Too Big To Nail.
Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win.
— Bob Baer’s SYRIANA (2005).
It’s not just about Too Big To Fail – it’s about betting on failing. And winning. And ensuring everyone else loses.
Michael Moore‘s CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY – a screed on the vampiric system of wealth-creation for the upper class and simultaneous wealth-stultification for the lower – succeeds in being even scarier than his last two incisive exposés on the political underbelly of American society, FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (2004) and SICKO (2007). It’s scarier because, unlike the problems addressed in the other two, Capitalism cannot be stopped.
Released as the United States was in financial meltdown, Moore addresses the reasons for that meltdown (many of them anti-Democratic and unrecognizable as upholding American ideals – yet claiming that they do, of course), pinpoints how key figures in government can be traced back to private enterprises which they still advocate for against the country’s better interests, exposes many of the scams corporations employ to create unethical wealth, and makes an ass of himself with his characteristic public stunts.
Thus CAPITALISM may also be the most futile of Moore’s documentaries. One point comes across loud and clear: we are so ensconced in the system that – like fish – we can do nothing about the water we swim in.
Americans have been conditioned to believe that not only is capitalism the “only” Circle of Life but also the “righteous” system that God himself approves of. The American public has been inculcated so deeply, when Moore shows us Public Announcement clips stating these exact sentiments, it seems as futile as exposing gravity. Like Rod Blagojevich’s hairstyle, it cannot be stopped or tampered with.
the crime of selling crime
Movie opens with security cam footage of bank robbers. No commentary, no narration, no judgment. Many would see this footage as metaphor for what Moore is about to show us – banking institutions robbing the public wildly, doing the same thing as these robbers in a “legalized” manner. Some might say these robbers were the cause of crime. No, they are the RESULT of crime. High “white collar” crimes that create a disparity of wealth, driving the lower classes to acts of desperation caught on security cam.
Blue collar criminals cannot even CONCEIVE of the truly malevolent nature of white collar criminals – keep in mind that white collar crime is responsible for deregulation which causes mine disasters, gas explosions, oil spills, destruction of the environment, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, citizens injured, poisoned; toxic water, billions of dollars squandered in wars, illegal payoffs, bribes, aiding enemy factions therefore indirectly murdering Americans… White collar crime is the WORST kind of crime. And white collar criminals have the audacity to create the perception that blue collar thieves stealing $500 from banks while threatening thirty people are the greatest threat to your safety?! They’re selling you this bottom rung desperation as “crime.” And that’s the biggest crime.
The top 1% in America has more wealth than the bottom 95% combined. This is not because they have an uncompromising work ethic. Nor is it because they produce valuable tangible product integral to the survival of humans. It is because they game the wealth system of the country and don’t care who or what is destroyed in the generation of that vulgar wealth.
A step towards putting these crooks away would be for laypeople to stop using the term “white collar crime” as if it means Shit-Don’t-Stink.
capitalizing on capitalism
Capitalism was sold to America in the ’50s and ’60s, and Moore rolls out the American Educational films to prove it – irritating Aryan white white white people telling us “Capitalism is Good!” Moore opines the corporate killer instinct only became prominent in the U.S. through the Reagan years. 1987’s WALL STREET didn’t help when Gordon Gekko told us “Greed is good.”
The Educational Video Republican Nazi Aryans chime in: “We know capitalism is inherently right because it is wholesome and good and compatible with God’s laws.” (!)
Cognitive dissonance: it is jarring to hear priests and bishops say capitalism is wrong – when they are beneficiaries of it. Eat my body, drink my Kool Aid.
American capitalism is a beast that is geared to kill you. It is not even a conspiracy, which can usually be stopped by lopping off its head. Capitalism has no head. Like ‘terrorism,’ it is a methodology of fear. Fear of not having enough. Feeding that fear, the corporations who run the politicians who run the people. It is no coincidence corps are called ‘entities’: craven, tentacular beasts, faceless, nameless, diffuse and untraceable, grasping, inculcating, eating us like prey. We are consumed, abused, discarded; contemptible offal.
We are antelopes. Corporations are lions. Antelopes and lions live side by side on the Serengeti yet there is no communication possible between them. Appealing to emotions and sympathies of corporations as if they have morals or ethics is like an antelope appealing to a lion not to eat his uncle with the gammy leg. The roles are concrete: one eats, one gets et. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m not being metaphorical. How can food be sarcastic or metaphorical?
Capitalism has the ability to convince people who are victimized by this very system to support the system.
Consider the infuriating, bald-faced lying advertisements we see today, promoting Bank of America and Scottrade and Allstate as your pals: “When a person does it, it’s called responsible. When an insurance company does it, it’s called Liberty Mutual.” And if I actually try to claim my insurance money, it’s called voice menu, red tape, abandonment, customer disservice, contractual breach…
Or sharebuilder.com fooling people into believing they own a part of the company they buy shares in: “I own my wireless company.” Sure you do, moron. “I own the world’s number one search engine.” Really? Even the owner of Google doesn’t own Google, twit. But Google – the Corporation – owns Android and YouTube and Urchin and Orion and a million other companies – which means it might even own YOU.
A BP ad: “I don’t think you can live the American lifestyle without energy.” What exactly is the “American lifestyle”? Living with your accrued savings always on the edge of being snatched from you by corporate misfeasance?
The corporations and banks are “too big to fail” because we want them to be. Deep in our selfish guts, a carrot dangles, promising that one day we too might avail ourselves of the hedonism that a capitalistic society might provide. We have come to believe the surfeit of media distracting us with hip hop cribs and Trump internships and millionaire bachelors. We know that if this system was excised from society, there would be ZERO chance of us sharing a jacuzzi with twenty topless blondes. With Capitalism, at least there’s a million-to-one chance. In DUMB AND DUMBER, when Jim Carrey is told by the hot blonde that the chance of him scoring her are one in a million, he ecstatically replies, “So you’re telling me there’s a CHANCE!”
