In 2010 the pro-corporate Roberts’ 5/4 Supreme Court decided, in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling that favored right-wing multimillionaire businessmen and amoral multinational corporations by making it easier for them to steal US elections by allowing unlimited, anonymous monetary contributions to political campaigns, political action groups and politicians.
This ruling, called by many fair-minded observers to be the worst Supreme Court decision of the past century, has emboldened the already powerful and corruptible corporations (that already have dominion over the economy) to now also be able to thoroughly bribe any number of favored pro-corporate politicians to do their will but also to more effectively brain-wash voters through multi-million dollar ad campaigns (that can’t be effectively countered by small contributions from average voters).
The US Supreme Court has thus made legal the absurd notion that inanimate paper corporations like PolyMet and Glencore should have the same privileges (but not the same responsibilities) as living humans. Both of those out-or-state companies are potential despoilers of northern Minnesota’s irreplaceable wetlands, rivers, aquifers and aboriginal land and water rights.
After the ruling came down, there was only a brief bit of outrage from the so-called national and state leadership of our essentially “one-party system” (one-party, that is, when it comes to the Republican and Democratic Party’s corporate and militarist agendas).
What Should be the Punishment for Corporate Entities That Plunder and Pillage?
But if corporate America has new privileges, shouldn’t it be honoring the responsibilities of personhood as well?
Any thinking person would agree that if any entity enjoys the privileges of a human, it should also bear the same responsibilities as humans. Thus it should incur the same punishments as individuals do when it hurts people, commit crimes, poisons the water, fouls the air or rapes the land?
One of the rare victories against corporate giants occurred at Shapleigh, Maine, when that town managed to protect their water rights from the insatiable water-extracting corporate giant Nestle. (See video and more information on this episode at:
Nestle, one of many multinational corporate exploiters around the world, has no allegiance to any state or municipality or any location where it tries to extract water or minerals that never were theirs to begin with. But when the minerals are gone and the water has been used up or polluted, Nestle, PolyMet, Glencore, et al will be long gone, which has always been the case of giant resource-extractors and polluters like Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Chevron, British Petroleum, Halliburton, Deep Water Horizon, Coca-Cola, Perrier or whatever other corporate intruder that covets the people’s resources.
And who benefits? Why, of course, the major benefactors will be faceless, out-or-state investors, corporate shareholders and CEOs living and doing business at some luxurious corporate headquarters, none of whom will have to live with the poisoned environment that they will be leaving behind.
Move to Amend: Overturning Citizens United
Shapleigh, Maine’s small victory against injustice should inspire the rest of us to do what must be done if America’s fragile democracy is ever to thrive again. The outrageous Citizens United decision must be overturned with a constitutional amendment. (See www.movetoamend.org for more.) The future of the nation, our children, the planet, our drinking water, natural habitat and aboriginal rights are all at stake.
Exploitive corporations don’t really seem to care. They are mainly interested in next quarter’s profits, the outlook for future share prices and who or what might be their next victim They have lots of laws on their side and a surplus of legislators and corporate lawyers to defend their unethical activities.
It should be emphasized that the allegiance of big corporations is to its fellow co-investors, its private or mutual fund shareholders, and its executives and management teams. Their responsibilities are not to the people whose lives and health depend on the usability or sustainability of the land, water, air and food supplies that they will be inevitably depleting or poisoning.
Corporate shareholders and executives from the trans-national corporations that make up Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Agribusiness, Big Oil, Big Finance, etc are selfishly motivated by profits and not the common good, and therefore they are not really concerned about the struggling, degraded communities that are left behind to fend for themselves.
”Trust us, We’re the Experts”; “Toxic Sludge is Good for You”; “We’ll Clean up After Ourselves” — and Other Corporate Lies
Conscienceless mega-corporations that swoop down on naïve and unsuspecting people and local governmental bodies, usually ask them to “trust us, we’re the experts” and that — at some time in the uncertain future – they will un-poison the usually permanently-toxified environment that they secretly intend to leave behind. Under-employed or laid off workers, understandably desperate for jobs, jobs, jobs, are easily fooled into believing the well-crafted disinformation – until it is too late and the mess is no longer the corporation’s problem. It’s an old con.
