Hollywood Hates Corporations, Loves Corporate Cash


The new movie Killing Them Softly, from director Andrew Dominik, is reportedly well-made, well-acted, and well within the mold of Hollywood’s anti-capitalist value system. The film uses organized crime as an analogy to capitalism – a ridiculous proposition, considering that organized crime is based on use of force and monopoly, two concepts that are anathema to capitalists. “This is America,” says low-level mob enforcer Jackie (Brad Pitt) by way of explaining why he kills people for cash, while the mob bosses get rich. “And America is a business.”

In other words, business is about rich people exploiting poor people. And America is about business.

This message isn’t unusual in Hollywood. There’s a short list of possible villains in Tinseltown. It ranges from Nazis to Southerners to rich white people. Muslim radicals? Never. Communists? Don’t be silly. The most obvious target for the Hollywood left, however, is corporations.

This might seem counterintuitive. After all, Hollywood is run by corporations. Comcast and GE own NBC, the History Channel, A&E, the Biography Channel, Bravo, USA Network, SyFy, Oxygen, Chiller, Hallmark, Sundance, and Telemundo. It also owns Universal Television and Universal Studios. Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, Turner Classic Movies, and CW, as well as Warner Bros. Walt Disney Company owns ABC and its spinoffs, as well as equity in several other channels; its production companies include Touchstone, Miramax, and Marvel Studios. News Corp. owns Fox, FX, National Geographic, and a large chunk of DirecTV. CBS Corp. owns Showtime, CBS Television Studios, and The Movie Channel. And Viacom owns Paramount, MTV, Nickelodeon, and United International Pictures, among others.

Virtually everybody in Hollywood works for a corporation. But when it comes time to pick a villain, the corporation is the obvious choice. When I once suggested to my agent that I write a script targeting a politician as a villain, the agent said that might not fly in today’s polarized political environment – why not try targeting a corporation instead?

The predictable effect of the anti-corporate nonsense spewed by Hollywood is to make Americans think that all corporations are evil. After a line of films ranging from A Civil Action to The Muppet Movie, from Alien to Avatar, it’s no surprise that Americans don’t want to see corporations spending money on politics, don’t care about higher corporate taxes, and trust corporations less than virtually any other institution in American life.

According to a Demos poll from this year, 84 percent of Americans think that corporate political spending “drowns out the voices of average Americans,” and 83 percent think that “corporations and corporate CEOs have too much political power and influence.” Never mind that corporations and corporate CEOs provide virtually all employment in the country. Never mind that corporations and corporate CEOs spend political money only because labor unions have been dumping vast waves of cash into politics for decades. It’s those evil CEOs who are a problem.

As for raising taxes, Americans approve of the idea by wide margins. A recent Gallup poll showed that 67 percent of Americans thought that corporations paid too little in taxes, even though America’s corporate tax rates is the highest in the industrialized world. Our business tax rate is a full 35 percent; put state taxes on top of that, and we’re at almost 40 percent. The worldwide average is 25 percent. Russia and China clock in lower than we do.

It doesn’t seem to matter to Americans that higher tax rates on corporations mean less jobs. All that matters is that corporations are bad. It’s that simple.

The same holds true with regard to taxes on the so-called rich – incomes above $250,000, many of whom represent small businesses filing as individuals. The American people want them taxed, and they want them taxed now. Polls show levels of support for such taxes in excess of 60 percent. Meanwhile, just 19 percent think that it’s possible to balance the budget by raising those taxes. According to Rasmussen, even those who support the taxes, “recognize that won’t be enough to balance the federal budget.” So what’s the point of the taxes? Warren Buffett spells out the philosophy: it would “raise the morale of the middle class.”

That’s pure class envy. And it’s dangerous.

But it’s what Hollywood has promoted for years. Why? Hatred of corporations reflects a belief that wealth is created through luck; systematic success can only be created through corruption. If a corporation is successful, that’s because it’s corrupt. Those in Hollywood truly believe in this philosophy of economics, because those in Hollywood have lived it. They’ve been waiters; they’ve toiled in obscurity. And many of them feel that they’ve made money only because they got lucky. They feel guilty that they got lucky, and remain lucky. But they’re not going to rip themselves onscreen.

And so they focus on those evil corporations that hire them and pay them. Corporations, meanwhile, continue to fund these films because they make money. But in the long run, those corporations are funding their own demise. The more Americans believe that corporations are evil thanks to the propaganda of Hollywood, the better chance that in the long run, the American people will seek to punish the same corporations that produce the films and movies they love.

