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How to Stop the Corporate Virtue-Signaling Before It’s Too Late

Just before Halloween, the U.S. streaming giant Hulu sent out a tweet: “If you’re dressing up for #Huluween this year, this is your reminder to wear a costume that is culturally appropriate and respectful to others. Let’s celebrate the holiday in a way that we can all enjoy.”

The question of whether some Halloween costumes are “appropriate” is one of the hottest flashpoints in the culture wars right now. The mainstream media, university professors and left-wing politicians seem to agree that dressing up as people of another race is inherently offensive while a large proportion of regular people believe that costumes are only offensive if there’s an intent to mock. Unsurprisingly, Hulu’s finger-wagging tweet pissed off a lot of people who wondered why a streaming service was suddenly sounding like a social justice warrior. Hulu deleted the tweet.

Days later, another company was getting political online. Ben & Jerry’s launched a new ice cream called “Pecan Resist” featuring an angry looking dark-skinned woman on the container. The company claimed that buying the ice cream was a way to “peacefully resist the Trump administration’s regressive and discriminatory policies and build a future that values inclusivity, equality, and justice for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and immigrants.” Lefties—likely unaware that Ben & Jerry parent company Unilever sells skin-bleaching creams in India—seemed to love the product pandering to their causes.

Professor Jordan Peterson has recently called this kind of corporate virtue-signaling an “appalling sleight of hand” from executives making “300 times the average worker.” But it’s not only insincere, it’s also dangerous. There are enough forces fueling the political polarization in the west—from Black Lives Matter to Fox News to Vladimir Putin. The last thing we need right now is for corporations to be adding fuel to the fire by taking sides in the culture wars.

The dangers of this kind of corporate politicization became apparent in Australia last year after the government announced a plebiscite on the question of gay marriage. While a healthy debate took place in the political realm, many of the country’s biggest corporations, including Qantas, began to actively campaign for the “yes” side. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who is openly gay, was one of the most outspoken. He ended up getting a pie in his face.

Peter Dutton, whose Liberal National Party was opposed to same-sex marriage, argued that corporations should “stick to their knitting.” Dutton said that Qantas executives were welcome to campaign on their own dimes but he urged them not to “use an iconic brand and the might of a multi-billion dollar business on issues best left to the judgment of issues and elected decision-makers.”

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Anthony Fisher, was also concerned, warning that corporations getting political on social issues was threatening to democracy. “In our polity, corporations enjoy various privileges such as legal personality and perpetuity, limitation of liability, corporate tax rates, protections of intellectual property and bankruptcy law et cetera, on the understanding that they will use those advantages for their well-understood commercial purposes, and not so as to become a Fifth Estate governing our democracy,” Fisher said.

In the end, the “yes” side won a decisive victory, with 62.6 percent in favor and 38.4 percent opposed. Australia likely would have voted in favor of same-sex marriage even if corporations like Qantas had stayed out of it, but we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that Qantas made large numbers of dissenters feel they were under attack.

Jeremy Sammut, a researcher at Australia’s Centre for Independent Studies, documented the corporate intrusion into politics in his recent paper, “Curbing Corporate Social Responsibility: Preserving pluralism – and preventing politicisation – in Australian business.

Sammut points out that the corporate virtue-signaling almost exclusively tends to favor the political tastes of the “elites” over the “ordinary” people, and that’s what makes it so dangerous. When Hulu tweets about being “culturally appropriate” at Halloween, it’s affirming values primarily held by rich urban-dwellers in California and New York, while attacking the values of white rural voters who overwhelming elected U.S. President Donald Trump or voted for Brexit.

As Harvard professor Amy Chua points out in her recent book Political Tribes, “when groups feel threatened, they retreat into tribalism. They close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.” It’s easy to feel threatened when even corporations are piling on with the politicians. For another example of this, check out the videos of Americans burning their sneakers after Nike lionized NFL player Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand for the national anthem before games. The Kaepernick controversy has been a gift to Donald Trump, who uses it to rile up voters.

Thankfully, there is a way to keep corporations in check, which Sammut calls the Community Pluralism Principle. He suggests that company managers be forced by their shareholders to adopt a statement along the following lines:

It is important for modern corporations to consider their impact on all genuine stakeholders in the best interests of shareholders. It is also important that engagement on social issues cannot be perceived to distract from company’s core business mission, duties, and accountabilities, nor negatively affect its brand and reputation in the market of opinion in a political sense. It is a matter for boards of directors and other corporate decision-makers to manage these risks by ensuring that companies respect and reflect the pluralism of Australian society and remain open to the views and values of all employees, customers, shareholders and stakeholders across the community.

If that’s too wordy, corporate leaders might simply quote economist Milton Friedman instead. “The social responsibility of business,” he once said, “is to increase its profits.”

Josh Dehaas is a Toronto-based freelance journalist.


  1. Don_in_Odessa says

    Generally speaking, I try to avoid doing business with companies, retail stores, restaurant chains and sports clubs that advocate for political correctness, support a politcal candidate, or protest against anything. Be about the business they have on on their logo. I don’t need or want their preaching.

      • So government shouldn’t conduct fire inspections as a service to protect the collective good of a community? Or what about workforce development initiatives. I would argue that there are indeed services that the government must provide.

        • CrossTieWalker says

          Fire inspections are a form of law enforcement. They are not a consumer good or a factor of production. The term “services” can mean several different things, obviously. Military “service” is not service such as that provided by “service” jobs in the economy. Government services generally are forms of law enforcement or maintenance of public order (social security and welfare are forms of maintenance of public order—they keep people from falling into the gutter, literally).

      • Eric M Krehemker says

        I agree with you both points. My question would be when is the government going to become involved in doing the job of governing? I am all in favor of limited government, but these people we have in office now have no such motivation.

      • Kevin says

        A well-paved roadway is both a product and an essential service provided by the government (our taxes) so that private sector businesses may conduct theirs – and private sector contractors make large sums of money delivering such infrastructure projects.

        Fire emergency services themselves were once provided strictly by private enterprise. However, such an arrangement ultimately looks like the “protection” (gun-to-the-head-extortion) racket, hence the need for an impartial entity like the gov’t to provide such protections/services for all (Health insurance/medical care will go this way eventually, but we’re likely on a multi-decade timeline for this…). A blanket “government out of business” statement is too generalistic and ignores realities

    • Weird, Conservatives never care when big buis. Titans like the Koch brothers literally send out pamphlets to politicians telling them what they need to believe if they want their millions. Nor do they care when charlatans like J. Falwell tells his millions of Evangelicals that “Trump is God’s man.” Now that liberal business speaks up it’s appalling.
      Well get use to it. Conservatives wanted Citizens United… They wanted corps. to be able to be “people.” Now deal with it…

      • D-Rex says

        2313, unless you provide some evidence I’m calling BS on the Koch pamphlet thing.

      • The Koch brothers aren’t conservative, they’re libertarian. Everything else you wrote is also wrong.

        • Wow…great point. Their Libertarians that support the GOP with 100’s of millions of dollars a cycle. Love to hear how I’m wrong about Falwell and Evangelicals being a political arm of the GOP.
          Again, when big B helps the GOP it’s fine. Now that liberal big B helps the DEMs we get articles like the above.
          I believe it’s a simple case of the changing roles of who has money in this country… Nike isn’t selling to old white guys… Their selling to young people, and young people in droves are socially conscious.
          Times have changed. Where Big B use to advertise to the Silent Majority they now advertise to Millennial’s who are in lock step with liberal values. Sucks, but the times have changed. Conservatism/Liberalism/what ever old fashion value system you want to call it are out manned in the only thing that matters: buying power. Liberals have more of it. It’s in the best interest of companies to virtue signal to people like me, than to support dead ideologies of old white people.
          Most people that I know in my Urban hive of degeneracy want to know the politics of the companies they buy from. The more they virtue signal the more we want to buy from them. Anti Gay rights… Anti social justice have 0 chance in the epicenters of our economy. Smart companies already know this.

          • Rebecca says

            Amazing the whine now that a handful of corporations have sprouted a conscious… but it was okay when lobbying efforts and money bought and paid for politicians/policy makers for centuries.

          • liam2313, you display the typical liberal combination of ignorance and arrogance (and bad grammar!). You say the only thing that matters is buying power, and liberals have more of it. How can that be when other times liberals like you are parroting lines about conservatives only caring about the rich? Moreover, the only income group Hillary won according to exit polling was those making under $50,000 per year; Trump won $50,000 to $99,000 and $100,000 plus. And since when is the liberal position that the only thing that matters is buying power? At one time liberals wanted everyone to be treated equally. Now liberals want people to be treated differently depending on their skin color and ethnicity and sex and gender and sexuality and, apparently, their buying power.
            Your triumphalism about alleged buying power reminds me of liberals’ newfound scorn for the supposedly uneducated. In most elections Democrats win the least-educated. The difference between the average education of Republicans and Democrats is marginal; and if being uneducated makes a person ‘less than’ why do Democrats fawn over the political pronouncements of uneducated simpletons like LeBron James and Taylor Swift and Robert DeNiro and Bruce Springsteen? And how dumb is it to think there is much to gain by mocking, say, 15 million Trump voters for being uneducated when 14 million Hillary voters (and 17.5 million Obama voters) were just as uneducated? Also, Republican voters skew older. So most Republicans who lack education do so because they come from a time when only the exceptional went to college, as opposed to now when everybody with an IQ above 90 (80 if black) can get into college. Those older, “uneducated” Republicans got jobs, started companies, and raised families. Who the heck do you think you are to look down on them? In contrast, the uneducated Democratic voters are mostly young and just plain dumb.
            You might be educated, but you’re still plain dumb. You said ‘most people that I know want to know the politics of the companies they buy from. The more they virtue signal the more we want to buy from them.’ As if there is anything dispositive about that. Imagine, a member of the generation and ideology that values conformity and groupthink only knows people who think like him! Surveys show that over 80% of Americans are against the pc culture. The people you know are a bunch of parrots in a bubble who are too stupid and ignorant to realize that their bubble is not representative of the larger world.
            What you call social justice is not justice at all. Justice is treating everybody the same. Social justice is treating everybody differently based on group membership. Black Lives Matter pushes a false narrative of oppression. The gender pay gap is statistically-illiterate garbage. Yet you attach moral- and intellectual-superiority to those who side with the race- and gender-hustlers. Maybe when you grow up you’ll learn to look up data and think for yourself. Until then, Polly want a cracker?

          • Michael Joseph says

            The article may have had a valid point twenty or thirty years ago and the concept may have kept the fossil fuel industry from locking down government but today conscientious corporations need to act because unscrupulous companies and government officials are literally lighting a match to a long fuse that will destroy the world as we know it and the future of the human species is in question. Conscientious business people are acting desperately in the face of ignorant rapacious entities preserving their place on the economic ladder to the detriment of the greater society.

