After some 30 years or so, the Washington Post finally sent a reporter to the movies to discover the astounding news that Hollywood doesn’t like corporations. The occasion for this revelation is the re-make of the 1962 thriller The Manchurian Candidate, a film I have never cared for and the new version of which I have no desire to see. One difference between the two films is that in the original, the bad guys are Chinese communists; in the new one, they’re an “evil corporation” called Manchurian Global. A ‘Manchurian‘ Capstone to Movies’ Hate Affair With Corporations, Washington Post, Aug 7, 2004
The thrust of the Post‘s story about this major discovery is that it’s been going on for decades—the story traces the anti-corporation theme in the movies back to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in 1927—though the theme became dominant (not to say a cliché) only in the 1970s. I knew something funny was going on when James Bond, whom his creator Ian Fleming had fighting communists, started popping off crazed capitalists.
The movies’ “evil corporation” theme is of course evidence of the left-wing bias of the folks who make the movies, and for decades conservatives who like business, capitalism and corporations have groused about it. They’re right. Hollywood has turned what originally was a somewhat clever twist into a tedious and preachy caricature of both what business is like and where evil in the modern world comes from. But real conservatives, as opposed to the Economic Men who pretend to be conservatives, have some good reasons to be wary of corporations.
Reason One is bureaucracy. Corporations from IBM and AT&T to McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are no less huge, faceless and unresponsive machines than the welfare state, the post office or the other publicly funded labyrinths that conservatives want to abolish. The difference, libertarian champions claim, is that the “private” bureaucracies are responsive to the market and the “public” ones aren’t.
Well, not really. Corporate bureaucracies have a zillion ways of shielding themselves from market forces, from propaganda (advertising) that manipulates and massages their consumers to outright privileges squeezed out of the state itself. The market helps control “private” bureaucracies effectively when they’re really private and small enough to be swayed by what consumers can see, know, and deal with. On the national and global scales of corporations today, that’s seldom possible. The result is that corporate bureaucracies can swallow small businesses like whales gobbling plankton.
Reason Two is Economism, the belief that economic values are all that’s real or important and that human beings are motivated mainly by economic drives. Business people tend to believe this, but modern corporations, coupled with both Marxist and capitalist ideology, have encouraged the belief and made what should be an obvious myth a commonly held but unacknowledged assumption.
Probably the best exposure of the whole mythology of “economism,” who believes it, and what’s wrong with it is a small monograph by economist John Attarian called “Economism and the National Prospect,” published by the American Immigration Control Foundation.
“Economism,” Dr. Attarian writes, “clearly serves the agendas of the corporations and other powerful interests which run this country, and they are not about to drop it.
“Corporations’ profits depend on expanding their market shares, which means expanding exports, and on driving down their costs, which means using cheaper imported inputs, low-wage immigrant labor, and transferring production overseas. Mainstream news and opinion media are owned by these selfsame corporations, hence are globalist. Most think tanks depend upon corporate money, hence are unlikely to generate serious criticisms of globalization and economism.”
Which brings us to Reason Three of what’s wrong with corporations—disloyalty to nation and people. As corporations have gone global, they have simply ceased to be part of any nation or to identify with any people, race, or civilization—as their managers love to boast. Some years ago Ralph Nader asked the directors of 100 big companies to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance at their stockholders’ meetings. Only one agreed; half never responded; the rest got snippy at the suggestion.
Corporate disloyalty to nation and people is obvious in corporate support for NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and mass immigration and the cheap labor it imports. Much of the hatred the left exudes for corporations comes from or plays on the theme of disloyalty, but—since the left itself doesn’t really believe in nation or peoplehood either—it’s limited in how clearly it can make the disloyalty charge.
The people who could make that and other charges against corporations and the global grabfest that they want to replace Western and American civilization are conservatives—the real kind, not the fakes who are little more than hired guns for Big Business. Maybe if real conservatives started telling us what’s really wrong with Big Business, Hollywood would put them in the movies.