Yes, that’s how dumb and dumber they know we are.
The Dead Peasants Society
It gets horrifying when Moore alerts us to the Dead Peasant Clause (the title says it all, don’t it?); companies taking out life insurance on their employees, and making more money on their employees’ deaths than paying their wages in life, while nothing goes to the family of the dead employee. (In TROPIC THUNDER, Tom Cruise’s scary agent character outlines how he can make more money on his client being dead than wasting capital rescuing him from guerillas.)
Brings a whole new dimension to the gag: “It’s all fun and games until someone dies!”
the peasants are revolting!
Moore shows us a low angle of a black woman sitting on the floor of a crowded room, giving an interview. Text onscreen: Detroit Michigan, Nov 4, 2008. 11pm.
Her attention is drawn to a TV screen out of camera range. Everyone in the room breaks out cheering. Moore plays it supercool and doesn’t make any mention of what is happening – but we all KNOW what happened that fateful night…
YET – as poignant and inspirational as that moment was, we now realize it was just icing, a circus, more wool pulled over our eyes to shut us up. It was not real. Oh yes, a black man really did win a white house, however the same Old Guard holds sway in Washington, just with a new bumboy who is more savvy at politics than the last moron.
After Obama’s election, Moore comments, “It was a farewell to the old America,” but he is wrong. We now know that it was merely to sell different portrait plates, not to instigate new foreign policy or ethical financial behavior or to actually help the American people. In January 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are allowed to spend unlimited money in political campaigns, we realize Obama’s election was not a “farewell to the Old America,” but a stepping stone to an even newer, shinier, whiter, Orwellian America.
Moore implies Obama leads an administration willing to take back America. He mentions that Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, et al, have contributed much money to the Obama administration. He fails to mention they succeeded in buying him off…
the fix is in
Radio host Randy Rhodes has asked, “Why can’t we fix it by holding these corporate people accountable?” Because corporations have put their own departments in charge of pointing out accountability. Works for them.
One thing about this movie I did not find funny in the least was Elizabeth Warren (TARP Congressional Oversight Panel Chair), the top lady assigned to find out exactly where the bailout funds were disbursed. When asked by Moore, “Where is our money?” she gives a dumbfounded look and shrugs, “I don’t know.” It might have been a good gag illustrating how convoluted the system has become – BUT – Warren repeated that exact “bit” in early 2010 on THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart. Which means she is treating her job as if it’s a comedy routine. But $780,000,000,000 is no laughing matter.
Warren also appeared on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW in April 2010 with her impressive title and What-Me-Worry? attitude, and it occurs to me that she too is just another emplacement by the corporations to spread disinformation, with her description of financial institutions as if they’re Mother Theresa helping people by lending money; while she’s meant to be pushing back against the stonewalling of corporations, she is more often acting as apologist for them and stonewalling US, all the while confessing how badly she does her job.
Ask not what your corporation can do for you, Elizabeth…
and now for something completely useless…
Some believe there is an optimistic message toward the end of CAPITALISM. I musta missed it. Maybe it was that factory that held out for wages instead of firings – and won. An uplifting tale but small potatoes. Moore always gives us the biggest picture possible with his docs, and for that, we thank him. Then he dives into minutiae that highlights the human interaction with those bigger pictures, and for that, we commend him.
Then he does something stupid.
Ever the provocateur, Moore drives an armored van up to the doors of banks, holds out money bags and demands taxpayers’ money back from the bailout. It’s a laugh line and it gets its message across: that the physical dollars do not exist to actually be handed back. They’ve been transmogrified into “derivatives” and “hedge funds” and “securities” and “bonds” – intangible things. Any wonder then, that they disappear so easily?
Security guards at the doors of these buildings laugh at him as he rolls out yellow “Crime Scene Do Not Cross” tape and tries to “citizen’s arrest” bankers as they enter the building; they advise him to get off the property as he bullhorns the skyscrapers; they escort him out of lobbies while secretly joyous their fifteen minutes has arrived on camera.
And it’s a complete waste of time. Doesn’t do anything for anyone. Solves nothing. Alleviates nothing. Proves only one salient point: that if we wanted to actually make a citizen’s arrest of the CEOs of these banks and insurance companies, we can’t.
It’s not illegal – but it’s not ethical either.
— ProPublica.org spokesman re. Magnetar scandal.
No single person can understand the full story, the expansive insidious insanity – we’ve got better things to do. The least we can do is immerse ourselves in media that entertains while it educates. Of COURSE it’s subjective but the facts are incontrovertible. It is not a leftist rant – Moore had the opportunity to vilify the Bush family when he mentioned the Savings and Loan scandal (one of the biggest scams in history for which the Bush Klan was entirely responsible), yet he never drops that satanic name – yet Republicans and others who wish to eradicate the middle class and return to the boot-heel simplicity of peons and monarchs will undoubtedly moan unjustifiably about CAPITALISM’s left-wing propagandism.
Emptiest vessels always do make the most sound.
Yet after all the public outcry against corporatism, after the financial meltdown, after the rib-breaking bailout, after Moore’s indicting movie, after losing your job, your house, your family, after the country has become the laughingstock of the world for its obeisance to its base desires, what exactly is the state of the union?
From Taibbi’s article: “In fact, they’re back to conniving and playing speculative long shots in force, only this time with the full financial support of the U.S. government. In the process, they are rapidly recreating the conditions for another crash with the same actors once again playing the same crazy games of financial chicken with the same toxic assets as before.”
Ain’t love grand?