by Peter Laffin
In recent months, major corporations have made efforts to co-opt social justice movements in order to sell products made by brown children in third world sweatshops. The ¨woke¨ left, a designation given to the subset of American liberals primarily focused on the politics of identity, has swallowed corporate America’s efforts whole. They praise, share, and retweet their advertisements while proudly donning their logos.
In late December, Nike began to run a television commercial called, ¨Just Do It,¨ featuring Colin Kaepernick, whose story came to prominence in social justice circles during the 2017 NFL season. Kaepernick led the widely-discussed ¨kneeling¨ protest during the national anthem before games, protesting police brutality against African Americans. This captured the imagination of social progressives and the ire of military members and their families. (It also resulted in one of the least productive national conversations of my lifetime, as President Trump took advantage of the tension by manipulating us into having a conversation about him instead of the real concerns on both sides.) The ad features Kaepernick in street clothes, as he has yet to be re-signed by an NFL team since the protest, and it ends with a close up of his face set behind the words, ¨Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
It's difficult for me to remain straight-faced at the notion of Kaepernick sacrificing everything for his beliefs, given the millions Nike paid him for the TV spot; but this irony must have dropped the jaws of Nike's third-world slave laborers. While Nike has publicly proclaimed to have cleaned up its grotesque business practices (at the turn of the century, Nike finally had to own up to its well-documented child labor practices in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Pakistan), evidence suggests there is still plenty to be done. Reports as recent as 2017 indicate that Nike factories in Vietnam force workers to labor in temperatures well over the labor limit of ninety degrees, to the point where workers regularly faint. Nike has also recently been accused of closing factories in third world countries with ascendant labor movements, such as Honduras. Further, Nike refuses to allow independent monitoring of their labor practices, which would put suspicion to an end if their nose was clean.
But all of this is cool, and Nike is awesome, because it’s, like, woke, or something. So long as it continues to signal the correct virtues in its advertising campaigns, the American social justice left is happy and proud to brandish the ¨swoosh¨ as it marches on like good little corporatists. Child labor be damned.
As recently as this month, Procter and Gamble´s razor company, Gillette, released a ¨correct think¨ ad targeted at the woke crowd that instructs its male customers how to behave in the world. Seeing the wave of the ¨Me Too¨ movement, these corporateers hopped on in hopes of signaling proper virtues to people who would be horrified to find out about their animal testing practices. (Oh, and they have a teeny child labor problem, too). Much like with the Nike Kaepernick ad, the Gillette spot flourished on social media, cheered on by the social justice left, which should sue for some of that sweet child labor money, as they were the ones who really made the commercial successful.
The incongruence of the New Left Morality is confusing, dispiriting, and indicative of a laziness the type of which allows true evil to thrive. It champions easy virtue while ignoring complex injustice. It favors symbolic victory over actual victory: the end of American corporate malfeasance. You better believe it makes me angry.