The book takes a nuanced take on the uncanny marriage of corporate America and the “woke” social justice movements. The author, Vivek, was born to an immigrant Indian family, studied at Harvard, worked on wall street, and started his own biotechnology company before writing this book.
- Democratically elected leaders and not rich CEOs should define what values define America. CEOs like Larry Fink use market power to define those values while avoiding the public debate aspect of being a politician. Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan CEO said in 2019, “I would love to be president, I just don’t like the idea of running for president”. That’s what many CEOs want, quasi-political power, without any accountability to the voters. When companies write checks to political parties, they influence politics. But it is even worse when they try to influence politics by taking public stands on political issues. Now, the employees of those companies are uncomfortable with the opposing viewpoint. A democracy thrives on dissent. A theocracy, like wokeness, cannot tolerate it.
- Stakeholder capitalism demands that corporations use money to influence politics with values of their choice. Every vote counts in an election. However, in stakeholder capitalism, dollars influence the outcomes. And as apolitical institutions disappear, social solidarity goes down. And that stifles public opinion. Stakeholder capitalism poisons democracy. Partisan politics poisons capitalism. In the end, we are left with neither capitalism nor democracy. Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) isn’t just about creating the right incentives for the shareholders. But also about protecting democracy from profit-making enterprises. Woke consumerism is born when woke companies prey on the insecurities and vulnerabilities of their customers. Woke CEOs and investors trick the consumer into believing that by engaging in normal acts of consumption, we are fulfilling our social obligations.
- The woke movement is a religious movement. Diversity experts are the grand inquisitors. The corporate CEOs are followers of these inquisitors (some out of worship and some out of fear). Corporate employees are required to confess their sins at this temple of diversity. “White privilege” and “patriarchy” are their sins; for Asians, being white-adjacent is a sin. Just like in catholicism, everyone is a sinner; In wokeism, everyone is a racist. Like a devout Christian seeing God’s hand in all of creation, a woke sees the guiding hands of identity-based power relations everywhere they look. The worst sin against wokeness religion is not non-belief but apostasy. Rowling became a member of wokeism by declaring Dumbledore was gay. She became an apostate by stating that transgender women are different from biological women.
- People speak for themselves, they are not representative of their race. Using skin color or gender to decide diversity is wrong. When genetic factors like race and gender are seen as representative of genetic diversity, we reinforce the incorrect stereotype that genetic factors say something important about how a person thinks. That’s what racism is about. This tokenism further fosters race and gender segregation in the workplace. Further, diversity of thought is important. But only, when it helps an institution realize its true purpose.
- As per The Big Sort, Americans are segregating themselves over time. Liberals and conservatives used to live next to each other. In the 1976 presidential elections, only 26% of Americans lived in landslide counties (where one party got at least 20% more votes than the other). It was 38% in 1992, 48% in 2004, and 61% in 2016! Few Americans are exposed to opposing political viewpoints at this point.
Table of Contents
Wokeness in Academia
The requirement to show community service for getting into a good college has resulted in insincere efforts by students. Among high school students, the goal is to claim the loftiest possible service with little real effort. Service is too often bundled with ulterior motives in America. For example, professors at Yale Law School auction their dinner for charity, and wealthy students buy it, so that, they can later get recommendation letters from those professors.
- Colleges claim they want well-rounded applicants. What they want is a well-rounded class of students, that is, students who are distinct in their talents.
- In 1978, during a case, the court decided that racial quotas were wrong. However, the judge lauded Harvard’s affirmative action program that used race as one among many factors. In this and another case, the universities learned that racial quotas are OK, as long as, they can be disguised in the form of a holistic diversity goal. So, giving weight to race is OK, using race as the only determinant was not.
- In 2005, Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, while trying to explain why more men are in Science and Engineering than women, proposed three hypotheses. First, men are more drawn to it. Second, women are discriminated against. And third, men show greater variability (in both extremes) in cognitive ability. He was soon forced to resign for making this remark. No one publicly mentioned but it was implicit then the replacement should be a woman. This was the first major victory for wokeness.
- In 2016, Harvard University changed the title of “master” to “Faculty Dean” claiming that the title has echoes of slavery. Even though its origin was the Latin word “magister”, meaning teacher.
- In 2018, a peer-reviewed paper claimed that “Dogs engage in rape culture”. The same authors published “Mein Kampf” as a feminist manifesto in another peer-reviewed journal. They published several such papers proving intellectual bankruptcy in academia. Once the hoax was discovered, the authors wrote a book about how they deliberately planned it all along. However, all the authors became pariahs in academia. The lesson was clear, academic freedom isn’t allowed to question woke values.