          • R Ty (@RTy27750652)
            I see I’ve touched a nerve!!! Waiting to get to attach all of your biases against Liberals onto someone eh…
            All you proved in your time consuming diatribe is that you assume Liberals think their “superior.” True or not true that holds no bearing to what I wrote.
            I might have bad grammar, but you my friend are imagining arguments that weren’t even made… Perhaps that has something to do with your advancing age and lack of ability to see reality?
            My point was never that Liberals are more “educated.” My point is that companies care about making money. That’s a fact. It’s not even worth arguing.
            Why do companies now seem to have a liberal bias??? Because it makes them MONEY. Period. End of story.
            Why is that???
            They don’t care about people like you and your beliefs because you’re in the minority and you don’t buy their “hip” products. That’s just a fact man… You can try to pin stereotypes on me and what I believe from what you read on conservatives whining sites, but it makes no difference.
            All of your arguments are null and void. I could care less who’s more educated or what income bracket was fooled by the Bad Orange Man.
            I care about my children growing up in a progressive society where my ideology is taught in schools, seen on mass media and dominates pop culture. You had your time decades ago… It’s our time now. Our religion, that you abhor is taking over, and I know that must hurt… Like you said “Liberals use to get upset about companies pandering to the rich…” Now they pander to Liberals who despise Traditional Values and believe everything you obviously hate.
            I could care less about BLM or your def. of social justice. I attach moral or intellectual superiority to nothing and no ideology. I care about which one is winning, what type of country my kids will grow up in, and what they’ll believe about people that look different than them.
            Maybe when you start accepting reality and turn on the tv, read a msm newspaper or talk to someone under 55 you can see what I’m talking about. Maybe when you take your pills more often you can live in reality. Until then, old man need a new diaper??? 🙂

          • @liam2313: So you are as bad at Reading Comprehension as you are at basic grammar and at forming a coherent thought. I didn’t say you parroted the ‘uneducated’ line (though I’d bet a full year of your pay that you do). There’s this thing called a transitional sentence. Here it is: “Your triumphalism about alleged buying power reminds me of liberals’ newfound scorn for the supposedly uneducated.” Have a reasonably educated 12-year-old diagram the sentence for you and explain logic if you still don’t understand. And knowing the difference between ‘they’re’ and ‘their’ and ‘there’ isn’t a product of using a desktop; it’s a product of not being an imbecile. And the criticism of you not being able to grasp something so basic wasn’t my main point and wasn’t a product of me not being able to find a dispositive flaw in what you said. Just about everything you’ve said is both ignorant and arrogant. I’m probably younger than your father, and even if I weren’t what the hell makes you think it is okay to mock people for having less buying power, for being older, for being white, and probably for being ‘uneducated’? If I hadn’t encountered SO MANY liberals just as arrogant and ignorant as you in real life I’d think you were a conservative pretending to be a liberal to make liberals look bad. Polly want a cracker?

          • @liam2313
            I’m under 55, genius. The only person I talk to who is over 55 is my mother. You ACTUALLY SAID I “should accept reality and turn on the TV”. TV is not reality. The supposed reality that news programs project is a narrative that has been chosen and shaped to push an agenda. And TV in general is what has made so many Americans dolts like you. I haven’t watched TV since 2012. And contrary to your bizarre parroting of liberal propaganda that says anyone who doesn’t parrot liberal orthodoxy is brainwashed by FoxNews and Breitbart, all my news comes from MSM and liberal sources, because they dominate the news dissemination industry. Unlike you, I have a base of knowledge and an ability to think critically about what I am hearing. I know when the MSM says that ‘Latino women earn on average 49% of what white men earn’ that it is not due to the discrimination and white supremacy that the liberals are claiming it is. It’s due to the average white male being far more educated and coming from families that have been here for generations, while millions of Latino women can’t even speak English, have no skills, and so can only do low-pay work.
            The rest of your posts aren’t even worth the cursory skim I gave to this one. You couldn’t form a coherent argument if your life depended on it. All you have is idiotic triumphalism – ‘our religion is in charge now, we’re taking over, your time has passed old white person’. Please. You’re a disgrace.

        • Nah. They’re done. Wasting their money. Trump is the biggest boon to Liberals in history. We’ll make him the poster boy for Conservatives for the next 100 years.
          What’s funny is they know that and hate Trump…

        • Michael Joseph says

          R Ty is also just wrong. But Liam, there is a corporate style that puts the society over profits. Of course they need to be solvent but maximizing profits over the moral behavior as members of society is something they refuse to do. There aren’t many but they are out there.

      • Bruce says

        Corporations like The New York Times and Planned Parenthood and unions have spoken up for decades –

      • Defenstrator says

        Actually lots of conservatives do have a problem with it. But just keep telling yourself that so you can pretend the people you don’t like are bad.

        • ?
          Again… No one is saying Cons are bad.
          I’m making the point that Liberal values sell.
          Nike could care less about what Cons believe, obviously. They made a business decision from focus groups with people that they know will spend money on $200 shoes.
          It was a great business decision as their stock price shows.
          Yes Cons were furious. They knew that would happen. They were thrilled to see people going on Twitter and burning their stuff… Why? Because those people are now the minority.

          • Michael Joseph says

            I’ll say it. Conservatives have completely lost any semblance of morality. They are fearful wretches that wouldn’t share a grain of corn with a starving person if they had a silo full. They passed a tax cut mostly going to the the top quartile that will put SSI and Medicare at risk reducing the quality of life for millions. They increased spending on a military that costs more than the next seven nations combined. It is an albatross around their own necks and they only feed it out of fear. Their cowering philosophy masquerading as bravado and patriotism has resulted in a fat malevolent bag putrid brain pollution sitting in the Oval Office. They are selfish and afraid. And selfish fearful people can justify any level of immoral behavior if they think it protects them… like separating innocent children from their parents.

      • If corporations aren’t people, what exactly are they? Mint julips? And if corporations aren’t people then labor unions and political parties at not prople either.

        You do realize that all Citizens United did was say that the government could not prohibit a political media company from making a movie critical of Nearly-Queen-Hillary 60 days before an election, don’t you? I am guessing not, based on the level of basic factual awareness you demonstrate.

        Falwell is a corporation?

        • Nope he’s the religious leader of millions of minions who believe God herself is talking through the scum bags on the pulpit.
          Look at polling that states Evangelicals vote as a block. They believe what they’re told, and their told that Trump is “God’s Man.” That’s a direct quote from Jr. Fawell.
          Love this response. It’s exactly my point. If corporations are people why can’t they have liberal bias and support liberal causes???? Or are Conservatives only allowed to support “Merry Christmas” and non PC causes like “gays aren’t equal…”

          • Elwood wulf says

            Falwell is one of many preachers. There are far more respected ones who say nothing of the kind. And there are many preachers who are left leaning as well. Those voting trump have reasons for doing so that have nothing to do with falwell. If you are unemployed and one choice is a status quo camdidate who Obama identified as a former walmart corporate lobbiest, that gives paise more than rude tweets.

            Her campaign consulted the head of walmart’s lobby efforts for guidance on resisting minimim wage increases. It was found to scuttle Saunders campaign from within.

            Trump campaigned on building a wall and has rted Obama making similar policy statements. He did not campaign om child separations and many evangelicals are displeased about his policies in this area.

            As to a comment about conservatives not sharing a grain of corn-studies show that conservatives and evangelicals particularly outperform other groups when it comes to charitable donations. Urbana is a big conference on global missions attemded by about 30,000 people; international development and poverty are key areas of focus. So much so that some evangelicals have moved into slums to care for those around them.

        • Michael Joseph says

          Corporations are a legal entity that have been given personhood in certain legal situations in order to protect the owners from illegal acts and and debt incurred by the business. They are obviously not people. They are groups of people. We can thank them for super fund sites, global warming, and countless physical ailments due to their chemicals, pollution, and malfeasance. Sure, support their entry into your election process, what could happen? It’s not like we’re going to get president Biff or…

        • Kevin says

          Corporations are a “legal fiction” – i.e. paperwork which creates a fictional entity. They are not “people” by any stretch of any definition. By the logic they are “people,” then they should get to vote, serve in the military, go to jail for their crimes, pay the same rates of income taxes as people, and even eventually die, just like “people” do, but you can’t just make inalienable rights blossom out of paperwork. Otherwise you could simply file INC/LLC to make more voters, etc…

      • NRA sending us propaganda about how the liberals are going to take away our guns. I mean this goes both ways.

        • I am not with the NRA nor do I have firearms but I didn’t know that they were allowed to have their propaganda published by the New York Times

      • Elisabeth Lee says

        Amen. And if so worried about it, sell your damned stock and stop buying products from companies who offend your political sensibilities. Let the marketplace do its work.

    • Ganpatt Ram says

      So how about when the corporations pull out all the stops to celebrate Christmas and Easter? Any complaints about that form of “virtue signaling”? No? I thought not. It is only when it is the values of someone other that that precious “white rural” voter are promoted that the whining begins. Incidentally, what is so terrible about “virtue signaling” anyway? What do you want – vice signaling?

      • Morgan says

        Incidentally, what is so terrible about “virtue signaling” anyway?

        It’s hypocrisy.

        • John J says

          Well, in the case of the Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, the iconic Australian airline, he was a bad boy who cut staff and cracked down on working conditions to bring the carrier back to profitability. His name was mud on the left, but he used the company he runs to support gay marriage and how he is back in their good books. No fool is he.

      • Part of the situation is that many people are thoroughly sick of political correctness hysteria. They just want to watch their football game or eat their ice cream in peace…and then the football teams and ice cream companies start virtue signaling in overtly PC ways in favor of an ideology that these people would just as soon forget in the privacy of their own homes. So many boycott said virtue signalers in disgust, which is their right.

      • Sara Dip says

        @Ganpatt Ram

        >So how about when the corporations pull out all the stops to celebrate Christmas and Easter? Any complaints about that form of “virtue signaling”? No? I thought not.

        First, Christmas and Easter celebrations by companies DO get a lot of hate for their sinister motives (and probably rightfully so). Second, it’s not a form of virtue signalling since:
        – they don’t promote any “values”:
        – they don’t pretend they stick their neck out for a supposedly “oppressed” group:
        – they don’t display any supposed awareness of any supposed issues;
        – so they don’t actually signal about any virtue (duh).

    • Suzanne Swendon says

      Holy fuck! The insanity in this comments section is unbelievable!

      What was it in this article that brought the nut jobs out? Quite often, Quillette comments section are mostly intelligent people discussing differing viewpoints with patience, treating each other like real human beings.

      I just read a comment by a @Squesh Bighorse over in in the Charile Kirk article that could have been a marvelous article on its own, full of decency and humility. I honestly teared up.

      But this one … Was there an alert that went out? “Not able to plug your ears and scream abuse at people enough on Twitter? Come to Quillette!”

      Setting fire to others is a poor tactic when we are all doused in petrol.

      • Suzanne Swendon says

        That’s wrong: I read the comment in the Mockingbird article. Well worth checking out.

    • Same here. The slightest wiff of left wing virtue signaling and I am gone. I am in the process of finding a new vet for my dogs after recently being welcomed at my current vet’s office with a “hate is not welcome here” type sign. Apparently gay and black dogs and cats are a thing. Well, I guess black dogs are a thing.

      • They put up that sign because it gets them the business they want. Simple marketing principle: advertise to the customers you desire.
        For every person that hates Virtue Signaling theirs an army of people that are attracted to it.
        That’s not right or wrong… That’s a fact. It’s why they do it.

        • Brian says

          Often, the most desireable customer for a retailer is a deeply stupid one. Catering to those people to attract their business is no virtue. Nothing to be proud of, at least. A poor person spending $200 on a pair of Nikes because the company is “woke” is not helping himself, his family or his community. He just makes a poor financial decision which will help keep him in the bad neighborhood.
          Of course, he can later on blame his situation on “the system”, instead of his own poor decisions…..and then teach his kid the same ideas. And the cycle continues.

    • Jon Pizza says

      While in Seattle I had no choice, bu here in Philadelphia I can actually just go to coffee shops without virtue signalling signs, and so I always choose to do so.

      Similarly when I’ve picked up items that advertise ‘Produced in a woman run company’ or something similar I always immediately put said item back down. I don’t see that they would have printed that if they didn’t want to be treated differently for it, so, where I would have bought a product that seemed to fit what I was looking for, I’ll go ahead and change to a non purchase for them.

    • frances says

      Similarly, local shops displaying election or plebiscite material, especially of the smug, morally superior kind, and QANTAS – for the sheer cheek of involving a national icon! I don’t need or want their preaching either. I so don’t want it that I make sure I don’t have to deal with it. Works for me.

  2. Wentworth Horton says

    Corporations need to get intelligent enough to know there is a big difference between what it echoing around the media and what is being passed around the kitchen table. That is the one huge take away from Trump and Brexit.

    • They pay millions for focus groups and understand what will sell their product better than anyone on earth…
      They virtue signal because they know it will sell with the majority of people they want to buy their products.
      Simple economics.

  3. Hit the companies in the pocket. I try my absolutely best not to fly with Qantas, and I won’t buy a new pair of Nike shoes (although I’m not going to burn my existing pair).

