Corporation

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


           The message of the new documentary “The Corporation” is this:  The Church is over; the Monarchy is over; Government is over; The Corporation is king.  And then the film builds its case.  Though it is the most powerful global entity, the corporation is immune to public control.  Defenders of unchecked corporate power cite repeatedly the “just a few bad apples theory.”  But the deliberate abuse of stockholders, employees, and customers by the likes of Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Tyco and Arthur Anderson is not a case of bad apples.  It is, as the film makes clear, the simple proof that accountability and integrity have vanished from the corporate world.  These values that were not long ago considered part of an essential public trust are no longer part of the picture for leaders whose only loyalty is to themselves, whose only goal is the money that is the currency in their high stakes game.  Driving costs down to win the game creates great wealth and causes hidden harms.  It is those hidden harms that become the focus of the film. 

         Corporations ballooned on the enormous markets created by the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution followed by World Wars I and II.  Newly empowered and without accountability, they began to break laws at will and simply paid penalties which were lower, after all, than profits.  They and their leaders continue to pollute and to dump waste into rivers and oceans while every living system is in decline.   

         Perhaps the greatest scandal of all is that so many companies knew early in the game that their products were harming the health of both workers and customers.  Chemicals poison the air and the water while scientific evidence builds to the conclusion that companies trivialize the effects with a reckless disregard for human beings.  People can protect wildlife, but who can protect people?

         Monsanto gave the world the milk additive BST and Agent Orange and then paid enormous damages without admitting guilt.  It’s the cost of doing business.   In the column of big damages paid, list Exxon, GE, Chevron, IBM, Kodak, Sears, and Pfizer.  Why didn’t I know until now that every German concentration camp had an IBM punch card system that was serviced monthly by IBM employees?  Is it true? 

         That’s the problem here.  We learn too much too fast, without depth.  Each topic cries out to be expanded in the public forum.  The film could well serve as an outline for a series of investigative articles, or for a congressional investigation, for that matter.  If it isn’t a brilliant documentary, it is an important call to arms.  But with the proliferating buy-ups of media companies by corporations, will investigative reporting be stifled completely?  Fox has already proven its willingness to squelch programs it doesn’t like.  This film, a portrait of the corporation in pathological pursuit of unchecked power, calls for public rage and rebellion, and if you think that is extreme, I warmly invite you to see this documentary before you trash it. 


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