Movie Review: The Corporation (2003)

Some camera tricks but hits target well enough ____ 7/10

Directed by Mark Achbar

Noam Chomsky ….Himself
Peter Drucker ….Himself
Milton Friedman …. Himself
Kathie Lee Gifford …. Herself (archive)
Michael Moore ….Himself
Franklin Delano Roosevelt  Himself (archive)
Steve Wilson ….Himself
Others…..  Almost all themselves

In a continuing quest to determine whether the corporate person is conducive to the life of real breathing human persons, I picked up this 2004 movie from the Netflix queue.  It has the look and feel of a Michael Moore movie, and accordingly is a lesser effort for some cheap camera tricks.

Nonetheless, I come away with an appreciation of new information that, along with what our informal tribunal of citizens has already learned, is certainly enough for an indictment of the corporation in extremis.

Basically the camera trick is as follows: In the course of a narrative the viewer is shown images of something utterly devastating, so the viewer wrongly believes the images connect to the narration.

My favorite is a guy complaining about sinus problems at a business conference near a polluting company.  Then we see this river full of suds—heck, it looks like a toxic Tide commercial—then pictures of a big ol’ fish being poisoned and falling to the river floor.

For all we know the images could be from the former Soviet Union.  It’s unfortunate the producers undercut their case by faulty logic, or at the very least undocumented footage.  Still, as scrupulous attenders we have to consider the totality of their message.

For most of the analytical description, the movie is on solid ground.  It goes through the history of corporations and successfully makes the case that they have acquired unintended privileges (which have become fundamentally dangerous to human life).

As we observe from a book review of Unequal Protection, the Founders never intended corporations to have any but temporary powers granted by the state for specific purposes, such as building bridges.  Now they’ve wrongly become “persons” and have set themselves above any law or constitution—buying off public officialdom en masse.

One of the best parts of the movie is its assertion that if “the corporation” is a person, then it has all the traits of a psychopath.  The talking heads, including Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore, make mostly valid arguments.

Further, the film elaborates enough specific crimes or excesses by corporations to fill the vaults at 60 Minutes to overflowing, such as:

  • the attempt to privatize water supplies in Bolivia
  • IBM providing processing expertise to the Nazis
  • an attempted coup by corporate-funded military in the US
  • Monsanto putting noxious cattle growth hormone into milk

The pro-corporate talking heads are given their due, without editing yet also often without proper context. I would say the producers do not intend to vilify proponents of the free market, only to question the validity of free-market arguments for government-privileged business entities.

In any case, encouraging the conversation is what’s important in terms of rectifying public policy.   And the movie, by and large, does so.

More important, particularly for libertarians, is the film’s firm advocacy of holding corporations accountable for any provable crimes of aggression against humanity.  Now that’s the kind of corporate law I’d like to see more young people getting into!

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