- In 2020, A University of Southern California professor was suspended for saying the Chinese filler word “ne ga”.
- In 2021, Jodi Shaw, a white person, was fired for rapping because rapping would be considered cultural appropriation. Further, she was asked to talk about her white privilege as a part of her job.
- A 2021 report concluded a hostile climate for conservatives in academia. More than 40% wouldn’t hire a Trump supporter.
Wokeness in Corporate America
Crony capitalism 2.0: Big businesses use progressive values to disguise their pursuit of profit and power.
- In 2006, Henry Paulson, CEO of Goldman Sachs, joined as the US treasury secretary. He was able to avoid capital gains on his shares. And further in 2009, he let the Lehman brothers die while saving Goldman Sachs.
- In 2007, at least 56 women were raped and 11 killed on Unilever’s campus in Kenya during the post-election violence. Unilever, despite the warnings, didn’t deploy any guards for the workers. Many attackers were Unilever employees as well. Unilever closed the plantation for 6 months. And compensated workers with one month of salary. It has refused to give more compensation. Rather than compensating the victims, Unilever partnered with UN Women for its image management and donated a million-dollar to it. Unilever would never admit to crime as maintaining the appearance of pro-women virtue is more important than virtue itself.
- In 2015, Volkswagen while touting its low emissions was caught cheating on the emissions test.
- In 2017, State Street Global Advisors were facing a lawsuit from female employees for gender-based pay discrimination. They launched a new ETF with the ticker symbol SHE and installed a fearless girl statue as a symbol of female empowerment.
- In 2017, while promising not to increase drug prices significantly, Allergan transferred a patent of a drug to a native American tribe. The patent was expiring soon. The tribe was to claim sovereign immunity to keep the patent alive and thus, to keep the drug expensive.
- In 2019, Goldman Sachs paid ~$1 Billion in bribes to Malaysian 1MDB where billions were stolen by politicians from Malaysians. In 2020, after every single board in S&P 500 already had a female board member and about 50% of board seats in 2019 went to women, Goldman Sachs added a requirement for a diverse board for taking any company to IPO. This was a publicity stunt to get woke points without losing any business as a future un-diverse board was unlikely, to begin with.
- In 2019, Nike launched and then recalled shoes with Betsy Ross’s original flag of the USA. It was recalled because activist Colin Kapernick stated that the shoes commemorating 1776 are racist and endorse slavery. The shoe, itself, was meant to celebrate women’s contribution to America’s freedom.
- In 2020, even Vatican joined in the fray of stakeholder capitalism by creating a council for Inclusive Capitalism in partnership with business leaders. The original American vision of separating the church, the state, and the businesses from each other has been supplanted by mixing all of these into one.
- Coca-cola fuels a diabetes epidemic among blacks across the US. The hard question for them is to look into the ingredients in a bottle of coke. They distract the public with anti-racism training and pay a few million dollars to diversity consultants for their blessings.
- In 2020, Nike employs children in sweatshops in Asia. And to cover up donates to Black Live Matter in the US.
- In 2020, a Latino man was fired for making an OK gesture, apparently, a symbol of white power.
- In 2020, Jamil Jivani, a black himself, opposed Black Lives Matter. And because of that, he was accused of being anti-Black.
- In 2020, Sasha White was fired for supporting J.K. Rowling. The latter supported that a biological woman’s experiences are not the same as a transwoman’s experiences.
- In 2021, Delta and Coca-cola declared Georgia’s new voting bill unacceptable. As if people should care what airlines think about a bill passed by a democratically elected body.
- In 2021, New York Times reporter had to leave after he used the n-word while telling students in 2019 that it is not acceptable to say this. A Central Michigan University was fired for quoting a free-speech case that uses the n-word.
- In 2021, Disney fired conservative star Corano over a tweet.
Wokeness in Tech
Anti-trust law was designed for the 19th-century problem that does not apply to new tech companies. These companies would love to be investigated for anti-trust because they know, they will win. The real issue here is that tech companies are engaging in control of ideas. Section 230 shields publishers of User-generated Content (UGC) on the Internet from being held legally responsible for what’s being published on the platform. Newspapers, magazines, or book publishers don’t enjoy that. Part 2 of Section 230 allows UGC publishers to censor the content.
