very large target for his conservative critics — Moore’s personality and ego are impossible to avoid in his movies and both have become increasingly unattractive in the years since “Roger & Me” put him on the map (all of his subsequent films could have “& Me” tacked onto the title).

Chiaberi (below, left, with postal union steward Charlie Withers) stays behind the scenes and uses interview subjects and archival footage to trace the history of the “going postal” wave of post office employee killings that began in 1986. He then shows how violence in workplaces of all kinds has been growing.

“Murder by Proxy” suggests that it was the demand for unrealistic levels of productivity in post offices that led to the outbreaks of violence. Chiaberi and his interview subjects believe that in the “lean and mean” business environment of the new century — where fewer people are expected to do more work and have limited options for other employment — violence will continue to increase in the business world.

Attempts at production sabotage have become more common in workplaces, according to Chiaberi, including at potentially dangerous sites such as water treatment facilities and nuclear power plants. The film quotes experts as saying angry workers are more likely to cause catastrophic damage in these facilities than terrorists because they already have security clearances.

“Murder by Proxy” shows how the balance of power between workers and employers began to shift in the 1980s when the Reagan administration pulled off some of the most successful anti-union actions in modern history and job-slashing business leaders like Jack Welch became culture heroes.

Globalization cut back on the number of possible jobs for American workers, making it more difficult to leave an abusive employment situation.

Many of the postal workers interviewed in the film say that they weren’t surprised when their debt-ridden, stressed-out co-workers pushed-back violently. With no power to change their work conditions, these frustrated and depressed people became ticking time bombs. In one of the film’s most shocking sequences, survivors of one attack tell us that one of the supervisors who was murdered “had it coming.”

For more information on the movie, go to: www.murderbyproxyfilm.com

Joe Meyers

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