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Scientists document how evil corporations memory-hole facts they don't want the public to remember


Corporations
(NaturalNews) How many times have we seen a major corporation exposed for malfeasance attempt to bury its wrongdoings with a feigned apology, followed by efforts to sweep the whole thing under the rug and continue with business as usual? A new study out of Finland takes a closer look at this common tactic among corporations to literally memory-hole all traces of their crimes through shareholder intimidation and public relations propaganda.

Researchers from Aalto University and the U.K.-based Cass Business School homed in on corporate irresponsibility as part of an academic inquiry into how multinational corporations deal with major scandals that threaten to destroy their bottom line. A fairly recent example of this is German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen, which was caught illegally tweaking the emissions standards on its vehicles to improve their performance.

Rather than simply come clean and issue an apology, Volkswagen has resorted to shifting the blame onto its former CEO, who had resigned long before the lid was blown on the scandal, as well as a select few others. And now Volkswagen is attempting to erase all traces of the scandal from the public psyche by claiming that the emissions tweaks were minimal anyway, and that the $2.18 billion it had planned to set aside to address the issue is no longer necessary.

In other words, "we didn't actually do anything wrong," Volkswagen is now essentially claiming, so people need to just move along. This is the modus operandi among major multinationals, the Finland study reveals, and it's how multi-billion-dollar companies that commit major crimes are able to get away with them and continue raking in the dough.

"Researchers have found that large corporations often try to get over their corporate irresponsibility by first asking for forgiveness and then silencing their stakeholders," reads a press release covering the study's findings. "They also remove traces that may act as a reminder of the scandal."

Collectively forgetting the past is what corporations rely on to continue committing crimes without penalty

The only way this whole process can work is if corporations are able to successfully erase from the collective public's memory all recollection of past incidents in which they violated the law, harmed consumers and/or otherwise tainted their reputation. And it's something that the corporate community at large has gotten quite good at in preserving its survival in the face of corporate delinquency.

The paper refers to such corporate attempts at erasing past crimes as "forgetting work," or the process of manipulating the short-term conditions of an event in order to lay the groundwork for a future "history" that forgets what actually happened. In the case of Volkswagen, this could potentially play out as a case where the vehicle manufacturer is remembered as a victim in a pollution "witch hunt" propagated by anti-capitalistic forces targeting the automobile industry.

"Forgetting work involves manipulating short-term conditions of the event, silencing vocal 'rememberers' and undermining collective mnemonic traces that sustain a version of the past," the study surmises. "This process can result in a reconfigured collective memory and collective forgetting of corporate irresponsibility events."

Corporations that engage in rewriting their own sordid histories may gain a few social reputation points in the shorter term, but memory-holing incidents that reflect badly on a corporation can also backfire. The study found that corporations that actively "forget" their own improprieties end up repeating them in the future, which can eventually snowball into a pattern of corporate crimes that ends up destroying the company's reputation.

"Companies need to hold onto reminders of what went wrong," the researchers discovered. "These can serve as powerful reminders for employees of what not to do in the future."

Sources for this article include:

Aalto.FI

EurekAlert.org

AMR.AOM.org

WSJ.com
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