The Corporation (2003) Script

(somber music) [Narrator] 150 years ago, the business corporation was a relatively insignificant institution.

Today it is all-pervasive, like the church, the monarchy, and the Communist Party in other times and places.

The corporation is today's dominant institution.

This documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts, and possible futures of the modern business corporation.

Initially given a narrow legal mandate, what has allowed today's corporation to achieve such extraordinary power and influence over our lives?

We begin our inquiry as scandals threaten to trigger a wide debate about the lack of public control over big corporations.

I do think there is an overhang over the market, of distrust.

This 95%, or some percent, huge percentage of the business community are honest and reveal all their assets, got compensation programs that are balanced, but there are some bad apples.

[Narrator] The media debate about the basic operating principles of the corporate world was quickly reduced to a game of follow the leader.

I still happen to think the United States is the greatest place in the world to invest.

We have some shake-ups that are going on because of a few bad apples.

♪ Some people call me a bad apple ♪

♪ Well I may be bruised ♪

♪ But I still taste sweet ♪

♪ Some people call me a bad apple ♪

♪ But I may be the sweetest apple on the tree ♪ These are not just a bunch of bad apples.

This is just a few bad apples.

It's not just a few bad apples.

We've gotta get rid of the bad apples.

You can start with Tyco.

Bad apples.

We know all about Worldcom.

Bad apples.

Xerox Corporation.

Bad apples.

Arthur Anderson.

Bad apples.

Enron, obviously.

Bad apples.

Kmart corporation.

That fruit cart is getting a little more full.

I don't think it's just a few apples, unfortunately.

I think this is the worst crisis of confidence in business.

[Narrator] What's wrong with this picture?

Can't we pick a better metaphor to describe the dominant institution of our time?

Through the voices of CEOs, whistleblowers, brokers, gurus and spies, insiders and outsiders, we present the corporation as a paradox, an institution that creates great wealth but causes enormous and often hidden harms.

(eerie electronic music)

[Man] I see the corporation as part of a jigsaw in society as a whole, which if you remove it, the picture's incomplete, but equally, if it's the only path, then it's not gonna work.

[Man] A sports team.

Some of us are blocking and tackling, some of us are running the ball, some of us are throwing the ball, but we all have a common purpose, which is to succeed as an organization.

[Man] The corporation's like a family unit.

People in the corporation work together for a common end.

[Man] Like the telephone system, it reaches almost everywhere.

It's extraordinarily powerful, it's pretty hard to avoid, and it transforms the lives of people, I think on balance for the better.

The eagle, soaring, clear-eyed, competitive, prepared to strike, but not a vulture, noble, visionary, majestic, that people can believe in and be inspired by, that creates such a lift that it soars.

I could see that being a good logo for the principled company.


Okay, guys, enough bullshit!

(strange electronic music)

[Man] Corporations are artificial creations.

You might say they're monsters trying to devour as much profit as possible, at anyone's expense.

(people screaming)

[Man] I think of a whale, gentle, big fish, which could swallow you in an instant.

[Woman] Dr. Frankenstein's creation has overwhelmed and overpowered him, as the corporate form has done with us.

(scary music)

The word corporate gets attached in almost, in a pejorative sense to, and it gets married with the word agenda.

And one hears a lot about the corporate agenda, as though it is easy, as though it is an agenda which is trying to take over the world.

(protesters chanting)

Personally, I don't use the word corporation.

I use the word business.

I will use the word


I'll use the words business community, because I think that is a much fairer representation than zeroing in on just this word corporation.

(film roll whirring)

[Man] What is a corporation?

It's funny that I've taught in a business school for as long as I have, without ever having been asked so pointedly to say what I think a corporation is.

[Man] It is one form of business ownership.

It's a group of individuals working together to serve a variety of objectives, the principle one of which is earning large, growing, sustained legal returns for the people who own the business.

(empty electronic music)

(helicopter roaring)

The modern corporation has grown out of the Industrial Age.

The Industrial Age began in 1712 when an Englishman named Thomas Newcomen invented a steam-driven pump to pump water out of the English coal mines so the English coal mines could get it more coal to mine rather than hauling buckets of water out of the mine.

It was all about productivity, more coal per man-hour.

That was the dawn of the Industrial Age, and then it became more steel per man-hour, more textiles per man-hour, more automobiles per man-hour.

And today it's more chips per man-hour, more gizmos per man-hour.

The system is basically the same, producing more sophisticated products today.

(machinery clanking)

The dominant role of corporations in our lives is essentially a product of roughly the past century.

Corporations were originally associations of people who were chartered by a state to perform some particular function, like a group of people want to build a bridge over the Charles River or something like that.

There were very few chartered corporations in early United States history, and the ones that existed had clear stipulations in their state-issued charters, how long they could operate, the amount of capitalization, what they made or did or maintained, a turnpike, whatever, was in their Charter, and they didn't do anything else.

They didn't own or couldn't own another corporation.

Their shareholders were liable and so on.

In both law and the culture the corporation was considered a subordinate entity that was a gift from the people in order to serve the public good.

(serious music)

So you have that history, and we shouldn't be misled by it.

It's not as if those are the halcyon days when all corporations served the public trust, but there's a lot to learn from that.

(cannons blasting)

[Mary] The Civil War and the Industrial Revolution created enormous growth in corporations, and so there was an explosion of railroads who got large federal subsidies of land, banking, heavy manufacturing.

And corporate lawyers a century and a half ago realized they needed more power to operate and wanted to remove some of the constraints that had historically been placed on the corporate form.

The 14th Amendment was passed at the end of the Civil War to give equal rights to black people, and therefore it said no state can deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

And that was intended to prevent the states from taking away life, liberty, or property from black people, as they had done for so much of our history.

And what happened is the corporations come into court, and corporation lawyers are very clever, and they say, "Oh, you can't deprive a person

"of life, liberty, or property.

"We are a person.

"A corporation as a person."

And Supreme Court goes along with that.

(gavel slams)

And what was particularly grotesque about this was that the 14th Amendment was passed to protect newly freed slaves.

So for instance, between 1890 and 1910 there were 307 cases brought before the court under the 14th Amendment, 288 of these brought by corporations, 19 by African Americans.

(weighty music)

600,000 people were killed to get rights for people, and then with strokes of the pen over the next 30 years, judges applied those rights to capital and property, while stripping them from people.

(brooding music)

Everybody makes a mistake once in a while, but I just can't be personally responsible.

That's one of the weaknesses of a partnership.

Isn't it, Sid?

Well, maybe you'd better incorporate the store.

[Partner] Incorporate it?


Incorporating would give you the big advantage of what you want right now: limited liability.

You start with a group of people who want to invest their money in a company.

Then these people apply for a charter as a corporation.

This government issues a charter to that corporation.

Now that corporation operates legally as an individual person.

It is not a group of people.

It is under the law a legal person.

Imperial Steel Incorporated has many of the legal rights of a person.

It can buy and sell property.

It can borrow money.

It can sue in court and be sued.

It carries on a business.

Imperial Steel, along with thousands of other legal persons, is a part of our daily living.

It is a member of our society.

(nonchalant music)

[Narrator] Having acquired the legal rights and protections of a person, the question arises what kind of person is the corporation?

(nonchalant music)

Corporations were given the rights of immortal persons, but then special kinds of persons, persons who have no moral conscience.

(aloof music)

These are special kind of persons which are designed, and by law, to be concerned only for their stockholders and not, say, what are sometimes called their stakeholders, like the community or the workforce or whatever.

The great problem of having corporate citizens is that they aren't like the rest of us.

As Baron Thurlow in England is supposed to have said, they have no soul to save and they have no body to incarcerate.

I believe the mistake that a lot of people make when they think about corporations is they think corporations are like us.

General Electric is a kind old man with lots of stories.



Energetic, Microsoft, aggressive.

McDonalds, young, outgoing, enthusiastic.

Monsanto, immaculately dressed.

Disney, goofy.

The Body Shop, deceptive.

Very lovely.

(woman laughs)

Do you know what The Body Shop is?

Nope. (woman laughs)

They think they have feelings, they have politics, they have belief systems.

They really only have one thing, the bottom line, how to make as much money as they can in any given quarter.

That's it.

Of course they make a profit, and it's a good thing.

That's the incentive that makes capitalism work to give us more of the things that we need.

That's the incentive that other economic systems lack.

People accuse us of only paying attention to the economic leg because they think that's what a businessperson's mindset is, it's just money.

And it's not so, because we as business people know that we need to certainly address the environment but also we need to be seen as constructive members of society.

There are companies that do good for the communities.

They produce services and goods that are a value to all of us, that make our lives better, and that's a good thing.

The problem comes in in the profit motivation here, because these people, there's no such thing as enough.

And I always counter, point out there's no organization on this planet that can neglect its economic foundation.

Even someone living under a banyan tree is dependent on support from someone.

The economic link has to be addressed by everyone.

It's not just a business issue.

[Narrator] But unlike someone under a banyan tree, all publicly traded corporations have been structured through a series of legal decisions to have a peculiar and disturbing characteristic.

They are required by law to place the financial interests of their owners above competing interests.

In fact, the corporation is legally bound to put its bottom line ahead of everything else, even the public good.

That's not a law of nature.

That's a very specific decision, in fact, the judicial decision, so they're concerned only for the short-term profit of their stockholders who are very highly concentrated.

(people shouting)

To whom do these companies owe loyalty?

What does loyalty mean?

It turns out that that was a rather naive concept anyway, as corporations are always owed obligation to themselves to get large and to get profitable.

In doing this it tends to be more profitable to the extent it can make the other people pay the bills for its impact on society.

There's a terrible word that economists use.

An externality is the effect of a transaction between two individuals on a third party who has not consented to or played any role in the carrying out of that transaction.

And there are real problems in that area.

There's no doubt about it.

Running a business is a tough proposition.

There are costs to be minimized at every turn.

And at some point the corporation says, "Let somebody else deal with that.

"Let's let somebody else supplant the military power

"to the Middle East to protect the oil at its source.

"Let's let somebody else build the roads

"that we can drive these automobiles on.

"Let's let somebody else have those problems."

And that is where externalities come from, that notion of, "Let somebody else deal with that.

"I got all I can handle myself."

A corporation is an externalizing machine in the same way that a shark is a killing machine.

Each one is designed in a very efficient way to accomplish particular objectives.

In the achievement of those objectives there isn't any question of malevolence or of will.

The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed.

So the pressure's on the corporation to deliver results now and to externalize any cost that this unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize.

(perplexed music)

[Narrator] To determine the kind of personality that drives the corporation to behave like an externalizing machine, we can analyze it like a psychiatrist would a patient.

We can even formulate a diagnosis on the basis of typical case histories of harm it has inflicted on others, selected from a universe of corporate activity.

(unfriendly electronic music)

Well, this is the office of the National Labor Committee, here in the garment area of New York City.

It's a little bit disheveled.

These are all from different campaigns.

To make this stuff concrete as possible we purchase all of the products from the factories that we're talking about.

This shirt sells for $14.99

and the women who made this shirt got paid three cents.

Liz Claiborne jackets made in El Salvador, the jackets are $178, and the workers were paid 74 cents for every jacket they made.

Alpine car stereos, 31 cents an hour.

It's not just sneakers, it's not just apparel.

It's everything.

We were in Honduras,

and some workers, they knew the kind of work that we did, and they approached us, these young workers, and they said, "Conditions in our factory are horrible.

"Will you please meet with us?"

And we said we would, but you can't meet in the developing world.

You can't walk up to a factory with workers come out and you interview them.

There's goons, there's spies, the military police.

So you do everything in a clandestine manner.

We're about to start the meeting, and in walk three guys, very tough-looking guys.

The company had found out about our meeting and sent these spies.

Obviously, we didn't have the meeting, but these young girls were really bright.

And as they were leaving away from the eyesight of the spies, they started to put their hands underneath the table.

And I put my palm under there, I put my hand under there, and they put into my my hand their pay stubs, so we'd know who they were, what they were paid, and the labels that they made in the factory so we'd know who they work for.

And I took my hand out after everyone had left and in the palm of my hand was the face of Kathie Lee Gifford.

But the bottom of it is the interesting part, "A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this garment

"will be donated to various Children's Charities."

It's very touching, gets you right here.

Walmart is telling you if you purchase these pants and Kathie Lee is telling you you purchase these pants, you're gonna help children.

The problem was the people handed us the label were 13 years of age.

Do many people in her family work?

(speaking in a foreign language)

[Interpreter] Just me.

[Charles] How many people do you support?

(speaking in a foreign language)

[Interpreter] Eight people.

[Charles] Eight people.

And how do you do it with that salary?

Is it enough?

(speaking in a foreign language)

Let's look at it from a different point of view.

Let's look at it from the point of view of the the people in Bangladesh

who are starving to death, the people in China who are starving to death, and the only thing that they have to offer to anybody that is worth anything is their low-cost labor.

And in effect, what they are saying to the world is they have this big flag that says, "Come over and hire us!

"We will work for 10 cents an hour

"because 10 cents an hour will buy us the rice

"that we need not to starve,"

and, "Come and rescue us from our circumstance!"

And so when Nike comes in,

they are regarded by everybody in the community as an enormous godsend.

(people shouting over each other)

[Charles] The door was wide open.

[Man] No no no no no no.

That's my clothes! - What are you doing?

[Charles] Those are my clothes!

[Man] This is not your clothes!

Where's your camera? - What are you doing here?

[Charles] Let's leave!

Don't touch the woman!

Okay, why? - Okay?

This is a private company.

[Charles] Yes.

Without permission, how can you come in?

[Charles] Uh-huh.


Well, the door was wide open, and uh--

The only door wide open here is for the employees, not for you!

We went through the garbage dump in the Dominican Republic.

We always do this kind of stuff.

We dig around.

One day we found a big pile of Nike's internal pricing documents.

Nike assigns a time frame to each operation.

They don't talk about minutes.

They break the time frame into ten thousandths of a second.

You get to the bottom of all 22 operations to give the workers 6.6 minutes to make the shirt.

It's 70 cents an hour in the Dominican Republic.

That 6.6 minutes equals eight cents.

These are Nike's documents.

That means the wages come to three tenths of 1% of retail price.

This is the reality.

It's the science of exploitation.

(spooky music)

What happens in the areas where these corporations go in and are successful?

They soon find that they can't do any more in that country because the wages are too high now.

And what's that another way of saying?

Well, the people are no longer desperate.

So okay, we've used up all the desperate people there.

They're all plump and healthy and wealthy.

Let's move on to the next desperate lot and employ them and raise their level up.

(sad music)

Well the whole idea of the export processing zone is that it will be the first step towards this wonderful new development.

Through the investment that's attracted to these countries, there will be a trickle-down effect into the communities.

But because so many countries are now in the game of creating these free trade enclaves, they have to keep providing more and more incentives for companies to come to their little denationalized pocket, and that the tax holidays get longer.

So the workers rarely make enough money to buy three meals a day, let alone feed their local economy.

(ominous music)

Something happened in 1940 which marked the beginning of a new era, the era of the ability to synthesize and create on an unlimited scale,

new chemicals that had never existed before in the world.

[Narrator] And using the magic of research, oil companies compete with each other in taking the petroleum molecule apart and rearranging it into, well, you name it.

So suddenly it became possible to produce any new chemicals, synthetic chemicals, the likes of which had never existed before in the world, for any purpose and at virtually no cost.

[Narrator] Fabrics, toothbrushes.

Tires, insecticides.

Cosmetics, weed killers.

A whole galaxy of things to make a better life on earth.

For instance, if you wanted to go to a chemist and say, "Look I want to have a chemical, "say a pesticide, "which will persist throughout the food chain, "and I don't want it to have to renew it very, very often.

"I'd like it to be relatively non-destructible."

And then he'd put two benzene molecules on the blackboard and add a chlorine here and a chlorine there, and that was DDT.

[Narrator] When the Eighth Army needed Jap civilians to help them out in our occupation, they called on native doctors to administer DDT under the supervision of our men to stem a potential typhus epidemic.

Dusting like this goes a long way in checking disease, and the laugh's on them.

Pardon our dust.

(march-like music)

(sorrowful music)

As the petrochemical era grew and grew, warning signs emerged that some of these chemicals could pose hazards.

The data initially were trivial, anecdotal,

but gradually a body of data started accumulating

to the extent that we now know that these synthetic chemicals which have permeated our workplace, our consumer products, our air, our water, produce cancer and also birth defects and some other toxic effects.

(sobering music)

Furthermore, industry has known about this.

At least most industries have known about this and have attempted to trivialize these risks.

(afflicted music)

If I take a gun and shoot you, that's criminal.

If I expose you to some chemicals which knowingly are gonna kill you, what difference is there?

The difference is that it takes longer to kill you.

We are now in the midst of a major cancer epidemic, and I have no doubt, and I have documented the basis for this, that industry is largely responsible for this overwhelming epidemic of cancer in which one in every two men get cancer in their lifetimes and one in every three women get cancer in their lifetimes.

(weighty music)

Towards the end of 1989 a great box of documents arrived at my office without any indication where they came from and I opened them and found in it a complete set of Monsanto files, particularly a set of files dealing with toxicological testing of cows who'd been given rBGH.

[Newscaster] BST, trade name Posilac, is being used in more than a quarter of the dairy herds in the United States according to Monsanto.

The milk is being drunk by a large portion of the American population, since the Food and Drug Administration declared it safe for both cows and humans four years ago.

And at that time Monsanto was saying there's no evidence whatsoever, any adverse effects, "We don't use antibiotics."

And this clearly showed that they had lied through their teeth.

(eerie music)

The files described areas of chronic information in the heart, lung, kidneys, spleen, also reproductive effects, also a whole series of other problems.

[Newscaster] It's the most comprehensive independent assessment of the drug concludes that BST results in unnecessary pain, suffering and distress for the cows.

This is not acceptable for a drug designed simply to increase milk production.

It is a silly product.

The industrial world is awash in milk.

We're overproducing milk.

We actually have governments around the world who pay farmers not to produce milk.

So the first product Monsanto comes up with is a product that produces more of what we don't need.

Of course you'll want to inject Posilac to every eligible cow, as each cow not treated is a lost income opportunity.

But the problem was that use of the artificial hormone caused all kinds of problems for the cows, because something called mastitis, which is a very painful infection of the udders.

When you milk the cow, if the cow has bad mastitis, some of the, and I don't know how to say this in a, you know, I hope people aren't watching at dinnertime, but the pus from the infection of the udders ends up in the milk, and the somatic cell count they call it, the bacteria count inside your milk goes up.

There's a cost to the cows.

The cows gets sicker when they're injected with rBGH.

They're injected with antibiotics.

We know that people are consuming antibiotics through their food, and we know that that's contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and diseases.

And we know we're at a crisis when somebody can go into a hospital and get a staph infection and it can't be cured and they die.

That's a crisis.

Bad for the cow, bad for the farmer, bad potentially for the consumer.

The jury is out.

We see a lot of conflicting evidence about potential health risks and of course as a consumer, my belief is why should I take any risk?

(serious music)

[Narrator] Factory farm cows have not been the only victims of Monsanto products.

Large areas of Vietnam were deforested by the U.S. military using Monsanto's Agent Orange.

(dreadful music)

The toxic herbicide reportedly caused over 50,000 birth defects, as well as hundreds of thousands of cancers in Vietnamese civilians and soldiers and in former American troops serving in Southeast Asia.

Unlike the Vietnamese victims, U.S. Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange were able to sue Monsanto for causing their illnesses.

Monsanto settled out of court, paying $80 million in damages,

but it never admitted guilt.

(unfriendly music)

Sleeping in a motel in Brewer, Maine one night,

I woke up with terrible hay fever and my eyes were burning and I looked out at the river and there were great mounds of white foam going right down the river, and the next morning I got up and I said, "My god, what was that happening last night?"

He said, "Oh, that's just the river."

And I said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "Well look, every night the paper company

"send this stuff down the river."

I said, "What are you talking about?"

And he said, "Don't you understand, "that's how we get rid of the effluent

"from the paper mills."

Well I knew at that time, I'd been in a business, I'd sold oil to the paper mills, I knew all the owners, I'd been in politics, I knew the people in the towns, I knew not one constituent of the paper mills wanted to have the river polluted, and yet here the river was being polluted.

And it was more or less as if we created a doom machine.

In our search for wealth and and for prosperity we created something that's gonna destroy us.

(sad music)

The traders who are involved in the market are not guys whose moral fiber when it comes to environmental conditions are gonna be be rattled at all.

They're seeing dollars and they're making money.

Brokers don't stay away from copper because it violates their religious beliefs or their environmental policies, no.

You think about it, but (laughs) it's fleeting.

(laughs) It really is a fleeting moment.

It's like, "Oh yeah, oh yeah, well, "the town being polluted down there in Peru, "but hey, this guy needs to buy some copper," and getting paid a commission too.

Our information that we receive does not include anything about the environmental conditions because until the environmental conditions become a commodity themselves or are being traded, then obviously we will not have anything to do with that.

It doesn't come into our psyche at all.

It's so far away and you hardly hear anything about it.

Keep in mind, there are things going on right in our backyards for God's sake.

We trade live hogs.

There are so many pigs in the state of Carolina that it's polluting the rivers, but how often do you find out about that?

