With the goal of looking good to the right market groups, corporations have used considerable resources to push social and “cause” agendas that expand far beyond the scope of their core businesses. These efforts, like virtue signaling, are the actions of followers and are often times hypocritical attempts to socially engineer society. Corporations that causefeed are not engaging in leadership, but rather the worst kind of weak-willed, follower mentality designed to garnish the right headlines rather than create opportunities for change.
The most recent example of corporate cause feeding is the debate over the national anthem at NFL games. Deciding that the Anthem was the best moment to suddenly support players and take a stand, the organization is now facing backlash from fans and advertisers. Taking a stand in support of players by itself is something the NFL should do. However, the timing reeked of opportunistic hypocrisy.
The NFL is an organization that has spent millions investigating one of its most recognizable players because he might have deflated some balls. It’s an organization that failed to adequately reprimand a player who was caught on tape beating his fiancée in an elevator; an organization that has gone out of its way to diminish information about concussions and prevent players from commemorating 9-11 or the police tragedy in Dallas. Yet, all of a sudden, the NFL discovered its morals and decided to support its players.
If the NFL truly cared about the rights and feelings of its players, the organization would have immediately supported their decision to kneel during the anthem. The NFL only started to care when it became convenient to do — after President Trump called out kneeling players for disrespecting the flag. This is the very essence of causefeeding; jumping on bandwagons and making grandiose public statements of morality, yet remaining immobile in times of real action.
The North Carolina bathroom law is another example of this causefeeding hypocrisy that corporations embrace as an illusion of caring when their actions state differently. In protest to the law, corporations such as PayPal, Amazon and Google announced that they would remove over 400 jobs and future investment in the state as a protest to what they deemed an unjust law.
On this surface, this seems like a noble action, refusing to do business in places that pass discriminatory laws. Yet by digging deeper, we find these actions are posturing efforts rather than trying to create change. If these companies really cared and stood for the values they proclaimed, they would not be doing business in countries that actually suppress, imprison and kill homosexuals. They have no issue doing business in these backwards countries, but when a US state passes a bathroom law they do not like, it suddenly becomes the most opportune moment to proclaim moral superiority and use jobs and economic development as a threat to create the change they want.
Google has promoted its mission as doing no evil while engaging in censorship and silencing opposition. Just a few months ago, a Google programmer was fired for posting a manifesto designed to create a dialog about women in tech. This manifesto hurt some PC feelings and the author was fired. Even worse, a Google-funded think tank was forced to terminate an academic for challenging Google’s status in the world.
Facebook claims moral superiority and desires the revenues that come with new media content being created on an hourly basis. It wants the traffic brought in by controversial content and “fake news,” yet is unwilling to accept any editorial responsibility for its content.
The problem with corporate causefeeding is that we have no escape from it. We have no avenue of recourse for these attempts ocial engineering because these groups have unprecedented influence on our lives. All of these corporations, from the NFL to Facebook, are opportunistic hypocrites, eager to embrace causes not because they believe in them but because the headlines will give them favorable publicity. If these groups were leaders and truly believed in the causes they push, they would not seek public approval or wait with one finger in the air until someone else takes the initial risk. Instead, they would act as leaders and champion their causes with action rather than words.
This article first appeared in International Policy Digest.