Tagged: Capitalism

Capitalism

In the early morning of January 16, a few hours before announcing their fourth-quarter 2018 earnings, Laurence Fink, CEO of the biggest asset management company, received an email copy of his annual letter to investors. There was just one problem: he had not sent the real one out yet.

The letter, posted to a website made to look like BlackRock corporate, was a hoax pressuring Fink’s company—the world’s largest owner of fossil fuels including coal—to actively reduce their stake in climate destruction. It went viral on Twitter and was covered by the Financial Times before being revealed as fake. Since then, the hoax has been described in Business Insider, Barron’s, Financial News, the New York Post, Institutional Investor, and Axios.

The rogue letter, which the Yes Men sent to the media and thousands of BlackRock employees, falsely announced that the company would be taking on climate change by laying out a series of feasible steps that would improve global stability and thus long-term returns: First, BlackRock would make all investments screen out fossil fuels by default, so that clients will need to actively opt-into societal and ecological collapse; and second, BlackRock would compel fossil-fuel companies to align their business models with the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

Fink's real letter, released the following day, made no mention of climate change and was a great disappointment compared to the feasible ideas proposed in the hoax letter.

Read the fake letter here, fake response here, and the reveal here.

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In April of 2002 Mike meets Richard Robbins at a conference in upstate New York. Richard has written a book on corporate globalization, and he offers to organize a lecture by the WTO for his students at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, where he is a professor.

 

Andy and Mike are happy to accept this invitation—especially since they already have been invited to speak to some trade experts in Australia. They feel they have come up with the surefire reaction-getter, but since it's likely to be their last chance, they'd better make sure. College students will make an excellent test audience before the real thing in Australia.

Just before leaving for Plattsburgh, they hear the conference in Australia has been cancelled. This is no longer a dress rehearsal.

 

The whole crew (Mike, Andy, Matt, Caz, Wolfgang, Snafu, Andrew, Rich) drive up from New York and arrive in Plattsburgh. Richard shows them the venue. Andy and Matt put on standard WTO business suits, while Mike wears a McDonald’s uniform.

 

Richard is kind enough to foot the bill for more than a hundred McDonald’s Hamburgers, which Mike passes out to the students at the beginning of the lecture. Andy introduces the talk by asking that important basic question: “Why is starvation a problem?” Matt’s illustration of “poverty guy” stands shrugging on the PowerPoint slide. Andy explains with candor how WTO agribusiness policies (like the policies of the British during the Irish Potato famine) are causing widespread starvation in the Third World today. He suggests a solution that—unlike protectionism and so on—remains within the logic of the free market.

 

The solution, as elegant as it is simple, is to provide Third Worlders with filters that allow them to recycle their food—extending the lifespan of a typical hamburger up to ten times.

 

In answer to one student’s outraged question, Mike explains that McDonald’s, in partnership with the WTO, is already experimenting with this technology in its products, and has been including 20% “post-consumer waste” in many of its hamburgers. Patrick’s 3-D animation of Ronald McDonald squeezing Menu Item Number Two from his colostomy bag erases any doubts about what is actually being said: the WTO believes that the poor should eat their own shit, or perhaps eat the shit of the rich, if an efficient pipeline can be established.

 

As might be expected, the students react violently to these concepts. But what is more surprising is that they have been reacting—with hisses, boos, even a spitwad or two—ever since the beginning of the lecture. Long before Andy tells them that they have eaten shit, they are appalled at the version of reality that he is asking them to swallow.

 

This is the only negative reaction Andy and Mike have gotten for a lecture. But the strong reaction clearly isn’t because the lecture is any crazier, since the students started reacting from the very beginning: it’s because the audience is smarter. All along, the problem has not been with the lectures, as supposed, but with the audiences themselves.

 

Years of neoliberal “education” and experience seem to make people stupid.

 

This realization causes Mike and Andy to abandon the lecture they planned for the agribusiness conference in Sydney (cancelled, but a special luncheon just for the "WTO" has been scheduled in its place), and to devise a whole new approach to the problem of representing the problems of free-market orthodoxy.

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