In a further sign that the ongoing culture war also has a class dimension, metropolitan commentators have begun heaping praise on America’s C.E.Os for their lockstep adherence to progressive values.
The article hilariously quotes PepsiCo board member and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who says he and other corporate figures are “speaking truth to power.”
The forthright engagement of these and other executives with one of the most charged political issues in years — the swelling confidence of a torchbearing, swastika-saluting, whites-first movement — is “a seminal moment in the
history of business in America,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a board member at PepsiCo.
“In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business,” he said. “These C.E.O.s have taken the risk to speak truth to power.”
Meanwhile, progressive bastion Vox.com published another article. Unlike the New York Times, they are more critical of “corporate morality.” They also go further than the Times in declaring that the corporations of America are starting to fulfil the role previously served by Christian churches.
Instead of choosing religions based on their sets of values, argues Vox, we now pick corporations instead.
Corporations across the political spectrum have taken an outsize role in identity formation, functioning the way, say, a church service or other ritualistic gathering once did. A well-meaning left-wing college student might choose to spend her money on companies whose values align with her own, choosing to buy her sandwich from Starbucks (or, more likely, an independently-run, sustainable, fair-trade equivalent) instead of Chick Fil-A. But every time she goes there, or tweets her support of this or that brand, she reinforces her own identity, both to herself and others, as a member of a group with particular and specific values. So, too, the right-wing “free speech” activist, who may choose to patronize censorship-free platforms like the chat application Discord, or use, as the Daily Stormer did, hosting platforms like Cloudflare.
Critics of either set of behaviors might dismiss either set of spending choices as “virtue-signaling”: the process of performing “good” behavior to achieve a higher status within a given targeted group. But, in practice, the reinforcement the company provides — demanding the spending of money as a ritualistic as well as transactional act, fostering communal interactions with its fans on social media — is less unilateral. It’s not just virtue-signaling, but virtue-creating.
In the weird world of corporate morality described by Vox, a consumer’s choices are no longer determined by how good a product is (anyone who says a Starbucks sandwich is tastier than the Chick-Fil-A Spicy Deluxe is lying to you, by the way), but by the political values that the product is associated with. Businesses, meanwhile, no longer serve “the consumer,” but political tribes.
It might work for Starbucks, with its relentless focus on the “woke college student” demographic, but it’s harder to see how such an approach will work for companies whose products cut across political demographics. Pepsi is just as popular with Trump supporters as it is with Trump opponents (perhaps more so, given the regular “healthy eating” crazes of Metropolitan types). What happens when the former group catches on to the fact that their consumer choices are funding progressive virtue-signaling?
A more dangerous prospect for corporate America is that they all follow the herd, leaving the “non-woke” marketplace wide open for competitors. Just as FOX grew to dominate America’s ratings due to its willingness to embrace conservative viewpoints its competitors despised, if just one or two corporations were to break ranks with the anti-Trump groupthink of their peers, they would win the loyalty of millions.
The problem for corporate America is that their virtue-signalling has diminishing returns: as more corporations jump on board the bandwagon, it looks less like bravery and more like opportunism. Meanwhile, any corporation that does swim against the tide will appear daring.
The New York Times notes that Apple and Disney seized the initiative in the 1990s to promote LGBT rights — a daring move for the times, which enabled them to stand out and cement their cool, progressive image. A similar opportunity is now opening for corporations whose consumers live not in the East Village but in places like Scranton and West Virginia. It’s true that the latter have less disposable income. But as the Democrats learned last election, there are quite a lot of them.
The great danger, of course, is that internet freedom may be killed before the corporate groupthink fades. America’s most progressive companies are based in Silicon Valley. Indeed, they are so progressive that they are willing to pull their services from white supremacists while allowing Islamic supremacists free reign. Those who applaud these companies for taking on Neo-Nazis miss the point; to their most radical employees, everyone to the right of John McCain is a Neo-Nazi.
Following GoDaddy and Google’s refusal to host the Daily Stormer, news emerged that Canadian conservative website The Rebel Media had also lost access to a hosting provider. PayPal, after initially going after VDARE, went on to suspend Islam critics Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer from their service. Although both were later restored, their initial suspensions leave us in no doubt as to the direction of censorship on web platforms. And such is the dominance of these platforms, that if you lose their favor, it is much the same as being expelled from the entire internet. Little wonder that conservatives are calling for Google to be regulated like a public utility.
As Breitbart’s John Carney has explained, Corporate America is now lining up not just against Trump, but also against the movement that put him in office.
This is a clarifying moment in American politics. The confederacy of the media institutions, the American left, and Corporate America has aligned itself against the populist uprising that brought Trump to the White House. The battle lines are clear.
If corporations are the new religions, then sectarian strife is on the way.