Something’s Rotten in the Corporate States of America

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"Punch the clock" Art by Mr. Fish.

Beginning with the slave trade and leading all the way up to the climate crisis, author Barbara Freese’s “Industrial Strength Denial” examines eight of private industries' most egregious crimes against humanity. On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” the author joins Robert Scheer to discuss what the host calls “heinous behavior” on the part of the corporations involved in each case, and, most importantly, how the corporatization of the United States has allowed unfettered greed to cause irreversible harm and an astounding loss of life. 

As Scheer explains, Freese’s detailed book refuses to fall into the trap of villainizing individual actors such as former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, or oil barons and tobacco company leaders, however depraved they may seem. Instead her book points to systemic corruption that has infected all aspects of American life and politics. Rather than “evil” CEOs, the Scheer Intelligence host says, “Industrial Strength Denial” is about the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt defined it, that leads companies, for example, in the tobacco industry, to suppress information regarding deadly health outcomes in the name of obscene profit. 

“Even though I know my book is in many respects kind of infuriating in terms of what it describes,” Freese tells Scheer, “I'm hoping actually to get folks to kind of step back a little bit, not look so much at the individuals, but to look at the context [to] recognize that these folks are responding to a society that rewards this kind of denial, and punishes honesty and social responsibility.” 

Listen to the full conversation between Scheer and Freese as they discuss how time and again companies from Wall Street to Chevron have flouted human rights in order to squeeze inordinate amounts of money out of people and the planet. 



Joshua Scheer