The River

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Corporation as 'psychopath'

The film shows how a well-intentioned evil rules our lives

Katherine Monk
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, October 04, 2003

At its heart, The Corporation is a documentary about the well-intentioned evil wrought by over-educated white men who think they know what's best for the world.

Interestingly, the documentary itself sprang from the minds of two similarly educated white men who think they know what's best for the world -- but don't blame Rhodes scholar and University of B.C. law prof Joel Bakan, nor award-winning film-maker Mark Achbar for their white skin, their male gender or the inherently bourgeois baggage that comes with living in a privileged society such as Canada.

They really did have good intentions when they set out more than five years ago to make a movie about one of the least understood, yet most prevalent, forces in the world today: The Corporation.

Moreover, they brought some female energy into the equation when they pulled in Galiano Island film-maker, and Video In alum, Jennifer Abbott to edit the 400 hours of collected footage and turn it into something coherent, watchable, and ultimately compelling.

[please click more] (UPDATE: this and subsequent links have been corrected. The River regrets the errors.)

I found this in a recent Yule Heibel post, which called to mind a Curtis White article from way back in 2001 called “Our Pure War with Islam.” An apropos snippet:

Randy Hayes of the Rainforest Action Network once told me of a talk he had with the uber-CEO of the Mitsubishi Company. Hayes said he was able to convince this CEO that Mitsubishi's program of global devastation for short-term profit was not in the long-term interest of either the planet or the company. Hayes achieved this moment of clarity only to have it followed by a far larger and more monstrous clarity for both himself and the Mitsubishi head: Mr. Mitsubishi had no idea how to change the practices of the company because the logic that drove the company was both systemic and autonomous. This system at which even CEOs must look with apocalyptic horror is part of the ecology of Pure War and is not available for political discussion, let alone democratic debate. In short, it is not responsive to the will or the interests of the human beings living within it. Virilio calls this situation the "State as Destiny."

All this in turn reminded me of a post from my former life and former blog. At this point in blogger history, a certain blogger who shall remain nameless once scolded people like myself for being deluded hippies who didn’t “get it.” He was upset because we had taken issue with the arrogant attitude of another blogger, a friend of his. He painted critics of his buddy's behavior as unrealistic dreamers. He said something about how we should shut up and go read Joseph Campell while real men such as himself and his buddy got on with the real business of America. This business includes profiting from an illegal, not to say criminal, military invasion that has seen our State murder some 10,000 or more civillians, not to mention the thousands of needless deaths of Iraqi army personnel (and the loss of hundreds of our own sons and daughters). While this was going on, this blogger gleefully posted on how to best profit in the stock market from the war. As Bob Somerby would say, try to believe this person is a respected A lister.

Anyway, that’s what inspired (thanks, dude!)…

Blogland Inc.

Hi. First day on the job? Welcome. I can help you get started.

It’s not really a job, is it?

Well, no. Ha. Just, you know, everything is, when you get down to it.

Yeah, but I have a job. I came here to get away from it.

Sure, sure. I understand. Friggin boxes they try to put you in….ahem….right this way….here’s your cube. I hope you like it. Good light, nice chair, and fast Internet access.

Okay, thanks. Guess I’ll….hey, where’d he go? Hmmm…well guess I’ll settle in. I’ve heard so much about this. I read To Blogland and Beyond, I subscribed to the newsletter…and now, here I am. Damn, where’d he go? Where is everybody? Guess I’ll fire up this computer and get started….hmmm, this is easy….let’s see…which template?….no, too flashy…yeah, that’ll work…we’ll call it High Water, that about sums it up professionally, politically, globally. And, of course, it’s one of Dylan’s best songs in ages. Okay….(typing) “What am I doing here? What are you doing here? Assuming there’s a you here. Assuming there’s a me here. Hello, you. Welcome to High Water. Where we write on the Web….because we can.” …..Now, just hit “post”…okay, looks good….here goes…. "click"

Think I’ll stretch my legs. Wonder if there’s a coffee maker around here….God, it’s quiet. I can here myself thinking. Thinking: “it’s quiet.” Maybe I’ll post something about that….where is everybody? I’ll just walk down this way, past this row of cubes. Damn, they’re all staring intently into their monitors. I don’t want to break their concentration. Ah, here’s the coffee maker. Wow, an espresso machine….and it automatically makes a latte as I enter the little break room. Amazing….mmm…good stuff. (machine LED display flashes, “Enjoy your beverage. Blog on.”).

