Information Tech Corporations and the Left: A Dangerous Liaison

To the titans of Silicon Valley, November 8, 2016 was a date that forever shall live in infamy. The election of Donald Trump as president posed an unprecedented threat to their campaign to transform America into a permanent global sanctuary. Information technology leaders have been on the warpath since President Trump’s January 27 90-day ban on immigration and refugee entry from seven terrorist-sponsoring (or terrorist-controlled) Muslim-majority nations, an executive order nixed a week later by a Seattle federal judge. That ruling triggered a quick appeal by the administration, and just as quickly, an amicus brief submitted to the appeals court by around 100 tech executives in support of the lower court ruling. Significant as the immigration angle is, another and perhaps less recognized issue looms: the willful transformation of corporations into a de facto branch of the federal government.

With increasing commitment, U.S. corporations over the last few decades have been paymasters for radicals of the Left, in the process undermining their fiduciary obligations to shareholders and the general public. CEOs and other officials now happily underwrite the costs of racially inflammatory anti-capitalist organizations such as National Action Network and Rainbow PUSH in hopes of reaching ostensibly underserved markets. It would be naive to believe such outreach is mere “greenmail” intended to shoo away critics. The reality is that many corporate leaders genuinely believe such partnerships are good America and good for profits. Consider these recent examples:

  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz several weeks ago vowed to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in countries where the company has a presence. He explained his action in a January 29 company-wide memo: “(W)e will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new administration’s actions grow with each passing day. There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.”
  • Facebook chairman-CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose Forbes magazine-listed personal net worth as of last fall was $55.5 billion, announced on February 16 in a 5,800-word manifesto that he plans to retool his company as a domestic and global issues advocate. He asked: “Are we building the world we want?” The theme, Zuckerberg emphasized, was “connecting the world,” as opposed to passively observing events that undermine social justice. He didn’t mention Donald Trump by name. Then again, he didn’t have to.
  • Last July, 68 companies, including American Airlines, Apple and Nike, filed an amicus brief against the State of North Carolina in an attempt to block enforcement of a new state law (“HB2”) requiring transgendered persons to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex indicated on their birth certificates. There was support from abroad as well. Deutsche Bank protested the law by indefinitely canceling plans to expand its software application development center in Cary (near Raleigh), N.C. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a compromise bill last Wednesday to repeal the law. Money talks.

These are but a few examples of corporate executives who are transforming their companies and/or related philanthropies into centers for political radicalism. To the charge that such activism serves no useful business purpose, executives typically respond that doing well for society is doing good for their company. They are convinced that promoting racial and gender equality of outcome under the theme of “diversity” is a win-win proposition. This represents a sharp break from the classical liberal idea that a business enterprise’s primary obligation is to satisfy employees, customers, clients and shareholders. The newer idea, which took off in earnest during the Seventies, is that companies should be agents for social change. While retaining the right to realize profit, advocates say, companies have an obligation to make life better for outside “stakeholders.” In other words, an enterprise must work to benefit all people potentially affected by its business practices and proposals, even if such people have no direct involvement in company affairs. A firm must commit itself to fighting injustices, whether or not of its own making.

This view, popularly known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has become a coin of the realm among corporations across the country.  Dissenting voices from within are now almost nonexistent. There may be a publicly-held company somewhere in this country, for example, that doesn’t tout its “commitment to diversity” in hiring, retention and promotion, but finding such a business would take a lot of work. In all phases of operations, corporations not only try to outdo competitors in alleviating social inequality, they also may cease doing business with persons or entities standing in the way. They will establish partnerships with, and make donations to, politically-motivated nonprofit organizations; practice “diversity” (i.e., affirmation action); and provide forums for employees ostensibly victimized by racism, sexism, homophobia or some other attitudinal shortcoming. And because anti-discrimination has been government policy for decades, CSR-oriented companies are predisposed toward becoming adjuncts to government agencies in achieving an egalitarian, borderless globalism – note Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s reference to war refugees as “citizens of the world.”

