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Sunday, November 8, 2009

The 4 stages of megacorporations

Like animals, corporations go through different stages in their development.
Every large corporation that exists today can be classified as being in one of four possible stages in it's lifespan. The difference between these stages lies in the method that the corporation uses to expand it's market. The first stage is the stage in which the corporation is born. The corporation satisfies a new need that has arisen in the population.
An example could be the Standard Oil company when it became the dominant company in the oil refinery industry. Of course, eventually the demand has been satisfied. People will never buy more Petroleum than they need, just like people will only buy the amount of food they are hungry for. When a corporation reaches this point, it would mean it can no longer expand. This represents a problem for it's management. The management of a large corporation has one responsibility: Increasing the earnings per share of the corporation, so the shareholders make more profit from their shares. This presents a problem for it's management. How does the management increase their company's profit when the people's needs are satisfied and the people thus do not want to buy more products? The solution to this problem is simple:
Trick people into believing they require things that they do not.
When a company begins to use this technique, it enters the second phase in it's lifespan. It must be noted that the new techniques that the company start using as it enters a new phase do not replace it's old techniques. When a company begins to trick people into believing they require things that they don't, it will at the same time continue to sell people the products that they do need. There's no reason for the company to stop doing this. After all, the only reason the company begins to trick people into buying things they do not need is because this allows the company to expand it's market.

The BBC has broadcast a documentary, The Century of the Self, that explains how companies began to apply this technique during the 20th century. It focuses on the use of psychology by companies to manipulate. It also cites people like Paul Mazer, a Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in the 1930s as saying: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

How did companies convince people into buying products that they do not need? A man who was instrumental in training people to desire new thing was Edward Bernays. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays was a master of manipulation, and thus a much desired consultant for all of the major companies of his time. He believed that he could use the group mind to manipulate people into doing what he wants without them ever finding out. In his book, Propaganda, he wrote:

"If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits."

According to Bernays, the method to make the group do what you want is by convincing it's leaders of a certain position:

"If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway. But men do not need to be actually gathered together in a public meeting or in a street riot, to be subject to the influences of mass psychology. Because man is by nature gregarious he feels himself to be member of a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which have been stamped on it by the group influences."

This is the method that Bernays would use for most of his campaigns. In 1929 for example, Edward Bernays was hired by a Tobacco company, to find a way to expand the market base of a cigarette company. Back then, mostly men smoked cigarettes, and a woman that smoked cigarettes was generally frowned upon. Bernays had come up with a plan to chance this. He hired a group of young elegant woman, to smoke cigarettes on New York's Fifth Avenue. Bernays had made sure that the press would be there to record this event, and the next day newspapers around the country reported on the historic "Torches of Freedom Parade". The newspapers believed that this was a group of young rebellious feminists who wanted to smoke cigarettes, just like men do. In reality however, Bernays had recruited the young women by having his secretary select the most appealing from Vogue, and contacted the press with a press release that read like it came from the "feminists" themselves. Afterwards it didn't take long for women around the country to begin smoking cigarettes. Bernays had managed to convince countless young women into following a trend that delivered them nothing but a drug addiction and a reduction in their life expectancy. A lot of our behavior that we never think about was shaped by men like Bernays decades ago. For example, it was Bernays that invented the breakfast of bacon and eggs. Before the 20's, people ate bacon with their lunch or dinner. However, a company selling bacon had contacted Bernays and wanted him to come up with a method to sell more bacon, and thus Bernays came up with the idea that from now on the ideal breakfast would consist of bacon and eggs.

Companies around the world still use the techniques of Bernays and others to trick people into buying things they do not need. An example is Nestlé, the largest food company in the world.
In 3rd world countries, Nestlé sends sales representatives into hospitals, dressed as nurses. The sales representatives tell new mothers there that infant formula is better for children than breast milk, and give the mothers a free supply of baby formula that lasts just long enough to dry out the women's own milk. The women would now become dependant on Nestlé's costly infant formula to continue feeding their newborn child. Due to lack of sanitized water, the women would mix the formula with contaminated water, and their children die from diarrhea as a result. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, a child bottle fed using unsafe water is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhea than a breast fed child. The lack of breastfeeding is responsible for 1.5 million deaths each year. In countries like Bangladesh, doctors report that the only babies they receive with diarrhea are bottlefed children.

Nestlé's example shows that the second stage in which companies trick people into buying products that they do not need does not have to depend on psychology alone. Nestlés method for example depends on a mixture of biology and psychology. The women are presented with a women dressed up as a figure of authority, who convinces them to buy into the scam. Next, Nestlé uses the fact that womens bodies stop producing milk after a while if the children are not breastfed to make them dependent on Nestlé infant formula. Other methods can be solely biological in nature.