(weighty music)

At Multinational Monitor we put together a list of the top corporate criminals of the 1990s.

We went back and looked at all of the criminal fines that corporations had paid in the decade.

Exxon pled guilty in connection to federal criminal charges with the Valdez spill and paid $125 million in criminal fines.

General Electric was guilty of defrauding the federal government and paid $9.5 million in criminal fines.

Chevron was guilty of environmental violations and paid $6.5 million in fines.

Mitsubishi was guilty of antitrust violation and paid $1.8 million in fines.

IBM was guilty of illegal exports and paid $8.5 million.

Kodak was guilty of environmental violations and paid

$1 million in fines. Pfizer the drug manufacturer was guilty of antitrust violations.

Odwalla was guilty. And paid $20 million in fines.

Of Food and Drug Regulatory violations and paid $1.5 million in fines.

Sears was guilty of financial fraud.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.


Roche, guilty of antitrust violation, paid $500 million in criminal fines.

Again and again we have the problem that whether you obey the law or not is a matter whether it's cost-effective.

If the chance of getting caught and the penalty are less than it costs to comply, people think of it as being just a business decision.

Drawing the metaphor of the early attempts to fly.


(curious music)

The man going off of a very high cliff in his airplane, with the wings flapping, and the guys flapping the wings, and the wind is in his face.

And this poor fool thinks he's flying but in fact he's in free fall and he just doesn't know it yet because the ground is so far away, but of course the craft is doomed to crash.

That's the way our civilization is.

The very high cliff represents the virtually unlimited resources we seemed to have when we began this journey.

The craft isn't flying because it's not built according to the laws of aerodynamics, and it's subject to the law of gravity.

Our civilization is not flying because it's not built according the laws of aerodynamics for civilizations that would fly.

And of course the ground is still a long way away, but some people have seen that ground rushing up sooner than the rest of us have.

The visionaries have seen it and have told us it's coming.

There's not a single scientific peer-reviewed paper published in the last 25 years that would contradict this


Every living system of Earth is in decline.

Every life support system of earth is in decline.

And these together constitute the biosphere, the biosphere that supports and nurtures all of life, and not just our life, but perhaps 30 million other species that share this planet with us.

(thoughtful music)

The typical company of the 20th century, the extractive, wasteful, abusive linea and all of its processes, taking from the earth, making, wasting, sending its products back to the biosphere, waste to a landfill.

I myself was amazed to learn just how much stuff the earth has to produce through our extraction process to produce a dollar of revenue for our company.

When I learned, I was flabbergasted.

(machinery whirring)

We're leaving a terrible legacy of poisoning

and diminishment of the environment

for our grandchildren's grandchildren, generations not yet born.

Some people have called that intergenerational tyranny a form of taxation without representation levied by us on generations yet to be.

It's the wrong thing to do.

One of the questions that comes up periodically is to what extent could a corporation be considered to be psychopathic.

And if we look at a corporation as a legal person, then it may not be that difficult to actually draw the transition between psychopathy in the individual to psychopathy in a corporation.

We can go through the characteristics that define this particular disorder one by one and see how they might apply to corporations.

(creepy music)

They would have all the characteristics.

And in fact, in many respects, a corporation of that sort is as a prototypical psychopath.

(eerie music)

[Narrator] If the dominant institution of our time has been created in the image of a psychopath, who bears the moral responsibility for its actions?

Can a building have moral opinions?

Can a building have social responsibility?

If a building can't have social responsibility, what does it mean to say that a corporation can?

A corporation is simply a artificial legal structure, but the people who are engaged in it, whether the stockholders, whether the executives in it, whether the employees, they all have moral responsibilities.

(simple electronic music)

It's a fair assumption that every human being, real human beings, flesh-and-blood ones, not corporations, but every flesh-and-blood human being is a moral person.

Got the same genes, we're more or less the same, but our nature, the nature of humans, allows all kinds of behavior.

Every one of us under some circumstances could be

a gas chamber attendant and a saint.

No job in my experience with Goodyear has been as frustrating as the CEO job, because even though the perception is that you have absolute power to do whatever you want, the reality is you don't have that power.

Sometimes if you had really a free hand, if you really did what you wanted to do that suits you personal sorts and your personal priorities, you'd act differently, but as a CEO you cannot do that.

Layoffs have become so widespread that people tend to believe that CEOs make these decisions without any consideration to the human implications of their decisions.

It is never a decision that any CEO makes lightly.

It is a tough decision, but it is the consequence of modern capitalism.

When you look at a corporation, just like when you look at a slave owner, you want to distinguish between the institution and individual.

So slavery for example, or other forms of tyranny, are inherently monsters, but the individuals participating in them may be the nicest guys you can imagine, benevolent, friendly, nice to the children, even nice to their slaves, caring about other people.

As individuals they may be anything,

as in their institutional role they're monsters because the institution's monsters, and the same is true here.

My wife and I some years ago had at our home a demonstration.

25 people arrived.

They hung a big banner on the top of our house saying "murderers."

They danced around outside in gas masks and so on.

As a public demonstration it wasn't very effective.

There were only two, this is a very rural area, two people and a dog, and it's not a very big house, which I think rather surprised them.

But then we sat down and talked to them for a couple of hours and we gave them tea and coffee and they had lunch on our lawn.

And after about 20 minutes they said, "Well the problem's not you, it's Shell."

I said, "Oh, wait a minute.

"Let's talk about what is Shell.

"It's made up of people like me."

In the end what we found in that discussion was all the things that they were worried about, I was worried about as well, climate, oppressive regimes, human rights.

The big difference between us was I feel that I actually can make a contribution to this.

These people were frustrated because they felt they had nothing to do.

So an individual CEO, let's say, may really care about the environment, and in fact since they have such extraordinary resources, they can even devote some of their resources to that without violating their responsibility to be totally inhuman.

[Narrator] Which is why as the Moody-Stuarts served tea to protesters, Shell Nigeria can flare unrivaled amounts of gas, making it one of the world's single worst sources of pollution.

And all the professed concerns about the environment do not spare Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists from being hanged for opposing Shell's environmental practices in the Niger Delta.

(somber music)

The corporation is not a person.

It doesn't think.

People in it think.

And for them it is legitimate to create Terminator technology so that farmers are not able to save their seeds,

seeds that will destroy themselves through a suicide gene,

seeds that are designed to only produce crop in one season.

You really need to have a brutal mind.

It's a war against evolution to even think in those terms, but quite clearly, profits are so much higher in their minds.

[Narrator] The profit motive which drove Fudsy to accomplish so much may bring out the evil

as well as the good.

(phones ringing)

[Both Men] Hello?

My work spans all industry sectors I virtually have worked for I'd say 25% of the Fortune 500.

I've posed as an investment banker.

I've posed as a venture capitalist.

I set up front companies that are executive recruiting firms.

Essentially I'm a spy

I'll locate your employees and I will tell them that I'm calling from Acme Recruiting Agency and that I've got a job that pays them considerably more than what they're paying, would they mind meeting me for an interview.

And when the executive shows up, what he doesn't realize is I'm actually debriefing him on behalf of a competitor and that there is no job, and that the office that he's at has been rented, and the picture on my desk of my family is a phony, and it's all just a big elaborate ruse to glean competitive information from from him.

I don't feel any guilt.

You know what?

You have to expect that guys like me are out there.

We're predators.

(scary music)

It's about competition.

It's about market share.

It's about being aggressive.

It's about shareholder value.

What is your stock at today?

If you're a CEO,

do you think your shareholders really care whether you're Billy Buttercup or not?

Do you think that they would prefer you to be a nice guy

over having money in their pocket?

I don't think so.

I think people want money.

That's the bottom line.

The fact that most of these companies are run by white men, white rich men, means that they are out of touch with what the majority of the world is, because the majority of this planet are not a bunch of rich white guys.

They're people of other colors, they're the majority, women are the majority, and the poor and working poor make up the majority of this planet.

So the decisions that they make come from

not the reality that exists throughout the world.

How much is enough?

How much is enough?

If you are a billionaire, would it be okay just to be a half a billionaire?

Wouldn't it be okay for your company to make a little less money if it meant...

When I bought those two airplane tickets for Phil Knight and myself to fly to Indonesia, I was prepared for him to say, "Okay, let's go."


Oh no, (laughs) not a chance.

Huh? - Not a chance.

No? - No, but--

They're transferable.

I can change it to another day.

And call me on it, call my bluff, he's a smart guy, he's not stupid, and so I thought, "Okay, get ready for this," especially because I bought first-class tickets so it'd be a comfortable ride at least.

And of course he tells me then on camera.

[Phil] I've never been to Indonesia.

(laughs) I'm taken aback by this.

I can't believe that the guy is the head of the company, has never walked through his own factories.

Oh, well you've gotta go.

No, I can't go between now and the rest of this year.

When we were done filming he calls me up a couple weeks later and he goes, "I may have a chance to go there with you, "to the factories.

"I'm going to the Australian Open

"to watch some tennis, "and (laughs) maybe I can get up there,

"or at least you can go there.

"Would you like to go to the Australian Open?"


For 21 years I never gave a thought to what we were taking from the earth or doing to the earth in the making of our products, and then in the summer of 1994 we began to hear questions from our customers we've never heard before, "What's your company doing for the environment?"

And we didn't have answers.

The real answer was not very much, and it really disturbed many of our people, not me so much as them.

And a group in our research department decided to convene a task force and bring people from our businesses around the world to come together to assess our company's worldwide environmental position, to begin to frame answers for those customers.

They asked me if I would come and speak to that group and give them a kickoff speech to launch this new task force with an environmental vision,

and I didn't have an environmental vision.

I did not want to make that speech. (laughs)

And at sort of the propitious moment this book landed on my desk.

It was Paul Hawken's book The Ecology of Commerce.

And I began to read The Ecology of Commerce, really desperate for inspiration, and very quickly into that book I found the phrase "the death of birth."

It was E.O Wilson's expression for species extinction, "the death of birth," and it was a point of a spear into my chest.

And I read on and the spear went deeper, and it became an epiphanal experience, a total change of mindset for myself, and a change of paradigm.

(hushed music)

Can any product be made sustainably?

Well, not any and every product.

Can you make landmines sustainably?

Well, I don't think so.

There's a more fundamental question than that about landmines.

Some products ought not be made at all.

Unless we can make carpets sustainably,

perhaps we don't have a place in a sustainable world. but neither does anybody else making products unsustainably.

One day early in this journey it dawned on me that the way I've been running Interface is the way of the plunderer, plundering something that's not mine, something that belongs to every creature on earth.

And I said to myself, "My goodness, "the day must come when this is illegal, "when plundering is not allowed.

"It must come."

I said to myself, "My goodness, "someday people like me will end up in jail."