The flurry of corporate generosity to radical groups is a manifestation of an ongoing redefinition of corporate mission. Back in 1970, economist Milton Friedman famously wrote: “The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”  Such a view today would be considered quaint.  Indeed, any CEO who would write or utter such words is likely to lose his job. Companies, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, have come to view the pursuit of profit as subordinate to stakeholder-centered activism. In many companies, business and social mission are almost of a piece.  Sovereign governments, supranational governments (e.g., the European Union, the United Nations) and nongovernmental organizations must stand ready to be partners in enforcing compliance. The people “out in the street” should play the role of informal police via boycotts, demonstrations, lawsuits and media campaigns.

British economist David Henderson, in his book, The Role of Business in the Modern World, terms this philosophy “global salvationism.” He critiques this view as forcing corporations fulfill philanthropic and political roles to which they are ill-suited, and more ominously, as centralizing State power in ways that subvert competition. Henderson writes:

Within businesses, the adoption of CSR carries with it a high probability of cost increases and impaired performance. Managers have to take into account a wider range of goals and concerns, and to involve themselves in new and time-consuming processes of consultation with outside stakeholders. New systems of accounting, auditing, and monitoring are called for. On top of all this, the adoption of more exacting self-chosen environmental and “social” standards is liable to add to costs, all the more so if, as the doctrine of CSR requires of them, firms insist on observance of these same standards by their partners, suppliers and contractors – and even, on some interpretations, their customers.

For the economy as a whole, CSR points the way to anti-competitive tendencies and over-regulation. Insofar as “socially responsible” businesses find that their new role is bringing with it higher costs and lower profits, they have a strong interest in ensuring that their unregenerate rivals are compelled to toe the same line, whether through public pressure or government regulation. In particular, large firms have an interest in ensuring that smaller rivals do not escape the net, while firms in rich countries have a similar incentive to see to it that their competitors in developing countries are made subject to the same pressures and regulations that bear on them.

Henderson makes clear that participation ought to be optional:

In a competitive market economy, businesses should be free to take the path of CSR; but also, and equally, they should be free to reject that course. Insofar as firms have no choice but to conform, whether because of strong informal pressures or through legislation, market opportunities will be narrowed and competitive pressures reduced. The general adoption of CSR, in response to social pressures, would undermine the market economy and make business less effective in the performance of their primary role.

Globalism is thus a two-edged sword. On one hand, corporations are being forced to comply with an expanding array of government mandates in order to avoid negative consequences. On the other, the largest have every incentive draw closer to the agencies who impose them. Though not eager to spend large sums of money on high-powered consultants, lawyers, accountants and public relations specialists, these companies know that smaller, rival firms can’t absorb such costs so easily. Industry leaders thus often see aggressive government intervention as a way of achieving market dominance in the long run. The State, in this view, is a prize to be won, not just a predator to be feared.

But there is something going on here besides “regulatory capture,” as public choice economists call it. The fact is companies aren’t simply adapting to conditions they don’t like; they also are promoting conditions they do like. They have no problem with partnering with governments and allied radical nonprofit groups, even if the eventual outcome is less contractual liberty. They see “diversity,” which in practice means pushing aside qualified whites in favor of nonwhites, as something to celebrate. In the official brochure for the 2009 annual convention of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, for example, Comcast welcomed attendees with this seemingly benign, uplifting message:

We live and breathe innovation every day. By embracing diversity of thought, philosophy and experience, we have become the nation’s leading provider of entertainment, information and communication products and services. By embracing diversity of communities, we have become an employer and a provider of choice. Our diversity is our strength.

Comcast proudly supports the National Action Network.

This sort of statement can be found in countless corporate press releases, brochures and annual reports. Its matter-of-fact prevalence underscores the reality that participation in a modern corporation, whether as an employee, executive, board member, contractor or supplier, requires full acquiescence to global salvation as a central principle. CEOs and other top officials will do virtually anything to avoid being known as opponents of the new orthodoxy on race, immigration, language and other markers of national identity. These enterprises seek profit but at the same time make clear to all concerned that America is a post-national nation, a prosperous microcosm of the world and a noble rescuer of it.

