FOOL ON THE HILL
Big Business, Big Evil?

Have you seen the new faces of evil? Big business. Corporations. Capitalists. Somewhere along the way it became fashionable to bash the creators of wealth. Rick Munarriz skirts the political implications but wonders why it's so easy to glamorize the attacks on the financially powerful. It's ironic. It's nonsensical. It's disturbing to boot.

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By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
March 25, 2002

So it's 2035, see, and the world has reluctantly locked horns with anarchy. There's rioting in the streets. Looting is the only way to survive. The future couldn't get any bleaker, man. You're down to fighting the enemy with any weapon at your disposal: an AK-47, a baseball bat, bare fists. This is the world we see in State of Emergency, released last month for your video gaming pleasure on the Sony PlayStation2.

Yes, another arcade-style fighting game is now straddling the bestseller list. One thing, though. The enemy in this game is someone you might know all too well -- the suits. The evil Corporation is the root of all that is rotten in State of Emergency and if you have to sling a Molotov cocktail at a CEO or take a trash can to an executive's bodyguard to do them in, bonus.

Is this the thanks Corporate America deserves after creating a marketplace that is often the envy of both the civilized and uncivilized worlds? I'm not asking you to make a political commitment here, simply a social one. In a day and age in which political correctness has made depicting just about any minority group in a negative light something taboo, why is it okay to slay corporate heavies from the comfort of your own armchair?

You see, when I earned my MBA I thought I was arming myself with knowledge. Turns out I was simply arming myself with a weapon of mass destruction. I was misled into thinking that the ability to read financial statements and analyze business plans was empowering me to understand and create, when, all along, it was a blueprint for a tool to alienate and destroy.

Mea fiscal culpa.

I'm not sure when corporate execs got box seats for the roast. Through the years, movies like 9 to 5, Take This Job and Shove It, and Office Space have vilified workplace superiors. But the celluloid treatment has been hokey at best, endearing the viewer to the underling protagonists as they battle glass ceilings, corner offices, and just flat-out managerial incompetence.

It doesn't matter whether you park your political beliefs on the left or right side of the road. Whether you are pro-union or not, if you're here, odds are you have some degree of faith in the stock market. That implies that there are capable leaders out there worth investing in. You don't need to remind me that we've had crooked CEOs in the past who have plundered their companies dry, pulled the ripcord on their golden parachutes, and left everyone else holding the bag. The pedigree is hardly perfect, but why the crosshairs?

Hip-hop artists The Coup got a bit of unwanted publicity last year when the album cover to their Party Music CD depicted band mates Boots and Pam blowing up the World Trade Center. The photo shoot was done over the summer, well before 9/11, and the artwork was quickly pulled and redone before the CD hit the stores. The media was quick to pick up the story, yet not a single journalist wondered about the appropriateness of the CD's opening track -- 5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO

Ten years ago, when Time Warner released Ice-T's Body Count record with the controversial Cop Killer track, the label met a deluge of staged protests by police groups. Time Warner eventually buckled under pressure and reprinted the disc without the offensive song.

The Coup's release of 5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO was never chastised, even as it preached giving executives "lead restitution" or tricking them into finding their fate in a vat of hot oil or drowning in a river. If you replaced the word CEO with any ethnic group or occupation, you would have demonstration groups rallying in a heartbeat. Fancy that nugget of irony. The one profession being blasted for having so much control is also the only one powerless to act when it is being disgraced.

Lawyers? Postal workers? Red Sox and Knicks fans? They're making CEO jokes! Who knows? Maybe we're about to see parents encourage their children to drop out of business school, have a heart-to-heart over finding a Monopoly board in Junior's closet, or call the cable company to make sure the CNBC signal is scrambled so their children's minds don't get poisoned.

In a world where it's okay to assassinate the image of free enterprise, is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged depiction of a country falling apart after the leading business minds go into exile to teach everyone the fallacy of taking them for granted that far removed from reality?

It's not just the CEO who's endangered. After all, The Coup point out that "if you can't get the Prez, get the Veeper." And in State of Emergency the only good high-ranking member of the Corporation is one that has gone obit city.

Are you feeling me? Big honcho executives, wake up. Your good titled name is being dragged through the mud and staining the mahogany. Don't shake your head and turn away from the sloppy portrayals. If you wear contentment like a feedbag, sooner or later, you become the feedbag.

In recent months, congressional leaders who may or may not have fallen prey to agenda-toting lobbyists, corruptible pages and interns, or decisions that ran against their respective constituencies, have been licking their lips over the joys of blasting Enron executives. Granted, it's a breeze when you're within tapping distance of the dunk tank. No one is going to crash a pity party being thrown for those who have abused their power to ugly extremes. But to the vast majority of honest businesspersons out there, organize and hire an image consultant. If you create jobs and nurture opportunities, shout it from the rooftop.

Just keep your eyes peeled. You never know when you'll come across a misguided pre-teen with an itchy joystick finger on a grenade launcher. 

Rick Aristotle Munarriz has an artsy side to him, too. Heck, he's finally committing himself to write that novel he's always been meaning to get around to. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.