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  • IRL

    "… considering that organized crime is based on use of force and monopoly, two concepts that are anathema to capitalists."

    Organized crime rely on force and monopoly – sounds like Microsoft fits that description.

    • David A.

      No, it sounds like you don't understand English.

      Did the Microsoft Corporation hold a pistol to you head, threaten to break your kneecaps, or threaten to put your feet into "concrete shoes" (and drop you into the East River) unless you bought their product?

      Didn't you have (and mostly still have) the alternate operating system choices of Apple, Unix (Linux), IBM (OS2), and many others?

      Comparing the activities/products of organized crime (such as the Irish Mob) and the Microsoft Corporation is at best dishonest and inaccurate.

      • bob e

        microsoft not a real good exmple. do some research & tell me that gates did not steal dos. sell it thru ibm.
        plaigerize the GUI from zerox & IBM. please tell me. and bingo..we have "windows" & we still got it & will forever have it. everywhere. i use red hat 6. on my home network.. os/2 is gone, it was the best i've ever scene.
        just ask bill gates..

      • IRL

        "Did the Microsoft Corporation hold a pistol to you head, threaten to break your kneecaps, or threaten to put your feet into "concrete shoes" (and drop you into the East River) unless you bought their product?"

        Seriously, it was just a joke based on the definition in the article.

        On the other hand they just go out of their way to break interoperability with other operating systems, and using their market share to cause problems for everyone else.

        Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend_and_
        And this: http://www.ecis.eu/documents/Finalversion_Consume

        As for giving some of the money they have scammed themselves into with methods like we have seen above is the least they could do. Even the Hamas give money to charity.

    • patron

      The founder gave away his personal wealth for caring for the sick and medical research? Or the company that funds start up tech companies and turns new innovators into millionaires?

      The true heroes are the Bolsheviks. They've never committed bank robberies, or squandered wealth, or killed and starved to death millions of women and children.

  • Mary Sue

    It is a strange mental illness that afflicts Hollywierd. I blame the water.

    • http://twitter.com/DianeM1966 @DianeM1966

      Yeah, it's got to be the water – or the lack thereof. They must limit water use due to the "endangered" Minnow. HA!

  • Demetrius M

    You would think some of those corporations would shift their dollars elsewhere or complain, but just like the federal corporate tax and regulations fiasco, they don't put up much of a fight.

    This led me to ask my prof during my undergrad years why they don't put up much of a fight. My prof suggested that there are two types of business, those well established who can endure all the regulations and taxes and those who will struggle. Those high taxes and regs can hold back the growth of the smaller companies while the biggest survive. If it gets worse, competition will be neutered and near monoplies will be the norm- if they aren't already.
    Perhaps this explains why corporations such as GE support higher corporate taxation and regulations.

    • jemaasjr

      Big corporations, big government, they fit together like hand and glove. The smaller you are, the greater the burden of complex regulation. The same with taxes. The big guys hire tax lawyers or are experts at it themselves. Us little schmucks take the hits. Hollywood is about passion, not logic. Most of the talent people are too logically impaired to figure this stuff out and the corporate types are duplicitous.

  • Mike Smitty

    I just saw that movie last night. It would have been a good mob movie but the politics ruined it. Most of the time it had Bush in the background or on TV explaining why he had to do this to save the economy. It was obvious that they were blaming Bush for the economy and everyone was always blaming the economy and it was set to be 2007. It made no sense as to why they filmed it as that year, other than to make us think that 2007 was so much worse than we remember. Rewriting history and trying to blame Bush for what we are going through now ruined this movie and the last line proves it. Why wrap up a movie with whining with on the nose political lies?

  • http://twitter.com/Kenrick66 @Kenrick66

    It's interesting that Mr. Shapiro cites, among other movies, "Alien." In all four "Alien" movies, it was a corporation that was responsible for wanting to capture, study, and "develop" the deadly parasite as a tool of war. Hollywood, while it loves the cash and the management corporations provide, is nearly psychotic in its campaign against corporations and especially against private property in general. Hollywood is inoculated against reason and is beyond redemption. In the "Alien" movies, the secretive and duplicitous corporation behind the events behaves like a latter-day I.G. Farben wanting to perfect the ultimate killing machine. It is essentially fascist because it acts with the sanction of an all-powerful government, just as the companies cited above did with the Nazis. All the corporate executives of the companies cited by Mr. Shapiro are pragmatists who eschew any kind of moral base for capitalism. Someday that pragmatic indifference will come back and bite them. They'll have deserved it.

