The Psychopathic Corporation

While reading Tanner Mirrlees’s book Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott’s documentary The Corporation (2003), a film I watched my sophomore year for Third Cinema. In Chapter Two, Mirrlees examines the media corporation and the relationship between the owning class and the working class, stating, “the owning class is a small group of people who own the property rights to entertainment media, and the means of producing, distributing, and exhibiting it. This class includes the chief executive officers (CEOs) and shareholdeTheCorp_PsyCorpAgrey_lead_t1200rs of media corporations” while the working class does not, “own the means of entertainment production, distribution, and exhibition” (61). He goes on to say, “cultural workers live by selling their labor power—the mental and manual capabilities required to achieve specific tasks—to media corporations as a commodity in exchange for wage” (61). Mirrlees uses the phrase “their labor power” liberally here, as he goes on to explain that their (the working class) labor power isn’t truly theirs because, “once hired and under contract, workers are legally obligated to submit to the media corporations right to direct their skills and talents in whatever way they decide” (62). This imbalanced relationship between the owning class and the working class is thoroughly examined in The Corporation. Dr. Robert Hare, a consultant to the FBI on psychopaths, goes as far as saying corporations themselves can easily be described as psychopathic, stating “if we look at a corporation as a legal person, it may not be that difficult to actually draw the transition between psychopathy in an individual to psychopathy in a corporation.” Mirrlees supports this statement, suggesting that we in fact do, as “they are recognized by law as one person, with rights and responsibilities” (60). After hearing from Dr. Hare, The Corporation inserts a graphic detailing a Personality Diagnostic Checklistcorporation-psychopathy of characteristics and traits harbored by psychopaths, all of which, Mirrlees, Abbot, Achbar, and myself would argue apply to a corporation. The checklist includes callous unconcern for the feelings of others; incapacity to maintain enduring relationships; reckless disregard for the safety of others; deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit; incapacity to experience guilt; and failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. Media corporations are no different than corporations like General Motors in that there are a handful of people who truly benefit from the system and reap the rewards that were made possible by the tireless efforts of the working class who get little to no recognition for their hard work. As Merrilees puts it, “media corporations are institutionalized expressions of the class division in capitalist societies” (61). Corporations are organized in such a way that their sole purpose is to maximize profits and this singular objective causes the higher ups to willfully turn a blind eye to the systematic and structural inequality faced by the laborers, even if it means they show a lack of concern for the feelings and safety of others, guiltlessly lie and con others for profit, and fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors.

Works Cited

The Corporation. Dir. Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott. DVD. Big Picture Media Corporation, 2003.

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