June 19, 2023: Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter, Wikipedia, HP, Warner Bros., Sony, Fox, Disney, Visa Card, PayPal, Uber, Gap, Levi’s… What’s common to these names? They are some of the biggest companies and brands of our time. What else is common between them? They are all headquartered in the American state of California.
During the last couple of decades, Corporate California has become a gigantic business empire. What is this empire made up of? Dozens of highly powerful privately owned corporations. The corporations together make California an empire that runs our life. Every single day. Every single minute.
Are you surprised why I am calling California an empire? Just look at history and you will know why. Today’s California matches the power and influence that empires from the past used to enjoy – such as the Romans, the Greeks, the British, and the Mongols. But this Californian empire works a little differently compared to ancient empires. This empire is a superorganism of corporate brands. Brands through which some extremely powerful US companies are controlling economies and crores of people around the world.
California: An economic giant
Ancient empires were made up of kingdoms, religious bodies, and traders. They physically colonised lands and physically ruled people. But the Californian empire is not interested in colonising your land physically. It knows how to operate from a distance. And from a distance, it has colonised our hearts and minds. Our brains and veins.
Since when did California become this giant empire? Since the start of the internet era. The American state is now the headquarters of dozens of top-rated Fortune 500 companies. In fact, as the home of some giant corporations, California’s economy is bigger than 190 countries. If you consider California as a country, then it is the fifthlargest economy on the planet after the US, China, Japan, and Germany.
Here in India, a vast section of the population is dedicated to Californian companies as customers and employees. Social media platforms, Hollywood, smart gadgets, software, hardware, fashion brands, fast food chains – Indians, especially the so-called educated folks, are under their spell.
Let’s take a closer look at how Corporate California works. Take Hollywood, for example. The Californian film industry is considered as the global benchmark for movies, even though many of its films are shallow. Hollywood misuses its influence. It sells narratives that ensure movie-goers see America only in a certain way. A tiny but powerful bunch of conglomerates and companies produces all of Hollywood’s films. They use flashy marketing and the power of the English language to control our taste and opinion.
Columbia, Walt Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Universal Pictures – they are factories of influential films that are located around the Hollywood area in Los Angeles. The companies are as popular as the movies they produce. They produce all sorts of films that cover all kinds of taste, such as superhero movies, war movies, action hits, spy thrillers, family drama, cartoons, comedies, and musicals.
It is well-known that US imperialism uses the Hollywood-CIA-Pentagon nexus to brainwash audiences and manipulate their thoughts. The US film industry was worth $95 billion last year. In 2019, it reported a revenue of $35 billion. The numbers are staggering. They show how far and wide Hollywood movies are sold.
California and Big Tech
California’s corporate class also controls us through social media. Most of us can’t live without smartphones and online platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google search, Gmail, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube, Uber, LinkedIn, and so on. A huge number of Indians are hooked on to these platforms right from waking up till they go to sleep.
Think about the things we do on social media. We post our intimate details online, exchange private messages, share our political thoughts, watch viral videos, follow maps for directions, search for all sorts of things, and hail cabs. We do all these activities on platforms owned privately by Big Tech giants headquartered in California. These companies are worshipped as modern gods. And because we blindly follow them, they control our brains and our ideas.
Activist and former CIA worker Edward Snowden famously said, “Businesses that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as surveillance companies. Their rebranding as social media is the most successful deception since the US department of war became the department of defence.”
A look at the numbers gives a feel of the size of California’s Big Tech giants. Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, had a revenue of $283 billion last year. Led by CEO Sundar Pichai, Alphabet had an employee strength of over 190,000 before recently sacking lots of people. Its assets were worth $365 billion last year. Apple, which makes iPhones and iMacs, posted a revenue of $394 billion last year. Apple employs 164,000 people all over the world, and its assets were worth $353 billion last year.
Look at Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. It had a revenue of $117 billion last year, and its assets were worth $186 billion. Meta employed over 86,000 people as of December last year before sacking people.
Take Hewlett-Packard as another example of California’s corporate muscle power. HP is one of the world’s top laptop makers. The company has been around for 84 years. Last year, it recorded a revenue of $63 billion, and its assets were worth $39 billion. The computer company employs 58,000 people.
Your favourite streaming company Netflix is another important player in the Californian empire. In 2022, it posted a revenue of $32 billion, and had assets worth $49 billion. Although it employs just 13,000 people, Netflix has become a household name. The brand is as popular today as Google and Facebook.
Another big player is Intel Corporation, one of the world’s top semiconductor and hardware brands. The 54-year-old company became a household name ever since the first PCs arrived. It saw a revenue of $63 billion last year. Its assets are worth $182 billion. More than 1,31,000 people work for Intel.
A world without social media
Here’s a thought experiment to feel how deeply California’s tech companies control us. Imagine a scenario where the entire world has to spend one full week without the tech platforms. For seven days, imagine there’s no Google search, no Gmail, no Facebook, no WhatsApp, no Netflix, no Google maps, no Wikipedia, no Apple products, no YouTube, no Visa Card. Sounds like a digital lockdown you don’t want to see? If so, it means then you are a devoted citizen of the Californian empire.
There’s a bunch of other powerful companies that help Corporate California dominate India and the world. And there are superstar CEOs, such as Elon Musk. He runs Twitter and SpaceX. Both companies are headquartered in California.
Visa, PayPal, eBay – they dominate the global transaction market. Chevron is a major player in the oil and gas business. Gap, Levi’s, Forever 21 are fashion brands that are worshipped by urban populations. Wikipedia is the most visited online encyclopaedia for everything under the sun.
There’s more. OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, is the poster boy of the AI revolution. Uber is a trusted taxi app. Fast food chain Taco Bell makes a huge amount of money in shopping malls around the world. Then there are so many more IT industry stalwarts that make California a major global force. They are Qualcomm, Cisco, Logitech, McAfee, Seagate, and Nvidia.
Most of us don’t realise we are citizens of this Californian empire. Why is it that we don’t know much about this empire-colony relationship? It’s because we are never told about it. Nobody clearly tells us that California is a corporate empire. TV channels, newspapers, news websites, schools, colleges, think tanks, movies, books, researchers – nobody seems to notice the elephant in the room. And why are we never told about it clearly? Is it because the Anglo-American West doesn’t want us to know the truth?
If you critically look at how the western media works, you will notice a certain agenda. It’s an Anglo-American agenda to make the rest of the world think that only governments run societies. That big businesses are around only to sell goods and services. The reality is exactly the opposite. We live in times when corporations – actually their owners – control the world. And California is the epicentre of this corporate control over people.
Rise and fall of East India Company
Corporate California reminds us of the British East India Company. If you are a Silicon Valley fan, then you must know what happened between 1600 and 1874. In 1608, eight years after the British East India Company was born, the company’s representatives reached Surat in Gujarat.
Surat’s innocent coastal people didn’t realise at that time that the trading company would someday loot them. That it would become an octopus-like monopoly, sucking the entire subcontinent dry. But the European invaders’ honeymoon didn’t last forever. The British East India Company was bulldozed by the British monarchy in 1858 and made to wind up in 1874.
This rise and fall of the East India Company is an important lesson for fans and customers of modern-day Corporate California. Will history repeat itself? Will the Californian empire one day come crashing down, just like the East India Company did?
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