The recently proposed merger between JP Morgan Chase and Bank One has got me thinking about the ways that multinational corporations work. Never forget that these two “banks” are really corporations — meaning that their primary concern is, always, to make more money. And, ironically, to make more money at any cost. The cost, unfortunately, is almost always measured in human lives. Who can forget the 1995 Chase Manhattan memo recommending that the Mexican government “eliminate the Zapatistas” rebels in Chiapas in order to secure foreign investments? Who can forget? Apparently most everyone.
Multinational banks are not the only corporations that keep the balance sheet of bodies hidden from view. Indeed, we almost expect it from banks. But from a record label? The phenomenal indie band Godspeed You Black Emperor! offers a homemade diagram (full-size diagram) on their website that details how major defense contractors have holdings in record labels like Time Warner, Sony, and BMG:
So in addition to Britney Spears albums, this network of companies produces bombs, missiles, and fighter jets. These corporations form a node that GYBE! calls “Yanqui U.X.O.” — a phrase which is not so difficult to understand once you know the language. UXO is a military term which means “unexploded ordnance.” In other words — a bomb waiting to go off. And Yanqui is Yankee, seen (and spelled) from the colonized’s point of view.
These corporations deal in real violence, but there is also a kind of metaphysical violence going on in the way that their interconnectivity and culpability is obscured. Britney’s smash CD comes out on a Jive Records label. Jive Records is owned by BMG. BMG in turn is connected to the Franco-Belgian oil giant TotalFinaElf. And TotalFinaElf owns Hutchinson Worldwide, a company that makes, through its subsidiary Barry Controls, essential avionic and missile components for the defense industry.
I am reminded of a scene in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. Somebody asks the serial killer/Wall Street bigshot Patrick Bateman what he does for a living. She thinks she hears him say “mergers and acquisitions.” Which makes sense, because he does work for an investment firm. What he really says, and what she chooses not to hear is this: “murders and executions.”