The Corporate Coup D'État
Instead of merely outlining both sides of the modern American political divide and supporting only one of them, The Corporate Coup D’État looks at the complexities that created such viewpoints to begin with, and exposing how views on both the right and the left have been influenced and shaped by private interest money, not the whims of the populace. While one would never say that the latest film from Canadian documentarian Fred Peabody (All Governments Lie) is something that supports Donald Trump’s overwhelming distrust of the media, The Corporate Coup D’État is an insightful, philosophical, and highly critical work that lets no one off the hook and paints capitalism as the biggest roadblock to a true democracy. In that respect, The Corporate Coup D’État might not be telling those who seek it out anything they don’t already know, but it does an excellent job of telling viewers what they need to hear and understand before they dismiss Trump voters as victims of some sort of group psychosis.
The Corporate Coup D’État is based largely on the works of Canadian philosopher and scholar John Ralston Saul, who coined the titular phrase in his scathing anti-corporatism book The Unconscious Civilization all the way back in 1995. Although the Trump administration provides some of the clearest and least ambiguous examples of how corporate interests have shaped American democracy for the worse, Saul has maintained that corporatism in government has been the status quo since the 1970s, and was really invented earlier than that by dictator Benito Mussolini, a man that Trump has unashamedly quoted over the years and who was able to woo many scholars and thinkers who should know better over to his particular point of view. Trump might be brazen in his open courting of private interests over public needs, but Regan had “Reaganomics,” both Bushes increased military spending, Clinton effectively gutted welfare and cozied up to the prison system by strenuously backing “three strike” legislation, and Obama was resolutely pro-Wall Street. The Corporate Coup D’État outlines in great detail the ways that American leaders have made democracy something that works almost exclusively for corporations, landowners, and the financially powerful and influential.
The Corporate Coup D’État also looks at how this broken form of democracy has impacted American people, and why some who previously supported the likes of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders would be seduced into voting for Donald Trump. The Corporate Coup D’État is half talking head interviews with various journalists, professors, and thinkers, and half embedded journalism, with the likes of Chris Hedges and WGBH radio reporter Phillip Martin travelling to various parts of their country to look at economically decaying cities that have been used and abused by capitalist practices. Hedges heads to Camden, New Jersey, once a major port city and mecca of industry that has become one of the most impoverished cities in the country. There’s a particularly heartbreaking scene where workers emptying a house that had been foreclosed on tell about the evidence they found there pointing to the former owner’s hardship. Philips travels to Ohio, where people freely open up about their desperation for change, and why they thought Trump would be able to help them. As one man nicely puts it, “If people are thirsty enough, they’ll drink any water you give them, even if that water is dirty.”
The water has been dirty for a long time, bolstered by a media complex that’s just as willing to cave to corporations as the politicians are. The Corporate Coup D’État shows how rhetoric and images have led to a climate where everyday people frequently confuse emotion with knowledge, best exemplified by a scene where Hedges walks away from an interview with the CBC after billionaire pundit and notorious blowhard Kevin O’Leary refuses to engage in a serious discussion and instead uses his platform to dismiss the renowned and respected journalist as a “nutbar.” People are susceptible to even the most empty of rhetoric on psychological and physical levels if the people shouting are given enough reach to bring it out to the world, and Peabody nicely outlines how this has been able to carry on unabated for decades.
The Corporate Coup D’État certainly holds Trump’s feet to the fire throughout, but it also wisely demands accountability from anyone who holds a position of political power or influence. It shows why people who are hurting put their trust in brands, not in flesh and blood human beings thanks to media conditioning and manipulation. It’s not a particularly sunny film, or one that has a whole lot of answers for viewers, but it does foster a deeper sense of understanding, and it passionately demands that everyone needs to do better if they have a hope in hell of true democracy surviving.
The Corporate Coup D’État premieres on Super Channel on Friday, August 23, 2019 at 9:00 pm EST.
Check out the trailer for The Corporate Coup D’État: