Tag Archive for: corporate wokeness

The Woke Bell Tolls for Ernest Hemingway

Readers have now been warned. Anyone in our enlightened age who is crazy and daring enough to read Ernest Hemingway, an author who is not a person of color, not trans, and not a victim of white patriarchal oppression, will now be waved off by Hemingway’s own publisher. New editions of the work of the man who was once considered one of America’s greatest writers, before such things came to be measured solely by the author’s race, gender, and political proclivities, contain a “trigger warning” alerting fragile wokesters to the fact that if they are actually so foolish as to read the book, they will encounter thoughts that today’s elites have most decidedly not approved.

The UK’s Telegraph revealed Saturday that Penguin Random House, which publishes Hemingway’s novels and stories, has slapped them with “a trigger warning” due to “concerns about his ‘language’ and ‘attitudes.’” Hapless new Hemingway readers are also “alerted to the novelist’s ‘cultural representations.’”

I can imagine what Ernest Hemingway himself would say to all this, but I wouldn’t be able to publish it. The arrogant, self-infatuated, blinkered, miseducated woke dopes at Penguin Random House don’t seem to understand that the whole idea of reading Hemingway, or any other great writer, is to encounter “language,” “attitudes” and “cultural representations” that are not one’s own, and are not the same as the language, attitudes, and cultural representations of contemporary culture.

Back in those dark days before schools turned to teaching the really important stuff, like whether you’re of the opposite sex and how evil you are if you’re white, children were taught that there was a pantheon of great writers throughout history, starting with Homer and going through Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, the Romantic poets, and the like. Hemingway was often included as one of the few Americans on the list. Someone who picked up Shakespeare or Milton was not expecting them to sound like or reflect the attitudes of Ibram X. Kendi and Dr. Fauci; readers were instead expecting to be carried to a very different world that would help them see their own with new eyes.

All that is gone now. The problem with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the rest is that they would all today be considered members of the worst group of people on the planet, white males. As we live in what used to be known as Western civilization, this is not all that surprising. It is also not in the least surprising that this pantheon has now been swept away and replaced with writers whose sole claim to relevance is not their insight, wisdom, or the power of their words, but their race and their gender. Hemingway was another white male, and so his star has dimmed from the days when he was considered one of the greats, and now he has been hedged around even more to keep him from leading anyone into wrongthink.

Penguin Random House added a disclaimer to its new edition of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It “states that publishers decided not to censor the book” — hey, thanks! The note on The Sun Also Rises warns readers that this book could be dangerous to your health as a dutiful woke NPC and might actually lead you to have a thought of your own, one that the guardians of acceptable opinion might find double-plus ungood: “This book was published in 1926 and reflects the attitudes of its time.” Yeah, that’s the idea – in part.

The Penguin Random House wokesters also added a please-don’t-hurt-us insistence that they weren’t the ones thinking forbidden thoughts: “The publisher’s decision to present it as it was originally published is not intended as an endorsement of cultural representations or language contained herein.” Whew! Bullet dodged!

The Telegraph adds that “Hemingway’s collection of short stories, Men Without Women, now carries an almost identical warning, differing only by alerting would-be readers to the fact that the book was originally published in 1927.” We can at least be relieved that the whole thing wasn’t wokeified into Men Who Are Women.

Hemingway biographer Richard Bradford remarked acidly: “The publisher’s comments would be hilarious, were they not also alarming.” He added that the warnings “would be understandable had they brought out a new translation of Mein Kampf. They seem to imply that, because it’s a literary classic, they’re willing to take a deep breath and warn readers with delicate sensibilities that something in it might unsettle them.” Yet he warns that if you examine “any novel or poem written at any time, and search for a passage that could create unease for persons who are obsessed with themselves…you’ll find one.”

Indeed. And the woke censors will. The object of the game is to put a fence around any thoughts and ideas that aren’t approved by the elites. The next step will be to ban Hemingway and others altogether. Keep your old books. The time will come when you’ll need to hide them.

