When Big Business Went Woke

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How is it that Big Business “got woke?” Once the bastion of country club conservatism, it’s now a fortress of radical leftism. Vivek Ramaswamy explains this amazing and disturbing transformation.

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Wokeism—the idea that America is a systemically racist country and that your identity is defined by your race, your gender, and your sexual orientation—is no longer about challenging the system.

Wokeism is the system. 

Blame the radical academics.

Blame the college administrators.

Blame the woke graduates.

But these aren’t the people who took wokeism mainstream.

That dubious distinction belongs to an unexpected source: Big Business.

That’s right—the largest companies in America, the standard-bearers of American capitalism—have injected this virus into the arteries of commerce.

Our story begins in 2008, following the mortgage crisis that led to the near-collapse of the entire banking system. Bankers got paid a lot of money when times were good, but got a bailout from taxpayers when times went bad. No wonder Americans were skeptical of capitalism, and for good reason, because it was really just crony capitalism.

The old Left wanted to punish the banks in the usual way—seize their money and redistribute it to “the poor.” But the new Woke Left added a new twist. The real problem, they said, wasn’t just poverty or economic injustice. It was a 300-year history of white patriarchy.

Ironically, this new idea (you know it as Critical Race Theory) presented Wall Street with a way out of their PR disaster—a way to go from being the bad guys to—poof!—becoming the good guys.

All they had to do was admit that their eyes had been opened. In other words, they “woke” up.

You want us to fix global warming? No problem. You want us to get on board with the transgender movement? Sure, we’ll do that too. Solve systemic racism? Sounds great, as long as you don’t talk about systemic financial risk.

They were happy to add token minorities to their boards. They were happy to post a black square on their corporate Instagram. They were happy to preach about climate change after flying on private jets to fancy ski towns. But they didn’t do it for free. As long as the banks said the right things, they would be left in peace to make their billions.

And, abracadabra, like a rabbit out of a hat, Woke Inc. was born.  

Things went pretty smoothly, until the 2016 election. The man who won wasn’t supposed to win. And this time, the blame fell not so much on Wall Street, but on Silicon Valley. 

But they had Wall Street’s playbook, and they followed it to a T. The new bad guys (Big Tech) could become the good guys just like the banks, as long as they made sure the next election went the “right way”; that is, the way the new Left wanted it to go.

In exchange, Big Tech would get to keep its monopoly power intact.

And that’s the untold story of how modern Big Tech censorship was born. The newly ascendant Left was able to delegate its dirty work to private companies to do through the back door what it could not do through the front door under the Constitution—namely, to censor protected political speech.

Then came Covid and the death of George Floyd.

Woke Inc. became the Woke Industrial Complex.

Now it’s not just Wall Street and Silicon Valley playing the game, but nearly all of corporate America as we know it.

Coca-Cola trains its employees “how to be less white” and issues public statements about voting laws that make it sound more like a super-PAC than a soft drink manufacturer. Pay no attention that its drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Especially in the black community.

Nike condemns “systemic racism” in the United States and donates tens of millions of dollars to Black Lives Matter while it still relies on slave labor in Asia to make $200 sneakers that they sell to black kids in the inner city who can’t afford to buy books for school.

It’s the magic trick of the 21st Century. Distract the public with its virtue over here while doing awful (but highly profitable) things over there, including in places like China, where companies including Disney, Nike, Apple, BlackRock, and the NBA regularly support a brutal regime while continuing to decry “social injustice” here at home.

Big Business wins. 

Woke activists win.

The Chinese Communist Party wins.

But Americans lose.

We lose because when corporations cynically enforce speech codes and mandate how we act and think, we lose the most fundamental freedom of all: freedom of speech.

We’re forced to choose between speaking our minds and putting food on the dinner table.

So, how do we stop them?

Well, you’ve already taken a big first step. You now know how the magic trick works. So when a woke corporation tells you how virtuous they are, just laugh and take your business elsewhere. And then, stand up for your constitutional, God-given rights. And if they try to take those away…sue ‘em!

I’m Vivek Ramaswamy, author of Woke Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam for Prager University.