More noise than signal

The Corporation

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

Wiser men than I have examined competing ideologies in far greater detail than I am capable of and delivered the fair and balanced verdict of “Yay, Capitalism!”. With that in mind, who would seek to question the wisdom of that capitalist lynchpin, the monolithic corporation? Who would willingly seek to get up in that particular grill? Who would want to mix it up? Who would want a mixed grill? Two rashers of bacon for me, please.

I’ll tell you who’s cooking up this cinematic fry-up, in the process bringing to a thankful close an increasingly tortuous series of pseudo-rhetorical pseudo-questions of pseudo-comedic value. Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, that’s who. This documentary, if we can describe it in the Michael Moore sense of the word, sees a potted, critical history of the evolution of a handy business liability limiting structure into a shadowy cartel that controls worlds world politics and is responsible for eighty percent of the body thetans currently weighing down your soul and preventing your rise to Xenu.

Them’s fighting words! Although you won’t find much in the way of a fight here. In fact, it’s much more akin to corporations being hog tied and whaled on for two and a bit hours. I mention this only in case you demand balance from this sort of thing, as The Corporation supplies none. An understandable omission, of course, as who would want the thankless task of defending multinationals with a daily turnover comfortably greater than I’ll ever see in my life? Not I, so let’s continue the banjoing freed from such guilt.

What The Corporation details is essentially a machine into which human misery is fed and profits are generated. Examples include wilful pollution of the planet, supporting corrupt and / or tyrannical governments, establishing sweatshops and having the big swinging brass balls to declare that it’s a hugely benevolent thing to do, inventing new and interesting ways to profit from things most sane people would consider somewhere between unethical and impossible, and, well, all the usual stuff Big Business has been perpetrating on the globe since well before I dropped in to it.

As dashing, debonair personages of the world I don’t doubt that by this point in life you’ve already found out much of the above under your own steam, but if you somehow haven’t then please allow me to be the first to welcome you to Club Cynical. Pick up your free jaundiced eye on the way out. Tastes delicious marinated in brandy. While there may be little in the way of anything individually surprising or shocking about anything contained within these walls, there’s something powerful and extraordinarily depressing about seeing these charges rattled off one by one. Misery would seem to have quite the cumulative effect here.

Which of course is pretty much what was intended in the first place. There’s always a place for rabble rousing, and this is as effective an example as you can pick. It’s something of an exercise in shooting fish in a barrel, but it’s a really big barrel and by the end of proceedings there’s just so damn many dead fish lying around that you can’t help but be somewhat impressed by the rotten stench of it all.

If there’s a bone to pick with The Corporation, it’s that after over two hours it tells us that corporations are bad and should be fought in some way, although it’s not exactly sure how and to what extent. Maybe greater public accountability. Maybe re-nationalisation. (Pinkos! What would McCarthy say!) It’s an unavoidable consequence of tackling so big a target, but as a call to action it’s minimalist to the point of not having much been worth mentioning. Pointing out how rotten something is, at least in what can only be called an op-ed piece, without offering any particularly convincing or realistic alternative sails dangerously close to just whining about it.

Still, as is often said if you aren’t part of the solution you’re part of the problem. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the numerous investigations into third world sweatshops and corporate dodgy dealings, and I realise this assumes access to news reporting that puts public interest over ad money, which largely means ‘not American’, then this might prompt a twinge of concious when walking into Gap or devouring a Kit Kat. Although, those chunky ones are pretty nice.

I’m sure that by far the bulk of those who went to the trouble of seeking this out are already converted, making this an effective but effectively pointless sermon. Still, given that no balanced person is likely to be much of a cheerleader for corporations in the first place, it might make a few new warriors for the cause. If they can just figure out how they’re going to fight, they’ll be unstoppable.

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