    • I switched my team gear from Nike to Joma (not a US company, so not in US politics)

    • Brett the Victorious says

      The day Nike announced their partnership with Martin Luther Kaepernick (aka The Great Kneeler, or Finger in Light Socket Man™️), I had bought two pairs of their shoes. I returned them both and emailed Nike the return slip.

      I told them they were of course free to do business as they saw fit, but I didn’t want my shoes advertising my politics. I wouldn’t be buying any of their products until they stopped selling me my own presumed social justice back at a premium and resumed selling sportswear for my running. I want my sportswear to say at most “I run and am pretty cool”, not “Fuck the police and the president and ….”

      I think they were shamed at Nike, because they didn’t have the courage to reply to my declaration. I felt quite victorious. I’m fairly sure the CEO of Nike wept when reading it, and shortly began taking antidepressants.

      I think Michael Jordan had it right: “Republicans buy sneakers too.” Athletes can do much to bring us together, if they have the sense to know their social function.

      A plus: I discovered Newton Running shoes, a small company that makes wonderful shoes for serious runners, designed by physiologists at MIT. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Best shoes I’ve ever owned by far. My feet have never felt so good. They make Nikes feel like running in overpriced flip-flops.

      • Kent M. Gold says

        @Brett the Victorious: “(aka The Great Kneeler, or Finger in Light Socket Man™️)”


        Yes: when a “civil rights activist” trademarks his hair, one begins to suspect his shining motives might be alloyed.

        Credit where credit is due: Colin the Fabulist managed the leap to one of the few occupations easier and more fatuous than throwing a ball for a living: getting your picture taken for a living.

        Imagine all the social justice poontang he gets now. Much better than the football player poontang, some of which they have to chase the woman down and beat her unconscious for, if past incidents are to be believed.

        And so goes the world…

      • Walks And Quacks says


        Rock on, my friend!

        You seem to have posted an extraordinary amount on this obscure, anonymous comment board.

        Do you by any chance have no life?

  4. E. Olson says

    Rather than spend corporate earnings on developing better products, or paying higher employee wages, or issuing bigger shareholder dividends, it is obviously so much smarter to spend millions to promote a cause that will piss off half your customers. Unfortunately, such virtue signaling for the leftist side will receive lots of “free” positive coverage from the leftist media, which may be viewed by corporate elites as a budget multiplier for corporate communication and PR spending return calculations. Yet sooner or later what will happen is that many firms with such leftist activism will experience a Fox News event, which means they will get new competitors who seek to satisfy the conservative/right side niche representing about 60% of the general public.

    • It’s not sincere, just another way to market themselves, to get their names in the media, as promotion knows that even bad news is good publicity over time because people cannot keep track of thousands of corporations and their position on various issues over time.

      • Wrong. These companies do a ton of research and it’s in their best interest to virtue signal… Liberals care about the politics of the companies they buy from.
        Nike’s stock has gone up since the “scandal.” They aren’t selling to old white people… Their selling to the Urban market.

        • E. Olson says

          liam – if your customer base is leftist, then it makes sense to be supporting leftist causes, but such moves are problematic for mainstream brands such as Nike. In this case I suspect when the dust is settled that New Balance, Adidas, and other Nike competitors will be seeing increased sales from old white people (e.g. the customers that actually have money).

        • Wrong again liam – Nike stock is down about 6% in that time span, while the dow is down about 4%. But don’t let facts get in the way of your hate! Also, learn the difference between ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ and ‘there’. I learned it when I was 8 or 9 years old. Surely you could have mastered it by now? It’s not a typo – your posts routinely get it wrong.

          • Since you must be retired and have nothing to do all day, why don’t you figure out how much Nikes competitors are down in the same time period and how much Nike’s actual sales have increased since their marketing campaign. Online sales skyrocketed as well as their social media footprint.

            What I’ve learned from arguing with old farts like you on the internet, is that when a person is getting destroyed by a basic argument (see 29 comments above for our original encounter…) they look for “their, they’re and there” type mistakes to try and discredit.

            My bad phone grammar doesn’t change the fact that you and your ideology are dying all over the Western world.

            Modern companies could care less about people like you… They won’t hire conservatives… Most Fortune 500 companies literally fire people for making basic conservative arguments that were main stream 10 years ago.

            My grammar is terrible, but your values have lost. You’re, yours, your grand kids will live in my America, and you will, sadly, be considered a bigot and persona non gratta for what you believe.

            Facts. Hard… But you know this. Deep down you know I’m right. In 50 years the history books that Liberals will write (they own academia) will make people like you out to be evil monsters for your beliefs just like they’ve destroyed the worlds perception of White Southerners…

            Yes you have better grammar on your Desktop than I have on my phone… But guess what… I can express my views in polite society and you can’t. I can use my real name when on Twitter and you can’t. I can work in any city in this country with my meaningless joke of a Masters degree because I know how to play the new Lib Religion card, and you can’t (if you let people know what you believe.) What makes you, you is now a curse. In all honesty I feel sorry for conservatives. Their chickens have come home to roost. They use to say who could be accepted and now they can’t even express their views publicly. The tide has turned.

            So yeah. Congrats on your good grammar. Enjoying watching the country you once knew grow more and more hostile to your very being…

            Believe it or not I take no pleasure in this. My parents are both of your ilk. They are depressed like I’m sure you are by the state of our nation. They are good people like I assume you are, but they are stuck in another time. Times change.

            Every argument you make is meaningless. You my friend are wrong every time you speak your mind in our society…

            Their, I win.

        • X. Citoyen says

          Liberals care about the politics of the companies they buy from? That kind of caring cheap virtue: You care about how Nike and Apple virtue signal—which costs them nothing and makes you feel morally superior—but not about the people working in the sweatshops that fill that void created in you by each new iteration of the iPhone.

          Big business virtue signaling is part of the branding used to sell products to conceited upper-middle class people. And it works precisely because the virtue signals allow you to gloss over and then forget where something you want so bad came from.

        • Old white people buy for kids and grandkids all the time. Just not Nike anymore.

        • Brian says

          For God’s sake man…..get it right. Their there they’re. They have different meanings. You come off like a twelve-year-old with that bad grammar.

    • Caligula says

      The companies are buying indulgences.

      The question is, will the indulgence actually protect the company if it is found to have committed sins against social justice.

      • Exactly. I don’t buy Nike (believe it or not.) Nor Apple.
        They are pure evil and no amount of Virtue Signalling is going to change their practices.

    • Michael Joseph says

      Maybe they won’t piss off half their customers. Common sense gun control, reasonably priced healthcare, infrastructure, SSI, and Medicare have very, very high numbers among the consuming public. Maybe conscientious corporations will make so much money that they will be able to buy politicians and finally the people will get what they want.

      • E. Olson says

        Michael – yes many people want reasonable gun control until they find out the proposed controls wouldn’t stop any of the headline mass-shootings, or that already extensive current gun control laws are rarely enforced (because it would lock up too many people of color). Reasonable priced health care is also popular, until 70% of the people find out that it is only reasonable for the poor and sick because they (the middle-class) are paying for it, or that low prices mean they can’t keep their doctors and need to wait in long lines for care. Infrastructure spending is also popular, until they find out most of the money raised for infrastructure goes to gold plated government pensions, over-priced union labor, and underutilized bike trails rather than the new roads and airports that people think they are paying for. SSI is highly popular, because most people erroneously believe the money they have been paying in for years has been earning interest in government “lock boxes”, and won’t be so popular when they learn most of it was spent as soon as it left their pockets, and that their own benefits will be cut substantially in less than 15 years when the Ponzi scheme runs out of IOU reserves. Medicare won’t be nearly so popular with the seniors who vote if the Democrats gut it to fund Medicare for everyone. So the popularity of all these programs are based on asking a largely uninformed public questions that leave all the “bad stuff” out. Ask the questions after including the items above and watch the popularity plummet.

        As for the conscientious corporations you seem to like because of their social justice ad campaigns, you might look at what they spend millions “buying” from Congress. It certainly isn’t to increase their taxes or give most Americans what they want such as sharply limited immigration, more American sited manufacturing, or online privacy.

        • Michael Joseph says

          E. Olson, are you trying to say people don’t really want those things; that if given the choice they would prefer to have more money than a better society; or that Republicans are better at providing them? Your post seems to suggest we all just go back to bed and cover our heads.

          I know that providing you with logical counter arguments and facts probably won’t convince you but it might convince an open minded reader, plus it’s fun.

          First you say that gun laws are not enforced because cops don’t want to lock up people of color. I suppose the incarceration of minorities at higher rates than whites has no bearing on this issue.

          Regarding healthcare, let me tell you a little secret. The majority of US dollars spent on healthcare already are spent by government through Medicare, Medicaid, the military, and community hospitals. Insurance companies, hospitals, and big pharma are sharing in the fraction of the leftovers spent by the healthy working class and they are really sticking it to them. All this fear mongering about socialized medicine is either ignorant ranting to the ignorant or more insidiously, ranting to the ignorant by the knowledgeable who have ulterior motivations. America already has a big socialized medical system and not only will you not take it away from seniors and veterans but advocating for it will turn them into Democrats faster than you can say “Trump is a Putin lover.”

          You are right, big government construction projects incur fraud waste and abuse. The answer to that is oversight. The answer is not allowing roads to decay and bridges to collapse.

          SSI is not a Ponzi scheme. It is a promise by today’s workers to take care of the elderly and in return tomorrow’s workers will take care of them. It is as socialist as socialism gets and yet it is super popular. That’s because we find it hard to save and appreciate having a safety net that we can rely on in our retirement. The answer anti SSI Republicans always give is that charities will take up the slack in the absence of SSI. My reply is that SSI was created because charities were not up to the challenge. They weren’t in the past and the won’t be in the future. This theory is easily tested. SSI is woefully inadequate as a means of substance. People surviving off only SSI live in poverty. Ask yourself when was the last time you gave to a charity to help the elderly before you hold that up as an answer.

          Conscientious corporatism is an answer to rapacious corporatism. You can be cynical about it but I prefer to support it rather than do nothing.

          • E. Olson says

            Michael, You seem to equate “popular” with “being right”, but my point is that much of the popularity is based on lies and lack of experience. Gun laws don’t stop criminals and the insane from killing and hurting people – if fact the places with the highest per capita legal gun ownership tend to have the lowest crime and murder rates. Black men represent about 6% of the US population and commit about 50% of the serious crimes, and hence tougher guns laws are going to lock up a larger number of black men, which is why the politicians are too weak kneed to enforce the current laws. How does adding more gun laws help?

            Yes you are correct that just above 50% of US medical spending is currently purchased by the government, and the most government run system is the VA – and how is the service quality there? I know all about socialized medicine because I’ve lived over 20 years in a single payer system of a Scandinavian country that Bernie Sanders always brags about, and it works great if you never get sick. Unfortunately my wife has been seriously ill and guess what – it took over 6 months to see a specialist vs 3 days to get into the Mayo clinic where she was prescribed a new wonder drug that we found was unavailable when we returned home because the state system said it was too expensive. Another illness didn’t seemed too complicated for the local medical establishment, and they just refused to spend any more time or effort on her case, and there is nothing we could do except seek treatment in another country because there are no significant private options. Hey, but I’m sure Americans will love long waits, lack of innovation, treatment refusals, and high taxes to get “free” state-run medical care.

            There is already plenty of money to fix roads and bridges, the problem is most of the money doesn’t get spent on fixing roads and bridges, but of course if government programs are wasteful, ineffective, and fraudulent, the solution is even more government to fix it – works every time – just ask Venezuela. SS and Medicare are heading that way, because future generations are not going to be large enough or wealthy enough to pay for the promised benefits, and when you run out of suckers the system collapses, which is the very definition of a Ponzi scheme. The popularity of those programs will plummet as soon as the majority realizes that they will be getting back much less than they put in.

      • “Common sense gun control” sounds nice until people find out that it doesn’t work or that gun laws have little influence on the crime rate , more laws will be needed to keep up with the manufactured hysteria and nothing like gets votes like “learn karate”. “Gun control” is to the political left what abortion is to the religious right.