(contemplative music)

I gotta be honest with you.

When the September 11 situation happened

I didn't know that the, (laughs) and I must say and I want to say this because

I don't want to take it lightly, it's not a light situation, it's a devastating act, it was really a bad thing, one of the worst things I've seen in my lifetime,

but I will tell you and every trader will tell you, who was not in that building and who was buying gold and who owned gold and silver, that when it happened the first thing you thought about was, "Well how much is gold up?"

The first thing that came to mind was, "My god, gold must be exploding."

Fortunately for us, all our clients were in gold,

so when it went up, they all doubled their money!

Everybody doubled their money.

It was a blessing in disguise.

Devastating, crushing, heart-shattering, but on a financial sense, for my clients that were in the market, they all made money.

Now I wasn't looking for this type of help,

but it happened.

When the U.S. bombed Iraq back in 1991 the price of oil went from $13 to $40 a barrel for Christ's sake.

Now we couldn't wait for the bomb to start raining down on Saddam Hussein.

(serious music)

We were all excited.

We wanted Saddam to really create problems, do whatever you have to do, set fire to some more oil wells, because the price is gonna go higher.

Every broker was chanting that.

There was not a broker that I know of that wasn't excited about that.

(somber music)

This was a disaster.

This was something that was a catastrophe happening, bombing, wars.

In devastation there is opportunity.

(aching music)

[Narrator] The pursuit of profit is an old story, but there was a time when many things were regarded either as too sacred or too essential for the public good to be considered business opportunities.

They were protected by tradition and public regulation.

(weighty music)

We can really begin to take a look at the emergence of the modern age with the enclosure movements of the Great European Commons in the 14th, 15th, and 16th century.

Medieval life was a collectively lived life.

It was a brutish, nasty affair, but there was a collective responsibility.

People belong to the land.

The land did not belong to people, and in this European world, people farmed the land in a collective way because they saw it as a commons.

It belonged to God, and then it was administered by the church, the aristocracy, and then the local manors as stewards of God's creation.

Beginning with Tudor England we began to see a phenomenon emerge, and that is the enclosure of the great commons by parliamentary acts in England and then in Europe.

And so first we began to take the great land masses of the world which were commons and shared, and we reduced those to private property.

Then we went after the oceans, the great oceanic commons, and we created laws and regulations that would allow countries to claim a certain amount of water outside their coastal limits for exploitation.

In this century we went after the air and we divided it into air corridors that could be bought and sold for commercial traffic for airplanes, and then of course the rest is history.

(ominous music)

(people applauding)

With deregulation, privatization, free trade, what we're seeing is yet another enclosure, and if you like, private taking of the commons.

One of the things I find very interesting in our current debates is this concept of who creates wealth, that wealth is only created when it's owned privately.

What would you call clean water, fresh air, a safe environment?

Are they not a form of wealth?

And why does it only become wealth when some entity puts a fence around it and declares it private property?

Well, that's not wealth creation.

That's wealth usurption.

Over the centuries we have put more and more things in that public realm, and lately, just lately, in the last let's say three or four decades, started pulling them out again.

So firefighters, for instance.


[Narrator] This man needs the fire department.

[Matt] Firefighters started as private companies.

[Narrator] Yes, and lots of other people need the fire department too.

And if you didn't have the medallion of a given firefighter brigade on your house and it was on fire, then those firefighters would just ride on by, because you didn't have a deal.

Well, we gradually evolved a public trust for the provision of safety on that very specific level.

This is important.

We should not go back from that and start saying, "Well, "why don't we put that back in the market

"and see what that does.

"Maybe it'll make it more efficient."

(slow music)

The privatization does not mean you take a public institution and give it to some nice person.

It means you take a public institution and give it to an unaccountable tyranny.

(troubled music)

Public institutions have many side benefits.

For one thing they may purposely run at a loss.

They're not out for profit.

They may purposely run at a loss because of the side benefits.

So for example, if a public steel industry runs at a loss, it's providing cheap steel to other industries.

Maybe that's a good thing.

Public institutions can have a counter-cyclic property, so that means that they can maintain employment in periods of recession, which increases demand, which helps you get out of recession.

A private company can't do that.

The recession, throw out the workforce, so you make money.

There are those who intend that one day everything will be owned by somebody.

And we're not just talking goods here.

We're talking human rights, human services, essential services for life, education, public health, social assistance, pensions, housing.

We're also talking about

the survival of the planet, the areas that we believe must be maintained in the commons or under common control or we will collectively die, water and air.

(veiled music)

Even in the case of air there's been some progress.

And here the idea is to say, "Look, we can't avoid the dumping of carbon dioxide.

"We can't avoid the dumping of sulphur oxides.

"At least we can't at the moment afford to stop doing that."

So we're dumping a certain amount of stuff into the environment, so we're going to say with the current tonnage of sulphur oxides for example, we will say that is the limit and we'll create permits for that amount, we'd give them to the people who've been doing the polluting, and now we will permit them to be traded.

And so now there's a price attached to polluting the environment.

Now wouldn't it be marvelous if we had one of those prices for everything?

[Interviewer] It sounds like you're advocating private ownership of every square inch of the planet.


[Interviewer] Every cubic foot of air, water.

It sounds outlandish to say we want to have the whole universe, the whole of the earth owned.

That doesn't mean I want to have Joe Bloggs owning this square foot, but it means that the interests that are involved in that stream

are owned by some group or by some people who have an interest in maintaining it.

And that is not such a loony idea.

It's in fact the solution to a lot of these problems.

(perplexing music)

(people chattering)

[Kid] I tried to throw it on there! (laughs)

[Narrator] Imagine a world in which one of the things owned by a corporation was the song Happy Birthday.

In fact, an AOL Time Warner subsidiary holds the copyright.

In the past, it is demanded over $10,000 to allow you to hear anyone sing this popular song in a film.

We didn't pay.

(air blowing)

We prefer to use the money to fly our crew to Boston and Los Angeles to bring you the following story.

[Ad Announcer] Five, four, three, two, one!

Off into space!

Man, that takes real teamwork!

And here's a team of junior spacemen with an out-of-this-world breakfast!

[Susan] Comparing the marketing of yesteryear to the marketing of today is like comparing a BB gun to a smart bomb.

[Ad Announcer] Refreshing V8 juice!

It's not the same as when I was a kid or even when the people who are young adults today were kids.

(brave music)

It's much more sophisticated and it's much more pervasive.

It's not that products themselves are bad or good.

It's the notion of manipulating children into buying the products.

In 1998, Western International Media, Century City, and Lieberman Research Worldwide conducted a study on nagging.

We asked parents to keep a diary for three weeks and to record every time, you could imagine, every time their child nagged them for a product.

We asked them to record when, where, and why.

(curious music)

This study was not to help parents cope with nagging.

It was to help corporations help children nag for their products more effectively.

Anywhere from 20% to 40% of purchases would not have occurred unless the child had nagged their parents.

That is we found, for example, a quarter of all visits to theme parks wouldn't have occurred unless a child nagged the parents.

Four out of 10 visits to places like Chuck E. Cheese would not have occurred.

Any parent would understand that.

When I think of Chuck E. Cheese, oh my goodness, it's noise.

♪ Cause we're going to Chuck E. Cheese's ♪ And there's so many kids.

Why would I want to spend two hours there?

But if the child nags enough, you're gonna go.

We saw the same thing with movies, with home video, with fast food.

We do have to break through this barrier where they do tell us or they say they don't like it when their kids nag.

Well that's just a general attitude that they possess.

It doesn't mean that they necessarily act on a product

100% of the time.

You can manipulate consumers into wanting and therefore buying your products.

It's a game.

Children are not little adults.

Their minds aren't developed.

And what's happening is that marketers are playing to their developmental vulnerabilities.

(perplexed music)

The advertising that children are exposed to today is honed by psychologists, it's enhanced by media technology that nobody ever thought was possible.

The more insight you have about the consumer,

the more creative you'll be in your communication strategies.

So if that takes a psychologist, yeah, we want one of those on staff.

I'm not saying that it's wrong to make things for children.

I also think it's important to distinguish between psychologists who work on products for children, who help toy corporations make toys that are developmentally appropriate.

I think that's great.

That's different from selling the toys directly to the children.

Initiative is huge.

I think in the U.S. we place about $12 billion of media time.

So we'll put it on TV, we'll put it in print, we'll put it up in outdoor, we'll buy radio time.

So we're the biggest buyers of advertising time and space in the U.S. and in the world.

One family cannot combat an industry that spends $12 billion a year trying to get their children.

They can't do it.

They are tomorrow's adult consumers, so start talking with them now, build that relationship when they're younger, and you've got them as an adult.

Somebody asked me, "Lucy, is that ethical?

"You're essentially manipulating these children."

Well, yeah, is it ethical, I don't know, but our role at Initiative is to move products, and if we know you move products with a certain creative execution placed in a certain type of media vehicle, then we've done our job.

♪ Pull it push it grab it bump it save it race it ♪ Every institution provides the people who are members of it with a social role to occupy, and typically institutions that are vibrant and have a lot of power will specify that role in some sense as a list of virtues.

It's true for churches, for schools, for any institution that has power over people and shapes them.

[Everyone] One nation.

The corporation likewise, it provides us with a list of virtues, a kind of social role, which is the good consumer.

[Narrator] Like the waters of a mighty ocean, people also represent a tremendous force, the understanding of which is of greatest importance to the American way of life.

This force is known as consumer power.

The goal for the corporations is to maximize profit and market share, and they also have a goal for their target, namely the population.

They have to be turned into completely mindless consumers of goods that they do not want.

You have to develop what are called created wants.

So you have to create wants.

You have to impose on people what's called a philosophy of futility.

You have to focus them on the insignificant things of life like fashionable consumption.

I'm just basically quoting business literature.

And it makes perfect sense, the ideal is to have individuals who are totally dissociated from one another, whose conception of themselves, the sense of value is just how many created wants can I satisfy.

(twinkling music)

[Narrator] These people are customers because they are willing to trade money for widgets.

And all the customers take their widgets home to all parts of the country.

Look at all that money the widget builder has taken in from the sale of his widgets.

With huge industries, public relations industry is a monstrous industry, advertising and so on, which are designed from infancy to try to mold people into this desired pattern.

(cheerful music)

[Chris Voiceover] We saw Tiger Woods on TV with a hat with a Nike logo on it, and we figured he probably gets like millions of dollars just to wear the hat on the press conference, and therefore we figured we can do that for someone else and hopefully get money in turn so we can go to school.

And that's how we came up with being corporately sponsored.

[Luke Voiceover] We made our sponsor announcement on Today Show on June 18th.

We're corporately sponsored by First USA.

First we'll be working with First USA as our corporate sponsor and they're covering our college tuition.

