Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price


Director and producer Robert Greenwald’s recent, rapid ascendancy as the go-to guy for ornery motion-picture leaflets of lefty ire—he has zinged Fox News, John Ashcroft, the 2000 presidential election and the run-up to the Iraq war—is telling. It underscores a heartbreaking degradation of American cultural vitality, political responsibility and, alas, nonfiction filmmaking. Greenwald’s new project, as absolutely worth seeing as it is artless and wantonly polemical, posits that the culture of the world’s largest corporation is—shocker—duplicitous, greedy, stingy, sexist, racist, anti-competitive, anti-unionist, anti-environmentalist, pro-sweatshop and, as a place to work, just barely “better than getting kicked in the nuts.” That last assessment, borrowed from Jon Stewart, is as funny and pithy as the movie gets—and thank goodness it does, even if only briefly, for the rest is really depressing. Importantly, the complainants aren’t smug limousine liberals; their ranks include the working and middle classes, and several of the free-market faithful—all evidently as decent as they are disillusioned from stints as Wal-Mart employees. Still, Greenwald’s movie isn’t functionally progressive, because he doesn’t dare expect the company to take his critique to heart. And even if it did, could we ever grant it the benefit of our doubts? Boycotting is the easy part, and only the beginning.

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