  5. A C Harper says

    I was (some years ago) in a customer care seminar we all had to attend. One of the presenters asked “What is the purpose of {my employer}?” When I said “To make money” he was affronted and said that it was to provide the public with a {particular} service.

    There are lots of people who have been led to believe that commerce is the handmaiden to society. Part of society, yes. Supporting progressive parts of society, no.

    • Many good businesses see themselves primarily as offering their product/service for the good of their customers, with profit being a motivation and desired goal. But few businesses abandon their products/services just to increase a short term profit.

      • Event Horizon says

        “But few businesses abandon their products/services just to increase a short term profit”

        You must be less than 9 yrs old. In 2008 the entire financial sector required several TRILLION dollars of government support because banks gave loans to anyone with a pulse to inflate the 2003-2008 housing bubble

    • Ha!!!
      Nike Virtue Signals because it makes them money. They could care less about Social Justice. Hence their use of slave labor.
      What’s hard for middle america to understand is that Liberal Values makes money in today’s society…
      Times have changed. People need to understand that the culture war has been won by Liberals and that Liberal values now make companies tons of money.

      • Nike still gives money to the GOP and the last time I checked white liberals had the lowest birthrate in the US and white conservative one of the highest and, even though I am very liberal when it comes to social issues thanks to my “live and let live” attitude and general indifference to how others chose to live their lives(low empathy/agreeableness/disgust, high reactance and individualism), I have yet to understand if this necessarily a bad thing, a lot of Progressive politics are a mix of intra-racial class warfare and cleverly disguised social conservatism with a secular religion to add to the mix;you are wrong as usual liberals, at least the one interest in liberty, lost long ago; is worth noting that the Cold War was a civil war for the left.
        Virtue signaling,to which I am mostly indifferent, lobbying, corruption etc are some the natural consequences of living under a democracy, where laws, rules and governance depend on Public Opinion, I am not particularly attached to the concept of democracy beyond the feedback it can provide, everything else can be done away with.
        You seem to assume that all of this is new which lead me to think you have a well curated ignorance and fail any Ideological Turing Test including your own, if someone wants to know your ‘opinions’ they can read The Economist, The Guardian, the Nation or Jacobin, at least the inferiority complex is not so evident; the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Years of Lead and the violence of the 70s and 60s are just a few examples of what happened during the previous century. Of course something good can come from this: America is losing is #1 status and China will replace it, personally I can only hope America(ns) will suffer the consequences of its foreign policy and messianic militarism fueled by a millennial thinking, hope my mild anti-Ameriacanism doesn’t bother you.
        Quillette has attracted the “intellectual artillery” of the left side with this article

  6. Dylan says

    Im on board with the idea that corporations are full of s*** whenever they try to project a moral agenda with their public face while simultaneously taking every advantage that capitalism and regulations or lack thereof allows, but are you really going to use the support of gay marriage as your key case study? Sometimes it feels like the pieces on this site (despite almost always being high quality) are just trying to rile up the left.

    • Pierre Pendre says

      Might that be because of the Left’s pro-active, trend-setting role in all matters of political correctness and its constant attempts to curb freedom of speech. It seems to me that relatively small numbers of unrepresentative left wing activists in the universities and the media who do their best to thwart all opposition, often through intimidation, need to be challenged constantly in the hope that it will help them towards a modicum of the self-examination they constantly demand the rest of us indulge in. The involvement of corporations like Quantas and Hulu in social activism is one of cynical calculation, a brandishing of right -n support for the side that appears to have the upper hand in the culture wars. Quantas’s job is to treat its customers equally regardless of sexuality, colour or religion. No one cares about its corporate view of image of marriage.

    • That’s how the truth normally gets sifted. Side A gets Side B all riled up until Side B finally says, “Oh yeah, what about THIS?” At some point everyone sees the weakness in Side B’s main point, and everyone walks away, shaking their heads.

  7. Coming from the source of Hallowe’en, and living in Australia, I found this article’s segue from the (faintly ridiculous) North American notion of Hallowe’en to Australian politics a bit hard to follow.
    I think the angst about dress ups is pretty much an American preoccupation.
    If folks are stupid enough to spend their money on a particular ice cream because the ice cream company’s marketing division tells them they’re supporting some “cause “, well, fools and their money, etc.
    It’s a bit irritating that Qantas, with a worthy homosexual (and spectacularly good corporate performer, tough and principled in his job) at the helm, weighed in to the plebiscite debate. But “dangerous “? I hardly think so.
    And Sammut’s proposed statement is just waffle.
    “Dangerous” in this space is Krupp and National Socialism; not a few companies being silly about where they might best place themselves in a free market.

    • Shatterface says

      I find America’s obsession with Halloween etiquette especially pathetic since it isn’t their fucking festival anyway.

      But the Aussie obsession with gay marriage points to a deep rooted anxiety about their sexuality. Gay marriage cost straight people nothing yet those opposed it are still bitching like British Remoaners.

      Brexit matters to both sides because it effects both sides. Gay marriage only effect the lives of those who want to marry someone their own sex. Nobody is being dragged into a gay marriage.

      • D-Rex says

        I can’t agree with you on the “bitching” about gay marriage. Since the vote, none of the many christians and conservative people I know have said much about it at all. I do agree on Halloween though.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I oppose gay marriage, merely because it involves the government deeming an apple to be an orange, changing the definition of a centuries old social institution. In other words it is the surrender of the people to the government. That does affect us all.
        Like most people I have no problem in homosexual people being able to have their relationships recognised by the State, so that they have all the same legal privileges as heterosexual couples have. But why call it a marriage? The fact that mostly it is referred to, even by supporters like you, as ”gay marriage” gives away the fact that we all know that this is not a marriage in any normal sense.
        But the people of Oz are generous souls. They knew that the politicians and the gay mafia were either too stupid or too nasty to come up with any solution that gave the gays equal rights and privileges whilst ensuring that the social institution of marriage was not made a creture of government whim. So they voted ”yes”. This was probably the best result, because it ends the whole controversy. But still we hear that LGBTQWERTY’s are somehow unsatisified. They still calim to be oppressed. That is the bigget lie of our time.

        • Well said. Call it marriage all you want. Pass all the laws you want punishing those that aren’t all in publicly. Demand acceptance and obedience. People may be cowed, or completely unconcerned, but they aren’t fooled.

        • Michiel says

          One could counter by saying that marriage has hardly been a static and unchanged social institution for centuries. For example, love didn’t use to be the prime motivator for marriage until fairly recently. And even now (heterosexual) marriage means different things to different people. Who are you to decide what is a “normal” marriage? The definition of a “normal” marriage could easily be “two consenting adults who promise to share their lives together as a family unit and have a ceremony about it” which could easily include same sex couples.

      • Shatterface said: ‘the Aussie obsession with gay marriage points to a deep rooted anxiety about their sexuality. Gay marriage cost straight people nothing… Gay marriage only affects the lives of those who want to marry someone their own sex.’

        This is what liberals routinely do – pathologize anyone who disagrees with them. Thus opposition to gay marriage can’t be about a desire to preserve millenia of history and custom; it must be a fear of one’s own buried homosexuality.

        Another thing liberals do is lie and pretend facts don’t exist. Liberals did shout far and wide that gay marriage wouldn’t affect straight people. Then once gay marriage became the law they targeted conservative Christian bakers to force them to bake custom cakes for gay marriages and they targeted conservative Christian florists to force them to provide custom flower arrangements for gay marriages. Interestingly, they didn’t target any of the numerous Muslim bakers or florists who would have objected…

      • Ray Andrews says

        On the contrary. Marriage is a very special arrangement which entails very special obligations and privileges. When marriage is diluted by the inclusion of various other living arrangements, there will inevitably be a dilution of that special status. Since real marriage is the foundation of a natural family, the result must be harmful to real families.

        • Michael Joseph says

          It is interesting to compare rhetoric that purports to keep government out of our lives with rhetoric that tells us who we’re allowed to marry. The only thing the government should keep track of is who had a baby and who was the father. Whether anyone is married and how they got married is noneya business.

          • Of course the government should have a database of all paternity tests taken in the country and since we are already there, a DNA sample from every citizen should be collected.

    • Bernard Hill says

      …@W’Scot, I think you are missing the lesson of “Krupp and National Socialism”, when you conclude there is no danger from the current trend of corporate virtue signalling on ‘Progressive’ issues. Your explicit assumption is, that it doesn’t matter because the firms are operating in a free market. But like National Socialism in the last century (which redistributed the resources of a large part of Europe) modern Progressive Socialism also has an economically redistributive agenda which requires compromising market forces. In free markets the judgment of the individual consumer reigns supreme. In managed markets the judgment of the ruling identity group holds sway. So negative productivity and exclusionary allocation effects amongst consumers are inevitable under Progressivism. Welcome to Venezuela….

  8. P. Jackson says

    Amusing that the catholic archbishop was suggesting that corporations using their influence threatens democracy. Pot calling kettle black. The church – with its incredible power and influence talking about corporate tax rates ??!! Seem too to remember the Anglican archbishop donating 1 million dollars to the no campaign in the marriage debate. This article is rather biased I find.

    • Evander says

      The two aren’t exactly analogous. Businesses aim at profit to benefit their stakeholders. Politics is a secondary consideration, if one at all, since it might threaten revenue and alienate stakeholders. I think that’s what’s being argued here.

      The church, conversely, is an organisation devoted to the indoctrination of its members and the advancement of what it sees as the common good. Yes, the Sydney Anglican Diocese spent $1 million to campaign against SSM. Does this surprise you?

      The article’s title makes its angle plain. Of course it’s biased – against its advertised target.

    • Yes, ironic that the church should complain about ‘virtue signalling’ when they have spent two thousand years shoving saints and virgins down our throats.

      • Evander says

        Who here is saying that “the church” was complaining about virtue signalling?

  9. annaerishkigal says

    Boycott, boycott, boycott!! I don’t care if the virtue-signaling is the radical left or the religious right. Keep your **&%$% corporate virtue-signaling money out of our democracy!

    • Sebastian says

      Which is exactly as we, as consumers, should react. For years, I refused to patronize Chick-fil-A, because their anti-same-sex marriage stance. I am a gay man, and I didn’t feel comfortable giving money to a company which donated to organizations which excluded me, or sought to exclude me. When their stance changed, as a company, I began eating their again. Now, it will be the same with Ben & Jerry’s. I love their product, but their blatantly political and biased “Trump is regressive” product launch means that I will no longer be giving them my money. If they change their mind, I may as well.

      • annaerishkigal says

        I’m NOT gay, or a man, nor do I have any affinity for (or against) gay rights … honestly, what people do in the privacy of their bedroom is none of my business. But I don’t buy from Chick-fil-A for the exact same reason. I hate virtue signaling, left or right. Boycott!

      • Giselle P. says

        “Which is exactly as we, as consumers, should react. For years, I refused to patronize Chick-fil-A, because their anti-same-sex marriage stance. I am a gay man…”

        I would like to offer a different viewpoint in the spirit of healthy discussion. I may end up convincing you to run get yourself a delicious chicken sandwich.

        Have you ever had a good, long think about what marriage IS, sociologically speaking? Why human beings have such a thing in the first place, and why it has been overwhelmingly limited to one man and one women across cultures and religions (rich men with multiple wives being a rare exception statistically even in polygany-allowing societies)?

        You really should, because it may affect you and your safety in the most direct way.

        As near as anybody can determine, marriage is a construct to restrain VIOLENCE. That’s why it was seen in ancient times as a gift from god or gods, something sacred. It was a workaround many societies discovered independently to pair a man and woman up and get some social stability in this crazy world. Not perfect, but better than domestic anarchy. It works, even physiologically. Married men’s testosterone goes down somewhat, and makes them more pro-social.

        Human beings are so naturally violent and fractious they can drive their own communities to extinction, have done so many, many times. According to researchers like David Buss and others who have culled through databases of crimes and old historical records, and studied tribal societies, most murders (and violence generally) are men killing other men over women, or men killing women over themselves. A good chunk of what’s left are men killing other men over STUFF, which they use to attract women. See the pattern?

