The Secret Riots

I know we’ve all been fascinated with the recent rioting in Britain, where undisciplined near-apes have been flinging the flaming poo of their discontent through the storefronts of small businesses and making off with whatever they can carry for their troubles. This appears to be the only message they can compose that will attract the eye of the press, and, beyond that, of anyone who can address the underlying causes … of their near-apedom. Which, do not be deceived, is the ultimate root of the unrest. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Western world, a similar, more subtle, yet more devastating riot continues unnoticed and unabated.

Yes, there’s a special circle of hell for those who use the blood from other people’s tragedies to lube the grindstones for sharpening their own axes. If it helps you visualize that for me, consider this an article from my old discontinued column for TheFootnote, Letters from Heck. As a once-upon-a-time tour guide, I’m well acquainted with those circles. Consider this yet another deliberate small-minded petty evil committed for the sole purpose of attracting a little extra attention that would otherwise just go reading webcomics.

The United States has its own invasive-species underclass of culturally impoverished, deliberately ignorant, irresponsible, empathically-challenged thugs. In fact, they have been rampaging for decades, living on the dole, setting fire to small businesses and ruining the neighborhoods where quiet, law-abiding citizenry try to take their ease, vandalizing and claiming territory, selling drugs and other unhealthy addictive panaceas for a hefty profit, and mugging ordinary people — until they die or are consumed by larger predators. And yes, they are a product of our nation’s own failure to address their needs, to see to their education and indoctrination, to see them as who and what they are — and to treat them as the insidious threat they can be if ignored and left to run rampant.

Friends and neighbors across the world, I’m referring to the underclass subculture of lovable hooded hoodlums we charmingly refer to as Corporate America.

Perpetual Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that corporations are people and have rights that need protecting. The Supreme Court says it agrees — and that the spending of money — huge amounts of money in excess of the money any single individual is ever likely to have — somehow counts as speech, and is to be protected under the First Amendment. The truth is that politicians have been cozy with Corporate America since the years of the original robber barons, zipped up in their anonymizing hoodies of corporate charters used to shield from liability the individuals responsible for, well, after all of that, “exploitation” is a weak word.

Thievery. Outright murder. Thuggery. Those are better words.

That’s fairly progressive thinking for politicians of any stripe, especially career conservatives, standing up for the rights of these new immigrants, this new species of invader, trying to protect a voice so it doesn’t go unheard.

Voice. I’ve run out of the cynicism necessary to let that metaphor continue unaddressed. Money isn’t speech. It’s muscle. Voice is speech. Words, writing, art, expression — these are the tools we use to convince and justify, to make points. Money can be used to convince and justify, but it shouldn’t. Muscle can also be used to convince and justify, but it shouldn’t.

There’s no essay I could write that would make a rational judge give me your house. But if I ponied up enough cash and applied it in the right places, that could actually happen. That has actually happened. If I had enough muscle — guns and threats and just enough anonymity to shield me from liability, I could do the exact same thing.

Money is faster. Friendlier to the recipients. More effective, even. Harder to trace. In near-infinite supply. And a huge weapon in the hands of our own thug underclass. It’s the next step up from bullets — especially combined with that shield from liability.

Okay, so corporations are people — artificial people built out of coded documents, each section and paragraph coding for abilities, restraints, interfaces with the outside world and other corporate machinery, suites of senses, feedback systems, decision matrices, and made artificially intelligent where necessary by plugging actual human brains into them in critical places. Whatever. I write science fiction. I read it. This is nowhere near a new concept: robots, golems, homunculi, Frankensteinian and Moreauvian technology, invocations and summonings, AI software… I simply take it as a given we’ve been making it work since the trading companies of the early Renaissance, when, not even remotely coincidentally, banking started taking off.

Whatever. Hurray. Give ’em a vote when they turn eighteen and make them pay their goddamn taxes. I’m the last person on earth that would ever get in the way of sharing the planet with a new life form, but I will not #^@&!%* bow.

I’ve built a few new life forms of my own in the various labs I’ve had access to, and trust me, it’s easier than you think. No big whoop. I know what I’m talking about.

I don’t mind the idea that we should judge corporations individually, on their own merits, before lumping them all together. I’m fine with that. There’s more variations between individuals than we have between humans. Taxonomically speaking, biologically speaking, they’re a whole new kingdom. But when we judge them, particularly when we judge them for crimes, there should be consequences. This shield from liability is the part that really needs to go.

If they want to be citizens, let them.

If they want the rights of children, then register guardians and hold them in loco parentis.

If they want rights as adults, then they get responsibilities to go with them. If they commit crimes, misdemeanors or felonies, then they get criminal prosecution and attendant civil liabilities. A trial. A jury. And, at sentencing, fines that are actually large enough to hurt. Suspension of charter for operating in the US is a perfect analog to prison. Dissolution and sale of assets is a perfect analog for the death penalty. And if that’s not enough, we can use RICO to go after every last member of the corporation, every last active, voting investor, to hold all of the participants in a crime jointly and severally liable.

No more shield from liability for those responsible for using corporations for thuggery, for smashing small businesses, for setting fires, for making back alley deals, for vandalizing society at large, for sneaking high-end sneakers and televisions out of windows when they think they can get away with it.

No more applying huge quantities of money or muscle where voice is the only influence that should be allowed.

No more hiding in hoods.


August 12, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


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