- In 2017, after attending a diversity meeting at Google, James Damore wrote a long memo expressing his reservations regarding the ideas presented in that meeting. Later, he shared the memo with Google. Soon, it was leaked to the media. And he was fired. Google ex-communicated him to avoid getting ex-communicated himself.
- In 2020, Mailchimp de-platformed the tea party. PayPal has removed the accounts of conservatives.
- In 2020, YouTube banned videos, even of doctors which stated that lockdowns were unnecessary. In 2021, YouTube censored the US Senate testimony of a doctor that made the case for Ivermectin. Facebook banned anti-lockdown posts as well. Now, of course, for tech giants, lockdowns meant more usage and more advertisement revenues. While the small businesses suffered.
- In 2020, Expensify’s CEO sent an email to all the customers to vote for Biden.
- In 2020, Google purged Breitbart, a conservative news site, from search results during elections. As per Dr. Epstein, Google can manipulate ~15 million votes in the US 2020 elections without anyone noticing.
- In 2020, before the elections, Facebook and Twitter censored a story in NYPost about Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden. One should note that the NYPost is a 200-year-old newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the USA. Twitter later admitted that it was wrong.
- In 2020, Coinbase’s CEO, after initially caving and supporting BLM, pulled back and stated clearly that Coinbase will be an apolitical workplace. 5% of employees left as a mark of protest. Twitter ex-CEO, Dick Costolo, criticized the move.
- In 2021, Airbnb decided to ban hate groups from the platform. Now, of course, what counts as hate groups are indeed decided by Airbnb.
- In 2021, US Senator Ron Paul’s account was blocked by Facebook. Facebook later admitted it was a mistake. Similarly, Twitter blocked US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account and later admitted it was a mistake. In both cases, the damage to their image was already done by the blocking.
- In 2021, after the Capitol riot, Parlor, a pro-free speech app, was blocked by Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Web Services on unproven allegations.
- In 2021, Intel launched racism, sexism, and other inappropriate real-time chat filters product named “Bleep”. What counts as inappropriate is left for Intel to decide.
- In 2021, during the sudden rise of heavily short-sold stock GME, Discord banned the chat for hate speech. Facebook followed the suit by claiming sexual exploitation. Robinhood then allowed retail traders to sell (but not buy) more Gamestop. The White House claimed that they are happy that the first female Treasury secretary is monitoring the situation. As this episode shows, Big tech’s mind control is not just about silencing conservatives. Anything they don’t like can be banned and purged.
Foreign Dictators as stakeholders in wokeism
Both woke inquisitors like Ibrahim Kendi and China’s President Xi Jinping, influence what’s allowed and what’s forbidden speech in American Universities. By letting corporations earn moral authority, we let authoritarian regimes weaponize that authority against the Americans.
- In 2016, Disney was making a movie, Dr. Strange. The central character was a Tibetian Monk and the Chinese regime would never approve of it. So, Disney replaced him with a white man. This was seen as whitewashing. Then they replaced Dr. Strange with a female character. And that made wokes and CCP both happy. The only losers in this process were Tibetians.
- In 2017, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, arrested other princes and billionaires. Then he sexually tortured feminist activists. Later, he even got Khashoggi murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Netflix later removed a show from Saudi Arabia about Khashoggi’s death, critical of MBS. Virgin Group took a $1 Billion investment from MBS. Uber said the murder of Khashoggi was a mistake.
- In 2018, McKinsey prepared a report for Saudi Arabia in which it pointed out the three Twitter accounts responsible for the negative coverage of the regime. One was arrested, another’s brother was arrested, and the third account was shut down.
- In 2019, Daryl Morey, a National Basketball Association (NBA) executive supported Hong Kong protests. China flexed its muscles and decided to take NBA off-screen. NBA apologized. Later, Morey regretted his tweet as well. This all the while NBA supported Black Lives Matter protests in the US.
- In 2019, Hollywood, to appease the Chinese regime, removes the Taiwanese flag from the Top Gun movie.
- In 2019, Apple decided to hide the Taiwan flag emoji in Hong Kong. While talking about systemic racism in the United States.
- In 2020, Xi Jinping taught Jack Ma a lesson for speaking against the Chinese government. Airbnb regularly shared users’ data with Chinese officials for access to the Chinese market. Airbnb adds donations to Black Lives Matter as a smokescreen to its China dealings.
