On Sunday, the New York Times reported that several multinational corporations including Apple and Nike are lobbying against legislation that would ban products from China’s Xinjiang province, many of which are made by forced Uyghur labor. Lobbyists are arguing that, although their clients oppose forced labor and the imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims, supply chains could be severely disrupted. It is a disgrace.
But the scandal might as well be a speed bump for the parties involved. Because our largest multinational corporations, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike (to name a few) have devised the greatest, if not the most effective and cynical, public relations strategy to protect themselves from legitimate criticism: going — and staying — woke.
Will Americans remember the spurt of articles on the lobbying efforts to dilute the Uyghur bill? Or will they remember the nonstop jet of advertisements, marketing ploys, and studies that promote buzzword-laden concepts about every kind of ‘equity’ imaginable? If Nike fights racial injustice in the United States by turning Colin Kaepernick into a civil rights icon, then the box is checked, right? Don’t mind those Uyghur Muslims.
Woke advertising is not just an insurance policy for the times when shady practices are illuminated. It is also insurance against cancel-culture juntas, who will boycott a product if it does not sufficiently pander to minority identity groups.
This is par for the course in corporate world. McKinsey & Company will tout its virtue, while consulting for Perdue; make climate change everyone’s business, while advising state-owned businesses in the world’s largest polluter.
But, when going woke becomes the baseline messaging strategy in politics, which it has, things can only get uglier for Americans. Like multinational corporations, Democrats will be better positioned than their detractors, who can be smeared as racist, sexist, or a conspiracy theorist. They can frame every policy issue as a civil rights issue, every failure as indicative not of their own doing but of a “systemically racist system,” every conservative policy an existential threat to democracy. Their voters will feel righteous indignation. And they will be more amenable to radical changes, such as eliminating the filibuster, which Obama described as a “Jim Crow relic,” in pursuit of a bigger and bigger federal government.