AUTHOR

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Disney’s Obsession with ‘Woke Sexuality’ has Cost it Quarter of a Billion Dollars at the Box Office

Does Disney really believe that families enjoy LGBTQ+-affirmative lecturing in films?


Growing up, there was nothing more magical to me than the opening credits of a Disney movie — even if I’d seen the film a dozen times.

These days, however, Disney’s feature-length content is feeling less like a childhood dream and more like a noisy soap-box preacher.

It is not just cultural commentators pointing this out but Disney’s audiences, who have been voting against the company’s woke sermonising with their feet.

Between the Toy Story spinoff Lightyear and Disney’s latest offering Strange World, both released in 2022, and both promoting an LGBT agenda, the animation behemoth has lost almost a quarter of a billion dollars, according to entertainment news outlet Deadline Hollywood.

In fact, Strange World earned itself the title of the biggest box office flop of 2022, with production and marketing costs of US$320 million and total earnings of only $120 million, for a loss of around $200 million. Lightyear lost over $100 million and took out second place in the flop stakes.

Strange World tells the story of a family of explorers venturing through an uncharted land searching for a certain plant needed to save their society. Apparently necessary to this plot is one of the lead roles, 16-year-old Ethan, discussing his gay crush on a boy at school.

Lightyear depicts a real-life portrayal of the astronaut named Buzz who inspired the toy of Toy Story fame. Likewise, it was a story Disney was unable to tell without a lesbian kiss between two lead characters, in a scene that almost hit the cutting room floor until the state of Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill and needed a woke lecture.

Sydney Morning Herald writer Garry Maddox found Strange World’s box office performance something of a head-scratcher. “For a certified bomb, the initial reviews for Strange World were not too bad,” he mused, seemingly unaware that movie reviewers inhabit the same woke echo chamber as the film producers they critique

Maddox even suggested that Strange World featuring “the first out gay teenager in a Disney animated film” might be a family drawcard. Only in passing does the SMH journalist acknowledge Disney’s gay wokery as a potential put-off — and then, only for “red-state audiences”.

I know this is complex, Garry, but what if parents of all political stripes want to enjoy a day out with their kids without having to discuss birds, bees and Queer Theory with their preschoolers?

Certainly, there was more to Strange World’s failures than its preachiness. Quoting Deadline Hollywood, Maddox noted that “critics found the fantasy pic to be clunky and incomprehensible, and the animation retro and stale”. Lacklustre marketing was also identified as contributing to the film’s performance.

But these factors don’t explain Disney’s comparable letdown with Lightyear. The common denominator between the two is the injection of themes that movie-going families have little interest in.

It’s not as though animated movies are going out of fashion. Universal Pictures took in $940 million at the worldwide box office last year for Minions: Rise of Gru, and close to $700 million in just the opening weeks of The Super Mario Bros Movie.

Both films, incidentally, are notably woke-free, a fact that has critics wringing their hands.

“Go woke, go broke” may not hold true in every situation. But when it comes to children’s films at the box office, those four words appear to be a fixed law of the universe.

And a law Disney ignores at its own peril.

AUTHOR

Kurt Mahlburg

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate… More by Kurt Mahlburg.

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Challenging The Cozy Corporate LGBTQ Consensus

I work in a large European multinational. One day last year I opened an email from the employee advocacy department. Attached was a PDF with a page dedicated to “my gender, my pride”. It explained “the road to LGBT normalization” and advertised the organizational “pride activities”.

This propaganda was not my cup of tea. I emailed a protest to the author and I posted a critique on a private Facebook group for 450 colleagues. I began with a disclaimer. I said that I esteemed all of my colleagues and that I was criticising the ideas inspiring the PDF.

My first point was that celebrating “pride” is problematic. Celebrations are quasi-religious. Don’t we celebrate Christmas and Easter, for instance? Framing unbridled sexuality as holy is dangerous. And pride, in classical religions, is always treated with caution. Remember Achilles or Oedipus or Icarus or Xerxes? The Greeks and Romans knew that pride can be arrogance; pride can lead to disaster. It needed to be balanced by a humble recognition of one’s own fallibility. There is little of that on display in celebrations of “pride” nowadays.

