James Bond and the corporate view of human nature
The mass entertainment industry rarely offers much in the way of political subversion (though bits and pieces do get smuggled through, if you look closely), but it can provide us with insights into how the corporate world sees the views and values of ordinary people. Here's an example.
The last James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, involved MI6 agent Bond and a CIA counterpart rebelling against their respective spy agencies to counter a coup against the Bolivian government. The coup was aimed at the eventual privatisation of that country's water resources. This is closely related to real life events, as the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole points out in an excellent piece here. The current left-wing administration in Bolivia is the latest in a long line of progressive South American governments to have been covertly undermined and plotted against by local business and military elites, often with the connivance of Washington. Its a story being played out right now in Honduras. The QoS scriptwriter is obviously familiar with recent South American politics, including the Cochabamba protests against water privatisation in Bolivia, which are alluded to in the plot.
Now James Bond, for all his ostensible devil-may-care individualism is probably the least subversive of all movie characters. So why choose a cause celebre of the international left for his latest mission, and play it in such an eyebrow-raisingly sympathetic way?
The Bond film franchise is a major one, geared to making big bucks on the basis of judging its audience correctly. I would suggest that plenty of people in the entertainment industry understand that there is an awareness amongst the general public - and, more importantly, a disapproval of the fact - that western governments, corporations and intelligence agencies engage in this sort of behaviour in places like Latin America. (Quantum of Solace is far from the only film/tv show in which the state, the CIA etc are the bad guys. Even our own Dr Who and Torchwood have occasional elements of that). The producers of the Bond film calculated that a plot which played to these views would find favour with audiences and make money at the box office.
Film producers take such assessments of the mood of the masses seriously, because getting those calculations right is how they make themselves rich. Active support for the likes of Evo Morales may be in short supply in the West, but the plot selection of the Bond producers suggests that those who make their fortunes understanding the moods of mass audiences know that there is a widespread passive sympathy for causes of this kind: people are aware that right wing US governments try to overthrow or subvert progressive third world governments; and they don‘t like it.
If this assessment of the public mood is correct, then that's very encouraging news for people on the left. It suggests that if we go out there and make the case against US imperialism to the average apolitical person on the street, we may well find a surprisingly receptive audience.
You can take a similar, broader message from advertising. Very rarely does an advert simply tell you the features of the product and the price. Instead, elaborate attempts are made to associate the product in your mind with things like freedom, happiness, fulfilment, love/sex etc etc. The material product itself isn't something we're that interested in, so the advertisers have to hitch it on to something we really value. I don't care particularly which broadband/telephone package I use, but if I'm encouraged to associate BT's product with a happy home and love life then its understood that this will appeal to me far more than the material item itself. Thus are natural human needs and energies diverted down the dead end of consumerism.
Corporate bosses - when in the realms of political debate - never miss a chance to tell us that human beings are driven by greed and self-interest, requiring ever greater rewards to motivate us. See the recent justifications for the return of massive bonuses for the incompetant leaders of the discredited banking industry. But the real corporate assessment of human nature is revealed in the way that profit-making institutions try and sell their products to us. Those communications give us good reason to believe that corporations understand human beings to value freedom, love, empathy for our fellow people and other loftier concerns above shallow material enrichment.
Mass entertainment and other corporate forms of communication may not be subversive in and of themselves, but they can unwittingly provide glimpses into how our own natures contradict, and are capable of subverting, the values of the corporate system.