They rule. Really.

September 19, 2006 | By | Reply More

To say that the corrupted interests of massive corporations have twisted and perverted the social and political system into a flimsy chessboard sounds, of course, paranoid and highly cynical. No wonder then that casual observers of the democratic process scoff at claims of widespread corporate corruption as an outlandish conspiracy theory. It does often prove an unverified claim- how can you begin to cover corporate connections, campaign contributions, and the like?

Enter They Rule. This starkly decorated flash page has taken on the lofty endeavor of revealing the income, connections, campaign contributions, and other relationships between the board members of American’s biggest corporations. They Rule describes its mission this way:

A few companies control much of the economy and oligopolies exert control in nearly every sector of the economy. The people who head up these companies swap on and off the boards from one company to another, and in and out of government committees and positions. These people run the most powerful institutions on the planet, and we have almost no say in who they are. This is not a conspiracy. They are proud to rule. And yet these connections of power are not always visible to the public eye.

They Rule aspires to make these connections of power fully visible. The site does it in an inventive format- click on a company, and you’ll see a table with a small circle of its board of directors. Bring out another company, and They Rule will show a “web” of connections between people from both companies.

Each board member has their own icon, a small business man or woman of varying fatness. Their weight represents their income and their number of connections, naturally. The website also facilitates a quick search of each board member’s background- just click on their little corporate fatcat likenesses.

But They Rule truly shines in its use of the “map” feature. Some They Rule users have perused the long list of corporations and institutions with devotion, and created intricate webs that represent more than slight shadiness. Take this map, which links the board of the New York Times to the likes of Ford Motor, Pepsico, and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.

Don’t mistake this for a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-esque stretch– members of the New York Times board serve on these other behemouth boards themselves. One degree seems pretty clear-cut to me. I also recommend the maps on the tobbacco and the pharmaceutical industry connections, and on Halliburton’s links to major media outlets such as Time Warner and Viacom.

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Category: Consumerism, Corruption, Economy, Media, Politics, Recommended Reading/Films/Sites, Web Site

About the Author ()

Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

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