Second, I objected to labels like “gay” or “straight”. These say little about the whole person. In any case, my organization promotes the Rainbow flag and the Progress flag to communally guarantee that everyone is safe and free to express their sexual preference.

Certainly individual safety is important, but I have the feeling that this “Pride” is really about power, power over the consensus. The organization is open to a broad range of gender expressions, but at the same time it will not tolerate traditional  views on sexuality. Paradoxically, under the flag, individual safety to freely express one’s view on sexuality is at risk.

Third, the LGBT movement presents the rainbow lifestyle as rosier than it is in reality. What about drugs, sexual extremes, pornography, and sex parties? Some people suffer trauma from sex experiences and transgender operations which they deeply regret.

Some colleagues replied to my post. Some were reasonable; others called it homophobic and transphobic. The Diversity and Inclusion Manager informed me that someone had filed a complaint; the colleague was reluctant to work with me.

My guideline for tense situations like this is to always go for interpersonal dialogue, preferably one on one (possibly with an independent observer). “Let me talk to him,” I told my manager. Unfortunately, this never happened.

The Diversity and Inclusion Manager told me that his department had filed a complaint about the content of my post, although not about me personally. I responded that I should have been supported, as I actually represented a minority view in the organization. But diversity and inclusivity only move in one direction. Inclusion has become exclusion.

I asked if “diversity” and “inclusivity” could ever mean using different symbols than the rainbow flag or the progress flag. The answer was No.

Then my manager stepped in to follow up on the complaint. He patiently explained that I was not allowed to question the “progress flag” at work. The reason was that people would feel unsafe to be whoever they wanted to be, thereby conflating ideology and individual safety. Outside work-related domains, however, I could say and post whatever I liked. He also rebuked the Diversity and Inclusion Department for their rigidity in handling my case.

And then the incident faded away. I was more cautious; my colleagues were more respectful.

This clash with the corporate culture and my conversation with my manager was very educational for me.

There is a vast difference in perspective between individuals and management. Normally people care about each other’s welfare, but corporates limit themselves to affirming choices. Healthy or unhealthy, sad or happy, confused or structured — just let people be who they are or think they are.

But — without wanting to read too much into this encounter — “be whoever you are” carries a lot of philosophical baggage. The way people act is constantly changing, while their being is unchangeable. What does it mean “to be yourself”?

Insisting that you can be anything you want to be – that can be scary. When I pointed out to my manager that the suicide rate of transgender people is 19 times higher than normal, his answer was astonishing. That’s not necessarily bad, he said. That’s just how things go and it’s their choice. Whether or not that statistic is correct, his response was terrifying. Do we just have to accept that some people are doomed to unhappiness? Is this what corporate diversity and inclusion means?

The positive feature is that management does want people to feel safe at work. The negative feature is that it sanctions a life of limitless experimentation with completely unknown results. The goal is not happiness but a bogus authenticity.

So here is what I learned from my experience in questioning the corporate consensus. First, candid posts on Facebook are imprudent. Second, many of my colleagues supported my position — but they stayed quiet about it. Third, my openness and respectful dialogue was interpreted very positively. The higher-ups saw that I was acting with good will. Fourth, everyone realised that the notion of a cheery consensus on the LGBT narrative is an illusion. Within the organisation there was a loyal opposition.

Would I risk posting another challenge on Facebook? After all this pain, perhaps not. As they say, the process is the punishment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The author works for a European multinational. He has launched an on-line discussion and support group for people who feel threatened by an LGBTQ consensus in their professional environment. Contact him for more information at divorex@proton.me.

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The Power of Woke: How Leftist Ideology is Undermining our Society and Economy

Neo-Marxism is a cultural cancer spreading through America and beyond.


“It’s an important part of society whether you like it or not,” lexicologist Tony Thorne, referring to “wokeness,” told The New Yorker’s David Remnick in January. That’s an understatement.