Information technology (IT) firms, especially those focused on social media, have been at the forefront of this advocacy. The linkages between tech industry executives and stakeholders grew exponentially during the Obama era. And it continues to grow in the Trump era. The election of Donald Trump as president, far from dimming their CSR enthusiasm, merely has altered their strategy. It is wishful thinking that tech executives disagree with shakedown artists like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and DeRay McKesson (in photo on left with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey) on principle. They believe in in the same things that these critics do. And because those critics represent large constituencies, corporate officials see alliances with these activists as sound business propositions. Microsoft, for one, is going all-out for “diversity.” It has expanded its Women’s Conference to five regional hubs; graduated 38,000 participants in its DigGirlz program founded in 2000 (which introduces females and racial minorities to information technology); boasts of a 100 percent score given by the gay and lesbian-oriented Human Rights Campaign for 11 consecutive years; and set up 47 Employee Networks and seven Global Employee Resource Groups – women, Hispanics/Latinos, disability, LGTBQ, blacks, Asians and parents.

While information technology firms don’t need outside prodding to pursue their mission, they will accelerate it given the proper motivation. And that’s exactly what has happened since May 2014 when “civil rights” leader Jesse Jackson conducted a whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley. In classic obnoxious form, Jackson, in succession, browbeat the leadership of eBay, Google and Facebook at annual shareholder meetings for their lack of “diversity”; i.e., black employees. The response by company executives, predictably, was capitulation. Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for public relations, responded in a blog: “Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.” And Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg responded by touting her company’s “great partnerships” with women and minorities. Later in the year, Jackson met privately with Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich and other executives on the issue of “underrepresented” minorities and women at the Santa Clara-based company. In January 2015, Krzanich announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that Intel had pledged $300 million through 2020 to fund the hiring, training, retention and promotion of women and minorities.

Silicon Valley has been happy to comply. Each of Jackson’s targeted companies proceeded to put diversity and inclusion into even higher gear. Google, for example, in 2015 committed itself to $150 million on diversity initiatives, up from $115 million in 2014. Nancy Lee, Google’s vice president of people operations, well-versed in corporate Newspeak, explained: “The tech industry really understands that the future of our industry means we have to be more inclusive. We are literally building products for the world. It can’t be this homogenous.” Meanwhile, Facebook, through its “Facebook University” training center, has oriented its internship program even more toward “underrepresented groups.”

Facebook, along with San Francisco-based social media leader Twitter, isn’t just celebrating partnerships with aggressive anti-white groups; they are working with them to create revolution for fun and profit. National Legal and Policy Center last May described at length how these companies’ partnership with the street and campus network Black Lives Matter (BLM) is creating opportunities to sign up blacks for accounts. These companies don’t take too well to criticism of these activists. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a company-wide email message last year, explicitly prohibited employees from expressing disapproval of BLM despite its demonstrated capacity for fomenting riots and hoaxes. Facebook managers also instructed news aggregator contractors not to post stories from conservative websites to the Facebook online “trending” module. The company in particular suppressed an NLPC story critical of Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis protesting the death of a violent black suspect, Jamar Clark, at the hands of a local police officer. Twitter also has appeared to discourage news aggregation from conservative sites. Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, in fact, is an ally of Black Lives Matter spokesperson DeRay McKesson; he even donated $6,000 to McKesson’s (unsuccessful) longshot campaign for Baltimore mayor last year. Twitter Executive Chairman Omid Kordestani, Crowdpac co-founder Gisel Kordestani; Slack founder Stewart Butterfield and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings each donated $6,000 to the campaign as well.

The growing alliance between information technology executives and racial shakedown artists, noxious as it is, is little short of alarming when it functions as a government employment revolving door, as was the case during the Obama administration. Indeed, information technology firms are building what amounts to a shadow government. Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, put it this way after being “shadow-banned” (i.e., prevented from sending tweets that show up in followers’ news feeds) by Twitter for switching his endorsement from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump last September: “If one political party can use the machinery of social networks to reduce free speech, that is an attack on American values at the deepest level.” Adams, in fact, had received numerous direct and indirect death threats for his apostasy.

