It's official - the words "Supreme Court Justice" are an oxymoron. Or just moron, period. Thanks to the Supremes' recent decision giving corporations free reign to purchase politicians, now we can look forward to product placement in the Oval Office, logos emblazoned on the walls of Congress and endorsement deals for Samuel Alito. ("I take Viagra so I can screw America!")
Or, worse, we won't see any of it. Our political leaders will be de facto corporate employees beholden to enriching unseen shareholders of a shadow government. The United State, Inc., f/s/o the Fortune 500.
Which means writer Paddy Chayevsky nailed it. In the 1976 movie Network, not only did he predict reality TV, he laid out the rise of the corporatocracy. "There is no America," bellowed Ned Beatty in this scene. as the network chairman. "There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today."
Scary, huh? The problem with corporate interests controlling nations is that we don't vote for them. So handing them unlimited power flies in the face of democracy.
Or does it?
I recently went to a reading by John Perkins, former National Security Agency consultant and author of Confessions of An Economic Hit Man and Hoodwinked. A vocal critic of the emerging corporatocracy, Perkins talked about the movement of the past 30 years away from the socially responsible economic policies of John Maynard Keynes toward the greedy, profit-at-any-cost policies of Milton Friedman, the latter of which can lead naturally to all kinds of trouble. And frequently has.
Perkins invoked Nike's alleged dependence on slave labor in Indonesia a number of times, but I couldn't find any confirmation online. Indeed, it took me an hour to find evidence of any corporate malfeasance. I was Googling like it was 1999. By way of comparison, it took me less than a minute to find the unretouched bathing-suit photos of Kim Kardashian.
The Chinese government may be censoring Google, but I suspect there are corporate drones right here working to keep bad news buried.
Because there is bad news. Here, for your nightmare-inducement, is a "Most Wanted" list of Corporate human rights violators showing that companies we all use every day, like Chevron, Shell and Coke, are currently under suspicion of murder in developing countries. Which, unless you're in the killing people business, is not a sustainable model.
Meanwhile, Nestlé is accused of using child labor to harvest cocoa beans on the Ivory Coast. And Philip Morris is trying to make smoking cool in Asia by teaching Thai strippers to blow smoke rings with their lady parts.
Okay, I made that last part up. But I friggin' hate tobacco companies. Talk about corporate killers.
Perkins reports that there are several organizations developing technology where this kind of information will be accessed by scanning a product's bar code. Which, in the end, is how we consumers will fight back against the corporatocracy. Because every purchase is a vote.
Every product we buy sends a message to corporations about whether we support them or not. Don't like Wal-Mart's labor practices? Don't buy from them.
A Supreme Court majority of activist judges can help corporations hide their worst global practices by buying influence. But we here in the court of public opinion have a lot more buying power.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.