        Marriage is not just a way to get a new tax status or an excuse to have a fabulous party, even if most view it that way today. Marriage helps keep men from murdering each other and destabilizing a society. Marriage is the community declaring, “These two are now exclusive. Any man who messes with this union will not only face the murderous wrath of the husband. The whole community will pound him flat and pave him over. Any man who messes with this union threatens the safety and stability of the community and will be dealt with.”

        Lesbians, much to their credit, almost never murder anybody, even out of partner jealousy. Gay men are, statistically speaking, very violent when it comes to jealousy and sex (if you doubt this, talk to a sheriff in West Hollywood privately, ask about partner violence among gay men, and watch his or her face go ashen … I have).

        Marriage doesn’t seem to have any sociologic effect for gay men. If two men are going to be exclusive in their partnership, they are going to be exclusive. If they are going to engage in promiscuity outside the partnership, they are going to do it. Declaring their exclusivity to the community doesn’t restrain them. It may be because the wider community sees no stake in punishing gay men for straying; or gay communities themselves take a different and more tolerant attitude toward cheating and its effects. That’s unclear.

        Bottom line: a community-declared union between a man and woman and between two men are not sociologically equivalent, and no amount of wishing and political correctness can make it so. Calling a partnership between two men a “marriage” doesn’t change the institution; it just makes the word “marriage” less specific. That’s not a good idea, like broadening the word “POISON” to include substances that give you the hiccups. Specificity sometimes saves lives.

        Here’s the crux: we face an imminent worldwide apocalypse of young male violence connected to sex and marriage.

        In the East, China and India, two decades of female infanticide and abortion will soon mean that tens of millions of young men with meager wealth will go without wives in societies where going without a wife makes one a social outcast, a semi-person. Those men are going to be very unhappy and looking to take their frustration out on others (already we may be seeing it, escalating rape in India and an estimated doubling murder rate in China). Bloody societal conflict is almost inevitable.

        In the West, changing attitudes and economics mean that marriage is plummeting and young men of moderate means cannot afford to form stable marriages and families, while women have fewer opportunities and incentives to do so. For women, including the well educated and successful, this will mean an epidemic of poorly defined serial relationships, loneliness, depression, and spinsterhood. It will be sad, but quiet.

        Men won’t hold it in. Like their brothers in the East, they are going to be looking to take their frustration and feelings of meaninglessness out on the community. We are seeing the first flickers now: young men shooting masses of their own communities, and falling into nihilism and individual “incel” behavior. The next step will be to channel that vague rage and nihilism into group movements.

        This is where you, as a gay man, should feel some chilling concern. As young men look for scapegoats on whom to shovel their resentment, whom do you think will suffer from the violence and blind disorder? Who has always suffered in the past?

        The LGBT movement has, in my opinion, made a horrific, ignorant mistake linking equality to a cooption of marriage. The LGBT resentment against conservative and traditional institutions could backfire in a most paradoxical way. By chipping away at the ancient institution of heterosexual marriage and piling on to the fashionable counterculture effort to render marriage sociologically less robust and secure, gays and lesbians are also undermining the community order that keeps them safe from the violence that seethes just under the surface of human groups, a violence that does not go away when we pretend it isn’t there.

        Don’t mistake me: domestic partnership makes a lot of sense. Equal legal status doesn’t just benefit a gay couple; they benefit the whole community: joint taxes, ability to make decisions for a committed partner, ability to buy and rent property, adoption of children, etc. Such rules add stability and order without taking it from somewhere else. Equality and equivalence should not be confused, though.

        You don’t have to take my word for it; believe what you like. But unless you have a backup plan–like an all-gay fortress on an island somewhere–I would humbly suggest you consider an about face. Go get yourself a chicken sandwich, and become a heterosexual marriage crusader. Tell every straight man you lay eyes on to go to church, marry a nice girl, and settle down, and to get his friends to do the same. Tell your gay friends they either need to build that island fortress or stop sawing at the branch under their own feet.

        Some stogy, conservative, seemingly irrational institutions exist for a REASON, and I caution that we do not want to find that out the hard way. “Ugly” doesn’t even begin to describe the possible consequences.

        • Michael Joseph says

          Your thesis has a few problems. Yes, the rite of marriage may have resulted in a more peaceful society hundreds of years ago but today when 50% of marriages end in divorce probably not. We also have sophisticated judicial systems and policing institutions which I would posit go much further in reducing violence. And really, homosexual people who are 10% of the population should forego a legal marriage because young unmarriagable men will kill them? Oh please!

        • Hamilton Sunshine says

          This couldn’t be more wrong. Lesbians have the highest rates of domestic violence in the US AND UK, gay male couples the lowest.

        • That’s a lot of “sky is falling” level of panic for a fiscal contract.
          As far as I am concerned marriage is quite outdated practice but if the government has to have a say then it’s perfectly legitimate for people to ask the State not to discriminate towards same-sex couples. People used to oppose inter-racial marriages on similar grounds.

  10. M Barber says

    So the right has a problem with corporations “signaling” but has no problem with corporations spending billions during elections as a result of Citizens United. Now the right wants to choose when a corporation can speak and when it cannot. They have no problem if Trump mocks the handicap, native Americans, woman, etc, but god forbid Hulu tell them it’s not appropriate teachers to dress up like border patrol agents rounding up Mexicans in a school with a large Hispanic population. Yes the right needs all the help they can get. They have no problem with a baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding, but if a restaurant owner asks Sarah Sanders to leave her restaurant they cry foul. Hypocracy and amnesia….2 ingredients you will find in every republican.

    • Stoic Realist says

      And every Democrat. And, really, every human being in the world. If you want to complain about cherry picking then you shouldn’t do it yourself. And to be honest generalizing situations to the point of base simplicity is also something to avoid if you want to be able to complain about acts of hypocrisy.

    • Please, a little consideration that you’re not speaking only to your fellow countrymen. I wouldn’t have a clue what “Citizens United ” might be. Nor do I know what you imagine “the right” to be; I’m a constitutional monarchist, pretty much wedded to the political centre.
      Trump’s an oaf ( though not all his ideas are stupid, and he may be developing some traction) ; but do you really have teachers in the States who would dress up as you describe? I know heaps of teachers, and never met one so insensitive to students ‘ needs.
      And though I’m no expert in your local politics, I think I’m right in identifying John McCain as a Republican? Not much hypocrisy or amnesia there.
      It’s very easy to vent on the web; but much more helpful to consider and respond more thoughtfully.

      • Big Jim Slade says

        wonderingscot, Citizens United was an important legal case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2010, having to do with free speech rights of organizations (mainly for-profit corporations, non-profits, and unions) specifically with regard to mass communications in the late stages of election campaigns. The quick 3 – 4 paragraph summary at the top of the case’s Wikipedia page will give you the gist:

        You’re correct that John McCain was a Republican. However, he was considered fairly liberal by Republican standards, so was often called a RINO (Republican in name only) by detractors to his right, and he appeared to revel in the praise he was given by the very liberal American mainstream media when he spoke or voted against conservative interests.

      • JWatts says

        “I wouldn’t have a clue what “Citizens United ” might be”

        A conservative organization made a negative movie about Hillary Clinton. She sued to block advertising for the move under a Campaign Finance law. The US Supreme Court overturned the law, saying you can’t block political speech.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Go to see someone declare that he is a constitutional monarchist.
        From what I can see, America’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t have the ultimate legitimacy of a monarch. Partisanship therefore has no end in the US. This is why companies fell they need to jump on the bandwagon and become partisans.
        When I look at US politics I am constantly reminded of a discussion with an adolescent who can’t get past arguing about definitions.

        • Evander says

          @ Peter from Oz

          Constitutional monarchy is fab. The Yanks are missing out. But I would definitely like to import some of their feistiness. Too many Australians are politically apathetic.

    • Nicholas Conrad says

      @M Barber,

      You’re failing to recognize the distinction between private and public spheres, a widespread problem on the left at the moment. I don’t see anyone advocating any law prohibiting corporations from saying what they want to, they’re advocating private individuals making private choices based on the company’s actions. When people on the left see something they don’t like their reaction is too often: “it should be illegal”. This is far less often (though unfortunately gaining in popularity) the attitude on the right. I don’t want to buy a wedding cake from a man who won’t sell one to a gay couple, but putting a gun to his head and forcing him to make one, or locking him in a cage like a dangerous animal for refusing both seem orders of magnitude worse. We want people to have the right to be jerks, and to choose not to be jerks. And if they choose to be jerks this gives us valuable information about whom to do business with, and whom to be friends with. When the right calls jerks jerks; it doesn’t mean they want to lock them up.

      • Sebastian says


        You are exactly right. I openly disagree with plenty of corporate stances on issues (i.e. the Ben & Jerry’s example in the article). Yet, not once have I advocated that Ben & Jerry’s not be allowed to do what they are doing. I am not a fan of Trump, even though I held my nose and voted for him despite my misgivings (because I thought Clinton was worse), I still don’t enjoy supporting organizations who get so rabidly political. I have boycotted both left-leaning and right-leaning organizations and companies, simply over their decision to wade in to the political realm. Do they have the right to do so? Yes. Should the be legally barred from doing so? No. Do I have to give them my money or buy their products? Hell no.

    • D-Rex says

      The baker didn’t refuse to bake them a cake, he refused to decorate one as they wanted. He offered them any other cake in the store, he didn’t refuse to sell them a cake. Which native Americans has Trump mocked?

  11. Corporate public statements about social and political virtues or vices are easy to detect and criticise. What is more insidious is funding charities or not-for-profit advocacy groups to be the public face of the public statements. To conceal the identity of the true funders, this may be done through a complex structure of foundations and charities funding others that ultimately fund the advocacy group.

    Such advocacy surrogates may be used both to praise the alleged virtues of the ultimate funder or to attack the alleged wickedness of opponents or business competitors or government regulators of the ultimate funder.

    Follow the money.

  12. Pierre Pendre says

    The time to really worry will be when Mr Joyce refuses to let people board his aeroplanes or Ben and Jerry’s won’t sell them ice creams unless they sign a declaration of support for the company’s social principles. Since even lefty capitalists love money as much as normal people, I doubt it will ever come to that.

    Now boarding at Gate 5, all Quantas passengers who believe in saving the whales, saving the planet, banning straws, impeaching Trump and not wearing sombreros at Hallowe’en.

    • Caligula says

      Ben and Jerry’s is wholly owned by Unilever corp, which is an immense multinational with headquarters in London and Rotterdam (but not yet Burlington, VT, USA, whence came Ben and Jerry’s).

      I’d guess that Unilever considers the leftist twaddle broadcast by Ben and Jerry’s to be part of its branding. This branding may be good business if it sells the product to lefties who get fat eating it, but, I doubt that implies that Unilever’s senior management necessarily shares these values.

      So, buy the world a Coke (and not that nasty store-brand stuff that doesn’t project your values). Or something. At some level it’s just marketing, and often close to 100% phony.

    • “aeroplanes” “Hallowe’en”

      You guys and your funny little messellings are so cute.

  13. The main reason to oppose Corporate Social Responsibility is that most often executives use it to build up their own social capital by spending other people’s money (mostly shareholders’). In other words, a form of embezzlement.

    • Michael Joseph says

      Problem is evil corporations like BP and Monsanto have been buying politicians for decades. They embezzle money from their shareholders to trash the environment and exploit the citizens. Give the good guys a break.

  14. Felix says

    While the topic of the article is certainly important, the article is a pretty bad one that falls far short of Quillette’s ususual standards.

    Simply contrasting “mainstream media, university professors and left-wing politicians” with “regular people” might feel good to those believing themselves to belong to the latter group but it is an all too simplistic way of putting things.

    Then again, the author simply writes about “Lefties” who “love the product pandering to their causes.” Is that all there is to be said about these causes?

