Is there any creed more unedifying than woke capitalism? Is there any spectacle more nauseating than mighty corporations jumping on a passing bandwagon of rage in an attempt to flaunt their ‘progressive’ credentials?
The George Floyd killing has exposed this phenomenon in all its cloying sanctimony, as big capital falls over itself to impress upon us — as if we didn’t already know — that racism is bad.
Firms have calculated that, in the era of the Twitterstorm and corporate boycott, staying out of politics is no longer an option. And if they are going to dive into the world of online social activism, then, well, what option but to embrace the political ideology that dominates therein, namely liberal wokedom? To do otherwise would, they believe, almost certainly be to risk reputational damage and a dent in profits.
Corporate chiefs sense that they simply cannot afford to be slow out of the blocks when the online social justice warriors come calling with their demands for public expressions of righteousness. So no sooner does McDonald’s tell us that it believes ‘black lives matter’ than KFC reassures us it thinks exactly the same.
And, true to the spirit of capitalism itself, demonstrations of virtue by eager-to-please corporations have turned into something of a contest in which each seeks to win some kind of competitive advantage over its rivals by being seen as the most woke. So, not satisfied with confirming that they are opposed to racism and then going back to serving up large McZingers and fries, or whatever it is they do, some companies instantly look for the next gap in the market through which they may signal their moral rectitude. And, before we know it, this ratchet effect leads us to a place where the head honchos at Ben and Jerry’s are declaring that not only are they shocked by the brutal treatment of a black man in Minneapolis, but they have bravely placed themselves in the vanguard of the struggle to dismantle white supremacy itself. Wow! Give them all medals.
Seriously, though, we should reject this kind of corporate virtue-signalling, for it represents a mix of the worst kind of opportunism and lazy gesture politics. It allows organisations to present themselves as principled fighters for justice with a few taps on a keyboard by a marketing manager — as though the five-second act of posting a single tweet should convince us of their determination to see a fairer world. And if sales of their cookie dough ice cream happen to spike in the process, well, that’s merely incidental. Who are these people kidding?
In the end, progress comes through organisation and struggle, not through taking moral instruction from big capital. We shouldn’t forget it.