- In 2020, Disney filmed a movie, Mulan, in Xinjiang province. Disney wasn’t concerned by the presence of Uighur detention camps there. The same Disney would find it difficult to film in Georgia, USA if a new abortion ban is implemented.
- American colleges introduced a concept of “trigger warnings” to label controversial reading material, for example, material about slavery. In 2020, China uses its influence to enforce the same censorship in American Universities. Now, at Harvard and Princeton University, anything politically sensitive to China comes with the same label.
- In 2021, BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink helped Chinese companies, with questionable bookkeeping practices, listed on American exchanges. In return, China approved BlackRock’s fund application.
Wokeness in Government
- In 2014, Bank of America (BofA) was fined a historic ~17 Billion dollars for its role in the 2008 crisis. Rather than let the money go to the treasury, where it would be controlled by the Republican-controlled Congress, the Democrat president Obama instead decided that the funds can be donated to liberal nonprofits. Thus, BofA not only claimed those donations as tax deductions but also scored a public relations victory as well.
- In 2015, US President Obama demanded $300 million from Congress for Electric vehicles. When Congress refused, Obama through the Department of Justice settled with Volkswagen for emissions scandals. As a part of the settlement, Volkswagen had to invest $1.2 Billion in Electric Vehicle charging stations. The sole goal of the settlement was to bypass Congress.
- In 2017, Martin Shkreli jacked the prices of medicine drastically and was punished by SEC and other federal agencies for unrelated crimes. Of course, privately everyone knew that he was punished for raising the price of medicine.
- In 2018, the Right to Try law was passed to allow patients to try unapproved medicines. However, the law is meaningless since no pharma company would sign up for it and take the wrath of the FDA.
- In 2019, Pressley, a US Congress representative stated that “We don’t need any more black faces that don’t want to be a black voice”.
- The Cy pres Doctrine allows lawyers and judges to redirect class-action lawsuit money to their favorite charities. Corporations love it as this is a PR victory for them. As most lawyers are usually liberal, these donations end up in liberal causes. In 2019, in a lawsuit against Google, the settlement of 8.5 Million dollars went to charities and alma maters associated with Google and the lawyers.
- In 2021, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice dropped the lawsuit against Yale for discriminating against Asians.
When ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investors reject anti-ESG stocks (“sin stocks”) like mining stocks it reduces demand for those stocks. So, someone else owns them at a lower price. And those acquiring sin stock are rewarded even more with better returns. ESG-focused funds, being constrained, end up performing worse than funds that aren’t constrained to invest only in ESG. The only useful argument in favor of ESG investing is that it increases the cost of capital for sinful companies by making them un-investable for at least a segment of investors.
- Al Gore claimed that “Voluminous research has shown conclusively that businesses properly integrating ESG factors into their plans are typically more successful and profitable.” The wiggle room for the argument was of course made by adding “properly” to the remark, so that, any underperforming company can be made to claim to do ESG improperly.
- Bank of America research claimed that “the equities of companies that index higher on ESG factors outperform those that do not over the past five years.” This might as well be a symptom of an ESG asset bubble rather than actual corporate performance. Most analyses in this space are cherry-picked or circular. And the ESG performance claims are mixed at best.
- Credit Suisse observed that Dow Jones Sustainability Index underperformed S&P 500 by about 20% from 2010-2019. Its volatility was similar to S&P 500. So, ESG assets underperformed on a risk-adjusted basis as well.
- Low-expense passive funds like Vanguard are taking market share away from high-expense actively managed funds like Blackrock. Hence, Blackrock is launching ESG funds to maintain its profits.
- There might be an ESG asset bubble brewing given how much capital is flowing into it. Similar to how capital piled into home loans in 2008. Good fundraising strategies are not always good investment strategies.
- Big businesses loved tackling the liberal government’s issues like climate change and racial inequality. In lieu, they got the promise of no regulations.
Wokeness in Consumerism
Woke consumers crave justice. But Wendy’s has only burgers to offer. So, Wendy’s tries to tie justice and burgers together. Our political beliefs influence our sandwich choice and hence, the sandwich makers are taking a political stand to attract customers!
Corporations used to convince you that buying their stuff makes you cool. Now, they tell you buying it will make you good. It is OK to let slick PR people define what’s cool. It is not OK to let them define what’s good for society. Consumers have gone from being rebellious (who act as if they cared about nothing) to woke (who act as if they care about everything).