Wokeness is poisoning the Western workplace and constraining small and family businesses, midsized banks, and entrepreneurs while enriching powerful corporations and billionaires. It’s eating away at the capitalist ethos and killing the bottom-up modes of economic ordering and exchange that propelled the United States of America to prosperity during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It’s infecting Gen Z and millennials, who, suffering high depression rates and prone to “quiet quitting,” are not as well off as their parents and grandparents, and who feel isolated and alone even as they enjoy a technological connectivity that’s unprecedented in human history.

What, exactly, is wokeness, and how does it impact business and the wider society?

Subversion

The term as it’s widely used today differs from earlier significations. “Woke”, which plays on African American vernacular, once meant “awake to” or “aware of” social and racial injustices. The term expanded to encompass a wider array of causes from climate change, gun control, and LGTBQ rights to domestic violence, sexual harassment, and abortion.

Now, wielded by its opponents, it’s chiefly a pejorative dismissing the person or party it modifies. It’s the successor to “political correctness,” a catchall idiom that ridicules a broad range of leftist hobbyhorses. Carl Rhodes submits, in Woke Capitalism, that “woke transmuted from being a political call for self-awareness through solidarity in the face of massive racial injustice, to being an identity marker for self-righteousness.”

John McWhorter’s Woke Racism argues that wokeness is religious in character, unintentionally and intrinsically racist, and deleterious to black people. McWhorter, a black linguist, asserts that “white people calling themselves our saviors make black people look like the dumbest, weakest, most self-indulgent human beings in the history of our species.”

Books like Stephen R. Soukup’s The Dictatorship of Woke Capital and Vivek Ramaswamy’s Woke, Inc. highlight the nefarious side of the wokeism adopted by large companies, in particular in the field of asset management, investment, and financial services.

Hypocritical neo-Marxism

Wokeism, in both the affirming and derogatory sense, is predicated on a belief in systemic or structural forces that condition culture and behavior. The phrases “structural racism” or “systemic racism” suggest that rational agents are nevertheless embedded in a network of interacting and interconnected rules, norms, and values that perpetuate white supremacy or marginalise people of color and groups without privilege.

Breaking entirely free from these inherited constraints is not possible, according to the woke, because we cannot operate outside the discursive frames established by long use and entrenched power. Nevertheless, the argument runs, we can decentre the power relations bolstering this system and subvert the techniques employed, wittingly or unwittingly, to preserve extant hierarchies. That requires, however, new structures and power relations.

Corporate executives and boards of directors are unsuspectingly and inadvertently — though sometimes deliberately — caught up in these ideas. They’re immersed in an ideological paradigm arising principally from Western universities. It’s difficult to identify the causative origin of this complex, disparate movement to undo the self-extending power structures that supposedly enable hegemony. Yet businesses, which, of course, are made up of people, including disaffected Gen Zs and millennials, develop alongside this sustained effort to dismantle structures and introduce novel organising principles for society.

The problem is, rather than neutralising power, the “woke” pursue and claim power for their own ends. Criticising systems and structures, they erect systems and structures in which they occupy the center, seeking to dominate and subjugate the people or groups they allege to have subjugated or dominated throughout history. They replace one hegemony with another.

The old systems had problems, of course. They were imperfect. But they retained elements of classical liberalism that protected hard-won principles like private property, due process of law, rule of law, free speech, and equality under the law. Wokeism dispenses with these. It’s about strength and control. And it has produced a corporate-government nexus that rigidifies power in the hands of an elite few.

Consider the extravagant spectacle in Davos, the beautiful resort town that combined luxury and activism at the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum, perhaps the largest gathering of self-selected, influential lobbyists and “c suiters” across countries and cultures. This annual event occasions cartoonish portrayals of evil, conspiratorial overlords — the soi-disant saviours paternalistically preaching about planetary improvement, glorifying their chosen burden to shape global affairs. The World Economic Forum has become a symbol of sanctimony and lavish inauthenticity, silly in its ostentation.

The near-ubiquitous celebration of lofty Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies at the World Economic Forum reveals a seemingly uniform commitment among prominent leaders to harness government to pull companies — and, alas, everyone else — to the left.

