In Hollywood, that seems to be the emerging consensus. Thanks to the box office success of Top Gun: Maverick and the disappointing performance of Pixar’s Lightyear, in which Buzz Lightyear’s commanding officer is a black lesbian, the studios think audiences may be tiring of being lectured to. The same is true of the streaming platforms, with the biggest hits of the year being shows that take the mickey out of corporate virtue-signalling (The Boys) or just celebrate old-fashioned American heroism (The Terminal List). In this context, the reaction of Netflix when some of its employees staged a walkout over Dave Chappelle’s un-PC jokes in his recent comedy special was a straw in the wind: the company told them that if they weren’t prepared to tolerate a broad range of tastes and viewpoints, maybe Netflix wasn’t the right place for them.
In the tech sector, too, a pushback against social activism seems to be under way. A sign of things to come was the 2020 memo by Brian Armstrong, CEO of cryptocurrency firm Coinbase, saying he didn’t want his company to promote political causes, such as Black Lives Matter, because it was a distraction from its “core mission” and created “internal division”. “We have people with many different backgrounds and viewpoints at Coinbase, and even if we all agree that something is a problem, we may not agree on how to actually go solve it,” he wrote. Given that the memo was sent a few months after the death of George Floyd, it caused a predictable uproar and Armstrong offered an exit package to those employees who felt they could no longer work at Coinbase. Sixty took up the offer – five per cent of the workforce – and the initial conclusion was that Armstrong’s intervention had been a mistake. But he had no difficulty filling those positions and his keep-politics-out-of-the-workplace memo now looks like an act of bold leadership.
According to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur I had breakfast with a couple of weeks ago, leading venture capital firms are abandoning their insistence that tech companies have to demonstrate what they’re doing to advance the cause of anti-racism before they’ll invest. Having progressive polices on EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is a luxury that start-ups can no longer afford. With a global recession looming, these canny investors have jettisoned identity politics and are focusing on the bottom line. “All this woke crap will be gone within 12 months,” says the entrepreneur.
Read More: Have We Reached Peak Woke?