We have already discussed how corporations have effectively silenced any meaningful opposition in the government(see Corporate Republic). We will now focus on how corporations have done the same to the public. Just as with elected government officials, corporations quiets dissent by creating dependence. This dependence stifles dissent through fear of being perceived as being ungrateful and the reluctance people have to biting the hand that feeds them. We are simply afraid of losing that which we treasure. The treasure that the corporate hand feeds us consists of income, goods, services, and influence.
Despite statistics showing how much small businesses provides for us, the wealth of our country is measured by the financial health of the corporate sector. That is why when the stock prices collapsed and some of the major banks failed, the economy of the country took a sharp nosedive and everyone, including small businesses, were affected.
College students whom I have listened to tend to defend corporations because they see their college costs being redeemed by employment with a corporation. But loans are not the only corporate inroad to colleges. Some corporations pay colleges so that they can act provide services and goods to the students. Food services and bookstores are often owned by corporations. Soft drink companies pay universities to exclude all competitors from a college while they get to corner the market at a particular university. And the televising of major sporting events also brings necessary revenue to many universities. We should also note that universities are also dependent on corporations for research funds.
One result of the corporate subsidies and provision for colleges is a change in college education. Chris Hedges notes this in his book Empire Of Illusion. Education today is becoming nothing more than a glorified tech school education where kids are trained in how to take orders in order to succeed in the system. They are no longer taught how to step back, understand, and then be able to criticize the system.
Education is not the only commodity provided by corporations. Most of what the average consumer buys is either directly or indirectly provided by some corporation. This applies to the big ticket items we buy to the small priced items. One has to go out of one's way to buy anything that does not come from a corporation. This is true even when one goes out to eat. Though many of the places we frequent are technically small businesses, many of them operate franchises for corporations.
But perhaps the biggest hold that corporations have on us is in terms of influence. Corporations use the influence from different media to herd Americans toward a consensus. This control is exerted both in informational programs and entertainment. Past and present works show how corporations exert this type of control. Perhaps the classic work showing how corporations guide American opinion is the book Manufacturing Consent by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. Dependence on corporations by the news media started with the introduction of advertising in newspapers. This caused a significant increase in operating costs of newspapers as advertising became the prime source of income resulting in lower newspaper prices for the consumer. Newspapers that relied on the customers to pay most of the costs could no longer compete in terms of prices. Newspapers then became reluctant to report stories that put their advertisers in a bad light or made their readers less inclined to buy products from the advertisers.
This introduction of outside control over the media has established a narrow set of parameters for acceptable new stories. Most, if not all, stories to be published must serve our "national interests" or those of our allies. The problem is that these interests are all too often merely business interests. So stories that criticized national policies that benefited businesses were filtered out. Critical stories, and their writers, that get through the filters often have to pay a high public relations price. The result, and this is reflected by our political parties as well, is that the American public is given a limited information representing a narrow range of views. Thus the American public is guided by those who provide the news. As I talk to colleagues who came from or lived in other countries, they tell me that the number of stories and perspectives that do not reach the American public is significant.
But perhaps the biggest exercise of control over Americans can be seen in corporate ownership of entertainment. Entertainment, in a country where leisure time reigns supreme, could be the nose ring that, with just the slightest tug, creates the most willing following. It is through entertainment that we have seen the Triumph Of The Spectacle, the subtitle of Hedges' Empire Of Illusion. Hedges points out that the more we rely on "spectacle," the less we are inclined to do the hard work of learning "nuance" and "complexity" that comes from relying on the printed word. As we become attached to spectacle we become even more dependent on corporations as, it is not hard to see that, those with the largest resources, corporations, are the most probable producers of the biggest spectacle. The spectacle we embrace removes us from the real world in which we live. This year's Super Bowl is just an example of the corporate ties to spectacle and how we, like bugs to a light, are drawn to it.
Corporations have used the media to make us, the common people, both unwilling and unable to garner the resources and do the necessary work that would allow us to address our country's real problems that have put so many at risk. As a result, we continue our free fall from where we have been. According to Hedges, our country has been in this free fall since the Presidency of LBJ when we transitioned from being a nation of producers to being a nation of consumers.
So as we fall, we seem to only blame others, which is one of the reasons why we continue to fall. And we should note that our fall is being directed by corporations. For the more we fall, the more dependent we become on others. The more dependent we become, the more we are under the control of others. The more we are under the control of others, the closer our democracy comes to death. Will we continue our current course or will we stem the tide of corporate control regardless of the immediate costs? The answer to that question will determine whether we will either have or keep our corporate republic.