Promises made during the courtship phase are likely to be broken with impunity when these foreign corporations pull out, merge with other entities or file for bankruptcy. Silver-tongued CEOs and their shyster lawyers are very good at getting us rubes up north all starry-eyed over a relatively small number of temporary jobs while (that will last until the inevitable bust) discounting the huge risks of permanent dead zones that will be created from the poisonous chemicals.
The Crimes of WalMart, Coca-Cola and Union Carbide/Dow Chemical and Henry Kissinger
A good example of the many tax-avoiding mega-corporations is WalMart. Most of its profits go to a handful of Walton family multi-billionaires in Arkansas. WalMart successfully – and legally – avoids paying for healthcare insurance and other benefits for most of their exploited, underpaid, part-time employees, who are also victims of the corporation’s notorious union-busting policies that conservative politicians are always pushing for (ask any Wisconsinite about the success that Scott Walker and his paymasters, the Koch Brothers have had in destroying Wisconsin’s unions)..
US taxpayers are left holding the bag while WalMart legally avoids what should be their corporate responsibility: to be fair to their employees and the region in which they are doing business. WalMart’s (and McDonald’s, and every other fast food chain) notorious below-subsistence level wages forces many of their workers to work a second or third job and also seek welfare benefits from the local government entity – a cunning cost-shifting tactic that places unfair economic burdens on tax-payers.
Another example is Coca-Cola. Coke depends on water that it extracts from any and every publically-owned water source from which the corporation can extract it, including, as a particularly egregious example, the aquifers that are situated beneath thirsty, struggling, impoverished, starving (and then suicidal) Indian farmers who are losing their farms in newly drought-stricken India.
Millions of gallons of water from aquifers that have traditionally been used for farmland irrigation are being depleted by Coca-Cola in order to meet the artificial demand that has been created for the sweet, sugary (or chemically sweetened), caffeinated (and therefore addictive), nutritionally useless, obesity-inducing and diabetes-producing soft drink that contains a few pennies worth of ingredients and then is sold to poor people everywhere for as much as the market will bear.
Coke’s predation of poor people in India and elsewhere brings to mind another bunch of corporate criminals who have never been brought to justice. The infamous 1984 Union Carbide cyanide catastrophe in Bhopal, India that killed 25,000 slum-dwellers left 100,000 permanently poisoned – and often blinded – impoverished, sometimes homeless victims whose lives were ruined, with uncounted thousands of others living on poisoned soil, drinking poisoned water and breathing poisoned air.
Every Bhopal victim that was exposed to the Union Carbide cyanide plant environs is chronically ill, with women – 30 years later – still delivering malformed babies and dead fetuses because of the pesticide residues that cannot be detoxified. Union Carbide, the American corporation responsible for the disaster, has consistently shirked, as criminal entities typically do, its moral responsibilities to their suffering victims. Carbide eventually sold itself to the equally infamous Dow Chemical, the company that brought us Agent Orange, napalm, immune-destroying silicone breast implants, polyvinyl chloride, and plutonium contamination from the Rocky Flats, Colorado plant that manufactured the plutonium triggers for hydrogen bombs.
Carbide’s corporate executives have been indicted for their crimes and have been repeatedly subpoenaed to appear in Indian courts. But the US has not honored the extradition treaties it has with India. These amoral executives have refused to appear and are therefore in contempt of court. There are warrants out for their arrests in India, just as there are warrants out for the arrest of Citizen Henry Kissinger for his part in the international war crimes and crimes against humanity that he was a part of in Chile, East Timor, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, etc. All of these accused criminals remain at large, and America’s Big Business-friendly, corporate-controlled nation has been proudly harboring them.
The Common Denominator Linking Human and Corporate Criminals
There are a number of common denominators that link human criminals and the multinational corporations that populate the Fortune 500 and the Dow-Jones 30 Industrial Average lists (like WalMart, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Boeing, Dow Chemical, Chevron, Exxon/Mobil, du Pont, British Petroleum, Halliburton Monsanto, Merck, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, Perrier, Nike, Goldman Sachs, J P Morgan Chase, etc, etc). For one, the corporations, are just as afraid of facing the music as were Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Kissinger, Mr Ponzi, and the other multibillionaires of their ilk (that are rich enough to employ rafts of cunning defense lawyers). Be certain that they will use any means necessary to evade or delay justice. Similarly, none of them can be expected to show any genuine remorse for the human suffering that their actions have caused.
