With the recent Supreme Court reversal of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which previously restricted the direct financial contributions corporations and unions could make to political campaigns, limiting them to gifting holiday-themed sweaters, peanut brittle and “that video game you like so much, the Asteroids,” there’s been a lot of paranoiac chatter re: corporate personhood.
By granting American corporations expanded freedoms under the First Amendment, SCOTUS has sparked or confirmed fears in the minds of many Americans that greater “individual rights” are being granted to mega-bid’ness as “persons” than to natural persons. (Natural persons, in this case, is a legal term meaning “person,” and not necessarily limited to Seventh Generation/Dr. Bronner’s clientele; nor exclusive of the Kardashians).
I am not, myself, a legal expert, though I know several and count them among my friends (though I do not let them swim with my other fish). In fact, I am happy to tip glasses with them. But I have not, as yet, found the appropriate ratio of appetizers to Cabernet that will loosen the legal tongue while preserving my own ability to tell my Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) from my Joe v. the Volcano (1990). But, still, I was interested in getting a better sense of just what we’re in for. So, barring lengthy investigation, responsible scholarship, and consultation with subject-matter experts—as I do—I took an aphoristic approach: “You may recognize a man at work; but to know him, you must share his drink.” Plus, I made up an aphorism.
But the point is, if you want to know a person—even a corporate person—you’ve got to spend time with them in a social setting. So, taking advantage of their reinforced personhood, I went out drinking with them, before some liberal activist court of the future gets all Flowers for Algernon on ’em and they’re turned back into spreadsheets and piles and piles and piles of money: me, Wal-Mart, Nike, AT&T, Apple and Blackwater.
By the time I got to the bar, Apple had already uploaded photos of his Anchor Porter to Twitter with the hashtag “#smartfood,” and texted me three times.
“I’ll be the 1 in the blk turtlneck! JK!” “If the bar gets 2 crowded, we can go to miPad! LOL!” “OMG! I think I just saw John Hodgeman! Grrr.”
When I slid into the banquette next to him, he let me know that AT&T had also already arrived, but kept ducking out, and that Wal-Mart was speaking to the maitre d’ about the deplorable conditions of the men’s room.
A quick gesture clued Apple in that Wal-Mart was approaching and, thank god, he dropped discussion of thepeople ofwalmart.com. I didn’t think casual reference to an Internet site dedicated to portraying his clientele as baggy monsters would lead to collegial talk. Fortunately, Nike bounded up at that moment to distract the two. She looked like a length of thick rope in a Betty Page wig and spoke like a sugar rush.
“Sorryi’mlateIhopeIdidn’tkeepyouwaitinglongcanIgetapintglassofwaternoiceandaSauvignonBlanc,” she said, just as AT&T sidled up.
“Wh . . di . . . she . . . ay?”
“Um, anybody heard from Blackwater,” I asked, hoping to get things moving.
“I believe he prefers ‘Xe,’ now,” Wal-Mart offered.
“Oh, come on, it’s an affectation. Like, I don’t call Paul ‘Bono’ when we hang,” said Apple.
“Right, maybe we should just go ahead and chat a bit and Black . . . Xe can join, whenever,” I said. The fern behind us growled, “No one goes till my word.”
Drinks were ordered: Nike got her room-temp water and a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; Wal-Mart, a bottle each of Benedictine and Remy Martin, neat, with a club-soda side; Apple, another microbrewery; AT&T a “Lon . . . land . . . ice . . . t . . . . and New . . ersey.” The fern got 15 Red Bulls and asked where it could score a crate of Rohypnol.
I thought it wise to get to the meat of the matter. “So, look, guys . . .”
Nike made a noise that sounded like a random collection of syllables stuffed in an air-compressor and blown through an industrial fan.
“Uh, gentlemen and lady, thanks for coming out. Look, with the recent Supreme Court decision, there’s been, you know, a lot of concern about what you might do with your newly granted freedoms . . .”
“I have a dream,” said Wal-Mart. “Power to the persons,” said Apple. “Wshahowwwotowah,” said Nike. “The soil of freedom is watered with blood,” said the fern.
“Well, I’ll just get right to the point, then. Are you going to use your First Amendment rights as legal persons to warp the political system to your own ends, whatever the effect on the portion of the country known as natural persons?”
They pled the Fifth. And the fern abducted a waitress. And I got stuck with the bill. I only ordered a diet soda.