5-Word 365 #168 – The Corporation

And so week 24 is put to bed. I am now two weeks shy of Humpday. That’s right, folks; soon we’ll be at the half-way point of the year. Today is also a first for this little experiment of mine. This is the first time I have written the review in less than half the time it took to watch the damn movie in the first place. Yay me.

The Corporation

It was always so quiet…

A documentary examining the psychology of a corporation, taking into account the interpretation of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment which considers that a corporate entity can be legally considered a person. Let me break it to gently: they’re all nuts.

This film from directors Mark Achbar (wouldn’t it be cool if he was an admiral?) and Jennifer Abbott and writer Joel Bakan looks at the history of “the corporation” as a concept in the wake of the US Civil War and how that concept has evolved from government-chartered entities responsible for such things as the construction of railroads, to the commercial behemoths we know and love today. It is presented mostly as a series of talking head interviews with both sides of the corporate/anti-corporate divide, from Milton Friedman and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart to Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore. Then there is psychologist Dr. Robert Hare – a consultant with the FBI – who has diagnosed corporate entities as being “prototypical psychopaths” according to the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Has Noam Chomsky always dressed like your standard smart, friendly, trust-worthy grandpa?

Aside from this central thesis the film covers a lot of ground, all the way from modern marketing techniques to the 200 Water Riots in Cochabamba, Bolivia – the backdrop for this year’s excellent movie Even The Rain. It even finds the time to examine possible corporate collusion with the rise of fascism in Europe in the thirties, such as the Third Reich using IBM punch-card computers to administer the Holocaust and Coca-Cola Deutschland’s invention of Fanta Orange during WW2, all the profits from which were retained by the home office after the end of the war.

The various arguments presented are made even more persuasive by being so cogently delivered. The filmmakers have put together a very intelligent and well-read cast on both sides of the divide. Despite this (or maybe because of it?) the pro-corporate contributors seem to be very good at shooting themselves in the foot. More than once did I find myself staring at the screen in disbelief at some of the proclamations that were pouring forth from the likes of commodities broker Carlton Brown – who called 9/11 a “blessing in disguise” due to the price of gold sky-rocketing as the Twin Towers dropped – and Lucy Hughes, vice president of Initiative Media – a PR company devoted to targetting ads at children to make them nag their parents into buying the shit they are hawking. It’s easy to wonder how some of these people sleep at night.

I’m not going to be excessively mean in case she googles herself, but suffice it to say that I think she has some fucked-up priorities.

Films like this always come with caveats, and The Corporation is no different. As intelligent and sobering as the points it makes are, the fact remains that there is a bias here. The film posits that the modern example of the corporation can be traced all the way back to the introduction of land boundaries in Europe in the thirteenth and fouteenth centuries, which ended the idea of the common land. Now, that concept had a bit of a revival in the twentieth century but it didn’t quite work out then either. Can you guess what they called it? The Corporation is very erudite when it comes to the negatives of the modern paradigm, but doesn’t offer much in the way of alternatives. Also, at nearly two and a half hours, it is a bit of a bum-number. In all honesty, the film would probably be better served split into two or three episodes for easier digestion.

Overall, The Corporation is equal parts funny and unnerving and often hugely persuasive, but a tighter edit wouldn’t have hurt.


  1. ginjaninja78 · June 17, 2012

    I think I watched the first 5 minutes of this once. I can’t really comment on the film as a whole. What I can say is that this sort of thing terrifies me.

    I am in no way a Communist or Socialist or Marxist or whatever. I think I believe in free markets and capitalism etc but it is scary to think that these designations are not points on a line but rather on a circle. Capitalists and Communists start out in different places with what they claim to be different ideologies but give them enough time and I believe they converge. The ultimate goal and endpoint of a capitalist corporation, whether they know it or not, is very hard to distinguish from a socialist totalitarianism(?). Nothing less than an absolute monopoly is enough. The lengths they will go to are frightening.

    And I haven’t even had anything to drink.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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