There are checklist diagnoses for various supposed personality disorders in the billing bible and diagnostic manual for psychiatrists (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel [DSM] which, by the way, contains no statistics). One of the 374 disorders that are listed in the 4th edition of the DSM is antisocial personality disorder (code number 301.7), which identifies pathological liars, chronic cheaters, abusers, thieves and killers whose cunning and lack of morals, ethics or consciences commonly enable them to avoid being caught or punished for their crimes and misdeeds.
These “sociopaths” (aka psychopaths) typically refuse to accept blame or responsibility for their actions and typically run away to avoid prosecution (as per the recent Whitey Bolger case). In the case of sociopathic mega-corporations that are occasionally successfully sued in court, business-friendly judges will often impose a “gag rule” for the successful human plaintiff and a slap on the wrist and a plea bargain for the guilty “non-human” corporation. On top of that, corporate-friendly judges often allow the corporation to officially deny any wrong-doing as it accepts the penalty!
Those corporate entities have always met the definition of antisocial personality disorder. They are famously incapable of showing genuine remorse if or when they are caught and/or convicted for their crimes. (Learn more about corporate sociopathy at http://www.thecorporation.com/, especially by watching the 2003 Canadian documentary titled The Corporation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHrhqtY2khc.)
Below are seven diagnostic criteria that are used to diagnose antisocial (aka, sociopathic or psychopathic) personality disorder in humans (in the DSM, it only takes three of the seven to make the diagnosis):
1) callous disregard for the feelings of other people
2) incapacity to maintain human relationships
3) reckless disregard for the safety of others
5) deceitfulness (repeated lying and conning others for profit)
6) incapacity to experience guilt and
7) failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law.
Other common traits manifested by sociopaths include:
Lack of conscience
Lack of remorse for evils done to others
Indifference to the suffering of its victims
Rationalizes (makes excuses for) having hurt, mistreated or stolen from others
Willingness to exploit, seduce or manipulate others
No sign of delusional or irrational thinking
Usually above average intelligence
Always looking for ways to make money or achieve fame or notoriety
Willing to cause or contribute to the financial ruin of others
Cannot be trusted to adhere to conventional standards of morality.
Sociopaths do not have delusional thinking and are not considered mentally ill. Sociopaths are, for all intents and purposes, totally sane but are also incurable of their personality disorder. These individuals make up at least 4% of the US population, although certain professions tend to attract larger percentages of them (read The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us, by Martha Stout, PhD – buy it at: https://www.google.com/#q=The+Sociopath+next+door).
Actually the exact number of sociopaths – humans or their corporate counterparts – is not precisely known, but, lacking empathy or a conscience, neither truly feels guilty about their frequent misdeeds. Believing that there is nothing wrong with them, human sociopaths rarely ask for help (and corporations are no different) especially when the law (and the markets, in the case of corporate sociopaths) is on their side. And therefore they never truly try to change.
If and when human sociopaths are court-ordered to submit to evaluation and “treatment”, they may acquiesce but only pretend to change until the pressure is off and their unethical or criminal activities look doable again. Academic psychologists tell us that attempts to rehabilitate full-fledged sociopaths are useless, but nonetheless, the often charming, charismatic, silver-tongued sociopath is often able to fool the treatment team into thinking progress is being made.
Likewise, sociopathic corporations don’t have much trouble seducing regulatory agencies, local governmental entities, the public and desperate underemployed workers by promising jobs and a secret un-tested plan to prevent environmental catastrophes. Only when it’s too late and the corporation has skipped the country with the loot will all the painful realities be revealed.
What Should be the Punishment for Sociopathic Corporations Who Poison the Environment?
Experienced psychologists tell us that sociopathic individuals that have committed crimes have to be locked away to protect society from them.
