• Nov : 8 : 2019 - IATD Launches Texas Bar Association Complaint Against Houston Attorney, Cheryl Shooks Brown for Alleged Misconduct
  • Oct : 24 : 2019 - IATD Advocating for People to Counter Crys for Amber Guyger Not to Be Imprisoned
  • Oct : 22 : 2019 - IATD Asks Attorney General To Look at Doordash’s Unjust Enrichment, Pre-Tipping Exposure and Deceptive Trade Practices Claims
  • Oct : 20 : 2019 - Loophole Results in Billionaire governor’s family farms receiving $125.000 subsidy
  • Oct : 19 : 2019 - CONREX Property Management Violates Women’s Domestic Violence Act

According to independent media advocate Jeff Cohen, the United States needs to “evolve” beyond predatory, corporate capitalism, because solving problems like climate change can’t happen with the status quo. He says we need to move toward something like “eco-socialism, democratic socialism, or libertarian socialism,” and assigns the media a big role to play in that shift.

Cohen, one of America’s leading critics of mainstream media, founded the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting and co-founded, with Norman Solomon, the online progressive activist group RootsAction.org. Cohen was a panelist on Fox News Watch, a show on media bias, and senior producer of Phil Donahue’s MSNBC program, until, Cohen says, he and Donahue were “fired for questioning the impending invasion of Iraq.”

Cohen is now producing documentaries, including 2016’s All Governments LieTruth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone and most recently, The Corporate Coup D’ État, both directed by Fred Peabody. 

I interviewed Cohen in West Hollywood before he presented the SoCal premiere of his latest film.

Q: Tell us about your most recent film, The Corporate Coup D’ État.

Jeff Cohen: It traces the last forty years of U.S. capitalism and politics, and how a handful of corporations have seized control over the economy and the political system. We contrast recent history with the period from the late thirties to the late seventies, which was an anomalous period in capitalism’s history. Union militants and socialist activists in the thirties led to one out of every three U.S. workers in a union. From the beginning of WWII to the next twenty-five years, real wages of average workers doubled.

Contrast that with what we’ve had since the corporate coup of the early sixties, late seventies, with corporations making war with unions, and taking control not just of the Republican Party, 98 percent, but half of the Democratic Party. The movie is about how our democracy has been hijacked by corporate power and how we arrived at Trump.       

Q: What are “sacrifice zones”?

Cohen: Journalist Chris Hedges, one of the stars of our movie, has written about sacrifice zones. They’re places where corporations went into a city or town or region, got the government to build them highways right to the factory gates, made decades of high profits, and then, thanks to NAFTA, just picked up and left, abandoning the communities, workers and factories for cheaper labor in Mexico, China, and Vietnam. These zones were basically sacrificed—they are now places of utter desperation, with no jobs, opioid addiction, et cetera.

The two zones in the movie are Camden, New Jersey, and Youngstown, Ohio. We interviewed union workers, Democrats, who voted for Trump. A bunch of them voted for Obama twice, voted in the 2016 Democratic primary for Bernie against Hillary, and then flipped to vote for Trump. The movie sheds lots of light on why Hillary lost to Trump, and why these “rust belt” communities, another way of saying “sacrifice zone,” in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan went to Trump.

Workers who never voted for a Republican voted for Trump because he pretended to be this populist who was against the corporate elites. They connected Hillary to Bill Clinton, who brought us NAFTA. And if Joe Biden is the nominee they’ll do the same thing to him. It will be an election fought over the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement—a sore spot for anyone working in the auto and steel industries.                  

Q: Press notes for Coup state that “Trump’s most fervent supporters did not consider Trump to be part of the Washington establishment.” But has this changed now?

Cohen: I’m sure a lot of people who voted for Trump because he wasn’t seen as part of the hated corporate establishment, realize Trump has made things worse, not better. We’ve talked about taking this movie back to Youngstown and doing a screening. If you didn’t know the folks there had voted for Trump, you’d think they were Occupy Wall Street activists. They say things like, “we in the 99 percent have to unite against the 1 percent,” and “Democrat or Republican, I don’t care which party, they’re all whores for the big corporations.”  

I’m sure a lot of people who voted for Trump because he wasn’t seen as part of the hated corporate establishment, realize Trump has made things worse, not better.

Q: Tell us about some of Coup’s prominent interview subjects?

Cohen: Cornel West, like Chris Hedges, is very taken with our thesis, that what has happened in our country in the last four decades is a corporate coup. They’re both admirers of Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul, a key figure in the movie. In many ways Saul, a public intellectual, inspired the movie because he wrote back in the ’90s we’re in the middle of a corporate coup. No one voted for it, but the elites happily go down this path of more corporatism and less democracy. 

There’s a great scene near the end of the movie where Cornel West is in Toronto and we arrange for him to meet John Ralston Saul, who he’d never met before. Cornel plays an important role in talking about how corporations rule, whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House. One way they rule is through racial and gender division—scapegoating immigrants, gays, feminists. As Cornel says in the movie, divide and conquer is a trick of the elites since the people emerged from caves at the beginning of the species.    

Q: What is journalist Matt Taibbi’s role?

Cohen: Matt plays a key role in talking about something that might be jarring to a lot of liberals who think MSNBC and CNN are leftwing alternatives to Fox News. Those networks need Trump. They built Trump, and gave Trump more publicity than all other candidates in 2015 combined. There’s nothing journalistic or democratic about it. So Matt makes clear how CNN and MSNBC helped Trump get the Republican primary nomination. Actually, this led to Matt’s new book called Hate Inc.

Q: Trump has been criticized for bandying about the word “coup” when discussing impeachment proceedings. Is Corporate Coup hyperbole?

Cohen: I don’t think it’s hyperbole at all. In the last forty years the corporations have taken total control of one party and half or more of the other. And they make it impossible for a third party. When you look at corporate domination of politics and of media, it’s a corporate coup. 

Ed Rampell is a Los Angeles-based film historian Rampell is the author of the 2005 book Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States and the coauthor of three other film history books, most recently The Hawaii Movie and Television Book.

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