ESG is, of course, an acronym for the non-financial standards and metrics that asset managers, bankers, and investors factor while allocating capital or assessing risk. A growing consortium of governments, central banks, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), asset management firms, finance ministries, financial institutions, and institutional investors advocates ESG as the top-down, long-term solution to purported social and climate risks. Even if these risks are real, is ESG the proper remedy?

Attendees of the World Economic Forum would not champion ESG if they did not benefit from doing so. That plain fact doesn’t alone discredit ESG, but it raises questions about ulterior motives: What’s really going on? How will these titans of finance and government benefit from ESG?

Follow the money

One obvious answer involves the institutional investors that prioritise activism over purely financial objectives or returns on investment (for legal reasons, activist investors would not characterise their priorities as such). It has only been a century since buying and selling shares in publicly traded companies became commonplace among workers and households. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), created in response to the Great Depression, isn’t even 100 years old.

Until recently, most investors divested if they owned stock in a company that behaved contrary to their beliefs. They rarely voted their shares or voted only on major issues like mergers and acquisitions. In 2023, however, institutional investors such as hedge funds and asset management firms engage boards of directors, exercise proxy voting, and issue shareholder reports with the primary goal of politicising companies. As intermediaries, they invest pension funds, mutual funds, endowments, sovereign wealth funds, 401(k)s and more on behalf of beneficiaries who may or may not know what political causes their invested assets support.

If a publicly traded company “goes woke,” consider which entities hold how much of its shares and whether unwanted shareholder pressure is to blame. Consider, too, the role of third-party proxy advisors in the company’s policies and practices.

Big companies go woke to eliminate competition. After all, they can afford the costs to comply with woke regulations whereas small companies cannot. Institutional investors warn of prospective risks of government regulation while lobbying for such regulation. In the United States, under the Biden Administration, woke federal regulations are, unsurprisingly, emerging. Perhaps publicly traded companies will privatise to avoid proposed SEC mandates regarding ESG disclosures, but regulation in other forms and through other agencies will come for private companies too.

The woke should question why they’re collaborating with their erstwhile corporate enemies. Have they abandoned concerns about poverty for the more lucrative industry of identity politics and environmentalism? Have they sold out, happily exploiting the uncouth masses, oppressing the already oppressed, and trading socioeconomic class struggle for the proliferating dogma of race, sexuality, and climate change? As wokeness becomes inextricably tied to ESG, we can no longer say, “Go woke, go broke.” Presently, wokeness is a vehicle to affluence, a status marker, the ticket to the center of the superstructure.

ESG helps the wealthiest to feel better about themselves while widening the gap between the rich and poor and disproportionately burdening economies in developing countries. It’s supplanting the classical liberal rules and institutions that leveled playing fields, engendered equality of opportunity, expanded the franchise, reduced undue discrimination, eliminated barriers to entry, facilitated entrepreneurship and innovation, and empowered individuals to realise their dreams and rise above their station at birth.

When politics is ubiquitous, wokeness breeds antiwokeness. The right caught on to institutional investing; counteroffensives are underway. The totalising politicisation of corporations is a zero-sum arms race in which the right captures some companies while the left captures others.

Soon there’ll be no escaping politics, no tranquil zones, and little space for emotional detachment, contemplative privacy, or principled neutrality; parallel economies will emerge for different political affiliations; noise, fighting, anger, distraction, and division will multiply; every quotidian act will signal a grand ideology. For the woke, “silence is violence”; there’s no middle ground; you must speak up; and increasingly for their opponents as well, you must choose sides.

Which will you choose in this corporatised dystopia? If the factions continue to concentrate and centralise power, classical liberals will have no good options. Coercion and compulsion will prevail over freedom and cooperation. And commerce and command will go hand in hand.

This article has been republished with permission from Mises Wire.

AUTHOR

Allen Mendenhall

Allen Mendenhall is an associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty, and Managing Editor of Southern… More by Allen Mendenhall

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