Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Truth Can Be Stranger Than Fiction

I watched a documentary that aired on the Sundance Channel called "The Corporation." It examines corporate greed and power in many different dimensions. Michael Moore is one of the voices included in this very credible film that exposes incredible information. For example, how IBM supported Hitler's concentration camps by providing punchcard technology for accumulating data on the concentration camps (including a photo of IBM executive Thomas Watson at dinner with the Fuhrer) and how Coca Cola wants us to believe that Fanta soda (that was developed as a beverage for Nazi Germany to maintain their wartime profits) originated in Mexico. The film also reveals how psychologists are hired by big business to help them sell products to children by teaching them to nag their parents. As the cruel implications of privatization were demonstrated in a story about a Colombian town where residents were charged for water by the Bechtel Corporation and fined for collecting free rainwater in buckets, my anger swirled with volcanic fury.

At the same time, I felt an overwhelming impotence to define an action that would somehow impact this monolithic monster depicted in the film. Then I sat down and started to write. I have no idea who will read this or when, but these words have the power of permanence. Someone can read them in ten years and extract my outrage, if I communicate effectively. Freedom of speech guaranteed individuals in the Bill of Rights has not yet been silenced in the blogosphere. Even points of view that I find personally offensive still deserve to be expressed by those who believe and uphold them.

Which is why for me the most horrific example of the abuse of power from "The Corporation" is the story of how two journalists were silenced by the Monsanto Corporation. Two investigative reporters for Fox News had done a detailed report on the links between Bovine Growth Hormone and health problems, including cancer, for children who drank the milk from cows who had been given this chemical manufactured by that corporation. Other countries, including Canada, have banned the distribution of milk that contains the substance. When the story was blocked from airing, the two newspeople were first forced to rewrite the story 83 times in an effort to come up with a version that still contained the truth without offending the station's corporate owners. When a compromise could not be reached and the journalists were fired, they filed a lawsuit as whistleblowers and prevailed in court. However, on appeal the Supreme Court eventually threw out their lower court victory and monetary compensation by denying the plaintiff's status as whistleblowers, saying that Fox News did not have a legal requirement to tell the truth in their news broadcasts.

When I was a child, most people believed that information which appeared in the newspaper was virtually gospel, to be accepted without question as reliable truth. That same mantle of trust was given to early television newscasters such as Chet Huntley and David Brinkley or Walter Cronkite. Today only the most naive person accepts the information dispensed in print and broadcast media as unquestionable fact. However, the ability to express my individual beliefs and opinions on the page is one of the most compelling reasons I have for writing and constantly working to improve my skills as a writer. If there is something you learn and want to tell others, a letter to the editor or a blog can provide access to a wide audience of readers. Your opinions can also find a voice through a sympathetic fictional character who shars your perspective. Don't be afraid to put your truth out into the world!

1 comment:

Scott said...

After a quick google search (movie: the corporation sundance) I see that this film won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. Neat. I will try to give a shot sometime. I am decidedly anti-Michael Moore, if only because he seems to so often slant his facts with prejudicial bias that they seem to lose some aspect of their factual nature, and cross over into some quasi-tabloid status that, in and of itself, undermines the very exposition he was attempting.

Now I know this is not a film by Michael Moore, but skimming a couple of other reviews indicate that it is in a similar vein. However, the subject matter interests me, for two prominent reasons. One, I have always worked for large corporations, so I have a very love-hate relationship with the very concept. Secondly, I do remember reading Marx in college and the way it struck a chord with the bohemian thinking going on in and around me at the time -- which was decidedly anti-Big-Business, anti-Republican, etc.

Anyway, thanks for the perspective; if it weren't for your thoughts I would probably pass on this film. As it is, I look forward to seeing how heavy-handed the approach is.

-SF (scott finkel -- yes, that one)