Okay, back at the cube. It’s weirdly quiet. But I can hear “tap, tap, tap.” It sounds like rain. Sort of. (opens blogger, types “What is the sound of one hand blogging? Tap……..tap…….tap….. What is the sound of ten thousand hands blogging? A revo-fucking-lution. A friggin thunderstorm. We’re here, We’re on the net, and we aren’t gonna take it anymore.”) Damn, should I post this? What the fuck? I don’t know what I’m doing…I don’t know who “we” is….but I’ve read about shit like this…who know’s, somebody else might groove to it, besides, it’s just a blog…."click" (Stands up to look over cube walls. Sees nothing but windows and far walls.)

(phone rings…answers on third ring, after recovering from odd sensation of hearing a phone.) Hello?

Hey Joe, what are you *doing*, man?

Who is this?

The ruler of blogland.

The what?

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Ruler? Fuck the rules! Right? We all feel that way…until we figure out how to use them…to make a little scratch, know what I’m saying? It takes a little while. You start out young and idealistic. Believe me, I get it.

Are you….

Don’t worry about who I am. I’m just an entity, like you, floating in this new space I’ve created. I might be who you think I am. I might be somebody else. Shit, out here, it’s hard for even me to know.

Yeah, I hear ya. But does it have to feel that way in the physical world as well? This is one gray building, with gray cubes. Reminds me of work, which is not what I expected at all.

Joe, ya gotta get with the lingo. It’s not “physical world”; it’s “meatspace.” Hey, it’s technology. The sense of style, the groovy, go with it thing is way over. Let’s review this little puppy we call the Internet. It’s all about making money, which is what (at the end of the day) everything boils down to. And whether you’re cool or not. The net is neutral, and essentially soulless. Haven’t you seen all the warblogs?

Fuck them.

They’re media stars, Joe. And who are you?

One man with a blog, damn it. You can’t be who I thought you were. And I’m not at all sure what I’m doin here. But I am free to post whatever the hell I feel like, right?

Sure, man. I just think you have potential, so I thought I’d jump in here and try to help you out.

Uh, no thanks.

Joe, Joe, Joe. The road you’re headin down…I can see it already. That’s friggin 1968; that's 2002. Get with the program, Joe. You have potential kid. There’s money to be made here. Look at the pornographers. They know…they know what sells and how to exploit it. It’s beautiful, really. Embrace the dark side, man….heh, heh…. You know it’s just a scam. You can make some money off this thing. It’s what the smart people are doing. Look at the bubble…if you didn’t make a shitload then…well….I know, you’re a latecomer. You’re still poor as dirt, right? That’s okay. We need new blood, but let’s get rid of those quaint revolution notions right now. (hangs up)

Ruler of blogland? Ha! What a joke. Sure, there are restrictions, forms, the Total Information Awareness program. I know I had to pass a test and pay an entry fee….and sign a form saying that technology is neutral and has no power to change me or anyone else. But still, I thought I was free to post whatever I wanted…

(Opens blogger, types) “What are we doing here? On the net, with technology….We relatively rich, mostly white, somewhat educated writers. Anybody out there have an answer to that one? I don’t think so. Yeah, I’ve posted about how communication, self-expression, connecting can be a revolutionary act, and could even lead to revolutionary changes. But aren’t the warbloggers communicating and connecting with audiences many times the size of whatever number of intrepid souls who might be out there reading this? Why do I think what I’m doing is more important? What’s the difference?
But is it important? To me, certainly. Maybe to some others. But it’s a small community we’re talking about here. Blogland is the only place I know of where this is going on. Is the trend toward communication, human connection that ultimately sweeps away the dark fantasies of twisted rulers and brings to the fore social and economic justice? Or is there a ruler of blogland, a final arbiter on what is happening, or what can happen? And mustn’t he or she, figurative or real as the case may be, be overthrown?

