340. where's the red pill?

I was clicking around Hulu last night and ran across a documentary called The Corporation that covers the corporate business structure and its powers. It’s a hit piece and I think they leave a lot out – like the fact that corporations are not all bad and they can be influenced by forces other than profit (sometimes). So I don’t buy all of what they’re selling.

HOWEVER, the one bit of the documentary that scares the shit out of me is the bit that starts around 1:30 – the section titled, “Unsettling Accounts.” There, they talk about how the corporate ownership of media and news outlets allows the corporations who own them to SKEW and DISTORT investigative news stories that are critical of other companies that exist under their corporate umbrella.

In other words, let’s say there’s a massive corporation called Pig. Pig owns a bunch of other corporations. One of these other corporations is a news organization called Ferret. And yet another corporation Pig owns is called Oyster and Oyster is a chemical company that makes, among other things, medicines. Unless you knew that Pig owned both Ferret and Oyster, you’d never think that the two companies were related. Because what does a news company have to do with a chemical company?

Well one day Ferret finds out that the company Oyster is manufacturing a product, called Pearl, that causes medical problems. Ferret does more digging and unearths the way that lobbyists working for Oyster used their influence and money to fast track Pearl through the FDA approval process. Ferret also finds that medical testing done on Pearl were skewed and misleading and that maybe the FDA didn’t have all the information they needed when they approved Pearl. So now Pearl is finding its way into food products that you and I eat and maybe we’re consuming something that may lead to health problems for us years later.

Ferret thinks that this is a vitally important news story because people need to know what’s in the food they’re eating and they also need to know how easy it can be for a large corporation like Oyster to push an unsafe product through the FDA. They shoot, edit, and package the piece and get it ready for air. It’s a tight, well researched and important piece on something the public really needs to know.

And then they get a fax from Pig (remember, Pig owns both Ferret and Oyster). Pig tells Ferret that they’re not happy with the story and so they suggest that the reporters change it so basically it says that Pearl is actually good for people, not bad for them. Ferret says, no, that wouldn’t be news, that would be LYING. Pig says, yeah, but we own you so we can tell you what to do. A big, ugly pissing contest ensues – the reporters holding on to their principles and the Pig people holding on to their profits. In the end, the Ferret reporters who refused to lie about what they had learned get fired and the story never airs and Pearl is still making its way into products on our shelves. The end.

That’s basically one of the stories that they cover in The Corporation.

If a documented, researched story about health risks from FDA approved hormones in our MILK can be pulled from the air because the corporation that owns the news division also owns the company that makes the hormone in question, then what are we watching when we watch the news? More importantly, what aren’t we watching? What is news?

And if you think this only happens in Rupert Murdoch owned news outlets, see The Insider (starring Al Pacino) which covers how CBS tried to keep a damning story about big tobacco from airing on their news show, 60 Minutes.

If we’re to ever have a legitimate democracy, we MUST have real, credible, factual information about what’s going on in our world. We used to get that from the news, but now? Personally, I like to get my news from NPR. They’re not perfect either but at least it’s the listeners who pay their bills, not some massive corporation.

I’m telling you, we’re already plugged into the Matrix and there is no spoon.

[POSTSCRIPT]

I do have a counterpoint to my own post about corporations but I have reading and a few more papers to do for school so that will have to wait for another day.

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