If there is an information technology leader in national politics, it would have to be Google, reorganized in October 2015 as the principal entity of a new holding company, Alphabet Inc. Throughout the Obama presidency, the company aggressively embedded itself in administration affairs. Google lobbyists visited the White House on at least 427 separate occasions. More than 250 persons left Google for a position with the federal government or vice versa; 53 of these transitions were related to the White House. The company in particular used the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as though it were a Washington branch office. A number of Google employees joined the agency team and behaved in ways seemingly at odds with federal employee ethics rules. Andrew McLaughlin, OSTP deputy chief technology officer and former head of global public policy at Google, resigned his post in 2010 partly in response to a National Legal and Policy Center request that he do so following revelations of his use of a personal Gmail account to communicate with the company. Other Google alumni who may have compromised their OTSP posts included Megan Smith, Alex Macgillivray and Nicole Wong. In addition, the White House-Google employee pipeline proved crucial in persuading the Federal Trade Commission to back away from filing an antitrust suit against the corporation.

Washington connections have enabled Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to pursue political activism in ways that could wind up violating the privacy of company technology users everywhere. Schmidt, whose Forbes-listed net worth last fall was $11.3 billion, sees opportunities. Several weeks ago, the company instituted a policy allowing Google to combine user browsing data from third-party websites with individual Google search and email data. Ostensibly a way to sell information to outside companies, the policy presents possibilities for enabling political forces with whom Schmidt has aligned. Hacked emails by top Clinton presidential campaign adviser John Podesta virtually confirm that Schmidt sought a key role in the campaign. One email from Schmidt to Clinton aide Cheryl Mills was particularly telling: “Key is the development of a single record for a voter that aggregates all that is known about them.” Now one might say, somewhat innocently, that all presidential campaigns establish demographic profiles so as to maximize voter outreach in a cost-efficient way. That’s true on the face of it. But Schmidt is no disinterested political observer. He was photographed, rather conspicuously, at Clinton campaign headquarters in Manhattan on election night wearing a “Staff” badge. And he recently donated a combined roughly $2 million to four activist groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, who oppose President Trump’s immigration policies. It isn’t just Schmidt who is committed to radical egalitarianism. A few days ago, in fact, Google’s affiliated philanthropy revealed that it had pledged to donate a combined $11.5 million to four organizations whose mission is to combat racial disparities in our criminal justice system. On a practical level, that means discouraging courts from sentencing blacks to prison even for the most serious crimes if their incarceration rates remain higher than those for whites.

One hopefully can see why IT executives have had the jitters these last few months. By depriving Hillary Clinton of the presidency, Donald Trump threw a massive detour in front of America’s journey to globalist radicalization. This was not in the script. Though President Trump’s immigration policies in fact are moderate, overdue steps to enforce longstanding law, tech companies imagine them to be full-scale attacks on America’s historic mission. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, issued this message to employees in late January, almost immediately after President Trump had issued his executive order barring immigration and refugee entries from seven terrorist-sponsoring or terrorist-controlled nation-states in the Middle East and Africa:

Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do. I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.

These people are obsessed with casting Donald Trump as a neofascist despot, a successor to Mussolini or Hitler. Their view is based on a wholly sentimentalized conception of America as an international sanctuary rather than as a nation. As we still have “too few” blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims and other minorities in our land, corporate leaders insist, we have an obligation, especially via immigration policy, to recreate ourselves in the image of the whole world. It makes sense that last month, top officials from Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Reddit, Twitter, Uber and other information technology leaders – about a hundred in all – submitted an amicus brief with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Sunday night, February 5, in response to the administration’s appeal of a decision by U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle blocking President Trump’s temporary immigration ban.

