“Good morning,” said the cheery email from the PR firm hired to promote a new documentary set for its Canadian premier later this month. It went downhill from chirpy good morning to anti-corporate nightmare as the PR pitch unspooled. “With the SNC-Lavalin scandal currently captivating us all, I wanted to reach out as we’re working on publicity for Emmy-winning director Fred Peabody’s new documentary, The Corporate Coup d’État screening at Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.”
The documentary itself is a careening leftist screed against corporations and the alleged big-business takeover of the United States under Donald Trump, described as the “grotesque visage of a collapsed democracy.”
Given the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the PR people suggested, “it’s an important time to look at the parallels that are happening in Canada.”
There is no actual mention of SNC-Lavalin inThe Corporate Coup d’État, but there’s plenty of old-fashioned Canadian radicalism to warm the steamy imaginations of Canada’s leftists. The film’s director is from Vancouver, and two of the star intellectual performers beating the drums of neo-Marxist economics are Maude Barlow and John Ralston Saul. Most Canadians have forgotten these two legends of national activism, but they anchor the U.S.-focused Coup d-Etat.
The doc’s opening seconds show scenes from Trump’s inauguration, overlaid with creepily ominous music and Ralston Saul’s voice delivering creepily ominious words: “It could be argued that we are now in the midst of a coup d’état in slow motion. Democracy is weakening, corporatism is strengthening. Yet none of us has chosen this route for our society in spite of which our elites, quite happily, continue down it.”
In a way, Coup d’État is a follow-up to another Canadian propaganda documentary, Joel Bakan’s 2003 The Corporation (which also featured an appearance by Barlow). Asequelto that Canadian takedown of U.S. big business is also said to be in the works.
Exactly how SNC-Lavalin fits the U.S. narrative, or the corporate-coup theme, is far from clear —although there is certainly a movement in Canada to turn the Quebec firm’s troubles into a metaphor for the corporate infiltration of politics.
A few hours before the email promoting the documentary landed last week, the CBCpublisheda suggestive news report that amounted to a smear on former business leaders associated with SNC-Lavalin. “What the SNC board may have known about the firm’s dealings in Libya,” said the headline. Below were mug shots of a dozen prominent Canadians who sat on the SNC-Lavalin board when the company allegedly paid bribes to the corrupt Moammar Gadhafi dictatorship in Libya.
Canadian oil industry veteran Gwyn Morgan, who chaired the SNC-Lavalin board through part of the Libyan corruption period, told the CBC that he and other board members were unaware of illegal activities. But the CBC still dragged the names of a dozen Canadians — including former MP Lorna Marsden, veteran businessman Ian Bourne, former senator Hugh Segal and Chapters founding CEO Lawrence Stevenson — through the corruption story. The insinuation behind the smear job was that the reason SNC-Lavalin is seeking a deferred prosecution agreement is to protect board members and top executives from the public humiliation of a trial.
Moving along now to the next Canadian anti-corporate rage to infiltrate my email in recent days, we have a shortvideotitled “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” As readers will know, Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), promoter of the “Green New Deal,” is the U.S. Democrats’ standard-bearer for America’s radical socialist left.
AOC provides the voiceover to an animated portrayal of the horrors created by Exxon and other “massive corporations” who, despite knowing that global warming loomed, kept “digging, mining, drilling and fracking like there was no tomorrow.” What America needs, says AOC, is national child care, a national jobs program, an end to fossil fuel use and a total remake of the economy: Socialism with American characteristics.
If the video’s message sounds a little familiar, a kind ofLeap Manifestofor America, it’s no coincidence. One of the video’s creators is Canadian Naomi Klein (who also starred in Bakan’s anti-corporate documentary). Klein describes the animated video as AOC’s call for America to look to the glory days of the 1930s and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original New Deal as the model for a green version. The video’s credits also say it was “co-written” by Avi Lewis, Klein’s husband and co-creator of the 2015 Leap Manifesto — which even Canada’s NDP has rejected.
Canadians are also behind another anti-corporate screed touring the world, “Anthropocene: The Human Epoch,” which aired on Crave TV this week to mark Earth Day. Created by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky and Canadian filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, Anthropocene is a brooding portrayal of planetary ruin caused by anew geological erabrought on by human rapaciousness, based on a vicious view of people as pillaging destroyers rather than magnificent creators.
Not all Canadian influence on current cinema culture fits the Barlow/Klein/Lewis/Burtynsky/Ralston Saul worldview. B.C. zoologist Susan Crockford recently exposed the fake claim that climate change had caused walruses to plunge off cliffs to their deaths in a famous scene in “Our Planet,” the Netflix/World Wildlife Fund documentary series. (Her articleappears elsewhere in FP CommentWednesday.)
Talk about a coup d’état: As Canadians move slowly toward more conservative governments, Americans are being lured to the extreme anti-corporate left by some old-time Canadian socialists. Former U.S. President Barack Obama used to say “the world needs more Canada.” America could use a lot less.