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Review:The Corporation (Documentary)
A Review of the 2004 film, directed by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan.
- Exceptionally well-done documentary film looks at the rise of the corporate body as having the legal status of a "person" -- albeit with no conscience -- and its collective psychopathic raping of the planets' people and resources due to a greed-based bottom-line motivation. The film also touches on more recent trends within the corporate world to awaken morally and infuse ethics into the equation, to halt and then reverse the past damages that have been inflicted.
Film and Excerpts Via Video Sites
- The Corporation Movie Part 1 - Shareware version of the film. (Google Video; Jan 13, 2007)
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- FOX News Whistle blowers. UNBELIEVABLE!!! - ([http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trWcqxrQgcc YouTube; January 03, 2008)
If you have any lingering doubt about the existence of an unholy, high-level conspiracy to manipulate the news to the benefit of its corporated sponsors, check out this 10-minute video segment that describes what happened when a couple of conscientious news anchors from FOX discovered that one of its advertisers was selling something that caused health problems in consumers. Some of the events began 10 years ago, but little has changed.
This exceptionally well-done documentary film looks at the rise of the corporate body as having the legal status of a "person" -- albeit with no conscience -- and its collective psychopathic raping of the planets' people and resources due to a greed-based bottom-line motivation. The film also touches on more recent trends within the corporate world to awaken morally and infuse ethics into the equation, to halt and then reverse the past damages that have been inflicted.
The film features interviews with some of the key movers and shakers in the corporate world, as well as in the environmental and corporate polemic world, such as social critics Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.
The Corporation as a "Person" but without Conscience
The film touches on how this status of "person" for a corporation was achieved underhandedly, a point that is explained in more depth by Thom Hartmann in his landmark, well-researched historical tour de force Unequal Protection. The author Hartmann explains how railway companies made use of a Constitution Amendment intended to protect the human rights of former slaves to confer personhood on their business interests -- without this ever having been passed by a judge. The actual legal decision went against the company, but a compliant court clerk wrote a favourable preface which has since that time been cited as a legal authority -- no one apparently having bothered to read the judge's actual words rejecting the claim!
As an alleged person a Corporation is a non-biological entity, without the need to breathe air, drink water or eat food, notably without the obligation to die and -- without a conscience. According to psychological analysis criteria, the corporation's legal "person" is diagnosed as being a PSYCHOPATH. The film goes through the characteristics of this personality disorder, showing point for point (see list, below) how they correspond to the typical behavior of businesses.
Also documented in the film is how the fundamental aim of serving the bottom line and the shareholders' financial growth essentially requires abuse of the environment and all manner of shortcuts and exploitation. Being greed-driven, and raping the planet for profit is simply what we should expect from this kind of underlying conceptual framework, based as it was on dishonest legal shenanigans in the first place. Footage from pop culture, advertising, TV news, and corporate propaganda is used to illustrate the corporation's take-over of our lives, rising above governments in their power.
Some interesting ramifications and consequences of rogue corporate personhood are noted by author Jane Smiley. (.)
- "Given what these big corporations routinely do, we have to ask, are they filled and peopled from top to bottom by ruthless monsters who care nothing about others, and also nothing about the world that we live in? Are these CEOs and CFOs and COOs and managers and researchers and stockholders so beyond human that, let's say, the deaths in Iraq and the destitution of the farmers and the tumors and allergies and obesities of children, and the melting of the Greenland ice cap and the shifting of the Gulf Stream are, to them, just the cost of doing business? Or are they just beyond stupid and blind, so that they, alone among humans, have no understanding of the interconnectedness of all natural systems?"
Sample Case of Corporate Manipulation of News
One of the most compelling parts of the film details manipulation of the media though financial coercion.
Reporter Jane Akre is interviewed explaining how Fox Network initially encouraged her and her partner Steve Wilson to be hard-hitting and dig up the truth. However, the first story the two of them prepared was that Monsanto's Bovine Somatotropin (Bovine Growth Hormone, or BGH) was shown to have negative health implications including heightened risk of cancer. The network even promoted their news story on the air; the clips are included of this promo. However, before it was to air, Monsanto's lawyers went into action. Fox then reversed itself and tried to get its reporters to change the facts of their story.
Akre and Wilson refused. At one point a company manager is quoted as telling the reporters that Fox paid $30 billion for these TV stations and that gave the company the right to decide what is true. An unheard-of eighty-three rewrites ensued. Finally the intrepid couple were fired. They sued for wrongful dismissal, using their status as as whistleblowers defending the public interest as the right to know the truth.
True to the psychopathic corporate profile, Fox then took the complainants to court, finding a judge in Florida who would use a legal technicality to remove their wistleblower status. The company argued and won based on their finding that there wasn't actually any law that required the news to be the truth. As explained in detail by a sympathetic group, Organic Consumers (.org), this is the infamous "right to lie" case on which Fox proudly stands claiming vindication of its position. At the time this film was made, that was where it ended. Since then, Fox has sued Akre and Wilson.
As the story is presented in the film, Akre and Wilson are the heroes. There's always another side, of course, as explained at CreativeLoafing.com. This one alleges that defiant duo were manipulating events to raise their own profile, and were making money from somewhere while presenting themselves as in need of financial help. (This could be a smear; charges of financial misdealings are routinely levelled against anyone who criticizes major coporations even if the evidence has to be faked. One would have to dig further to find out what is really happening.) This site includes the following interesting paragraph:
- "That inclusion is what Wilson and Akre decry as 'distortion' or depict on their website as a 'lie.' Monsanto may well have been deceptive. This is murky science, however. And companies lie to the media all the time. The reporter's job is to provide as much information as possible and let the viewer or reader decide. If the reporter feels a source isn't being candid, the solution isn't to snip the material, but to build a case with facts that expose the deception."