I feel something out there, beyond these cube walls, pushing at them, bowing them to the point of collapse. Something is happening…Mr. Jones.” ….click…


(A few weeks and many posts later…)

Wow, a personal e-mail…, click

“It’s a battle, man. It’s always and forever a battle. It’s human nature. Without conflict there’d be no interest, no heat. But there’s also love, caring, cooperation, discussion, negotiation, and compromise. Unfortunately, the latter must battle the former. Hee, hee. I wrote a poem about it here
But you’re right. Something may very well be happening. It’s time. The wheels are turning. A counter to the soulless ghouls in charge must rise up. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction…hee..I can’t help it, I’m a metaphysical mofo, but ya gotta shake it off, roll with it, but most importantly be yourself. Find yourself. Because without personal change, political change is just an illusion. Ya know what Lou said “self-knowledge is a dangerous thing. The freedom of who you are.” Always liked that line.
Anyway, like yer blog. Keep it up. And get some comments. This one is pretty good: I can help you with it if you need it.



PS: Loved “ruler of blogland.” Great stuff!


(Many e-mail exchanges, Instant Messenger chats, phone calls, and discussions over beers later, Jack takes Joe to meet his buddy, PainterMan, and his friend, TheLakeofFire.)

PainterMan: There’s a small band of us. We’re putting together guerilla networks. Even with Blogland so heavily regulated, even though they've convinced people that you have to pass their tests, use their software and even go to their building to blog, we’ve been able to make connections with some bloggers, just as Jack did with you. And now we’re growing, areas of affinity coalescing into something that may yet break the bounds of cyberspace. This is the kind of thing they give lip service to at Blogland. They hype a few media stars, even warbloggers, and fleece the masses at the door. That’s their plan, anyway. They are looking to expand Bloglands across the nation. Corporate sponsorships. It’ll be like TV for the elite.

You started connecting with Jack here right away, and he found me one night when he was fooling around with his puter and found Blogaria, the underground alternative to Blogland. But remember, anywhere there’s a coherent signal, these jerks have instrumentation, even Blogaria, I’m afraid.

You got a warning and it was swift. They move fast now, they’re feeling threatened so they’ve stepped up their efforts to cut off communication.

Joe: So you’re an underground blogger?

PainterMan: Yeah. You should see my blogroll – subversives all. But you can’t see it, because you haven’t patched into OUR matrix -- yet. It’s small, yes, but at least it isn’t restricted, you just have to know where to look. At least it hasn’t been co-opted to become just another business, with hierarchies and status-junkies, and puffed up wankers of every type.

Joe: I don’t know. They weren’t too bad, seemed to want to help…

PainterMan: Yeah, sometimes they feel you out first. To see if you can be molded and made useful. You’re on dangerous ground now. You could disappear. In fact, you will disappear, but it’s all in how you choose to, and whether it’s you that chooses. You still have that choice, Joe. You still have freedom, but it comes at a very high price right now.

Joe: So I was right, and I didn’t even know it.

Jack: That’s right. Keep writing. Exercise your voice. Use your own computer and log into the underground network. Sure, what brought you here has been co-opted. But we want something more….Like Lakefofire here…

TheLakeofFire: “All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime / Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme…You can always come back / but you can't come back all the way.”

Aye, and you can’t, can ya? But you can’t tell me the attempt isn’t the main thing. Heh, yeah, I’ve seen your stuff. Keep at it. It’s all you can do. Add your light, Joe. And when “the ruler of blogland” tells you people don’t do that anymore, tell him “they do as long as I’m doing it.”

Jack: And if it finally gets co-opted, which it will, at least you made the attempt to create and to change things…even if it is all an illusion, at least it’s a beautiful one. “Beautiful vision, stay with me all of the time. The oneness, the oneness, the oneness…red robe, red robe, red robe, let your red robe go. Bit bop, bit bop, big breasts, behind the stadium, sha la, la, la, la, lalalalala la-di-da.”

Joe: (swats him on the back) Hey, snap out of it. He does this sometimes…

PainterMan: Here, he needs one of these (hands Joe a tinfoil hat). And here’s one for you too.

Jack: Thanks, but I’m naturally stoned.

PainterMan: No it’s to keep the thought probes from detecting you. This way you CAN get stoned, without worry, and the pointy end does double duty as a one-hitter.

Jack: And if my thought-dreams could be seen, they’d put my head in a guillotine.

PainterMan: Exactly.

TheLakeofFire: Dylan. That sucker will be listened to a thousand years from now.

Jack: And it certainly helps if you have a killer blues band behind you.


Okay, I think I’m on this underground network….ah, yeah, I’m patched in. here we go…

“Welcome, comrade, brothers and sisters armed with nothing but imagination and spirit. To start your own, free blog choose your user name and password and click “continue”….

Comments: Post a Comment