We found First USA as our sponsor, and we're proud to be working with them.

Our sponsor is First USA.

So we're really thrilled to announce First USA as our sponsor.

We're thrilled to be working with First USA.

[Chris Voiceover] And so we give First USA a good name in the media and include them in our news stories, and then through there they get as much advertising as we can give them.

They'll be conforming not to the wishes of demanding parents, but to the wishes of an image-conscious corporation.

They're not just out there for the money.

They want to work with us and be our friends and let us help them help us and vice versa.

We became walking billboards to pay for our college tuition.

[Show Host] Say what?!

[Luke Voiceover] Cool Site of the Day picked us as a Cool Site, and Yahoo picked us, and we were in USA Today.

When we did our photo shoot for People magazine, this is where we stood, up on top.

(Luke laughs)

We stood up here and we smiled.

We smiled and took the picture.

[Luke] Our parents had war stories and stuff to tell us, but (laughs) we have our corporate sponsor story.


(triumphant music)

I have a lot of faith in the corporate world, because it's always gonna be there, so you may as well have faith in it, because if you don't, then it's just not good.

[Narrator] Some of the best creative minds are employed to assure our faith in the corporate worldview.

They seduce us with beguiling illusions designed to divert our minds and manufacture our consent.

(weighty electronic music)

Corporations don't advertise products particularly.

They're advertising a way of life, a way of thinking, a story of who we are as people and how we got here and what's the source of our so-called liberty and our so-called freedom.

So you have decades and decades and decades of propaganda and education teaching us to think in a certain way.

When applied to the large corporation, it's that the corporation was inevitable, that it's indispensable, that is somehow is remarkably efficient, and that it is responsible for progress and a good life.

(dazzling music)

Perception management is a very interesting concept.

It's basically a methodology which helps us when we work with our clients to go through a very systematic, thoughtful process in order to be able to help our clients identify what the resources are that they have, what the barriers to their success are, and how we can use communications to help them accomplish their objectives.

(relaxed music)

If Michael or Angelica came to me and said, "Dad, what do you do, and why is it important?"

my answer to that question is basically that I help corporations have a voice.

(pleasant music)

And I help corporations share the point of view about how they feel about things.

(cheerful music)

They're selling themselves.

They're selling their domination.

They're selling their rule, and they're creating an image for themselves as just regular folks down the block.

Hi, how you all doing today?

Good to see you.

How are you doing today?

Hi, how you doing today?

We're from Pfizer.

We're your neighbors.

You're in the new houses? - Huh?

Are you in the new houses?

Yeah, just right there.

Oh, these are some neighbors.

Can we say hello?


Can we say hello just for a minute?

So what do you think of the neighborhood now?

[Woman] It's all right, it's good.

Yeah, I think it's been getting better over the last 20 years that I've been coming here.

Yeah, yeah. - Yeah.

So I think together, working with you and Pfizer and our other partnership we'll make this a better place.

Okay. - Okay.

Bye. - Nice to see you, Miss Fraser, bye.

There used to be a lot of crime at this subway.

One night as I was going home I got caught and was almost mugged,

and so we decided to make a change to make this community better.

(calm music)

We're looking at turnstiles that prevent fare beating.

It used to be that you could just hop right over.

So Pfizer, in collaboration with the Transit Authority, actually purchased these


This is a talk-back box that allows us to speak to the Pfizer guard, which is approximately 500 yards from here.

Now I haven't seen the Pfizer guard today, but I'm gonna see if I can call him.

If he's not, I'll have to go wake him up.

Hello, hello, Tom Klein speaking.

So I'm sure before we're through he'll call back.

But particularly on the off hours, this allows a passenger to call directly to the Pfizer desk for assistance, and then the Pfizer guard calls the transit police, and the transit police respond to any crime situation.

As a result of all this, crime is down in the station.

It's much safer for our community partners.

Thank you.


We'll press the other button just to be sure.

Tom speaking, hello.

We'll stop over and see him personally. (laughs)

(careless music)

It's tough.

They're putting some taxpayer and shareholder money into helping, and who can say, but that money should be going to the taxpayers to decide what to do.

And while they're doing those sort of nice things, they're also playing a role in lowering taxes for corporations and lowering taxes for wealthy people and reconfiguring public policy.

What we don't see is all that reconfiguring going on.

We don't see them vacuum out the money, vacuum out the insides of public processes, but we do see the nice facade.

(cash register dings)

(pleasant music)

When I was researching the takeover of public space, when I started off I thought, "Okay, this is just advertising.

"We've always had advertising.

"It's just more advertising."

But what I started to understand and what I understand now is that branding is not advertising, it's production, and very successful corporations, the corporations of the future, do not produce products, they produce brand meaning.

The dissemination of the idea of themselves is their act of production, and the dissemination of the idea of themselves is an enormously invasive project.

So how do you make a brand idea real?

Well, a good place to start is by building a three-dimensional manifestation of your brand.

For a company like Disney it goes even further, where it's actually building a town, Celebration, Florida.

Currently there are about 5,000 residents who call Celebration home, and there are about 1,300 single-family homes, a town center that's a place where people gather, that has about four or five restaurants and about a dozen other shops.

[Naomi] Their inspiration, their brand image is the all-American family and the sort of bygone American town.

(joyful music)

Their brand driver is family magic.

And everything that that company does is in and around those two words.

If you take that, a branded environment such as a Disney World or a Disneyland is a logical extension of that brand.

Film, animated film, family-oriented film is a very logical extension of that.

As a business though, they also know that if they want to get into other forms of entertainment that does not fit family magic, they do not brand it Disney.

If they want to get into adult, more serious type fare, when it comes to film they brand it Touchstone.


The Disney brand speaks of reassurance, it speaks of tradition, it speaks of quality, and you can see that here in this community that we've built.

And that's where you see the truly imperialist aspirations of branding, which is about building these privatized branded cocoons, which maybe you start by shopping in and then you you continue by holidaying in, but eventually why not just move in?

(energetic music)

[Jeremy] What happens if we wake up one day and we find out that virtually all of our relationships that are mediated between us and our fellow human beings are commercial, we find out that virtually every relationship we have is a commercially arbitrated relationship with our fellow human being?

Can civilization survive on that narrower definition of how we interact with each other?

Wow, what a dream.

(perplexed music)

I could give you a day in the life of a person who might be the target of undercover marketing, and I will tell you that some of these things are happening right now around you.

So you walk out of your building in the morning, some city, and you walk by the doorman, you say, "Hey, good morning," and you notice there's a bunch of boxes at his feet from some online or mail-order retailer, and there's a bunch of boxes there with of course big brand message on it.

You walk out, think, "Wow, a lot of people must be ordering from that company."

What you don't know is that we paid the doorman to keep those empty boxes there.

You walk out into the street and you hear some people having kind of a loud conversation about a musical act and they're kind of passing the headphones back and forth, like, "Wow, this is great."

That is really-- - That good?

[Jonathan] "Hey, do you know that

"I heard this CD is really hard to find, "but I heard they sell it at Store X."

I'm gonna go pick it up.

It's so good.

It's great, isn't it? - Yeah.

You hear that you register it and you might kind of pick up on that, and maybe later on you'll think, "Hey, I wonder what the hot act is banging."

That might be in your head.

Now you get into your office and there's a certain brand of water in the refrigerator.

What is that?

You take it out, you drink it, you slug it down, it's there, and not really thinking about it, "Wow, that's pretty good water."

Who knows?

Maybe someone placed the water there.

You kind of go out for your lunch break, you're sitting in the park and people are kind of out there talking in the park, and bang, all the sudden you see another message.

By the time you go to bed you've probably received eight or nine different undercover messages.

People are always thinking, "Well, oh, I know product placement, "that's when they put stuff in movies."

Well, yes, kind of.

I mean, that's definitely traditional product placement, but real-life product placement is just that, placing stuff in movies, but the movie's actually your life.

We'll take a group of attainable but still aspirational people.

They're not supermodels.

They're kind of people just like you.

They're doing something for us, whether they're having a certain kind of drink or they're using a certain laundry detergent, whatever it may be.

They are the roach motel, if you will.

People are gonna come over to them and they're gonna give them this little piece of brand bait.

Could be a soundbite of knowledge or a ritual.

Consumers will get that piece of roach bait and then they'll take it, they go, "Oh, pretty cool," and then they go out and they spread it to their friends.

If you want to be critical, if you want to go through your life like that, sure, be critical of every single person that walks up to you, but if they're showing you something that fits and something that works and something that makes your life better in some way, well then who cares?

Again, just say thanks.

(veiled music)

[Narrator] Today the job of building this nation geographically is completed.

There are no new frontiers within our borders.

So to what new horizons can we look now?

Where are tomorrow's opportunities?

What's ahead for you, for your children?

The frontiers of the future are not on any map.

They are in the test tubes and laboratories of the great industries.

(calm electronic music)

The Chakrabarty case was one of the great judicial moments in world history, and the public was totally unaware it was actually happening as the process was being engaged.

General Electric and Professor Chakrabarty went to the Patent Office with a little microbe that eats up oil spills.

They said they had modified this microbe in the laboratory, and therefore it was an invention.

The Patent Office of the U.S. government took a look at this, quote, invention and they said, "No way.

"The patent statutes don't cover living things.

"This is not an invention."

Turned down.

Then General Electric and Dr. Chakrabarty appealed to the U.S. Customs Court of Appeal, and to everyone's surprise, by a three-to-two decision, they overrode the Patent Office.

♪ GE we bring good things to life ♪ And they said, "This microbe looks more like a detergent

"or a reagent than a horse or a honeybee."

I laughed because they didn't understand basic biology.

It looked like a chemical to them.

Had it had an antenna or eyes or wings or legs, it would never have crossed their table and been patented.

Then the Patent Office appealed.

And what the public should realize now is the Patent Office was very clear that you can't patent life.

My organization provided the main amicus curiae brief.

"If you allow the patent on this microbe," we argued, "It means that without any congressional guidance

"or public discussion, "corporations will own the blueprints of life."

When they made the decision, we lost by five to four, and Chief Justice Warren Burger said, "Sure, some of these are big issues, "but we think this is a small decision."

Seven years later the U.S. Patent Office issued a one-sentence decree, "You can patent anything in the world that's alive

"except a full-birth human being."

(eerie music)

[Newscaster] The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that living organisms produced in the laboratory may be patented.

This decision to extend patenting...

[Man] The U.S. Supreme Court had to decide was whether one man or one company should be able to control new forms of life.

[Woman] If we allow any company or college to exclusively own a species, what does that say about our reverence for life?

[Newscaster] Researchers at Harvard manipulated the genes of mice, making their offspring more susceptible to cancer.

They patented the Harvard Mouse in the U.S, Europe, and Japan.

