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
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.
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!
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.
she said, just as AT&T sidled up.
. . di . . . she . . . ay?”
anybody heard from Blackwater,” I asked, hoping to get things
believe he prefers ‘Xe,’ now,” Wal-Mart offered.
come on, it’s an affectation. Like, I don’t call Paul ‘Bono’
when we hang,” said Apple.
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
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 . . .”
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.
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.