So a number of questions need to be asked. Given the fact that human sociopaths need to be avoided, marginalized or locked up, we need to ask what needs to be done with the corporate entities that meet the criteria above. What needs to be done with corporations that have a history of false advertising, deceiving the public, lying, cheating, poisoning the water, fouling the air, raping the land or otherwise acting unethically?
Given the anti-constitutional 2010 Citizen’s United ruling granting personhood to corporations for political bribery purposes, shouldn’t sociopathic corporations be dealt with just like their human counterparts when they act criminally? Shouldn’t long prison sentences be given to the CEOs, Boards of Directors and management teams? Shouldn’t there be confiscation of property or even capital punishment in the case of egregious cases involving mass deaths as in the cases of Union Carbide, Coca-Cola and Merck (over the Vioxx and Gardisil deaths and disabilities)?
I hasten to add that I am against capital punishment for humans, but any person with a conscience and more than a double digit IQ knows that corporations are not really human. Corporations don’t bleed and don’t cry out in pain during the execution process, although their executives may plead for mercy while shedding insincere crocodile tears. Capital punishment for corporations, contrary to the data on capital punishment for humans, would prevent a lot of future sociopathic behaviors.
What Should be Done
Corporations that plunder, pollute or poison Mother Earth or ruthlessly execute hostile mergers and acquisitions of weaker companies meet some of the above definitions for rape. Most of us would agree that our society should punish corporate rapists as severely as it punishes the human kind.
What about the known lethal poisons that thousands of unregulated chemical corporations knowingly discharge into the water, air, soil of Mother Earth? Shouldn’t their acts of desecration be regarded as rape, assault and battery, reckless endangerment or premeditated ecocide?
Their poisonous actions that threaten the survival of portions of the planet have already caused a multitude of die-offs of thousands of species of animals in the increasing numbers of dead and dying zones in aquifers, wetlands, rivers, lakes, rivers and oceans all around the planet. What about the dead zones in human brains from neurotoxic pharmaceuticals (like the mercury and aluminum in childhood vaccines), drugs that were allowed on the market before being tested for either short- or long-term safety?
What about the extractive mining companies that, with their poisonous explosives, blow the tops off mountains in Appalachia or the Philippines (and were planned by GTac for the Penokee Mountain range of northern Wisconsin) in order to extract and export the non-renewable mineral resources beneath? Does it make any sense to believe the foreign mining officials and their cunning lobbyists who claim innocence when living things downwind and downstream are sickened or die off? Who should be responsible for the toxins that contaminate the previously pristine streams and aquifers that once provided safe drinking water and a healthy natural environment for fish, wildlife, wild rice and humans (especially the aboriginal First Nation brothers and sisters that had their lands and livelihoods stolen from them a century or more ago)?
Zero Tolerance for Corporate Predators; Stop Them Before They do it Again!
How many strikes should any out-of-state extractive industries be allowed before they are called out for the predators that they are and thrown out? Shouldn’t corporate intruders be stopped before they despoil even one more aquifer, one more stream, one more lake, one more mountain or our only planet? Shouldn’t politically-connected corporate exploiters be banned, arrested, tried and punished just like human predators that relentlessly stalk their sexual prey? And shouldn’t there be generous monetary restitution to the victims of past corporate criminality?
Shouldn’t industrial thieves, liars, rapists and killers be treated the same as human thieves, liars, rapists and killers, especially since they received the privileges of personhood in 2010? Shouldn’t we be suspicious of untrustworthy corporations that have lied to us – even once – even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on multicolored Power Point presentations, feel-good commercials, “green-washed” billboards or highly-paid lobbyists that are on the make bribing politicians and paying off the media so they will not oppose or expose their agendas?
What about those despised sociopathic executives that are addicted to their wealth, profits, prestige, corporate jets, vacation homes and quarterly bonuses?
We regularly intervene for society’s human addicts who need help overcoming their gambling or drug addictions and are thus a danger to themselves or others. Shouldn’t there be interventions planned for these power addicts before they do any more damage to us, the planet or our (or their) progeny?
The answer, in a fair society, should be yes to all these questions, no matter how often the smiley-faced, well-dressed corporate spokespersons – in their most cunning damage-control mode – try to convince us that their companies are “responsible citizens”. We star-struck celebrity-worshippers of high profile corporations and well-coiffed CEOs seem to sucker for that line again and again. But the stakes are higher this time. The survival of the planet and its creatures is at stake.