[Man] The legal battle finally came to an end today.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the genetically engineered mouse Canada patented.

[Woman] Canadians don't think that life forms are inventions of industry, like light bulbs and widgets. - Bio-prospecting.

[Woman] cientists and drug companies search the planet for genes.

[Woman] Companies scouring planet looking for valuable DNA, genes they can patent and sell.

[Man] Feels like the Wild West.

We've got bandits going around the world, collecting wherever they can, sometimes under false pretenses.

[Woman] Because it's been so isolated, Newfoundland has a unique gene pool, and there's been so much interest for gene prospectors-- - My genetic imprint--

That the government is funding a study.

[Woman] Really has been taken away from me.

[Man] Instead of being the impartial pursuit of the truth has become the pursuit of profit.

(strange music)

We've all been hearing about the announcement that we have mapped the human genome, but what the public doesn't know is now there's a great race by genomic companies and biotech companies and life science companies to find the treasure in the map.

The treasure are the individual genes that make up the blueprint of the human race.

Every time they capture a gene and isolate it, these biotech companies claim it as intellectual property.

The breast cancer gene, the cystic fibrosis gene, it goes on and on and on.

If this goes unchallenged in the world community, within less than 10 years, a handful of global companies will own directly or through license the actual genes that make up the evolution of our species.

And they're now beginning to patent the genomes of every other creature on this planet.

In the age of biology the politics is gonna sort out between those who believe life first has intrinsic value, and therefore we should choose technologies and commercial venues that honor the intrinsic value, and then we're gonna have people who believe, "Look, life is simply utility.

"It's commercial fare."

And they will line up with the idea to let the marketplace be the ultimate arbiter of all of the age of biology.

(calm acoustic music)

[Narrator] In a world economy where information is filtered by global media corporations keenly attuned to their powerful advertisers, who will defend the public's right to know?

And what price must be paid to preserve our ability to make informed choices?

(tense music)

What Fox Television told us was that we were just the people to be the investigators.

Do any stories you want, ask tough questions and get answers.

So we thought, "This is great.

"This is a dream job.


The very first thing they had us do was not to research stories but to shoot this promo which was The Investigators.

[Man] Uncovering the truth, getting results, protecting you.

[Jane] And they had a film crew and a smoke machine and we were silhouetted.

One of the first stories that Jane came up with was the revelation that most of the milk in the state of Florida and throughout much of the country was adulterated with the effects of bovine growth hormone.

(cow moos)

With Monsanto I didn't realize how effectively a corporation could work to get something on the marketplace, the levels of coordination they had to have.

They had to get university professors into the fold.

They had to get experts into the fold.

They had to get reporters into the fold.

They had to get the public into the fold.

And of course the FDA, let's not leave them out.

They had to get the federal regulators convinced that this was a fine and safe product, to get it onto the marketplace.

And they did that.

They did that very, very well Posilac is the single most tested new product in history, and it's now available to you specifically, so you can increase your profit potential.

The federal government basically rubber-stamped it before they put it on the marketplace.

The longest test they did for human toxicity was 90 days on 30 rats, and then either Monsanto misreported the results to the FDA or the FDA didn't bother to look in depth at Monsanto's own studies.

[Steve] The scientists within Health Canada looked very carefully at bovine growth hormone and came to very different conclusions than the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. did.

Monsanto's engineered growth hormone did not comply with safety requirements.

It could be absorbed by the body, and therefore did have implications for human health.

Mysteriously, that conclusion was deleted from the final published version of their report I personally was very concerned that there's a very serious problem of secrecy, conspiracy, and things of that nature.

We have been pressured and coerced to pass drugs of questionable safety, including the rBST.

[Steve] We wrote the story.

We had it ready a week beforehand.

They'd bought ads.

[Announcer] Farmers in the milk industry say it's safe, but studies suggest a link to cancer.

Don't miss this special report from the Investigators.

That Friday night before the Monday this series was to begin, the fax machine spit out a letter from this very high-priced lawyer in New York that Monsanto had hired.

And it contained a lot of things that were just off-the-wall false, just demonstrably false.

But if you didn't know the story and you didn't know how we had gone about producing it, it would've scared you, as a broadcaster, as a manager.

[Jane] And they decided that they would pull the story and they would just check it one more time.

But the bottom line was that there was no factual errors in that story.

Both sides had been heard from.

Both sides had had an opportunity to speak.

One week later, Monsanto sent the second letter, and this was even more strongly worded.

And it said there will be, "Dire consequences for Fox News," if the story airs in Florida.

And this time they freaked.

They were afraid of being sued, and they were also afraid of losing advertising dollars at all of the stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.

And he owned more television stations than any other group in America.

That's 22 television stations.

That's a lot of advertising dollars, for Roundup, aspartame, NutraSweet, and other products.

So we got into a battle, and the first deal was the new general manager.

And his name's Dave.

And Dave is a salesman, and he'd pump your hand, "How ya doing, how ya doing?"

Called us upstairs to his office and he said, "What would you say if I killed this piece?

"What if it never ran?

And we said, "Well, we wouldn't be very happy about that."

And he said, "Well I could kill it, you know."

And we said, "Yes, of course, you're the manager.

"You could kill it.

"It would never air."

And he's hemming and he's hawing and he's back and he's forth.

And we couldn't figure out what is this all about.

And finally he blurted out, "Look, would you tell anybody?"

I said, "I'm not gonna lie for you."

About a week later he calls us back to the office and says, "Okay, we'd like you to make these changes.

"In fact, you will make these changes."

We said, "Well look, let us show you

"the research that we have, "that shows that this information

"you want us to broadcast isn't true," to which he replies, "I don't care about that."

I said, "Pardon me?"

And he said, "That's what I have lawyers for.

"Just write it the way the lawyers want it written."

I said, "You know, this is news.

"This is important.

"This is stuff people need to know."

And I'll never forget, he didn't pause a beat and he said, "We just paid $3 billion for these television stations.

"We'll tell you what the news is.

"The news is what we say it is."

I said, "I'm not doing that."

And he said, "Well," he said, "If you refuse to present this story

"the way we think it should be presented, "you'll be fired for insubordination."

I said, "I will go to the Federal Communications Commission

"and I will report that I was fired from my job

"by you, the licensee of these public airwaves, "because I refused to lie to people on the air."

And it's, "Thank you very much.

"You'll hear from us right away."

Well, 24 hours came and went and we didn't hear a thing.

And about a week later he calls us back and now we've changed strategies.

"How about if we pay you some money and you just go away?"

And I said, "How much money?"

because when somebody offers to bribe you like that I always want to know if it might be worth it.

He was gonna offer us the rest of our year's salary if we agreed not to talk about what Monsanto had done, to not talk about the Fox corporate response in suppressing the story, and to not talk about the story, not talk about BGH again, anywhere, not take this story to another news organization, zip up.

I said, "You mean if I want to go

"to my daughter's PTA meetings

"and explain what's in the school milk

"at the school lunch program, I can't?"


"You can never speak about this anywhere."

And Steve says, "Okay, write it up."

And I'm like, "What are you talking about write it up?"

And I didn't say anything.

And Dave, he wrote it up and he FedExed it to us a couple days later.

And he said, "Are you gonna sign?"

And we said, "Nah, Dave, we're not gonna sign that."

And he said, "Well send it back, okay?"

We said, "Nah, Dave, we're not gonna send that back."

It was, "Okay, we can't buy you out, "we can't shut you up, "let's get the story on the air

"in a way that we can all agree it will go on the air."

And we started rewriting and editing with their lawyers.

Well during this eight month re-review process I say jokingly, they did things like for example they wanted to take out the word cancer.

You don't have to identify what the potential problem is, but just say human health implications.

Any criticism of Monsanto or its product, they either removed it or minimized it.

And it was very, very clear I would say almost every edit they made to the piece, that was the aim.

And we'd change this and this and this, and then that wasn't good enough.

"Okay, now change this and this and this.

"Now change this and this."

Version after version after version.

83 times.

83 times is unheard of.

It doesn't happen.

You shouldn't have to rewrite something 83 times.

Obviously they didn't want to put the thing on the air and they were trying to drive us crazy and get us to quit or wait until the first window in our contract so that they could fire us.

They in effect announced that they were going to fire us for no cause.

Well this was a little much.

And Steve wrote a letter to the lawyer in Atlanta, whose name is Carolyn Forrest, the Fox corporate lawyer.

And I said, "You know, this isn't about

"being fired for no cause.

"You're firing us because we refused to put on the air

"something that we knew and demonstrated

"to be false and misleading.

"That's what this is about, "and because we put up a fight, "because we stood up to this big corporation

"and we stood up to your editors

"and we stood up to your lawyers, "and we said to you, "look there ought to be a principle

"higher than just making money."

And she wrote a letter back and said, "You are right.

"That's exactly what it was.

"You stood up to us on this story, "and that's why we're letting you go."

Big mistake.

Big mistake.

That says retaliation.

You can't retaliate against employees if they're standing up for something that they believe is illegal, that they don't want to participate in.

So that gave us the whistleblower status that we needed in the state of Florida to file a whistleblower claim against our employer.

Two or three years later we got to trial.

Five weeks of testimony led to a jury verdict of $425,000,

in which the jury determined that the story they pressured us to broadcast, the story we resisted telling, was in fact false, distorted, or slanted.

(mysterious music)

[Narrator] Fox News appealed the verdict.

Five major news media corporations filed briefs with the court in support of Fox's appeal.

(uneasy music)

You may recall that Jane Akre, a former reporter here, sued Fox 13 in a whistleblower lawsuit, claiming she was fired for refusing to distort her report.

The appeals court today threw that case out, saying Miss Akre had no whistleblower claim against the station based on news distortion.

Fox 13 Vice President and General Manager Bob Linger says the station has been completely vindicated by the rule.

[Narrator] What Fox neglected to report is this.

Jane sued Fox under Florida's whistleblower statute, which protects those who try to prevent others from breaking the law, but her appeal court judges found that falsifying news isn't actually against the law, so they denied Jane her whistleblower status, overturned the case, and withdrew her $425,000 award.

Canada and Europe have upheld the ban on rBGH,

yet it remains hidden in much of the milk supply of the United States.

The prospect that two thirds of the world's population will have no access to fresh drinking water by 2025 has provoked the initial confrontations in a worldwide battle for control over the planet's most basic resource.

When Bolivia sought to refinance the public water service of its third-largest city, the World Bank required that it be privatized,

which is how the Bechtel corporation of San Francisco gained control over all of Cochabamba's water, even that which fell from the sky.

(people shouting)

(chanting in a foreign language)

[Narrator] The price his beleaguered country paid for World Bank loans was the privatization of the state oil industry and its airline, railroad, electric, and phone companies.

But the government failed to convince Bolivians that water is a commodity like any other.


