December 14, 2020
A decade ago, being “woke” was as simple as getting up in the morning…
Now, of course, it means agreeing with specific positions on justice, equality, and prejudice.
And more and more corporations, particularly from the Left, are jumping on the social-justice bandwagon… But at what cost?
Here today to dive into this subject is writer and podcast host Elisha Krauss.
Corporate Culture Wars…
Self-Sabotage in the Name of Social Justice?
By Elisha Krauss
Remember when football used to just be about football?
A beloved American pastime, when family and friends gathered together on Sunday afternoons to eat chili, have a beer or two, and cheer on their favorite team throwing the pigskin around on national TV… It didn’t matter that you liked the Ravens and your neighbor was a Steelers fan – that was just friendly comradery…
Football used to be the ultimate unifier… Yet it’s now the opposite – no longer just about the sport, football has become divisively political.
The shift is apparent in Hollywood and retail, too… In recent years, Americans have witnessed a flopped female Ghostbusters remake. There has been a reboot of the ‘70s television classic Charlie’s Angels with very strong feminist undertones. The iconic NBC comedy show led by creator and producer Lorne Michaels, Saturday Night Live, no longer lampoons both sides of the political aisle. And very recently, Lululemon Athletica, one of the most profitable athletic apparel companies in the country, declared that its fans and customers of their wares ranging from $29 shorts to a $298 winter puffer coat, should “resist capitalism.” The leggings the company is most famous for retail for a cool $98.
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Why do brands and Hollywood continue to push Left-leaning agendas and straight-up socialist drivel when it goes against their base?
By immersing themselves in the current culture wars, these businesses are hoping to cash in on the country’s wokeness movement… It plays to a small group of very loud-mouthed voices, and they know the majority of their buyers will still buy their products.
A basic difference between conservatives and liberals is we can now safely assume that a conservative will not destroy, sell, or boycott Krauss Co. (a made-up company) because it is liberal-leaning. If Krauss Co. provides a goods or service they want or need, they buy it. But studies have shown that Leftists and self-identified liberals will negatively judge a company and reconsider buying its goods should it hold conservative views. Too bad for Krauss Co. I suppose.
Companies are aware of this and continue to work to ostracize roughly half of the country, and it will be interesting still to see how long they can get away with it.
Take Nike and its unending support of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who is often seen as the Black Lives Matter and anti-cop “poster boy.” Kaepernick is now featured on the gaming platform of Madden 21, owned by Electronic Arts Sports, and a well-known video game for sports fans. Ironically, former NFL star Tim Tebow, who holds very different political beliefs than Kaepernick, is not featured in the game. And he has not been selected to serve as the model for any major international athletic company. Wonder why? Maybe it is because the West Coast-based company is chock-full of anti-Christian employees in positions of power and unaware that its audience of shoe-buying moms might prefer Tebow as a spokesperson for their sons versus Kaepernick.
The Kaepernick example was only heightened this year with the growth of brands everywhere inserting their corporate lingo into well-crafted political and social statements they posted on social media and e-mailed to their lists of customers. Nike currently looks very strong in the stock market as it reported in September 2020 greater-than-expected earnings growth.
After the horrific death of George Floyd, which led to the riots and Antifa-fueled damage across the country, it seemed like every brand on the face of the planet had to insert themselves into the conversation. If they did not, they were called out.
Corporations across the economic sphere, from retail to restaurants, have made public their very political and racial statements to the masses.
Everyone from mom-and-pop owned cycle businesses (still shut down due to COVID-19), to the Gap and makeup companies, made long-winded and often-repetitive statements regarding their position in support of Black Lives Matter. Many companies included promises to increase their outreach and hiring of minority groups. Some pledged and spent millions of dollars donating to organizations within the “movement.”
These days, Right-wing audiences and consumers are sadly used to woke social-justice signaling and passionate Leftist commentary via celebrities on Instagram. And everyone from grocery stores to fashion magazines make it well known where they stand on current social-justice issues.
In certain political circles, mainly on the Right, there is increasing concern about the growing vitriol toward Libertarians and Conservatives in the tech space.
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In October, David Barrett, the CEO of Expensify, a digital expense-management tool used by over 10 million customers, sent out an e-mail to its entire list urging them to vote for Joe Biden over President Trump. He stated that a vote for Trump was anti-democracy and shared with media outlets that he felt compelled to speak up and do what was right. Expensify revealed it had mixed responses from their customer database.
Imagine a Republican Bay Area CEO stating in regard to Trump, like Barrett said of his pro-Biden support, “We needed to stand true for what we believe in and hope that most people agree with us. It’s not like we did this with a lot of enthusiasm. We did this out of a perceived necessity.”
Would anyone these days consider a conservative-leaning corporate leader thinking it was his moral and civic duty to speak up for a candidate as standing true and perceived necessity? Not likely… They would shout about corporate pressure, emotional turmoil, and an unsafe working environment. It’s happened before and will likely happen again because the Right remains contained and silent, inherently intent on not wreaking havoc on businesses and employers. We all remember what happened to Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich, right?
Prior to Barrett’s very public endorsement of the Democratic candidate for president, another tech CEO was getting negative buzz for his decision to ban political talk at his offices.
Brian Armstrong, chief executive of Coinbase, said he would only engage in “activism” if the political need existed within the parameters of the company’s cryptocurrency purview.
He stated if anyone within the corporation took issue with not talking about politics or having a debate around the water cooler (or online Slack, which is the 2020 water cooler these days), they could take a severance… a much better option than many hidden conservatives or libertarians had while they were being name-called and attacked at Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Of the more than 1,100 Coinbase employees, about 60 took the buyout option.
The Atlantic wondered if Coinbase could eliminate ostracizing its employees and customers, then maybe it would be wise for other Bay Area influencers to follow in Armstrong’s footsteps.