Should Multinational Corporations be Judged Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
One wonders what should be the best approach for dealing with cold-blooded, non-human corporate entities. Rather than applying the standard American constitutional guarantee for human citizens (to be judged innocent until proven guilty), shouldn’t we be judging dangerous non-human entities as guilty until proven innocent?
I like that notion. I have often advised my psychologically traumatized patients (falsely diagnosed, by the way, of having mental illnesses of unknown etiology) who were victims of physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse in childhood to not give respect and forgiveness to their abusers unless they have truly earned it, have sincerely and contritely asked to be forgiven and therefore deserve to be respected, forgiven or obeyed.
Psychologically speaking, not obeying – and also not respecting – one’s victimizers (even if they were parent-figures) should be the norm in interpersonal relationships. Psychologically speaking, the existence of significant parental neglect or abuse in a family should be one of the exceptions to the 4th commandment rule (that commands children to honor their father and their mother). Likewise, we should only do business with companies that have earned and truly deserve our trust and respect.
Being suspicious of sociopathic entities is an important strategy to follow if one is to protect oneself from being cheated, used or abused. Staying out of a sociopath’s grasp is the proper thing to do, even if the person or corporation appears on the surface to be charming or honorable, for both traits can be easily faked. Staying clear of vipers, hungry alligators, hungry grizzly bears or anybody or anything that one suspects has no conscience makes good sense, since conscienceless entities are also likely to be liars and thieves and are thus fully capable of rape, pillage and even murder if they can get away with it.
Staying away from (including advocating the boycotting of) corporations that have behaved unethically in the past is a simple thing that a person can do to combat corporate criminals, but in our largely brainwashed, advertised-into-submission culture, only small minorities of people recognize – until it is too late – that they are being chumped.
Has the Corporate Coup d’etat Been Completed?
The concept of corporate power and privilege has massively benefited Big Businesses at the expense of the “consuming” public, but the reality is that it has been going on for generations. Multinational corporations and multibillionaires are increasingly in control of the White House, the US Congress and the court system, especially since Citizens United. Both political parties have been seduced by corporate campaign “contributions”/bribes.
And now, sadly, it appears that the judicial branch of the federal government is being bought off – and it appears that they are staying bought. It is not just the politicians that are controlled by corporate money anymore.
Actually, the mythical “unbiased”, “non-politicized” US Supreme Court has always been heavily influenced by corporate power and money. Throughout US history, it has always been wealthy corporations, wealthy businessmen, wealthy politicians, wealthy judges and wealthy attorneys that have been installed in federal judgeships by equally wealthy presidents – many of whom have been members of the same bipartisan “old boy’s clubs” such as Yale University’s elite, secretive Skull and Bones. America’s courts have always had judges that were in bed with capitalist, racist and union-busting elites that have never held the common good as a priority.
Say Hello to Friendly American Fascism
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is said to have proclaimed that “fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is a merger of state and corporate power:” He should know, he invented the term and the concept. Italy’s right-wing, anti-worker, union-busting corporations loved and supported him as much as most 1930s German corporations loved and supported Hitler and that fascist dictator’s anti-communist, anti-socialist, anti-union agendas.
Fascism is a right-wing, nationalistic, authoritarian political ideology that rules with military discipline and police state power, backed up by a secretive national security apparatus, aggressive propaganda, control of the media and suppression of trade unions. Therefore Big Businesses, notably the weapons industries and other war-related or police state industries thrive in fascist nations that suppress workers and keeps workers’ wages low.
Fascist nations commonly violate the human rights of their own citizens as well as the rights of the nations that they invade and occupy). Fascist leaders try to unify the people by creating enemies, scapegoating them and then, usually via false flag operations, going to war against them. Dissent is not tolerated in fascist nations and often elections are fraudulent. Oftentimes there is some sort of a merger of church and state and the fostering of anti-intellectual/anti-scientific attitudes, thus appealing to the ignorant or uneducated. And there is always an obsession with law and order.