    Then, in the Qantas case, it does not become clear whether the author considers the pie in the face as an inevitable result of the company’s political posturing or as an assault. The assertion that” Qantas made large numbers of dissenters feel they were under attack.” is straight from the SJW playbook. Nowhere does the author give any evidence for this, or for the claim that maybe voting results would have been different if Qantas had not taken sides. I find this lack of evidence especially disappointing in a Quillette article.

    Coming to the end, the Friedman quote practically invalidates everything argued for before. As it happens, all these companies were actually doing exactly what Friedman wanted them to do: making money. That they decided to do it through social media virtue signalling is simply a business decision.

    • Well said. I just don’t agree that it’s surprising from Quillette. It’s become par for the course.

  15. Before jumping on the left-bashing bandwagon people would do well to look into Chick-fil-A’s politics, for instance, as well as big corporations lobbying in DC to get their way through. The idea that businesses don’t do politics is laughable. Just because you don’t like social justice doesn’t mean you’re not kidding yourself on other fronts.

    • Big Jim Slade says

      Nick, how does Chick-fil-A inject politics into its public-facing operations? Donating to Christian charities whose founders or employees might tend to be conservative but whose missions are non-political doesn’t support an assertion that Chick-fil-A is openly political.

      It also sounds as though you’re conflating politics with the culture war. You’re clearly right that big corporations lobby politicians, but the purpose of that lobbying is usually to get politicians to vote for things or write laws in such a way as to financially benefit those corporations — lower corporate taxes, tax carve-outs, creating regulatory barriers to market entry, etc. I don’t see much if any conceptual overlap between that kind of lobbying and customer-facing social justice posturing in advertisements and on social media and such.

  16. I feel as though the article’s main point was here, several paragraphs in:

    “Sammut points out that the corporate virtue-signaling almost exclusively tends to favor the political tastes of the ‘elites’ over the ‘ordinary’ people, and that’s what makes it so dangerous.”

    The article as a whole does not illustrate this danger effectively. Using advocacy for gay marriage as an example of the danger of corporate virtue signaling is, from my point of view at least, not only ineffective but actually damaging to the author’s case. It’s not advocacy for certain causes that’s the problem, for me at least, so much as advocacy against certain behavior, especially when that advocacy is vaguely defined, open ended, and crowdsourced, as in the Hulu tweet against offensive Halloween costumes. Offensive by whose standards? The tiny number of cultural elites who actually care about contrived issues of cultural appropriation. Who should enforce these standards? Anyone at all. A corporation is telling people what they may do and inviting others to police what others may do. It’s attempting to enforce that idea that controlling societal behavior according to subjective, poorly defined, and highly contestable standards is part of the corporation’s mission. I do see a threat here because I believe the power of the state and corporations to control individual actions is far too great and needs to be pushed back. The private sphere needs to be defended. How great a threat this actually is, I’m not sure, but I wish this article had explored this issue more effectively.

    • Peter from Oz says


      You are right.
      Many years ago as British jurist, Lord Moulton, spoke about that area of life that was neither subject to law nor to individual choice. He called this the “Third Domain” in which people agree to abide by social rules that are not enforced by anything but the understanding that eschew such rules would see the breakdown of society.
      Of course, the left (if I can generalise) were not in favour of the third domain . In the economic sphere they preferred government planning and in the social sphere a mixture of government mandated behaviour and individual sexual freedom. But as the Third Domain has shrunk, due attacks from individualists and big government advocates, we see the left now deperately trying to bring back a sort of thrid domain with things like #metoo. Unfortunately, the left doesn’t do such things well, because they make them political rather than purely social.
      It also doesn’t help that most of the ”problems” which exercise the left are not really problems at all. Thus the amount of ”racism”, ”sexism”, ”homophobia” etc is really miniscule. The left is making bogey men out of these things for the sake of power. They are morally deficient people these lefties.

    • jimhaz says

      Yes, using the QANTAS CEO’s support of gay marriage lessened the article. I was a Yes voter here in Oz as I just thought it was time for full acceptance.

      The thing about gay marriage was that there was nothing ultimately for society to lose, whereas with any virtue signalling relating to collective racial issues, western societies do indeed have something to lose. Gay marriage will not cause any real strife, just a minority of religious who feel aggrieved for little reason, whereas fostering a collective petulant and unfair dislike of whites on the basis of false reasoning could cause untold troubles for society.

      For me it is the METOO type virtue signalling wherein corporates are immediately sacking people for micro-aggressions, that I find appalling.

      The Milton Friedman quote at the end also did not help his cause.

      • Evander says


        “Nothing ultimately for society to lose.”

        What will be lost are norms based on conjugal union, now that we’ve redefined marriage as emotional union. Philosophically, it’s now open to multiple members, fidelity as an ideal is removed, the experience of children has been further de-centred, permanence is a non-necessity, all of which explodes any worthwhile concept of marriage. And yet real marriage will persist as man-woman union.

        No qualms at all with homosexuals forming caring relationships that have all the legal privileges – with nuances around adoption – as traditional marriage.

        But equality – whatever that means here – and the supposed destigmatisation of queer people we achieved through SSM will come at a cost.

        I’m more alarmed by social pressures that have vitiated heterosexual marriage culture.

        • jimhaz says

          I admit I remain nervous about the pandora’s box in relation to gender fluidity – my support for gay marriage did not extend to support for transgender desires for full acceptance – at least not while such folk are being aggressive and have inserted themselves into uni structures to further their aims. They are too small a minority to have such power.

          I read lots of fantasy/sci-fi and from those books I can see that our species will need to deal with massive social changes as a result of the freedom that technology provides. To me technology is the cause of the social pressures that are harming traditional male/female relationships, including marriage. There is no going back though, so we just have to find a way to evolve through what technology is doing to us.

          I cannot help but feel the sexes are moving apart, and this concerns me, particularly as females (and feminised males) with their maternal value systems (conflict avoidance, leaving hard decisions to others, equality for equalities sake etc), will be further seeking government to become the dictatorial mother of us all, so that they can avoid the responsibility and pursue materialism. Technology greatly decreases the opportunities for males to develop positive masculinity. I decided this year to be an anti-feminist for fear of what a female dominated government will make government into.

          • Evander says


            Curious as to the evidence that the sexes are moving apart.

            “fear of what a female dominated government will make government into”

            Is there any science at all into female-group decision making? I would be fascinated to see it. I have long thought such concerns as yours as absurd and sexist, but I’m willing to reevaluate my position.

            Classical Greek literature is obsessed with female nature and its maternal aggression: Clytemnestra, Medea and Antigone being the three stars. Some of their attitudes about women were hideous, but I’m unconvinced that their is nothing at all to be said for their anxiety.

  17. Andrew says

    This comment is mostly a repeat of those already made, but this article falls short in a few key ways.

    1. The failure to realize that SJW signalling is simply a business decision. It is a way of getting publicity, and profit motives could incentivise it in many cases.

    2. That politics always have been and always will be relevant to businesses for reasons ranging from taxes and regulations to social issues that may cause shifts in clientele or reporting practices. You can’t reasonably expect companies not to get involved in politics on behalf of their interests.

    3. If this really is a problem, it is a bipartisan one. Conservative-owned companies like Chick-fil-A promote conservative causes, and why shouldn’t they have the right to? Good for CEOs who use their power and wealth to support causes that they think are important, whether or not they are directly related to business interests.

    I don’t want to sound overly negative as the piece does raise interesting questions and is well-written, but I think the conclusion that businesses stay out of politics is fundamentally wrong.

  18. Kronosaurus says

    This article appears very short-sighted. DeHaas cherry picks a couple of examples that highlights “elite” Social Justice issues while ignoring the thousands of messages that corporations ram down our throats that counter the stereotypical Social Justice narrative. Many beer commercials throw sexist debauchery in our faces. Elites aren’t exactly thrilled about those messages. Truck commercials celebrate classic masculine themes of ruggedness, individualism, and rejecting norms so that your id can be unleashed with their powerful engines or something like that. Again, these messages are designed to align with the “people” and counter the elites.

    So if DeHaas is saying corporations cannot broadcast social values he is opening a huge can of worms. If he thinks that corporations are only virtue signaling in favor of liberal elites he is wrong and not paying attention. If he thinks we need to somehow police the message content of corporations then he is hopelessly confused. What he fails to analyze and what many commentators on this thread have pointed out is that corporations are doing this for the sake of profit. If he really cared about reigning in these corporate behaviors he should really be critical of our free-market, capitalist structure. But that would be a little to liberal elitey no?

    • Big Jim Slade says

      Kronosaurus, in the examples you chose, I see the advertisements as demonstrating the products’ capabilities (or what the customers wish their capabilities would be), although I agree they do so in a way that wouldn’t appeal to elites. This Ford F-150 can tow a 6-ton backhoe and withstand a pallet of concrete blocks being dropped from a height into its bed for some reason, and then kick up plumes of dust while driving at high speeds across barren terrain. Drinking this mass-produced beer will make you more charming, and make the female partygoers more receptive to your increased magnetism, so if all goes well they might sleep with you. Urban coastal elites might find these ads gauche and unpersuasive (where would they even park an F-150?), but they weren’t going to buy those products anyway.

      That kind of targeted advertising when your product has a specific market niche strikes me as different from Ben & Jerry’s taking an explicit anti-Trump political position via a consumer product. Think about their market. Everyone likes ice cream. Yet releasing this Resistance ice cream antagonizes half the market. Is that smart? Maybe, if anti-Trumpers are motivated to buy enough additional ice cream to exceed the lost business from pissed-off pro-Trumpers. I don’t know how likely that is. The Dixie Chicks come immediately to mind as a counterexample. Also, the Instapundit blog has a recurring theme labeled “get woke, go broke” and he’s got dozens of examples:

      I’m not a lawyer, but in the case of publicly owned corporations, depending on how obvious the customer-facing political messaging is, it might be possible for shareholders to sue for breach of fiduciary duty if it reduced sales can be shown to have resulted from it. I’m sure there are lawyers who comment here who can point out if I’m wrong about that. Also, to be clear, I’m not endorsing that tactic; I think companies should be as free to express misguided, divisive sentiments as individuals are.

  19. The premise that corporate interest in politics and virtue signaling is an astonishing bit of historical ignorance.

    Corporations have long been intertwined with Christian churches to imbue free market capitalism with the aura of piety.

    The idea that there is some non-political neutral stance is itself a form of politics. The Friedman quote at the end of this essay makes a stark repudiation of the central claim of every one of the world’s great religions, in declaring that there is no social compact or set of moral norms that binds the citizenry together.

    • Edit:
      The premise that corporate interest in politics and virtue signaling [is something new] is an astonishing bit of historical ignorance.

  20. Got to love the take that the problem with “corporations act like they’re virtuous but are actually evil” is the “acting virtuous” part.

  21. Nate D. says

    Either the argument that such moral posturing is dangerous is weakly presented here, or I’m missing it.

    As I see it, it’s a concerted marketing effort. B&J wants to sell more ice cream and embed themselves into the hearts and minds of the consumer. That is, they want the customer to make certain mental associations when they think of B&J. Same with Chik-fil-a. They want the client to enjoy their product while also feeling as if they’re contributing to a cause – be it progressive ideas, or conservative ideas.

    For many customers the flavor of the ice cream or chicken is simply enough, but in a congested market these companies know some customers need a nudge to choose one product over another. It’s a calculated marketing risk, but one that grows less and less risky if, a) the company has a good product; and b) the company knows their niche.

    Such posturing may sometimes be dangerous for the company’s bottom line. Both the left and right are fickle beasts. One misstep and a company may find itself holding the tiger by the tail, it’s social stock in freefall.

    Then again, as quickly as the consumer market is outraged, their memory is very short. My conservative mother-in-law has sworn off shopping at Target no less than 5 times. Within two weeks she’s back in there buying her grandkids cute pajamas.

  22. Does it really work? I think it only nibbles at the edges. Who cares what an airline thinks about gay rights? Who cares what an actress thinks about a political issue? There is no reason to believe there is any cross domain knowledge in these cases. The people who celebrate and amplify these nonsensical stances are as confused as anyone about their effects. Ask Taylor Swift how her imminent political expertise helped in the TN election.

