Like everyone else on earth, I often to binge-watch my favorite television shows. I have just started working through my DVR queue of the second season of Mr. Robot. I am definitely enjoying this season, just as I did the first, and all along have been laughing at the economic justice nonsense that fills each episode.
If you’re not familiar with the show, its premise is extremely unusual and part of the reason it has become a hit. The show is set in the not-too-distant future and revolves around Elliott, a psychologically damaged cyber-security expert, who in a fit of rage and revenge hacks into the computers of E-Corp, the world’s dominant mega-corporation. Elliott and a group of fellow true believers, in trying to bring down the company, are attempting to rid the world of rapacious capitalism and bring about economic justice for all.
Any time one of the characters soliloquizes on E-Corp (always menacingly referred to as Evil-Corp) and its ill deeds, some sort of unintentional hilarity ensues. They are always earnestly taking the side of the angels, in opposition to the marketplace and the soul-killing business of business, and I can’t help but be entertained by the silliness of it all.
One of the main stated reasons for destroying the company, which seemingly dominates every industry on earth – computers, communication, entertainment, banking, etc. – is to eliminate the staggering debt that has been accumulated by average Americans. They literally speak about it as if they were rescuing hostages from terrorists.
They never address the two questions that always come to my mind, however:
1. Did E-Corp put a gun to the borrower’s heads and force them to take on debt?
2. What happens to the savings accounts and lives of those who get paid interest via the collection of debt repayments?
It’s as if everyone in America somehow woke up one day, leveraged to the hilt, and the “heroes” of the show ride in on white horses to save the day.
E-Corp itself is portrayed in a thoroughly cartoonish heavy-handed manner. Its executives are brainless drones who apparently consider fraud and theft the only activities with which to fill the workday. There has yet to be an employee shown that has a positive contribution to make. Despite its being the business version of a hellacious death-dealing monster, it still somehow has managed to convince the majority of people to do business with it one way or another.
The only real-world institution that is analogous to E-Corp is the Federal Government. No other entity has a similar grip on the citizenry, giving them no other option while slowly strangling them to death. This crystal-clear point, obviously, is completely lost on the show’s creators and writers.
Irony also abounds every time they show one of the characters working on a computer, writing code to hack into a network or manage some aspect of the bug they created. They are always typing on E-Corp machines. The company they hate manufactures the computers they use. It makes me chuckle every single time.
They are using to products and tools produced by the very system they want to destroy. It’s the USA Network-sponsored version of the Occupy Wall Street activist tweeting about their latest capitalism protest on an iPhone. Hilarious.
I thought of another analogy for the series while watching an episode last night: Atlas Shrugged, but from the perspective of the looters. Rand’s book shows the utter failure of pursuing economic justice by tearing down the builders and creators. The reader recognizes, on every single page, that hobbling the productive is the way to destroy a functioning society.
Mr. Robot does exactly the opposite. It assigns heroism and nobility to those attempting to crash the system, without acknowledging that the system is responsible for the relative health and wealth that they enjoy. They’re biting the hand that has always fed them. The fantasyland idea that a post-crash world will be better is accepted without question. It’s extraordinarily funny and ridiculous.
To paraphrase Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, the audience laughed.