By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
M arch 4, 2004
People ask -- 'Rob, Russell, the world is going to hell in
a handbasket. What can we do about it?'
We say -- read one book, see one movie.
Unfortunately, the movie and the book are available now only
in Canada. But wait -- before you head north of the border -- they will
be available here in a month or so. And believe us, it is worth the wait.
(Full disclosure -- our work -- the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s
-- is featured in the movie.) The book is titled: The Corporation: The Pathological
Pursuit of Profit and Power. It is by Joel Bakan (Free Press, 2004). The
movie is called: The Corporation. It is by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott,
and Joel Bakan.
We've seen an advance copy of the movie. We're read an advance
copy of the book. And here's our review:
Scrap the civics curricula in your schools, if they exist.
Cancel your cable TV subscriptions. Call your friends, your enemies and
your family.Get your hands on a copy of this movie and a copy of this book.
Read the book. Discuss it. Dissect it. Rip it apart. Watch the movie. Show
it to your children. Show it to your right-wing relatives. Show it to everyone.
Organize a party around it. Then organize another.
For years, we've been reporting on critics of corporate power
-- Robert Monks, Richard Grossman, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Sam Epstein,
Charles Kernaghan, Michael Moore, Jeremy Rifkin.
For years, we've reported on the defenders of the corporate
status quo like Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker and William Niskanen.
But Bakan, a professor of law at British Columbia Law School,
and Achbar and Abbott have pulled these leading lights together in a 145-minute
documentary that grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let go. The
movie is selling out major theaters across Canada. And if it detonates here
in USA it could have a profound impact on politics.
The filmmakers juxtapose well-shot interviews of defenders
and critics with the reality on the ground -- Charles Kernaghan in Central
America showing how, for example, big apparel manufacturers pay workers
pennies for products that sell for hundreds of dollars in the United States
-- with defenders of the regime -- Milton Friedman looking frumpy as he
says with as straight a face as he can -- the only moral imperative for
a corporate executive is to make as much money for the corporate owners
as he or she can.
Others agree with Friedman. Management guru Peter Drucker
tells Bakan: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social
responsibilities, fire him. Fast." And William Niskanen, chair of the
libertarian Cato Institute, says that he would not invest in a company that
pioneered in corporate responsibility.
Of course, state corporation laws actually impose a legal
duty on corporate executives to make money for shareholders. Engage in social
responsibility -- pay more money to workers, stop legal pollution, lower
the price to customers -- and you'll likely be sued by your shareholders.
Robert Monks, the investment manager, puts it this way: "The corporation
is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine
(shark seeking young woman swimming on the screen). There isn't any question
of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has
within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it
Business insiders like Monks and Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface
Corporation, the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, lend needed
balance to a movie that otherwise would have been dominated by outside critics
like Chomsky, Moore, Grossman and Rifkin. Anderson calls the corporation
a "present day instrument of destruction" because of its compulsion
to "externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow
"The notion that we can take and take and take and take,
waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction,"
Anderson says, as pictures of biological and chemical wastes pouring into
the atmosphere roll across the screen.
Like Republican Kevin Phillips is doing as he criss-crosses
the nation, pummeling Bush from the right, Anderson and Monks are opening
a new front against corporate power from inside the belly of the beast.
They are stars of this movie and book.
The movie and the book drive home one fundamental point --
the corporation is a psychopath. Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare runs down
a checklist of psychopathic traits and there is a close match. The corporation
is irresponsible because in an attempt to satisfy the corporate goal, everybody
else is put at risk.
Corporations try to manipulate everything, including public
opinion. Corporations are grandiose, always insisting that "we're number
one, we're the best."
Corporations refuse to accept responsibility for their own
actions and are unable to feel remorse. And the key to reversing the control
of this psychopathic institution is to understand the nature of the beast.
No better place to start than right here. Read the book.
Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational
Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org. They are co-authors of Corporate
Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe,
Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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