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The Filmmakers vs. the Capitalists

We're about to find out if the filmmakers can succeed where Congressional hearings and mainstream media have failed.  Will the film documentaries examining insatiable corporate greed and Wall Street malfeasance provide the American people with the necessary foundation of understanding and activist tools to seriously tackle the problem head on?

The embryo of a breakthrough idea is emerging amidst the smell of popcorn and Raisinets in theatres around the globe: the mega corporate structure is no longer facilitating product innovation as much as it is spawning audacious crime innovation. So big and bulky it can't get out of its own way, let alone innovate, the bloated behemoth resorts to crime for profits.  Unless we think there is a future for our nation in patenting, securitizing and exporting felonious acts, we need to change course and fast.  

Three films are standouts as a combined curriculum for leading Americans out of the darkness.  Together, they provide a compelling argument that the seeds of today's financial calamity were planted in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 1886 to effectively grant corporations the same protections as humans.

Each film uses its own unique stories of corporate atrocities but delivers the same underlying message: corporate personhood, heeding only the clarion call of profits at any cost, has developed the endemic traits of a psychopath, corrupting everything it touches from its own managers, courts, or governments.  As these corporate tentacles of corruption now reach into every conceivable part of our existence, the corporate personhood structure is effectively snuffing out human personhood, one foreclosed family at a time, one Bhopal disaster at a time, one corrupt judge jailing children for profit at a time.  If there is a Dickensian feel to all of this, it's because deregulation of corporations is accelerating the devolving human nature of our society.

Ideally, the films should be viewed in this order: First, "The Corporation," a 145 minute film by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan that premiered at Sundance in January 2004 and has racked up 26 international awards. A two-disc DVD now includes an additional eight hours of deleted scenes, Q and A's, and clips sorted by person's name or topic.

Next, Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" which will be released to mass audiences in the U.S. on October 2 after September premieres in Venice and Toronto.  (I researched Moore's film from released clips, web archived interviews and an extensive amount of European press.)

And, third, the uproarious corporate prankster movie which will begin its U.S. theatre release on October 7, "The Yes Men Fix the World." This film presents a hilarious and ingenious how-to program on inflicting public shame on corporations within the confines of their own corporate confabs.

"The Corporation" begins by tracing the birth of the corporation and its rise to "personhood" status.  Prior to the Civil War, corporations were restrained by having their charters issued by states for specific purposes and terms.  If corporations engaged in illegal acts, their charters could be revoked.  But following the passage of the 14th Amendment, which provided that no state could "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" the corporations aggressively sought to gain personhood status for themselves.  The film notes that while 600,000 people died in the Civil War to give rights to people, from 1890 to 1910 the U.S. Supreme Court heard 307 cases under the 14th Amendment: 288 came from corporations; 19 by African Americans.  (The pivotal case the corporations use to cite their legal personhood is the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific.)

The Yes Men have honed in on this same corporate personhood problem.  On November 12, 2008 the Yes Men (known as Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno) participated in a hoax that saw 1.2 million copies of an extremely high quality, but fake, New York Times being distributed in New York City and other major metropolitan areas.  The newsprint edition was backed up by an equally high quality web site.  Above the fold headlines declared "Iraq War Ends" and "Nation Sets Its Sights on Building Sane Economy."  A spoof article outlines how John McCain is heading up a program to help corporations finish their quest to become fully human persons by achieving that one distinguishing characteristic: a conscience.  "You'd have to be very cynical to think that corporations, when they won protection as 'persons' under the 'Freed Slave' Amendment, were thinking only of their own wealth It's clear that corporations just admire humans and what we have. We should be good hosts and help them however we can. Right now, that means making them responsible and responsive."

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