    It’s not dangerous, just ignore it.

    • D-Rex says

      “Who cares what an actress thinks about a political issue? ” I care, I’m a Marvel movie junkie, so when I see most of my pretend characters coming out en mass to savage Trump and by extension all conservatives, I feel horribly let down. When people like Mark Ruffelo(?) spout nonsense about climate change, it diminishes my cinema going experience because now I can only see him as a moron. When actors can spew unsubstantiated “facts” with such hatred, I feel nervous and deflated. People who are in the business of entertaining others should keep their partisan opinions to themselves or find a niche that panders to their politics.

  23. Carolyn Field says

    Don’t marketers realize that it’s just so…boorish?
    There is nothing authentic or relevant or exciting about naming an ice cream flavor “Pecan Resist.”

    • I think you and @tds above you are converging on the answer. The political messages have very little influence, simply nibbling at the edges of the market. It is the marketeers that are the cause. They are likely left-leaning and quite simply, see this as an avenue to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. It isn’t about Nike or Chik-fil-A making a statement, it is the marketing company pitching to those companies that they can be more influential because of their expertise in this or that SJW area and that can increase sales…. If every marketing firm is on this bandwagon, it’s sort of like the MSM and their Trump-bashing stories. If 99% of the MSM is bashing, then to differentiate they have to try to out-bash each other (clickbait) which amplifies the outlying market, but what is the choice? Yes, in MSM you have a handful of alternatives and those are doing very well in ratings — but is that really the case for Marketing/Ad firms which are not geographically diverse, and therefore it is unlikely that their employees are politically diverse?

  24. Farris says

    Corporations virtue signal because it generally generates free positive publicity and seldom hurts the bottom line. The few hundred persons who burn Nike apparel weren’t even a blip on the company’s corporate radar. Yet Nike solidified their standing with the left. Persons on the right may feel outrage but how many actually boycott Facebook, Twitter, Starbucks or Amazon? Corporations also virtue signal as a means of buying insurance for moments when public relations disasters occur. In the 1980’s companies use to donate to the “Rainbow Coalition” as a means for keeping persons like Jesse Jackson off their back. Corporations will only stop virtue signals when they pay a price. These companies are betting the benefit outweighs the cost and so far they are correct. Elites are destined to lecture. The best criticisms that tend to get their attention is pointing out worker neglect. For instance Colin Kapernick received almost $100 million from Nike. How many worker raises would that have produced if reallocated?

    • Well, they had to buy the Nike sneakers first before they could burn them.
      So take that, Nike!

    • >>Corporations also virtue signal as a means of buying insurance for moments when public relations disasters occur

      A moment of clarity. Even the left sees the left as a dangerous protection racket that is to be appeased with “insurance”, lest it turn on you. Nice little company you got there.. . Feed the crocodile… On and on.

      The cultural left is a scourge that damages everything it touches. If you are part of it, your turn in the barrel is coming. May as well show some courage and walk away with your dignity.

  25. Nicholas Conrad says

    I wonder why this is a predominantly left phenomenon. Two theories present themselves imediately, that the right is either more tolerant, or less effective than the left:

    Is the right more likely to be able to separate a person’s personal values from their job performance? This would increase the gains of left-pander while minimizing them for right-pander.

    Or is the right just ineffectual at broader cultural outrage? They can call in to fox and friends to complain, but don’t know how to form a Twitter mob, so the cost of upsetting them is marginal?

    • The stats prove two things, and we have been overwhelmed with stats before and during the elections in the U.S. The left buys more, but the right is quicker to the polls. That’s why you have this chaotic clash of cultures where companies side with the left, but in simultaneously work as arms of the right.

      • >>The left buys more

        You may want to talk to the shareholders of Target and Dicks Sporting Goods about who has buying power and who can boycott more effectively.

  26. First of, brief intro: I’m a Latin American immigrant who grew up in NYC, and now lives in Florida. I have been an entrepreneur, engineer, busboy, server, salesperson, etc. I have an MBA, and have worked for banks, Fortune 500’s, city and county governments, nonprofits, etc. You get the point.
    That being said, the notion that corporations — which have absolutely obscured, belittled, deformed reality in order to sell their wares — are pretending to be “moral” or indignant about their own creation (greed, consumerism, individualism, and best of all, toxic masculinity) is mind-numbing.

    There is no place in this country where I feel at home anymore. There is nowhere in this country that I would “love” to work. The notion that I may use my limited talents to help a company achieve financial success, so that they can in turn use all their political and financial power to in turn disenfranchise, belittle, and betray their workforce and customers alike, while at the same time pretending to care, is just ridiculously disingenuous.

    These corporations, whether they be Nike, Qantas, Ben and Jerry’s, Fox, don’t care about gay brown, black, white; They only care about green (as in quarterly earnings reports). These are strategic decisions when they take “sides.” They do it to maximize profit. Plain and simple.

    But I have a question: What can the disenfranchised do? Does democracy work? (read: Florida)

    • Greg Maxwell says

      I suggest that democracy and republican government represent a form of order, and nature is a pendulum between order and chaos. If democracy ever really existed in the US it started morphing from the last signature on the Declaration of Independence. Today Americans are serfs again and delude themselves that they are still sovereigns of government.
      The subject of this article highlights just one example of a telltale sign that things are well swung back toward some kind of national or international state of chaos again. Corporate exploitation of crap like these examples breed division and resentment – they seek to control the wind that will turn into a whirlwind. (Sorry for the pessimistic response.)
      To the government class the Constitution is a pain in their ass. The currency supply is manipulated and controlled by elites who are once again placating the People with bread and circus.

      • Funny you say it that way. Many years ago, way before Dubya happened, I argued with my girlfriend at the time that democracy in America wasn’t “real.” She was a community organizer, and her dedication to her community was the foundation for my political formation later in life. She asked me to explain why, and I all but predicted Dubyas presidency by elaborating on the bastardization of democracy via the electoral college.
        Sadly, you reinforce that notion in your response. You and I, we’re both sadly right.

        • America is a democratic Republic. The electoral college was designed to get all the sovereign states to join by ensuring some ability of smaller states to limit the power of larger states.

        • >>bastardization of democracy

          Otherwise known as the foundation of the most successful, longest running constitutional republic in history.

          • Dear Kurt – it’s also proven over and over — year after year — to be one of the unhappiest “developed” countries in the world. That despite one of the highest incomes “per capita.” So what happened to the whole “Pursuit of Happiness” part? Should we just gloss over that little tidbit? Your response seems pretty unhappy from where I sit.

            Please don’t just spew a talking point in response. Show me data, show me intellectual curiosity. Don’t misrepresent the right. You’ve been given a forum by which to debate, so please understand the basic rules of debate. I ask kindly.

          • @ Alex – The ten happiest countries in the world also look like the 10 whitest countries in the world. Maybe homogeneity and social cohesion are a key part of happiness, and what America has is massive immigration and race-hustling and pushing false narratives of oppression and endless social conflict.

    • Circuses and Bread says


      “But I have a question: What can the disenfranchised do? Does democracy work?”

      Hey! That’s my cue! As Quillette’s unofficial anti politics nag, I’ll be happy to help. 😄

      I’m going to rephrase one of your questions as a more basic question: does politics work? And the answer to that, as you might suspect, is an adamant NO! Both at the macro and personal level, politics fails time after time to deliver positive end results. Consider for a moment how contemporary politics works at the macro level. Every few years we spend billions of dollars and millions of manhours electing leaders. And in the end we get a choice between such stellar luminaries as GW Bush OR Al Gore. Barack Obama OR Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton OR Donald Trump. So after all that money and effort, are we really saying that the results are that much better than what we would have gotten if we had just picked our political leaders at random?

      And at the personal level it’s an even worse situation. You can go ahead and spend lots of time and lots of money trying to persuade other people to your point of view. And in the end, how many people at the personal level are you really likely to persuade to do something that they wouldn’t have done otherwise? Two? One? None? At the personal level, politics is a waste of time and resources. In the end, you have one teeny, tiny voice amongst millions. Maybe. If your vote is counted. Viewed from the perspective of return on investment, politics is a strongly negative proposition.

      But the good news is contained in your second question: what can the disenfranchised do? Happily, the answer is, well, pretty much anything. Any moral thing that you do outside of politics is likely to have a far better end result than anything you can accomplish within politics. My suggestion is to pick something you’re passionate about. Focus on the end objective rather than the political one, and do something.

      Let’s say solving hunger is your passion. I would submit that the time and money spent supporting the efforts of an organization like Samaritans Purse or Heifer International will provide far more satisfying end results than comparable time and effort spent in politics. Heck, time spent gardening offers far better end results. When you garden you get exercise, spend time with nature, and in the end you’re likely to get some delicious tomatoes. When was the last time politics delivered us so much as a tomato?

      • Funny, I grew up somewhat toxic in my masculinity. Now I’m looking for a place where I fit, and I just don’t fit in “Trump’s America.”. If I’m honest, I grew up acting more like Trump, but today I want to identify with Bernie. Still, I feel disingenuous myself in my attempt to shift my value system. Your answer only reinforces what I had known in my heart of hearts, but have been too paralyzed to really pursue. I am, after all, as indoctrinated as any other educated “elite.” At least I recognize that much.
        I do very much appreciate your response(s).

      • Evander says


        Are you an anarchist, then?

        You seem to be defining politics as ‘the process of decision-makers achieving their position (democratically or otherwise) and then them sucking at it.’

        And what do you mean by politics ‘at the personal level’?

        You then suggest that individuals not bother with politics. But how is this feasible when decisions – look at the multiple portfolios of government – need to be made for complex societies? Even with the slimmest form of government, and a massive private sphere, you’ve still got government.

        Your position also seems luxurious. You live in a free society and can safely claim a creed of anti-politics. What if you’ve got to contend with a Mohammed bin Salman or Erdogan or Jinping? I suppose you could mind your own business; those fellas wouldn’t mind you gardening or doing sudoku. But I think they wouldn’t be too happy with you commenting on Quillette articles. So you’re forced in that context either i) live oppressed or ii) work towards a better politics.

        Which leads to my position: politics sucks because humans aren’t perfect. But some politics allows for more human imperfection to manifest itself. So go with the politics that minimises the worst in us and maximises the best in us. And I think we’ve more or less achieved that:

        Scrappy, crappy, but better than the rest liberal democracy.

        • Circuses and Bread says


          Great critique! Thanks. In answer to your questions:

          -Not an anarchist. A proud patriot if the truth be told. God bless the Red,White, and Blue 🇺🇸! As for anarchism, if your only recent, somewhat functioning example of an anarchist society is Somalia of the 1990s, then maybe you should give your philosophy a rethink. That said, there are some practical aspects that are attractive such as voluntaryism and the charitable works that some of that philosophical bent engage in.

          -You’re right. We should define politics. I don’t define it nearly as widely as many do. Here’s a definition I like: “those actions taken to gain, hold, or influence power in a government.”

          -Politics at the personal level then would then include such things as joining political factions, reading up on political candidates, showing up at meetings. registering to vote, voting, and marching around wearing a silly knit hat to show how “woke” you are.

          – non participation in politics is very feasible. If you take voting as the gold standard of political participation, then either a plurality or majority of those eligible to vote are already non participants. But perhaps you mean feasibility in the larger sense of if all of a sudden everyone were to decide to not participate, then everything would descend into chaos? There is no indication that such a hypothetical is happening or going to happen.

          One thing that Ive noticed is that political factions operate very similarly to religious cults. The political cults aren’t going to have a sudden epiphany and decide that oh we were wrong all along and walk away from politics. Best case scenario for those of us on the antipolitical front is that we can persuade a number of individuals that politics is a gross waste of time and resources and that they should do something else. Hopefully something more effective and fulfilling.