(dogs barking)

[Narrator] Bolivia was determined to defend the corporation's right to charge families living on $2 a day as much as one quarter of their income for water.

The greater the popular resistance to the water privatization scheme, the more violent became the standoff.

(people shouting)

(tragic music)

(gunshot firing)

(water trickling)

[Narrator] Transnational corporations have a long and dark history of condoning tyrannical governments.

Is it narcissism that compels them to seek their reflection in the regimented structures of fascist regimes?

(sad music)


There was an interesting connection between the rise of fascism in Europe and the consciousness of politically radical people about corporate power, because there was a recognition that fascism arose in Europe

with the help of enormous corporations.

Mussolini was greatly admired all across the spectrum.

Business loved him.

Investments shot up.

Incidentally, when Hitler came in in Germany the same thing happened there.

The investments shot up in Germany.

He had the workforce under control.

He was getting rid of dangerous left-wing elements.

Investment opportunities were improving.

There was no problems.

These are wonderful countries.

I think one of the greatest untold stories of the 20th century is the collusion between corporations, especially in America and Nazi Germany, first in terms of how the corporations from America helped to essentially rebuild Germany and support the early Nazi regime, and then when the war broke out, figured out a way to keep everything going.

So General Motors was able to keep Opel going.

Ford was able to keep their thing going.

And companies like Coca-Cola, because they couldn't keep the Coca-Cola going, so what they did was they invented Fanta orange for the Germans.

And that's how Coke was able to keep their profits coming in to Coca-Cola.

So when you drink Fanta orange, that's the Nazi drink that was created so that Coke could continue making money while millions of people died.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, his goal was to dismantle and destroy the Jewish community.

This was an enterprise so fast that it required the resources of a computer.

But in 1933 there was no computer.

What there was was the IBM punch card system, which controlled and stored information based upon the holes that were punched in various rows and columns.

Naturally there was no off-the-shelf software as there is today.

Each application was custom-designed, and the engineer had to personally configure it.

Millions of people, of all religions and nationalities and characteristics, went through the concentration camp system.

That's an extraordinary traffic management program that required an IBM system in every railroad direction and an IBM system in every concentration camp.

(mourning music)

Now this is a typical prisoner card.

There are little boxes where all the information is to be punched in.

We compare this information to the code sheet for concentration camps, and here you see Auschwitz is one, Buchenwald two, Dachau is three.

Now what kinds of prisoners were they?

They could be a Jehovah's Witness for two, a homosexual for three, communists for six, or a Jew would be eight.

Now what was their status.

One was released.

Two was transferred.

Four was executed.

Five was suicide.

And six, code six, Sonderbehandlung,

special treatment, meant the gas chamber or sometimes a bullet.

They would punch that number in.

The material was tabulated.

The machines were set.

And of course the punch cards by the millions had to be printed and they were printed exclusively by IBM and the profits were recovered just after the war.

I really do believe that that particular accusation has been fairly discredited as a serious accusation.

That is, the fact that they have used equipment,

that is a fact, but how they got it, how much cooperation they got, and any kind of collusion trying to connect dots that are not connected, I think that's the part that is discredited.

Generally you sell computers and they're used in a variety of ways, and you always hope they're used in the more positive ways possible.

If you ever found out they're used in ways that are not positive, then you would hope that you stop supporting that, but do you always know, can you always tell, can you always find out?

(veiled music)

IBM would of course say that it had no control over its German subsidiary, but here in October 9th of 1941 a letter is being written directly to Thomas J. Watson with all sorts of detail about the activities of the German subsidiary.

None of these machines were sold.

They were all leased by IBM.

And they had to be serviced on site once a month, even if that was at a concentration camp, such as Dachau, Buchenwald.

This is a typical contract with IBM and the Third Reich, which was instituted in 1942.

It's not with the Dutch subsidiary.

It's not with the German subsidiary.

It is with the IBM corporation in New York.

You know, as it happens, I know that story.

I discussed it more than once with old Mr. Watson.

And I was around at the time.

I'm not saying that Watson didn't know that the German government used punch cards.

He probably did know.

After we had very few customers.

Watson didn't want to do it, was not because he thought it was immoral or not, but because Watson, with a very keen sense of public relations, thought it was risky.

[Narrator] It should not surprise us that corporate allegiance to profits will trump their allegiance to any flag.

A recent U.S. Treasury Department report revealed that in one week alone, 57 U.S. corporations were fined for trading with official enemies of the United States, including terrorists, tyrants, and despotic regimes.

(hidden music)


[Man] You can roughly locate any community somewhere along a scale running all the way from democracy to despotism.

(aimless music)

This man makes it his job to study these things.

Well for one thing, avoid the comfortable idea that the mere form of government can of itself safeguard a nation against despotism.

(march-like music)

[Narrator] For big business, despotism was often a useful tool for securing foreign markets and pursuing profits.

One of the U.S. Marine Corp's most highly decorated generals, Smedley Darlington Butler, by his own account helped pacify Mexico for American oil companies, Haiti and Cuba for National City Bank, Nicaragua for the Brown Brothers brokerage, the Dominican Republic for sugar interests, Honduras for U.S. fruit companies, and China for Standard Oil.

General Butler's services were also in demand in the United States itself in the 1930s.

As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to relieve the misery of the Depression through public enterprise and tougher regulations on corporate exploitation and misdeeds.

[Narrator] More power to you, President Roosevelt.

The entire country's behind you, thrilled with hope and patriotism.

[Narrator] But the country was not entirely behind the populist president.

Large parts of the corporate elite despised what Roosevelt's New Deal stood for.

And so in 1934 a group of conspirators sought to involve General Butler in a treasonous plan.

[Man] The plan as outlined to me was to form an organization of veterans, to use as bluff, or as a club at least, to intimidate the government.

[Narrator] But the corporate cabal had picked the wrong man.

Butler was fed up with being what he called a gangster for capitalism.

(excited brass music)

I appear before the congressional committee the highest representation of the American people under subpoena, to tell what I knew of activities, which I believed might lead to an attempt to set up a fascist dictatorship.

The upshot of the whole thing was that I was supposed to lead an organization of 500,000 men which would be able to take over the functions of government.

[Narrator] A congressional committee ultimately found evidence of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt.

According to Butler the conspiracy included representatives of some of America's top corporations, including JP Morgan, DuPont, and Goodyear Tire.

(mysterious music)

As today's chairman of Goodyear Tire knows, for corporations to dominate government, a coup is no longer necessary.

Corporations have gone global, and by going global, the governments have lost some control over corporations.

Regardless of whether the corporation can be trusted or cannot be trusted, governments today do not have over the corporations the power that they had, and the leverage that they had 50 or 60 years ago.

And that's a major change.

So governments have become powerless compared to what they were before.

Capitalism today commands the towering heights, and has displaced politics and politicians as the new high priests, and reigning oligarchs of our system.

So capitalism and its principle protagonists and players, corporate CEOs, have been accorded unusual power and access.

This is not to deny the significance of government and politicians, but these are the new high priests.

(spooky music)

I was invited to Washington, D.C to attend this meeting that was being put together by the National Security Agency called the Critical Thinking Consortium.

I remember standing there in this room and looking over on one side of the room, and we had CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI, Customs, Secret Service,

and then on the other side of the room we had Coca Cola, Mobile Oil, GTE and Kodak.

And I remember thinking, "I am in the epicenter

"of the intelligence industry right now."

I mean, the line is not just blurring.

It's just not there anymore.

And to me it spoke volumes as to how industry and government were consulting with each other and working with each other.

(empty music)

(helicopter whirring)

[Narrator] As 34 nations of the Western Hemisphere gathered to draft a far-reaching trade agreement, one that would lay the groundwork to privatize every resource and service imaginable, thousands of people from hundreds of grassroots organizations joined to oppose it.

Canada's top business lobbyists and its chief trade representative discount the dissent in the streets.

For them, the Americas' 800 million citizens speak with one voice.

(eerie music)

I'm inside, and this is all outside, so that's, uh, that's the way it is.

[Mark] So what do you think when you look at all this?

Well, it's uh, I mean, I think that it's too bad that this has, uh, that this has erupted.

(aggressive music)


(gunshot fires)

(angry music)

(gunshot fires)

(glass shattering)

(people laughing)

Does there need to be some measure of accountability?


And I think the business community recognizes that.

But that accountability is in the marketplace.

It's with their shareholders.

It's with the public perception and the public image that they are projecting.

If companies don't do what they should be doing, they're going to be punished in the marketplace, and that's not what any company wants.

There's a new market.

These guys and gals aren't out there because government's putting a gun to their head.

Or because they've suddenly read a book about transcendental meditation and global morality.

My inner voice says honor my inner child.

Mine says love everyone.

My inner voice says I'd like a Wendy's bacon mushroom melt.

They're there because they understand the market requires them to be there, that there's competitive advantage to be there.

I'm listening to your concerns.

I worry about climate.

I worry about pollution.

I do not have all the answers to this, but we are prepared to work with you, with society, with NGOs, with governments to address it.

So you rebuild the trust, so that you come back to a new kind of trust, and then the ultimate goal is then to become the corporation of choice.

[Narrator] He believes that almost half our energy can one day come from renewable sources.

He's been called a dreamer and a crank.

And I've been called a hippie.

[Narrator] And more recently, a Project Manager for Shell.

I ask myself oftentimes why so many companies subscribe to corporate social responsibility.

I'm not sure it's because they necessarily want to be responsible in an ultimate way, but because they want to be identified and seen to be responsible.

But who am I to judge?

Who am I to judge?

It's better they belong than not belong.

It's better that they make some public profession than the opposite.

Social responsibility isn't a deep shift because it's a voluntary tactic.

A tactic, a reaction to a certain market at this point.

And as the corporation reads the market differently, it can go back.

One day you see Bambi, next day you see Godzilla.


How do you define socially responsible?

What business is it of the corporation to decide what's socially responsible?

That isn't their expertise.

That isn't what their stockholders ask them to do.

So I think they're going out of their range, and it certainly is not democratic.

I don't really care what the Chairman of General Motors thinks is an appropriate level of emissions to come out the tailpipe of General Motors automobiles.

He may have a lot of scientists, he may be a very good person, but I didn't elect him to anything, he doesn't have any power to speak for me.

These are decisions that must be made by government and not by corporations.

You take this to its logical conclusion, one would have an image that we are in fact at this, the end of the world is nigh and we are all completely brainwashed and there is no space left.

And I don't believe we're there yet.

And I think it's really important that we don't overstate the case, and that we admit that there are cracks and fissures in all of these corporate structures.

And sometimes when a corporation is concentrating on one particular project they look the other way and all kinds of interesting things happen in the corner.