    • Mary Sue

      Eeeevil Corporation was also pretty much the premise behind james cameron's Avatar (not the Last Airbender, though that was a bad movie too).

  • tagalog

    The funny thing about "A Civil Action" is that the most effective plot line, that was so downplayed that if you weren't paying attention, it would have sailed right past you, was that the civil action in question failed to come up with one single iota of evidence to connect the corporation (W.R. Grace) with the pollution entering the watershed, and not a scintilla of evidence to connect the pollution (whatever it was) in the water with the cancers the people suffered.

    Now THAT issue would have made for an interesting movie, how an obsessed lawyer with dollar signs in his eyes got distressed people to believe in his delusion, and then never succeeded in making his delusion real. That, in fact, is what the book was about. And they could have picked on lawyers instead of corporations; no one would be complaining about THAT.

  • Questions

    I have developed a simple formula for deciding whether to see a movie. Read whatever Ben Shapiro says and then do the opposite. He denounces "Killing Them Softly." Thus, I shall see it.

    Shapiro's routine is very predictable. First, he cherry-picks a new movie or TV show, ever ready to pounce on some imagined anti-American message to "prove" how evil it is. Then, he sticks the word "Hollywood" somewhere in the title or the first sentence in order to grab some attention, making sure to make wild generalizations about an entire industry based on one film.

    He's NOT a film critic; he's a politician, and not even an interesting one at that.

    • Mary Sue

      Except that he's pretty much spot-on correct each time. Don't tell me Avatar, Fern Gully, and Captain Planet aren't complete and utter propaganda.

  • Jim_C

    Well, Hollywood IS a collection of corporate industries, and outisde corporations vie to get their products into their films, so I don't think "hypocrisy" is an appropriate charge, at all. Hollywood tells stories.

    Corporations make good villains. And have been villains for literally a century in Hollywood films. They are rich, they are resourceful, they have access to political channels the average individual does not, they are insular and impenetrable. Why wouldn't they make good villains?

    And while the vast majority of corporations are more or less good citizens, some aren't. So what?

    "The film uses organized crime as an analogy to capitalism – a ridiculous proposition, considering that organized crime is based on use of force and monopoly, two concepts that are anathema to capitalists."

    Wow. Ever read a history book, Ben?

    Maybe your next article could be about how so many villains have British accents. That ain't fair! Most Brits aren't villainous!

    • tagalog

      I don't think that corporations are very analogous to organized crime. For one thing, corporations depend a great deal on having the good will of their clientele, while organized crime couldn't care less how much good will they might have as long as the bucks are rolling in.

      Organized crime, despite what The Godfather and other movies and thriller novels would have you believe, don't have much of a hold on politicians. There's an occasional corrupt judge or DA, but those are people who are so rare that when they're uncovered they make the news.

      I agree that monopoly is hardly "anathema" to capitalists; the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 is a direct result of monopoly capitalism smothering free-market competition. I don't know about force – it depends on what kind of force one has in mind.

      Some folks think that the tobacco companies are analogous to dope peddlers. I frankly doubt that the analogy holds up under any form of disciplined analysis.

      • Jim_C

        I don't think corporations and organized crime are that analogous either. But the author's point that organized crime is not analogous to capitalism (loosely defined) is not a very good one. Organized crime is essentially market capitalism completely unfettered by regulation and enforcement of law. That's part of the appeal of the genre–it's essentially "business dystopia."

        Looking back on the article Shapiro makes more points that fall flat, to the point where it's almost impossible to believe this guy got into, much less graduated from one of the nation's top schools.

        "84 percent of Americans think that corporate political spending “drowns out the voices of average Americans,” and 83 percent think that “corporations and corporate CEOs have too much political power and influence.” Never mind that corporations and corporate CEOs provide virtually all employment in the country. Never mind that corporations and corporate CEOs spend political money only because labor unions have been dumping vast waves of cash into politics for decades. It’s those evil CEOs who are a problem."

        First of all, union campaign contributions ARE corporate spending. Second of all, "corporations provide virtually all employment in this country?" Sheesh, I hope not–if so, that truly sucks. But I also don't think it's true; I think small business is still the backbone.