Who can deny that there has been a slow, rolling corporate, quasi-fascist coup d’etat that has gradually been overturning America’s one person/one vote democracy? America has all the marks of a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy privileged class) that prefers fascist rule and favors corporatism.
Who can deny that wealthy corporations and their plutocratic billionaires have inordinate control over the economy, foreign and domestic policy and both major political parties? And now these inhuman entities have their privatizing eyes on our water, our land, our breathable air, our Social Security, our Medicare and even our food (as Bob Dylan sang in Union Sundown, “I can see the day comin’ when even your home garden is gonna be against the law”.).
Elections will continue, although the choice of candidates, the so-called “debates” (that exclude minor party candidates) and the value of small monetary donations will be increasingly meaningless. There will be fewer viable anti-establishment candidates like Paul Wellstone (or a Green Party candidate like Jill Stein or a Democratic Socialist Party candidate like Bernie Sanders) for whom to cast votes. The American dream (that “you have to be asleep to believe in”, as George Carlin put it) appears to have vanished. And we sheep were asleep at the wheel when it disappeared and became a nightmare for the under-privileged.
Corporate Rights vs. Corporate Responsibilities
It is the greedy, conscienceless, under-regulated multinationals (and NOT “man”) that are poisoning the planet’s ecosystems. It has been nonhuman corporations that have been causing the economic and environmental crises – including global climate changes and wars. And, because they rarely get indicted, much less punished, for their crimes corporations are continuing to get away with planetary rape, pillage and murder – and they don’t seem to care. Their motto seems to be: “grab everything you can steal by any means necessary; enrich and privilege your CEOs, your boards of directors, your shareholders, spokespersons, lawyers, lobbyists, legislators, judges, and military and law enforcement officials so they are on your side; don’t get caught; hunker down in your gated communities with your chauffeurs and your bodyguards while the revolutionary riots are raging outside; and let the devil take the hindmost.”
Wrist slaps seem to be the norm for corporate sociopaths and the superrich if and when they are “brought to justice” for their crimes. If there are any consequences for reckless or destructive business practices at all, the corporation usually gets assessed a relatively small and very affordable fine. For large corporations, punitive fines for criminality are just a part of doing business. (The $2.2 billion fine against Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals for illegally marketing the antipsychotic drug Risperdal didn’t much affect its share price nor did it seem to stir up its shareholders.)
Sometimes though, a corporation about to be brought to justice will threaten to move its headquarters or its operations to another state or nation, leaving their smelly and toxic messes to be cleaned up by somebody else, just as one would expect of a conscienceless sociopath.
The brazen action of the Roberts’ court in Citizens United might be one of the final nails in the coffin of America’s mortally wounded democracy. Given the fact that the myth of corporate personhood is now the law, it is past time that the 99% and its representatives in Congress insist that the 1% be punished at least as severely as are human criminals. The 99% needs to exercise its duty to preserve and defend the constitution (and the planet) from all enemies, foreign or domestic, human or corporate, even if the corporate criminals are hiding behind boardroom walls during the day or living the celebrity high life at night.
We must identify and courageously name America’s domestic enemies even if they are corporations or members of the executive, legislative or judicial branches of our federal and state governments. Naming the evil-doers (and naming the evil that they do) must be done in order to effectively confront them.
Simultaneously, we need to demand that our basic human right to have access to healthy, uncontaminated water, food, soil and air (and access to affordable education, health care and dental care as well), be safe-guarded from the greedy exploiters and predators in the plutocratic classes who extract the wealth and resources wherever and from whomever they can. The fate of our children, grandchildren and planet Earth depends on those safe-guards.
Among the first of the many steps that must be taken if we are to reverse the multinational corporate takeover/privatization of the planet is to demand that our local, state and federal legislators reverse the Citizens United ruling and correct the damage done. (See www.movetoamend.org andhttp://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed for more information.)
Dr. Kohls is involved in peace, nonviolence and justice issues and therefore writes about fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, imperialism, totalitarianism, economic oppression, anti-environmentalism and other violent, unsustainable, anti-democratic movements. Most of his Duty to Warn columns have been archived at http://duluthreader.com/articles/categories/200_Duty_to_Warn.