Wokeness might appear as virtue signaling but most of it is about identity signaling. Now liberals buy from Starbucks. And conservatives are slowly flocking to Black Rifle Coffee Company. Further, being woke allowed an entire generation of privileged kids, studying in Ivy League colleges, to blame their privilege as some form of the sin they got from their affluent parents.
- By 2011, the class-based struggle of Occupy Wall Street starts to be displaced by a race and gender-focused struggle. Woke culture eroded Occupy Wall Street movement from the inside. Wall street offered money to woke inquisitors. Wokeness offered moral righteousness in return. It was a match.
- In 2020, after the CEO of Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic own brand in the US, supported then-President Trump, liberals boycotted it. Conservatives flocked to purchase it.
- In 2020, after Senator Purdue intentionally mispronounced Kamala Harris’s first name. It led to a boycott of a completely unrelated company Purdue Chicken.
- In 2020, responding to woke consumers, Yelp added a racist behavior alert for restaurants and businesses. It is one thing for a consumer to go to a different restaurant. It is another to stand outside a restaurant and yell at others not to visit that restaurant. The racist behavior label enables the latter.
- Playing politics through boycotts is a rich man’s game. The more money you have, the more impact your boycott makes. In the marketplace of goods, “One dollar = one vote” is acceptable. But woke consumers extend an a-dollar-a-vote to the marketplace of ideas. And the more things money can buy, the more inequality extends to other spheres of life. Hence, the wealthy end up controlling society’s values.
- Don’t fight wokeness directly. Instead, build a vision for an American identity that dilutes wokeism to irrelevance. Mandate civic service for high schools during America’s unusually large summer breaks. Further, a long summer discriminates against racial minorities who can’t afford activities for the kids. A national service will create a sense of shared identity and purpose. This will make kids empathize with real issues and make them less flimsy capitalists later in life. This will burst elitist Marxist bubbles even before they have a chance to form. This will also eliminate the informal segregation based on class and party. This already happens in countries like Israel and Singapore.
- Section 230 repeal might ensure that no upstart would reach the scale of an incumbent. A better solution would be to require that a company that chooses to be bound by section 230 must be bound by the first amendments. The courts have said that when the government uses private companies to do their job, the first amendment automatically applies, one can argue that that’s the case with the government offering Section 230 to private companies. The courts have also said that if a government’s comment can be interpreted as a threat then that’s government co-opting the task. Comments of the Democrats to regulate social media unless they censor content is a clear enough threat by those definitions.
- From a legal standpoint, wokeness is a religion. Therefore, both those who practice wokeness have legal protection and those who don’t have legal protection from woke employers. Thus, existing law provides legal protection to those fighting for their non-woke views.
- Via the Civil rights Act of 1964, American society has already agreed that discrimination by private companies based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is illegal. Should we add political views to the list? If we don’t then companies firing someone over political views, send a signal that a person’s political views are inferior. But it is unrealistic that this will happen in the political climate of 2021.
- This can be solved without legislation. For example, “sexual orientation” wasn’t part of the original wording of the Civil Rights Act. But the Supreme court decided that in the year 2020, our understanding of discrimination includes sexual orientation even if it was not considered one in 1964. EEOC guidance on Title 7 interprets that “lack of a religion” is equivalent to religion as well. So, just a catholic employee is protected from stating “a marriage is between a man and a woman”, so, is a non-religious employee protected from stating the exact belief even if it is not rooted in religion?
- Seeger objected to the military draft on a moral basis, in 1964, the court agreed that this was equivalent to a religious belief. This was further confirmed in the Welsh case in 1970. In another case, a man with white supremacist beliefs claimed to be a follower of the “Religion of creativity”. He was demoted based on an interview outside his job. The Supreme court ruled in his favor as he didn’t do anything at work.
- Because of these court decisions, EEOC has made it clear that any belief that is sincerely held by a possessor in a place filled by God is a religious belief. By this definition, wokeness is a religion.
- In 1997, the court decided that an employer cannot enforce its religious beliefs on an employee. So, James Damore can use this logic to claim that Google firing him was about Google imposing its woke beliefs on him. In fact, in 2020, EEOC ruled that employees objecting to a program stating “choice not chance determines happiness” are protected.
- Critical Diversity Theory – To achieve true diversity of thoughts
- Define what type of diversity of thoughts is valuable
- Measure for the diversity of thoughts
- Select for the diversity of thoughts when hiring
- Institutional Purpose, Institutional Pluralism, separation of corporation and state.