their government puppets which, except in the pages of this publication and a few others, seems to have virtually dried up in our alienated and deeply reactionary times. The main battle-line of the book is the one that has informed most of Hightower’s political career, a concerted counterattack against “CorporateWorld!,” as he labels it here. As the populists of the late nineteenth century fought the destructive effects of the banking and marketing oligopolies, so Hightowerlike Ronnie Dugger with his new Alliance for Democracytries to combat the monster spawn that prevailed, the twentieth-century multinational corporate system, a.k.a. New World Order. Hightower’s primary task is to out the bastards. Start to finish, Dead Armadillos demonstrates the extent to which democratic rule, freedom, and the oft-forgotten “pursuit of happiness” have been destroyed by the dominant factor in our lives. “The true symbol of today’s America is no longer Old Glory,” Hightower says, “but the Corporate Logo.” Can you think of anywhere in your life a corporation isn’t in control? Your health has nothing to do with doctors, who are themselves corporatized, but with the profit-loss statements of insurance companies and so-called managed-care providers. The food on your table comes courtesy of an interlocking system of growers, packers, distributors, retailers, bankers, and speculators who see little harm in poisoning you, decimating small farmers, and forcing millions of migrant workers to labor in slave-like conditions. You can’t watch a sporting event without confronting a corporate sponsor, and now our public schools, the very hallmarks of American democracy, are being “privatized,” i.e., turned over to corporations such as the Edison Project. Hightower is a human Facts on File of intrusions and assaultsframed in the context that we live in a time in which fifty-one of the largest 100 world economies are not nations but corporations. But some of the most sobering dispatches from the class warthe secret corporate war on the American peopleseem to be the most mundane. Consider Campbell Soup Company, sending “instructional” materials to schools to compare its own brand of spaghetti sauce, Prego, to a rival, Ragti. The “scientific” test, pouring each sauce through a slotted spoon, is so completely contrived to favor Prego that children are advised that if Prego doesn’t win, the experiment is not being done correctly. At once, Campbell insinuates itself into the basic stuff of ordinary daily life, and exploits children and their schools with hardly less ruthlessness and contempt than a gang of crack dealers offering free samples. As the book progresses through its five major sectionscorporations, class war, media, pollution, and politicsit creates a sense of us-versus-them that offers little comfort to a reader. About time. Most everything in most of our lives is directed towards narcotizing us. Like Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss, we live in the “best of all possible worlds.” Or maybe it’s more an Orwellian world, where we can’t know if it’s best or not because our access to real information is so restricted we can’t make heads nor tails of anything. In one of his more devastating critiques, Hightower shows how one of the most fundamental markers of our national well-being, the official unemployment rate, is “the biggest whitewash since Tom Sawyer’s fence.” Layers of deliberate statistical fudging, endemic in every administration, so misstate the real picture that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “5.4 percent” rate of unemployment disguises what is really one-third of the workforce out of jobs or, often worse, working at poverty rates. If statistics were picante sauce, we’d be saying, “Get a rope.” Which brings up one more mundanity. Pace Foods, the San Antonio firm whose TV commercial made the preceding chuckwagon quip famous, is now owned by Campbell Soup \(the spaghetti sauce folks make it blander, Campbell, based in New Jersey, has genetically engineered a faux jalapenowith no capsaicin, the fire that makes a jalapeno what it is. As Yossarian observed in Catch -22, where fictional webs of lying and war are not so far removed from the reality bites in Dead Armadillos, it’s pretty hard to be paranoid when the bastards really are out to get you. It’s worth remembering that while Americans may have become passive about what’s happening to our lives, there’s nothing passive in those making it happen to us. The average pay of an Amer ican CEO these days is $4.3 million, or about 225 times the average worker’s pay. Or think of it this way: fewer than 10 percent of Americans earn over $100,000 per year; that’s what Michael Eisner at Disney \(which recently sold the Fort Worth Starknocks off in an hour. People at that income level have no interest in the lives of people at your level. Nothing in their systems of interlocking corporate interests gives a damn about you either. /f they did, their circle jerks of agribusiness, university research labs, and government agencies would not allow, for example, five billion pounds of pesticides to be dumped on our farms each year about twenty pounds for each one of us. Nor would a drug company like Zeneca, founder of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and maker of Nolvadex, the leading drug used in breast cancer treatment, market its product while at the same time manufacturing a chlorine-based pesticide identified as a cancer-causing agent. Because Zeneca controls Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it permits no mention of possible pollutant causes of breast cancer in the organization’s promotions. It is in connecting the dots in these kinds of outrages that Hightower is at his best: What a racket this company has going! It makes billions selling industrial organochlorines linked to breast cancer, it finances its BCAM front to divert public attention from cancer causes to cancer detection, then it sells Nolvadex to those who are detected. Meanwhile half a million more women will die of breast cancer this year, and more will die next year and the next, while BCAM gaily distributes pink ribbons. Should Katie and Matt be talking about this on their happy fest “Today” show? Or Tom or Dan in the evening? Of course. Will they? Not a chance. The high-scale corporate mergers which have tethered the network news divisions to the short leashes of companies like GE and Westinghouse, which turned Time-Warner into a media equivalent . of Microsoft, have turned reporting not only conservative but as tame as a pack of reporters trying to cover a war under Pentagon rules. Hightower has felt the sting, of course. Through its puppet network ABC, Disney canned Hightower’s 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 7, 1997
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.