        Why? Hey, I'm pro-corporation for many reasons, but we all look back to a time when local businesses didn't have to worry about getting eaten by the big fish. You look at Wal-Mart, notorious for closing out local mom-and-pops: this is a corporation with more non-union employees receiving federal and state aid than any other. In other words, you and I subsidize Wal-Mart with our tax dollars–but we can get dirt cheap coffee makers there, I guess that's the tradeoff. The Walton family alone has as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the country. I don't know that there's a moral, there–but you have to admit, it's a hell of a stat.

        Costco, on the other hand, pays it's workers living wages and benefits. Their CEO makes half a million. That's how things used to be during the great post-war boom. Living wages for workers, CEO compensation excellent, but in proportion. That has changed, and NOT for the better.

  • craigbhill

    At times in this Bizarro World article i had to reread chunks of it to better discern that it had to be a parody by a disingenuous anti-corporate type, like you're Stephan Colbert-istic obviously secretly disgusted at that which you ridiculously praise. But your lying a** is actually trying to look SINCERE to everyone who hasn't caught on yet to the fact almost everything you blathered on about is a lie. That's your audience, the willing dupes of bankers and CEOs destroying the economy, the exposure of which in flicks IS WHAT SELLS, because MOST OF US ALREADY KNOW IT. Your lies notwithstanding, you and your ilk are pushing the rest of humanity (assuming you too actually are in some manner still human) to revolution.

    • Mary Sue

      what is the lie, then? Prove it?

      • craigbhill

        Inasmuch as You Don't Know, which puts you in Shapiro's regular audience category of dupe (so far!), luckily there are a million intelligent handles on this to grasp, tho you'll need to read many to grasp the breadth of corporate thievery of formerly wealthy nations' treasuries before the lightbulb flickers on, unless you're just another people-hating pathological conservative refusing to care how badly the 1% screws you and everyone else financially below them.

        Start by subscribing to CLG news, the daily news feed to your email address, via <a href="http://www.legitgov.org” target=”_blank”>www.legitgov.org. which gives you a daily set of around 2 dozen maninstream articles pointing out the facts. Cherry pick the ones that have to do with corporate and banker control of the govt to get up to speed. Also go to http://www.rt.com and pick up the latest economic reality from Max Keiser's 3 time weekly 25 minute streaming video roundup Keiser Report. The man is a former trader with Goldman Sachs who now fingers GS and others, who interestingly riddle the Obama administration even more than they did Bush's, as major culprits in the illegal takeover and destruction of global economies, as they suck them white. Keiser is an economics genius. If you disagree with his facts, and you'll have to watch and listen carefully to several of his programs to be able to fully follow them, you will either remain a dupe or continue to be a well-compensated party (unlikely!) to the crimes of corporate economic terrorism which plagues the world while their bought and paid for governments let them, with impunity.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    ~ How about attending the birthday bash of a Chechen warlord and praising a man who applauded his security forces for attacking Muslim women who didn't wear a head covering??

    Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/10/what_

    • Mary Sue

      I guess the Belgian Disease has affected Mr. Van-Damn.

  • tagalog

    Is any Hollywood producer considering a movie project involving the actions of a corporate state, like the USSR, Red China, Vietnam, or Cambodia?

    • Jim_C

      I don't think it would be all that interesting to an American audience. I mean it takes a Spielberg to make a halfway successful film about our own history–a history I find fascinating, but most people don't.

      I'm not sure there has ever been a time where genius and opportunity collided as powerfully as that of our founding fathers. I think that period and those people are endlessly interesting. But it is a truism in the entertainment business that that subject / period is "box office poison." Mel "Mazeltov" Gibson did all right with "The Patriot"–but that was basically "Braveheart" with tri-corns.

      • tagalog

        Oh, I don't know; look how successful "Doctor Zhivago" was in the U.S. when it came out. A good screenwriter, a good director, and competent actors can make ANYTHING interesting; just consider "A Man For All Seasons."

  • mattogilvie55

    I still think the subtitle for Avatar should have been Dances With Smurfs.

  • Ghostwriter

    I didn't see "Avatar." I saw "The Princess and The Frog" by Disney. I'm still glad I saw it over "Avatar."

  • meglvsjc

    Well…I am not a corporation…but I no longer go to movies that have a liberal bias. So that mean I don't go to the movies much. If we all did this..I think Hollywood may feel a bit more like the rest of us…poor enough to connect the obvious dots. Please Vigo Morteson…don't piss me off you are too cute …but I'll leave you if I must!