Companies lie to the media all the time?
Exactly -- and as the producers of The Corporation are outlining at length.
It's up to viewers of this film, The Corporation, to assess what they are seeing, while not overlooking the fact that Canada and Britain had not approved BGH for sale. An attitude of heathy skepticism should always be in the back of our minds. Also, when viewing all televised "news" (also known as "infotainment") concerning medical and other "advances of science", we should keep in our awareness the fact that PR firms routinely prepare "news stories" about new drugs to feed to reporters, which then deliver them to the front pages of newspapers and prime time TV news. When they want to create advance demand for the new drug or chemical, pharmaceutical companies hire PR agents to stir up interest among the public, making use of uncritical news stories as a kind of free publicity. The TV or newspaper report never analyze the scientific study in depth, much less putting it into any kind of context or perspective related to other products or procedures, especially not alternative ones. Whole trade shows are set up to facilitate these PR firms getting business from the big pharmaceutical companies. (As reported on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's IDEAS series, 2005.)
So it's not just caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) but always also caveat lector (reader) and caveat spectator (viewer). Let's all keep our thinking caps on, and not simply buy all that we hear or see which is presented as news.
Stark Example of Corporate Sleaze: IBM and the Nazi Holocaust
The film documents a number of examples of severe sleaze on the part of corporations, illustrating the psychopathic nature of "person" designation and legal protection, but with no conscience, with money being the driving factor, not ethics.
During World War II, Adolf Hitler would not have been able to do what he did in exterminating millions of Jews if it were not for the database assistance of the punch card technology supplied to his regime by IBM. The devices required monthly servicing by IBM technical persons, and several machines were housed in some of the most notorious concentration camps. The film documents that IBM was knowledgeable about how the machines were being put to use, and yet continued to supply the support needed to keep the technology in place.
A book by Edwin Black, whose parents were victims of the holocaust, soundly exposes this episode, drawing from 100,000 source documents. See IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation.
Documentation presented in The Corporation underscores corporate disregard for human health, human well-being, and the environment in general. True confessions, case studies, and strategies for change are all included. This provides a powerful glimpse of what is destructive to environment and health, and by way of balance also explores a recent trend to wake up and do something about this, both through pressure from without, as well as through enlightened leadership from within the corporate world.
Some CEOs are beginning to gain moral fiber, to turn around, and then reverse the damage their corporations have inflicted on the biosphere. One of these, a carpet manufacturer, revised his business plan to mean not selling new carpets but client service in maintaining carpets, which are now modular. Only damaged parts are replaced, and the materials are recycled. This man is shown speaking to a receptive business audience about the merits of reducing environmental impact through recycling materials.
Provokative, witty, informative, and even entertaining, this film deserves repeat viewing and discussion. It has been serialized and rebroadcast several times on Canadian neworks such as Vision TV (spirituality channel) and TV Ontario (educational channel).
DVDs are now available.
Links Recommended at End of Film
- Unrated. This movie has not been rated by the MPAA. Estimated rating: PG, for some graphic images.
- 145 minutes
- Original Release Date
- Netflix Rating
- Average of 142,071 ratings: 3.8 stars
- Language and Sound
- English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
- Screen Formats
- Widescreen 1.85:1
- Michael Moore
- Noam Chomsky
- Naomi Klein
- Mikela J. Mikael
- Jane Akre
- Milton Freidman
- Vandana Shiva
- Peter Drucker
- Ray Anderson
- Steve Wilson
- 25 International Awards
- 10 International Audience Choice Awards
- Genie Award (Canadian TV) for Best Documentary
The film documents the following attributes of the corporate world in general, which happen to match the criteria of "psychopath" according to the established psychiatric definition.
- Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
- Incapacity to maintain enduring relations.
- Reckless disregard for the safety of others.
- Deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit.
- Incapacity to experience guilt.
- Failure to comply with social norms with respect to lawful behaviours.
Based on Book: The Corporation
- Purchase > The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan (Paperback - Mar 1, 2005) (Amazon.com)
- About the Book - review at official movie site.
Obtaining the Film
"Show a little financial appreciation. Even if it's only a couple of bucks, it all helps. The filmmakers are still trying to recover costs, and there are plenty of ongoing expenses—like maintaining this fine website, for example." (http://thecorporation.com/)
- Purchase from HelloCoolStuff.com] - purcahase link given from official website
- The Corporation by Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar, Mikela J. Mikael, and Maude Barlow (Amazon.com [sales credit to PES Network])
- The Corporation (2-Disc Special Edition) by Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar, Mikela J. Mikael, and Maude Barlow (Amazon.com [sales credit to PES Network])
For educational sales and public performance
- "Everyone should see this." -- David W. Allan, http://AllansTIME.com (Sept. 14, 2006)
- Conspiracy > Corporations >
The Story of Corporations Taking Over Democracy - Annie Leonard's new cartoon points out that in 1910 the US Supreme Court argued that corporations could spend as much as they wanted on elections, enabling corporations to take over the election process. 85% of people says corporations have too much power in our democracy. She suggests a Constitutional amendment to say that the First Amendment isn't meant for corporations. (Story of Stuff; ~Feb-March, 2011)
- CEO Pay Is 364 Times More Than Workers' (backup) - The average CEO of a large US company made roughly $10.8 million last year, or 364 times that of US full-time and part-time workers, who made an average of $29,544, according to a joint analysis released Wednesday by the liberal Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy. (That means they make as much in one day as the average worker makes in one year.) (CNNMoney.com; August 29 2007)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Corporation - review
- Watch the Corporation online (very low resolution)
- External review list from The Internet Movie Database
- Interview with Joel Bakan
- Interview with Bakan and Achbar