It is the case in every period of history where injustice based on falsehoods, based on taking away the right and freedoms of people to live and survive with dignity, that eventually when you call a bluff, the tables turn.

(contented music)

Ultimately capital puts its foot down somewhere.

And anywhere it puts its foot down it can be held accountable.

Originally Wal-Mart and Kathie Lee Gifford had said, "Why should we believe you

"that children work in this factory?"

What we didn't tell them was that Wendy Diaz, in the center of the picture, was on a plane to the United States.

This is Wendy Diaz.

She comes to the United States.

She's unstoppable.

[Newscaster] Congress heard testimony today from children who testified they were exploited by sweatshops overseas.

Kathie Lee Gifford apologized to Wendy Diaz.

It was the most amazing thing I'd seen.

This powerful celebrity leans over and says, "Wendy, please believe me, "I didn't know these conditions existed.

"And now that I do, I'm gonna work with you, "I'm gonna work with these other people, "and it'll never happen again."

And that night we signed an agreement with Kathie Lee Gifford.

I thought it would be a relatively easy process, and it isn't.

And for every question I have, there seem to be five questions that come back at me.

As far as Walmart goes and Kathie Lee, pretty much everything returned to sweatshop conditions.

But because this was fought out on television for weeks, this incident with Kathie Lee Gifford actually took the sweatshop issue to every single part of the country.

And so, frankly, after that, there's hardly a single person in this country who doesn't know about child labor or sweatshops or starvation wages.

(hushed music)

So what we need to do is to look at the very roots

of the legal form that created this beast, and we need to think who can hold them accountable.

They're not graven in stone.

They can be dismantled.

In fact, most states have laws which require that they be dismantled.

For too long now, giant corporations have been allowed to undermine democracy here in the United States and all over the world.

But today, the National Lawyers Guild and 29 other groups and individuals are fighting back.

We are calling upon State Attorney General Dan Lundgren to comply with California law and to revoke the corporate charter of the Union Oil Company of California for its repeated and grievous offenses.

(people applauding)

This is a statute that is well known.

It has been used.

It can be used.

What this will mean is the dissolution of the Union Oil Company of California the sale of its assets under careful court orders to others who will carry on the public interest.

(dramatic music)

This is nothing more than just a smear campaign.

This company has been part of California's economy for over 100 years, thousands of jobs.

Doesn't mean it's never made any mistakes, paid for those mistakes.

But this demonizing of a company, I think I'm in a time warp or something, that I fell asleep and I woke up 50 years ago when we heard that kind of rhetoric.

Well we have a very, very broad set of people angry--

It's a broad set-- - Very angry at this corporation. - Of people from the left of the spectrum who don't produce anything except hot air.

From its complicity in unspeakable human rights violations overseas against women, gays, laborers, and indigenous peoples, to its efforts to subvert U.S. foreign policy and deceive the courts, the public and its own stockholders, Unocal is emblematic of corporate abuse and corporate power run amok.

(people applauding)

Extending a business deal with Burma Army is immoral.

Unocal cannot do business in Burma without supporting that hopeless regime.

It cannot justify.

(eerie music)

The curse for me has been the fact that in making these documentary films, I've seen that they actually can impact change, so I'm just compelled to just keep making them.

Yep, that's me, doing what I do.

All year long I give big companies a hard time, but at Christmas time I like to set aside my differences and reach out to big business, like cigarette companies.

♪ Deck the halls with boughs of holly ♪

♪ Fa la la la la la la la la ♪ I went to Littleton, Colorado, where the Columbine shooting took place. and I didn't know this, but when I arrived, I learned what the primary job is of the parents of the kids who go to Columbine High School.

The number one job in Littleton, Colorado: they work for Lockheed Martin, building weapons of mass destruction.

But they don't see the connect between what they do for a living and what their kids do at school.

Or did at school.

And so I'm kind of up on my high horse, (laughs) thinking about this,

and I thought, I said to my wife, and we both are sons and daughters of auto workers in Flint, Michigan, there isn't a single one of us back in Flint, any of us, including us, who ever stopped to think, this thing we do for a living, the building of automobiles, is probably the single biggest reason why the polar ice caps are gonna melt

and end civilization as we know it. (laughs)

There's no connect between, "I'm just an assembler on an assembly line, "building a car," which is good for people and society, it moves them around, But never stop to think about the larger picture and the larger responsibility of what we're doing.

Ultimately, we have to, as individuals, accept responsibility for our collective action and the larger harm that it causes

in our world.

[Newscaster] Today the first of two historic town hall meetings will get under way in Arcata, California.

61% of Arcatans voted in favor of publicly discussing whether democracy is even possible when large corporations wield so much wealth and power under law.

They also voted to form a committee to ensure democratic control over corporations in Arcata.

Corporations are not accountable to the democratic process.

That's what this is about.

I don't want to make decisions about everything that goes on in their corporation, but I do have a strong belief that they need to be held accountable to us.

(crowd applauds and cheers)

If we don't like certain products, like Pepsi-Cola or Bank of America, if you don't like what they do, don't use 'em.

That's the way I see the people's power is.

You have a lot more money than me.

You have more votes than I do.

If we use the model of boycott and voting with your dollars.

That's an undemocratic situation.

What are we afraid of?

I mean, are all the businesses gonna leave Arcata?

I don't think so.

And if they did, we'd deal with it or we'd figure it out or we'd do something different.

We're creative people.

I just don't see why we're afraid!

If you think it's tough making a decision where to buy your stuff today, how tough to you think it is when there's only one provider, and it's the State.

And by the way, you don't get to have this little democracy forum in those communities either.

People that say that they fear their government, I really hope that they understand that they're allowed to participate in their government.

They're not allowed to participate in anything the corporations do.

So don't fear the government.

Help it be the government that you won't fear.

If this many people around the country would do this instead of watching Superbowl Sunday, our nation would be controlled by the people, not by the corporations.

No more chain restaurants in Arcata after a long awaited decision.

(thoughtful music)

Over the past decade we have been gaining ground.

And when I say we, I mean ordinary people committed to the welfare of all of humanity.

All people irrespective of gender and class and race and religion.

All species on the planet.

We managed to take the biggest government and one of the largest chemical companies to court on the case of neem, and win a case against them.

(shouting in a foreign language)

[Vandana] W.R. Grace and the U.S. government's patent on neem was revoked by a case we brought along with the Greens of European Parliament and the International Organic Agriculture Movement.

We won because we worked together.

We have overturned nearly 99% of the basmati patent of RiceTek, again, because we worked as a worldwide coalition, old women in Texas, scientists in India, activists sitting in Vancouver, a little basmati action group.

We stopped the Third World being viewed as the pirate, and we showed the corporations were the pirate.

(misty music)

Look how little it took for Gandhi to work against the salt laws of the British, where the British decided the way they would make their armies and police forces bigger is just tax the salt.

And all that Gandhi did was walk to the beach, pick up the salt, and say, "Nature gives it for free.

"We need it.

"We've always made it.

"We will violate your laws.

"We will continue to make salt."

We've had a similar commitment for the last decade in India, that any law that makes it illegal to save seed is a law not worth following.

We will violate it because saving seed is a duty to the earth and to future generations.

We thought it would really be symbolic.

It is more than symbolic.

It is becoming a survival option.

Farmers who grow their own seeds, save their own seeds, don't buy pesticides, have threefold more incomes than farmers who are locked into the chemical treadmill, depending on Monsanto and Cargill.

We have managed to create alternatives that work for people.

There are many tools for bringing back community.

But the importance is not the tools.

I mean, there's litigation, there's legislation, there's direct action, there's education, boycotts, social investment.

There's many, many ways to address issues of corporate power.

But in the final analysis, what's really important is the vision.

You have to have a better story.

Do I know you well enough to call you fellow plunderers?

There is not an industrial company on earth, not an institution of any kind, not mine, not yours, not anyone's that is sustainable.

I stand convicted by me myself alone, not by anyone else, as a plunderer of the earth, but not by our civilization's definition.

By our civilization's definition, I'm a captain of industry.

In the eyes of many a kind of modern day hero.

But really, really, the first industrial revolution is flawed, it is not working.

It is unsustainable.

It is the mistake,

and we must move on to another and better industrial revolution, and get it right this time.

When I think of what could be I visualize an organization of people

committed to a purpose,

and the purpose is doing no harm.

I see a company that has severed the umbilical cord to earth for its raw materials, taking raw materials that have already been extracted and using them over and over again, driving that process with renewable energy.

It is our plan, it remains our plan to climb Mount Sustainability.

That mountain that is higher than Everest.

Infinitely higher than Everest, far more difficult to scale.

That point at the top symbolizing

zero footprint.

(pensive music)

So we got to undo a lot of things in order to be smart enough to do this really dangerous and risky and difficult work,

the best way that we possibly can and that means people coming together and learning and a whole lot of stuff that we just don't know that has been driven out of the culture, driven out of the society, driven out of our minds.

That to me is the most exciting thing.

That is happening.

It's happening all over the world now.

(aimless music)

Sometimes it surprises me how effective you can actually be.

After we beat the Gap I walked past these Gap stores and I looked at them and I think, my god there's like 2,000 of these stores across the country.

Look at all that concrete, look at the glass, look at all the staff people, look at all the clothing.

Look at that power.

You can still reach these companies.

You can still have an effect.

[Richard] We can change the government.

That's the only way we're gonna redesign, rethink, reconstitute what capital and property can do.

15 corporations would like to control the conditions of our life, and millions of people are saying not only do we not need you, we can do it better.

We are going to create systems that nourish the earth and nourish human beings.

And these are not marginal experiments, they are the mainstay of large numbers of communities across the world.

That is where the future lies.

I've often thought it's very ironic that I'm able to do all this and yet what am I on?

I'm on networks, I'm distributed by studios that are owned by large corporate entities.

Now why would they put me out there when I am opposed to everything that they stand for?

And I spend my time on their dime opposing what they believe in.


Well, it's because they don't believe in anything.

They put me on there because they know that there's millions of people that want to see my film or watch the TV show, and so they're gonna make money.

And I've been able to get my stuff out there because I'm driving my truck through this incredible flaw in capitalism.

The greed flaw.

The thing that says the rich man will sell you the rope to hang himself with if he thinks he can make a buck off it.

Well, I'm the rope.

I hope.

I'm part of the rope.

And they also believe that when people watch my stuff, or maybe watch this film, or whatever, they think that, "Well, you know what?

"They'll watch this and they won't do anything, "because we've done such a good job of

"numbing their minds and dumbing them down,

"they'll never affect.

"People aren't going to leave the couch

"and go and do something political."

They're convinced of that.

I'm convinced of the opposite.

I'm convinced that a few people are gonna leave this movie theater or get up off the couch and go and do something, anything to get this world back in our hands.

(uncertain music)