Get Woke, Go Broke – Perhaps (2022 Jun)

by Barry A. Liebling

A dominant theme in American business today is an ostentatious display of woke sensibilities. Many companies salute the leftist elite and swallow their directives on how to hire, train, and promote employees, how to develop and sell products and services, and how to boast of their “progressive image” to the outside world. To cultural Marxists this is a welcome state of affairs. They have already succeeded in taking over most of the educational establishment and the legacy media. Conquering large business firms is another victory in their long march.

To those of us who value liberty and individualism the woke business environment is a tragedy. Boosters of this poisonous leftist behavior are rejecting the best principles of the Enlightenment and are pushing toxic anti-mind authoritarianism onto Americans.

But not all is going well for woke zealots. There is a backlash. There are many instances of movies and television shows with explicit woke messages that are attracting fewer paying customers. A large segment of the target audience (but not the leftist elite) does not find stories where every villain is from an “oppressor class” (straight white American males are the worst) and every good person has to be part of multiple “oppressed classes” (not straight, not white, not American, not male).

Marketing inspired by woke sensibilities has frequently resulted in decreased sales. When a major manufacturer of razor blades had commercials that urged men to be ashamed of themselves, sales declined. A famous 99-year-old company that delivers entertainment aimed at families with children alienated a huge segment of its target customers when it pushed content that comes straight from the political propaganda playbook of the left.

Conservative critics of woke businesses frequently opine that cowardly upper management is caving in to the demands of leftist radicals. In this view high-ranking executives that promote obnoxious woke policies do not have the courage to say no, so they comply. While that may be true in some instances, my experience in speaking with executives who set policy suggests that they are sincere. The bosses I have met enthusiastically embrace the woke mindset – and have done so at least since they pledged fealty in college. If anyone is frightened and giving in, it is the middle managers who know their companies are doing wrong. They reluctantly go along (half-heartedly) and worry about losing their jobs.

How can we contribute to the backlash? More important, what can we do to assist businesses that are run by people who appreciate individualism and liberty? We have to pay attention to what particular companies stand for when we decide where to do business.

In some cases the choice is obvious. There are firms that constantly push the woke agenda, and the good news is they are are competing with companies that do not participate in leftist politics. Some “left progressive” firms brag about their social activism as part of their marketing. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has been pushing radical left programs for decades, and it has many competitors that sell frozen dessert without the politics. You can shop accordingly.

Patagonia produces custom made fleece-and-down vests that are reputed to be high quality. This clothing manufacturer has explicitly stated that they do not want to fulfil orders from customers who do not support Patagonia’s global-warming climate-alarmism activities. Fine, there are many apparel concerns that will sell you first-rate vests without demanding that you become a social activist.

If you do not approve of Nike touting policies you find abhorrent – if you are not interested when they praise people who despise Americans like you in their advertising – you can obtain your athletic shoes from alternative vendors.

Often the choice of what company to use is complicated. There are entire industries that are completely dominated by leftist partisans. What can a liberty enthusiast do? Google is renowned for having an almost unanimous leftist work-force that does everything it can to further the woke agenda. Its search engine – which has been described as deliberately tuned to help Democrats and squelch Republicans – dominates the category worldwide. There are other search engines available, but usually they are also managed by woke partisans. Should you use Microsoft Bing instead of Google? They deliver similar results, and both companies are saturated from top to bottom with “fellow travelers.” But perhaps Bing management is less strident, and you can have a small positive effect by avoiding Google. I leave it to the reader to estimate which internet giant is the lesser evil.

Of course, even in today’s highly charged environment there are companies that deliberately avoid getting into the political arena. Their owners may or may not have strong philosophical allegiances, but their strategy is to produce the best products and services they can – and sell to people of all persuasions. Obviously, doing business with a non-political company is a better choice than supporting a left-progressive firm.

What about companies that explicitly boast that they support liberty and free markets? While they are rare, if you look you will find some. To the extent that they are sincere and deliver good products they deserve your patronage.

“Get woke, go broke” is a popular phrase among conservatives critics. They feel satisfaction when leftist company practices are followed by poor financial performance. But because the woke cabal is so pervasive – and so powerful – there is little danger that their corporate vassals will go out of business any time soon.

The long-term solution for those of us who cherish liberty is to explain – and convince – more business professionals that supporting individual freedom is the right path – and the woke agenda is fatally flawed.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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