February 15, 2009

Video review-imperialism series 3-imperialism goes bananas

There are two related films in this post for a combined running time of 32min 96 sec.

RIGHT: Entrance to a headquarters of the
United Fruit Company [photo: wikimedia]

Journey to Banana Land
Boring Boring Boring...hey! Bananas!...and child labour!

This film was produced by United Fruit Company to show in elementary school geography classes about bananas. One who watches "the Simpsons" TV show will see where the recurring character Troy McLure is used to make social commentary on film such as the one above.

Indoctrinating children and other viewers to eat bananas toward the end of the film, by showing many versatile uses, is obviously a motive beyond just education to make the film. The film is shows a paternalistic attitude towards the Central American region as the sole domain of the corporation. It shows how in its view it civilized the area all by itself, and developed modern infrastructure. It presents the workers and inhabitants of the area as primitive and backwards. Watch for the child labourers!

Loose similarities and differences can be made between the Hudson's Bay Company and the United Fruit Company:

-time-HBC was dominant from 1670 to around 1870 and the transfer of Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada. The United Fruit Company was active through most of the 20th century and lives on as Chiquita Brands.

-space- HBC was dominant in British North America/Canada in the fur trade. It owned Rupert's Land.
United Fruit was dominant in Central and South America in the fruit trade. It owned vast plantations and effectively controlled key industries and government policy in "banana republics".

political sphere of influence- HBC was part of the British Empire. United Fruit was a part of the American Empire. In fact the film below shows the government more direct role in imperialism.

According to wikipedia, in 1954, the democratically elected Guatemalan government of Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán was toppled by U.S.- backed forces lead by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas who invaded from Honduras. The CIA accomplished this through operation PBSUCCESS when Arbenz pushed for land reforms to redistribute United Fruit lands to poor farmers.

United Fruit is mentioned when Colonel Smedly Butler wrote of his career: "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

Psychological Operations in Support of Internal Defense and Development Assistance Programs (Part I)

As mentioned in the film above, it shows a government's more direct role in imperialism. It intervenes on behalf of trans national corporate interests. All under the name of preventing Communism from taking hold in a country. Inviting in the United States to help, or another power for that matter, is more common than we think given today's Bush doctrine. Canada's agreement to let U.S troops on to Canadian soil it proof, along with the proliferation of U.S. bases around the world. This film is not as dated as we may think.

A battle of ideas
A common thread of these films is they present a view and try to make the audience see the world their way. Consumer advertising, Newspaper editorials, the spin on Fox TV news, a radio call in show "moderator/host."
In fact when you look at it as such, this very blog post can be viewed as propaganda (But we don't lie!). Really, objectivity is simply non existent as we all have differing opinions and it shows in some capacity.

The psych-ops approach is a battle of ideas and goes beyond nation to nation but among various groups and consumers. The recent Gaza tragedy is a good example with controlled media outlets, press releases, and web brigades such as the Jewish Internet Defense Force, an ultra right wing group that lobbies for removable of truly anti-Semitic sites. However, it's also overzealous in its intimidation of service providers thereby removing any web site mildly critical of, or opposing its views. Harper's Conservatives and the anti-coalition talking points are another example of a media brigade. And advertisements and Horatio Alger stories, and Hollywood movies like "Pursuit of Happiness" saturate our culture with neo-liberal ideas, but it is a neo-liberal system after all.

Speaking of bananas, here is an very strange advertisement that is unintentionally funny. It is among the Get rich quick ideas peddled in the back of popular magazines. Horaitio Algeiers indeed. The ad promotes a product, promotes free enterprise. It may be a legitimate small business, but ads for snake oil and cutco knives are very dubious. I can hear Billy Mays now.

Please note that the blog the ad is from will be reviewed next month when I lay off the films for awhile and review web pages, blogs, and wikis in March. From a socialist perspective.
- Comments


  1. You state that the Jewish Internet Defense Force is "ultra right wing" and that "it's also overzealous in its intimidation of service providers thereby removing any web site mildly critical of, or opposing its views" without providing any backup whatsoever.

    This is blatant exaggeration and defamation.

    The JIDF does not intimidate service providers and I'm not sure what makes you label the JIDF "ultra right wing."

  2. ^...I rest my case.

    Perhaps I should remind readers that a review is just that and
    implies opinion. You have yours and I have mine.

    The "blatant exaggeration" also fits the site in question.

    True an ugly debate can be made about the JIDF. "Mildly critical" can be subjective-one targeted group called for a boycott of Israeli goods, hardly a violent act, the boycott group's contents however I have not seen.

    If it's backup you want you look at the site itself, and the wikipedia article and its sources.


    the Canadian Jewish news reports about the JIDF: "It’s political views place it on the Zionist right. It has taken positions against the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and it launched an e-mail campaign after the second intifadah began in 2000 against rewarding terrorism with territorial concessions."


    based on that, it is ultra right wing. It goes beyond its original purpose, therefore is overzealous.


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