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Subject:  Coke's Violent Censorship Date:  12/24/2000  7:44 AM
Author:  CrazyOtto Number:  1436 of 2249

An article forwarded to me recently that I thought this group might like. Aren't we lucky no one tackles us to the ground whenever we ask a simple critical question of a large corporation. --Otto


The Real Thing: Democracy as a Contact Sport
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

A couple weeks ago, we received an invitation to attend an event at the Library of Congress. Coca-Cola was about to make an "historic contribution" to the Library of Congress, and the Library, and Coca-Cola, were inviting reporters to cover the event. We accepted the invitation.

We learned from the morning papers that the "historic contribution" was a complete set of 20,000 television commercials pushing Coca-Cola into the American digestive system. Remember the one where the kid hands Pittsburgh Steeler Mean Joe Greene his bottle of Coke, and in return, Mean Joe tosses the kid his football jersey? Or what about on a hilltop in Italy where the folks start sing "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company"?

The event was at the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building -- named after the Thomas Jefferson who, in 1816, wrote: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws our country." Anyway, we pull up at the appointed hour (7:15 p.m. on November 29, 2000)at the Thomas Jefferson building, and there's a traffic jam created by stretch limousines blocking the entrance. In addition to lowly reporters, the 400 or so guests included ambassadors,
members of Congress, corporate chieftains and other dignitaries. Good thing we dressed up.

The Main Hall is this absolutely stunning room, with marble staircases. A string quartet is playing. Waiters are serving Coke in classic bottles. The food is fabulous -- lamb chops, trout, Peking duck. We rub shoulders with the Ambassador from Burma. The "aristocracy of our monied corporations," as Jefferson put it, had taken over the place, and Coca-Cola wanted to make sure that everybodyknew it. After all, Coke could have just donated the ads to the Library and left it at that. But this wasn't about Coke's largesse. It was about public relations -- whether the public would view the company as a racist company (Coke had just agreed to pay $192.5 million to settle allegations that it routinely discriminated against black employees in pay, promotions and performance evaluations) or a junk food pusher (consuming large quantities of sugared Coca-Cola has led to ours being one of the most overweight generations in history) -- or instead, a generous contributor to the Library of Congress.

James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was called on to deliver good things to Coke, and he did. He turned over the keys of the Main Hall to Coke, and Coke decked the place out with its logo, stitched in red beside the logo of the Library of Congress. Television sets were placed throughout the hall, the better for the Ambassadors and members of the Democratic Leadership Council to check out the commercials. Billington was selling the soul of the library to one of the world's most powerful corporations. In addition to the ads, Coke was establishing a fellowship at the Library for the study of "culture and communication" -- one fellow will receive $20,000 a year for the next five years.

Gary Ruskin, director of Commercial Alert, was outside the event,protesting. "It is not the p