          – You’re absolutely right: anti politics is very luxurious as well as optimistic and I highly recommend it! And I am very grateful to live in a country where discussing political views of all stripes is tolerated. But I fear I’m missing your point: yes, anti politics is luxurious in a free society, but it’s also a good survival strategy in an autocracy. So it seems that the only difference is whether or not you can openly discuss the topic.

          – As for your position that politics sucks because people aren’t perfect, I don’t see that view is all that much in conflict with my view that politics sucks, so let’s spend our time doing something else that might work better.

          Thanks again for the critical comments. I do appreciate it.

          • Evander says

            Thanks for your reply, C&B.

            I think your position is akin to champagne socialism, no offense intended.

            You personally need stable, liberal politics for the free society in which your private life can be meaningful and you can live out your apolitical creed. Your non-participation is enabled by people whose political engagement ensures that the state doesn’t run riot. You disavow politics and yet you need politics.

            How is anti-politics a good survival strategy in an autocracy? What if people want more than survival, like your patriotic forebears did? Their choices are: i) accept oppression ii) fight against it (a political act) or iii) leave, if possible.

            I know an Iranian man who fled the country due to persecution from the regime; he was an artist. Rather than imperil his life for his private (!) creative output, he migrated to Australia. But I suppose the majority of people there are involved in anti-politics: they’re disenfranchised and oppressed by theocratic rule.

            Voluntarism, hobbies, etc. are admirable social practices. But they can be curtailed by bad politics, which can only be countered by good politics.

            If you don’t want to participate, I get that – in fact, sometimes I feel the same way. But you need to pay your dues.

  27. Brendan says

    Well, I give those companies credit for being able to monetize the idea social justice, regardless of how absurd it looks to the average person.

  28. Dennis says

    I agree with the comments that SJ posturing by corporations is mostly a business decision. Some of it is sort of bland and noncontroversial, maybe just a signal that they are hip and current. More obviously controversial moves, like Nike’s Kaepernick thing, are a calculated attention grab. News outlets aren’t the only businesses making a profit on divisiveness. It’s an attention economy.

    As to the idea that business and politics were always inseparable, maybe so, but before the Internet it was a lot less visible. More lobbying and things like that. Right? Now much more is public.

  29. There is significant marketing research and documented successful case studies that shed light on the now-beneficial practice of corporations aligning with both social and political causes in the name of capitalism–namely, that such practices have become a “price to play” in the pursuit of younger, more socially conscious consumers who demand an alignment between their personal beliefs and their purchases. The world has changed since Milton Friedman issued his statement–although the objective remains the same: revenue, profits and shareholder value.

    That said, I’m not quite sure why the author wants to eradicate this practice. Because it makes him uncomfortable? Because he thinks it’s inappropriate for a business to become involved in the social or political? Because he doesn’t like the fact that many of the causes supported are superficially “liberal” in nature? Because he believes it’s irresponsible to wade into the culture wars and fuel the divisional fires? I would suggest that he has the same choice as all of us do watching the even-larger machines of government and media spew their cacophony twenty-four hours a day: Be consumed by it or ignore it.

  30. ga gamba says

    It doesn’t bother me. Often the companies do so in a ham handed way that alienate many consumers from the product/brand and also the messaging is so cringe inducing it ends up doing more harm to the cause than good. Further, my knowing the company’s position allows me to alter my purchase decisions. The beauty of the free enterprise system is I have a lot of options.


    But I have a question: What can the disenfranchised do? Does democracy work? (read: Florida)

    In the US there are 27 million businesses of which fewer than 10,000 are publicly traded. Of those 10,000 only some of them, such as those you mentioned, have enough brand power to warrant headlines. I encourage you to look at Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies in the US if you’re looking for an alternative. Of course you also have the option of establishing your own business and managing it as you see fit. Blessed be the job makers.

  31. You are going to list Fox news as a polarizing force and leave out the rest of the media? Can’t the right have one pro right media outlet, for all its flaws, without some people getting there panties in a bunch? There is nothing going on at Fox that isn’t at least as bad or worse on CNN, MSNBC, and the major Network news programs. I guess someone like Chuck F Todd, former democratic party hack, married to a democratic hack is working hard to bring everyone together! Or is that just something that has to be done when you attack the left any way you have to slap back at the right.

    • Greg Maxwell says

      I always chuckle when someone deflects criticism of the MSM by screaming “FOX!!”. I’ve been a consumer of news for half a century at least and have witnessed it become spiced with advocacy since the 60s. For example – the way networks will bring on a ‘liberal’ and a ‘conservative’ guest, and then don the crown of ‘balanced’ coverage. Why are these the only two points of view? The left started and escalated this and now pretend this is all Trump’s fault and that of “FOX NEWS” – whatever that is to them.

  32. David paterson says

    I think this piece misses the point that many consumer facing businesses recognise that appealing to the values of their customers is very powerful. They are not just looking at price, when it comes to things like ice-cream, running shoes and airline. The point made that a lot of the virtue signaling is dangerous and divisive is true, but there is need for deeper analysis.
    And i don’t think there are too many people today that would agree that Friedman’s formulation for social responsibility is adequate.
    This is a great start to a discussion, but it needs to go further and deeper.
    What is a sustainable basis for social responsibility;lity in business?

    • D-Rex says

      I won’t but from Ikea or Aldi because they don’t pay tax in Oz.

  33. Pingback: How to Stop Corporate Virtue-Signaling Before It's Too Late - News Time Update

  34. I can’t stand virtue-signalling even in individuals, let alone corporations. It’s a cheap and easy way to show what a good, caring person you are while accomplishing absolutely nothing.

  35. Pingback: How to Stop Corporate Virtue-Signaling Before It's Too Late | CauseACTION

  36. Pingback: - Libcult

  37. jimhaz says

    Virtually all that Trump says is virtue signalling. It is not just a leftist phenomenon and occurs under any authoritarian regime.

  38. Pingback: How to Stop Corporate Virtue-Signaling Before It’s Too Late |

  39. Trajan Fanzine says

    LOL, reading the comments here, I can see some ethereal being, god for example,smacking his hands together saying; ‘well, it appears we have a ways to go’…

  40. Veronique Saint Genteel says

    Ballot question 2 here in Massachusetts to limit “Corporate Personhood” was overwhelmingly approved during this last gubernatorial election; I was happy voting to limit this thoroughly ridiculous idea. Hopefully, this idea will spread across free market global capitalism like wildfire. When I see corporations market products to elicit empathy for a social situation I want to gag.

    The Nike publicity stunt featuring Colin Kaepernick, the sweatshops, Blue Lives, some Conservative Army groups and other groups of foreign entity Troll Farms the billionaires could muster up to cause a stir took to mental states that caused Nike to donate large sums of money to Republican candidates in order to avoid lawsuits. that whole stunt was virtual signaling while maliciously running a scam; if it was a person it should be in jail. I don’t want to see Nike sneakers sold in America anymore.

    The divisive and disgusting behavior of this particular corporation in attempt to appear human whilst marketing empathy needs an exorcism. Data is worth more than oil right now so they can keep trying out different experiments on us the human product; because that’s what you became when you signed in on here without a VPN or Google is your email.

    I’m pretty sure when President Obama signed away all of our 4th Amendment rights to a secret FISA2007 court he thought it was so that our government could keep tabs on us using the voluntary tracking devices that we all carry around; why would anybody care about privacy? Who knew all this information would fall into the hands of the corporate devil? *in the most sarcastic tone ever* I hope that guy Edward Snowden is doing okay he tried to warn us.

    • @Veronique Saint Genteel
      I completely agree with you on corporate “personhood”.
      The funny thing is, is that Citizens United is actually helping the Democrats out more now than before the decision and large parts of the left were against it. Meanwhile all the Republicans are for it and it will bite them in the a$$! Turns out all of the powerful companies are firmly in the dem camp!

  41. TheSnark says

    While I agree that most corporate ethical signalling is ridiculous, and is mainly about marketing. My concern about this article is the way it denigrates “elites” for taking a stand on issues.

    It has always been the civic duty of elites to lead, to take public stances on and work on issues that they feel are important. The elites of the 13 colonies wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, not the common man.

    But in those days the elites lived cheek-and-jowl with common folks. Our problem today seems to be that too many of our elites are only in touch with each other. And when the elites get too inbred and out of touch with everyone else, they get sidelined or overthrown.

    Our problem is not that the elites are not taking stands, it’s that they become too removed from the daily life of the non-elites.

  42. Janet Arafa says

    There is no such thing as a “Liberal National Party” in Australia. There is a Liberal Party and a National Party, two separate parties that govern in coalition. Peter Dutton is a member of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party was not “opposed” to same-sex marriage. It was divided. Its position, and the coalition’s position, was that if a plebiscite returned a majority in favor, it would allow a free Parliamentary vote on the issue. (The plebiscite carried and same-sex marriage won the Parliamentary vote.) It would be nice if you could get basic facts right instead of spreading basic inaccuracies.

  43. Interesting article but the title is very misleading. The writer concludes with a “Community Pluralism Principle. He suggests that company managers be forced by their shareholders to adopt a statement along the following lines…” -which as far as I can see, is simply more virtue signalling. For example Google adopted a statement; “Don’t be evil”, and I think most will agree the statement had little impact on Google’s actions, even though they dropped said statement after eighteen years.

  44. Warren says

    I see it as a cynical, but quite pragmatic and effective, method of counteracting the previously growing anti-corporation sentiment that was affecting growth, sales, profit etc. Its a way of getting the “i care about social responsibility” types back buying your product instead of boycotting you

  45. Dennis says

    I don’t see the problem, really.

    CEOs are doing this virtue signalling precisely because it is supposedly good for the bottom line, not because the company they represent actually cares.

    It might work, or it might backfire. It’s a risk they’re taking. A company can conceivably virute-signall itself into bankcruptcy. And that might even be for the best.

  46. Jeffrey Joe Miller says

    “What we do know is that Qantas made large numbers of dissenters feel they were under attack.”

    Oh, poor whining babies … it sounds like these bigoted rightist snowflakes needed a safe space.

    • Evander says

      Nice work, Jeffrey. First you took the author’s claim for granted, then you name-called a group of people you don’t like.

      As a ‘dissenter’, i.e. ‘No’ voter, I didn’t feel the least intimidated by corporations like Qantas.

      It’s not self-evident that affirming heterosexual union as marriage is bigoted. Care to elaborate?

  47. Pingback: Corporate Virtue-Signaling is Worrisome

  48. Such a shame… It wasn’t so long ago that an article posted on Quillette would attract only a handful of comments, the vast majority of which were incredibly well-reasoned and written and did not devolve into ad hominem, irrelevance and other silliness. It seems now, the truly worthwhile reader comments get lost among the all too prevalent crap.

    I’d favour clear guidelines, and if necessary rules, to minimize the irrelevant and return the comments to a reasoned and informed discussion of the subject matter in the article. Block or delete the comments that are irrelevant or lower the level of discourse. (Btw, I’m a huge free speech advocate, but I don’t believe private enterprises are under any obligation to provide a forum for everything and anything that comes their way. If we don’t like how they sort our input, then we can take our remarks somewhere else.)

  49. A few thoughts:

    The thought of a Catholic Bishop whining that corporations are undermining democracy is rich indeed. In the U.S., the bishops have traditionally spent far more time in the White House than the leaders of any corporation.

    The last sentence in this essay was so naively simplistic as to undermine the useful content that preceded it.

    There’s a meaningful difference between corporate virtue signaling and corporate social responsibility. There’s a meaningful difference between virtue signaling and virtue. The former may be odious, but cultural convergence around moral agreements, including perceived virtues, has been key to humans being able to live in community with each other throughout our history.

    Most corporate charters encode sociopathic amortal meta-organisms.

    Corporations routinely attempt to influence democracy through lobbying. Voters elect representatives and then corporations whisper in their ears, wining and dining them confident in the knowledge that our sense of reality is, to some degree, socially constructed, and that we are particularly vulnerable to social influence when persuasion is combined with carrots and sticks. The complaint here comes across as disingenuous–as partisan rather than high integrity– because it laments corporate influence attempts that weigh in on one side of the political spectrum.

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