After all, is it not a good thing for employees to get along and not despise their fellow colleagues in these toxic times we live in?
Fifty years ago, Los Angeles had the first-ever approved Pride Parade in the entire world. It was a major milestone for the gay movement, which had previously held marches but never official parades. Now companies around the world (although not in dictatorial regimes like North Korea or Iran) are proud (pun intended) to sponsor such events. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, like openly gay actor Keiynan Lonsdale and transgender star Laverne Cox, are being featured in ads and at awards shows. We no longer live in an era of the American minority being punished for the way they choose to live their lives – a step in the right direction.
For almost three decades, major corporations like American Airlines and Disney would sponsor events for the gay population and even provide discounts and deals for them to vacation. Some have speculated this was due to the demographic being big spenders and more inclined to be “world travelers with a taste of the finer things or culture,” a thought that now, in today’s world of social-justice warriors, would make those same companies cringe and tweet in disgust at the assumption of group behavior.
Perhaps companies are afraid to not say something… After all, we have consistently learned this year that “silence is violence.” And a 2017 study showed that there is a majority of the buying demographic who want to know where a company stands on the issues they care about.
Oftentimes those companies go too far in their stretch to stay relevant in the woke culture of 2020. Take for example Nabisco – the company that sells America’s tasty snack that children and adults everywhere like to separate and dip in milk decided to wade into pronoun commentary.
It went so far as to tell its Twitter followers to check out their Instagram story for a how-to guide on referring to people by their proper pronouns.
Due to the growing strength of a loud (albeit seemingly small) group of social-justice keyboard warriors on social media, companies feel forced to take a stand. And as in the case of New York City-based Kith (lifestyle and fashion brand), it saw how even after turning its 5,000-square-foot flagship location into a mural of a famous Nelson Mandela quote and turning its retail shop into a voter registration spot on top of numerous social media postings in support of Black Lives Matter, it was still not enough.
Commenters noted that the business needed to make up for past mistakes, institutional racism, and unfairness toward minorities in the fashion industry first. Others questioned how many Black employees they had on the payroll. And still, some wondered if it featured enough minority designers.
So, it seems as if small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and even fashion boutiques are plagued by this modern-day Salem witch trial where, without much evidence, the charges of racism can be shouted and the business instantly condemned.
Earlier this year, Left-leaning podcast host, writer, director, actor, and husband of Hollywood starlet Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, had an interesting conversation with the previously level-headed comedian Jim Gaffigan. (“Previously” is used here due to his recent Twitter outburst about how awful Trump and his supporters are.)
At the time, the two agreed that the outrage mob was too reactive and dangerous to our American way of life, and its encroachment on comedy, entertainment, and media was a fun-robber and joy-killer. The gentlemen further agreed that some people are just immune to the unjust, or even sometimes just, attacks by some. Some people are like Teflon to scandal.
It could be argued that, historically, we have seen this with Bill Clinton and even Joe Biden, regarding sexual assault and harassment allegations. Shepard and Gaffigan used original radio shock jock and current SiriusXM host, Howard Stern, as an example of someone who has likely been left unharmed by the #MeToo movement due to his transparency of what/who he is.
On the right side of the aisle, it might be harder to find an example of someone who is immune to the wokeness pervasive in society today. The Left would instantaneously jump to Trump, who himself was the accused in many cases and by many women.
But what happens when it is someone who is not even publicly political? What happens if it’s an A-list star that the masses actually like?
We saw this play out in October with Marvel superstar, Chris Pratt. He had been largely quiet on social media and never made a public political statement. Yet he was dubbed the “Worst Hollywood Chris” by an angry group of people online who were mad about his church and alleged support for Trump.
Some of their fuel came from the Right folks he follows on Twitter, like Ben Shapiro, or conservative politicians’ Rep. Dan Crenshaw and former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
The anti-Pratt brigade began somewhat as a joke when Hollywood producer Amy Berg, best known for her award-winning 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil about the Catholic priest sex scandal, tweeted an image of the “Hollywood Chrises” and said “one had to go.”
(For those non-female or non-millennial readers, the Hollywood Chrises are Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation and Marvel movies, Chris Hemsworth of Thor, Chris Pine of Wonder Woman and Star Trek, and Captain America himself, Chris Evans.)
But the support for Pratt was from all sides. His Avengers costars, including radical Leftist Mark Ruffalo – not so known for his kindness towards those on the Right – and global warming activist Robert Downey Jr. came to his defense.
And his true fans spoke out, too, admitting they flock to movies starring Pratt to escape politics and some admitting their churches also stand for Biblical principles.
(Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this whole Chris debacle… One has to also wonder if many in Middle America likely missed the one-sided attack on Pratt because they were busy working, helping their kids struggling with distance learning, and watching his movies on Disney+.)
The box office speaks for itself… The Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers franchises that Pratt was a part of have grossed billions worldwide. Yes, billions.
Major corporations continue to feel as if they must take a stand due to internal pressure and activists looking for something to be mad about.
Yet, it would appear that when Keurig upsets Fox News viewers for pulling ads, or Chobani upsets environmentalists with how it operates its factories or Nike makes a statement on systemic racism in the country, there is a brief uproar…
But the end result is the average American will still watch, listen, visit, or buy whatever they want… whenever they want.
Elisha Krauss is a conservative wife and homeschooled girl-mom in Los Angeles. She is a co-host on Ricochet’s Lady Brains, on-air talent at Daily Wire, host of the Washington Examiner Newsmaker Series, and strives to encourage the next generation through Young Americas Foundation events. You can learn more about Elisha at her website, hear her opinions on her YouTube channel, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @ElishaKrauss.
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Managing Editor, American Consequences
With P.J. O’Rourke
December 14, 2020