Corporation, The (2004)

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/16/04 23:24:51

"Insanely entertaining study of the corporate personality as a psychopath."
5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2004: In the mid-1800s, the corporate form of business was granted legal status as a "person," giving it a wide scope of rights as an entity and exempting its shareholders from personal liability. Now, in their exhaustively researched, immensely entertaining documentary The Corporation, filmmakers Mark Achbar (Manufacturing Consent) and Jennifer Abbott use as a springboard a World Health Organization diagnostic test on chronic antisocial behaviors to put forth some compelling evidence profiling this "personality" as more than a bit of a psychopath.

Featuring archival advertising footage; commentary by anti-corporate celebrities Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Naomi Klein; and interviews with a number of multi-national corporate CEOs, a corporate spy, a commodities broker, and a couple of "corporately sponsored" teens, The Corporation delivers a riveting, if frightening, picture of the hold corporations have taken on dictating the way we live our lives and the alarming extent to which we have relinquished personal control.

Depicted in eye-opening detail are the third-world sweatshops where workers are paid pennies a day for the designer garments and accessories they churn out in minutes, and a gruesome look at the midwest farms where cows are fed the Monsanto drug BST/Posilac, a growth hormone that increases milk production but also causes infection in the animals and contaminates the dairy products delivered to American consumers. (The drug has been banned in Europe and Canada.) In one particularly enlightening segment of the documentary, former Fox News investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson relate the pressure that was brought to bear by their employer to falsify their story about the effects of BST. They refused, and were subsequently fired, resulting in a fascinating "whistle-blower" lawsuit with a perhaps not-surprisingly perverse outcome.

Also frightening, if not entirely surprising, is the revelation that advertisers are hiring as their marketing experts psychologists, who use their training to hone in on children's developmental abilities to get them to buy the sponsors' products by "nagging" their parents, who admit to not being able to protect their youngsters from the popular and corporate culture.

In today's world, when corporations have become more powerful than government, the good news is that individuals and groups are fighting back, and winning, in movements spanning the globe from the WTO protests in Seattle, to the battle against privatization of water in Bolivia, the overturn of a monopoly on basmati rice in India, and the revocation of a W.R. Grace and U.S. government patent on the organic pesticide Neem.

Under the law, we are told, the corporation has an obligation to put the financial interests of its owners above all other concerns. The knowledge that the corporation's sole priority is its bottom line truly gives individuals as consumers all the power we need to effect change by carefully choosing where we spend, what we boycott, and how we lobby -- and essentially vote -- with our hard-earned money.

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