For example, after world war II, food companies have been adding increasing amounts of Monosodium Glutamate, a flavor enhancer, to our food. Since 1948, the amount of MSG added to our food has doubled every decade. The interesting thing of Monosodium Glutamate is that it increases our appetite. Scientists use Monosodium Glutamate to trick mots into overeating, thereby exposing them to higher doses of a poison. In humans, MSG leads us to believe that a meal contains more protein than it actually does. Therefore, not only can companies add less protein rich ingredients to the food that they sell, it also means that people are satisfied earlier after eating an MSG rich meal. However, a study showed, that after eating this meal the appetite of people who ate the same meal with MSG added was increased when compared to those who ate the same meal without added MSG.

Another method includes convincing people to eat "diet" products that contain artificial sweeteners instead of products with normal amounts of sugar. These artifical sweeteners have the effect of confusing the body, due to the sweet taste in these products, the body expects that it is receiving the calory rich food that it loves, but instead it receives zero calories. The body reacts to this by requiring increasing amounts of calories, thus causing people to eat more food than they require. Studies done in rats with artificial sweeteners have confirmed this. This also explains why people who drink only diet soda are more likely to be obese than people who drink the same amount of regular soda.

What is important in this case is to remember that this does not necesarily imply a conspiracy. Although this is likely done in purpose, it is theoretically possible that something like this happens by accident. What is important to remember though, is that competition causes the most ruthless companies to survive. If one food company, whether intentionally, or accidentally, causes it's customers to eat more due to the MSG that it adds to it's food, this company will make more profit than a company that does not add MSG to it's food. Eventually this will lead to the company with MSG in it's food growing in size, and it may eventually buy out, or bankrupt the company that does not add MSG to it's food.

With the biological manipulation of people's desires by these large corporations we enter the third stage. Whereas in the second stage the corporation began to resemble a worrying growth, rapidly expanding while providing no benefit to the environment it takes over, in the third stage this growth has turned into a full fledged cancer that is starting to eat away at it's victim. In the third stage in the life of a company, the company increases it's market, by taking away from people the things that came in their possesion at an earlier point in time. By giving back to people (a resemblance of) the things that they had before they came in contact with the company, the company manages to sell more products and thus make more profit. One relatively innocent form of this is by selling us products that are designed to break down eventually or become outdated, thus requiring us to buy more from the same company. A more sinister method involves selling us products that take away our most valuable posession, our health, and selling us more products that will supposedly restore our health.

A good example is the pharmaceutical company known as Eli Lilly. In 2003 an Anti-psychotic, Zyprexa accounted for more than a third of Eli Lilly total sales. However, this anti-psychotic causes Diabetes as a side effect. Interestingly enough, Lilly’s second most lucrative product line was its diabetes treatment drugs.

Another example can be found in the cancer industry. AstraZeneca produces the breast cancer drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen. However the company also produces pesticides linked to cancer, and it's Perry, Ohio, chemical plant is the third-largest source of potential cancer-causing pollution in the United States. In 1985, the company started Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is meant to encourage women to get mammograms. However, these mammograms actually cause breast cancer.

One of the main propaganda institutes for the cancer industry is the American cancer society. An article by Samuel S. Epstein explains how the American Cancer Society denies the role of pesticides in causing cancer and blames how pressure from the pharmaceutical industry leads the American Cancer Society to combating alternative treatments. The American Cancer Society also advices people to stay out of the sun, or use sunscreen. Sunlight, to be more specific, a type of Ultraviolet radiation called UV-B, causes the body to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible for massively reducing a person's chance of getting cancer. Most of the public, especially people with dark skin whose bodies need more sunlight to produce Vitamin D, is deficient is this vitamin. The advice that the American cancer society gives, staying out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, and using sunscreen (which often only blocks UV-B radiation but not UV-A) is the exact advice that keeps the body from getting the UV-B radiation it needs.

When the people who listen to the ACS' advice get cancer and fall into the hands of the cancer industry, they are given treatment that will actually cause cancer. Children that receive chemotherapy are three times more likely to later develop another form of cancer as adults due to the treatment methods that are used. When the pharmaceutical cartel has found a victim, it will haunt the victim for the rest of his life.

This leads us to the 4th stage. In the 4th stage, the corporation has died after it has destroyed the people of whom it leeches. Most companies are stopped before they reach the 4th stage. The Tobacco industry is now subjected to legislation after the public found out that cigarettes cause cancer. The food industry has not yet been stopped, and as a result most Americans are now obese and obesity is expected to cause the American life expectancy to decline instead of increase. Cancer continues to increase in prevalence and the media is now conditioning us to accept teenagers with breast cancer as normal. Like a cancer the corporations continue to expand, until eventually they destroys their host.


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