Now we arrive at the big picture. What we are seeing is an emerging tripartite of corporate executives, government officials and nonprofit groups who stand to benefit from a permanent transformation of this country’s identity, especially via immigration policy. While government has a monopoly on the use of legal force, corporations are playing a central role in fostering this transformation, especially on account of the people who work for them. As Apple CEO Tim Cook’s above-quoted statement suggests, tech executives are under pressure from their own employees to promote open borders and “diversity.” Ridesharing firm Uber, in fact, is facing a boycott from the Left ostensibly for not doing enough to oppose Trump’s immigration ban. And at Oracle, three employees have launched a petition urging the software giant (thus far unsuccessful) to denounce the president’s executive order. Diversity enthusiasts at IT firms may be even more pronounced than among the people who hire them, a primary reason why these firms promote multiculturalism in their recruitment pitches. What these managers and employees desire, unfortunately, is not a diversity of opinion; it is a diversity of demography with an identical set of opinions. This radicalization of corporations can be expected to continue, with or without government encouragement. Their central role in the world economy guarantees this.

If any one person can be said to have seen all this coming, it was Austrian-born Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950). In his classic book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, first published in 1942, he argued that capitalism would collapse from within. This outcome, he emphasized, was not desirable. But it was inevitable all the same. Capitalism, a “gale of creative destruction” sweeping away antiquated, unproductive ways of creating value for society, eventually would fall prey to forces increasingly aligned against it. Free enterprise would fall victim to its inherent contradictions. As innovation and profit-seeking are endemic to free enterprise, even the most brilliant and driven businessmen are prone to recouping their investment by minimizing competition. And drawing close to the State can get that done. In the process, wealth and power become centralized. Public dissatisfaction toward business, and especially among the best-educated, leads to the formation of voting blocs supportive of an expanded regulatory and welfare state. And the people who manage and work for corporations increasingly will be predisposed toward this expansion. Technological innovation and entrepreneurship will continue, Schumpeter admitted, but in ways leading to oligarchy and, as a reaction, to social democracy. In a later edition of the book, he summarized: “Marx was wrong in his diagnosis of the manner in which capitalist society would break down; he was not wrong in the prediction that it would break down eventually.”

Skeptics of this scenario rightly question it. After all, argue Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and other oracles of the business community, capitalism has triumphed over communism. That battle has been won. The Berlin Wall has fallen. The Soviet Union is history. The few countries still wedded to “pure” socialism, such as Cuba and North Korea, are little more than police states presiding over decrepit economies. Mainland China abandoned Mao’s Little Red Book decades ago in favor of a capitalist economy, which though circumscribed by tight government censorship, has vastly increased prosperity for hundreds of millions of Chinese. The skylines of Dubai, Riyadh, Shanghai, Sydney and Tel Aviv, to say nothing of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, are more spectacular by the year. Technological innovation, from hand-held computers to virtual reality headsets to factory robotics, have advanced beyond most people’s imaginations. United States GDP, roughly $6 trillion in 1990, is now nearing $19 trillion. Whereas America in 1990 had only several dozen billionaires, it now has several hundred. Optimists ask: Why not see the glass of water as half-full rather than half-empty? They have a point.

Unfortunately, so do the pessimists. Quite simply, there are countertrends that can’t be ignored. The Corporate Social Responsibility movement, increasingly driven from within as much as from outside the corporation, is now standard business thinking. It is leading to a balkanization of the population despite all those feel-good press releases claiming “diversity is our strength.” The business community is underwriting its own enemies. Companies “embrace” diversity and punish those who don’t go along. They support immigration in virtually unlimited numbers, regardless of its impact on national security, community safety, welfare usage or environmental carrying capacity. And despite some notable exits by insurance companies, corporations generally have adapted to the dictates of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) of 2010, with its potentially disastrous rises in health insurance premiums and reductions in choices for providers and consumers.

The goal here is nothing less than the transformation of America into a global sanctuary for a jumble of racial, ethnic, religious, national and linguistic minorities having little to do with each other, and at the expense of the historic (and still) majority. The use of the word “diversity” has attained an almost magical power to summon loyalty to this vision despite the clear evidence that diversity (as the very word implies) divides rather than unites. Our country, having experienced mass immigration, cultural disunity, terrorism and unsustainable fiscal commitments, is increasingly vulnerable to a formal political breakup. The rampant talk these past few months of California, or at least its immigration-heavy coastal metropolitan regions, splitting away from the rest of the United States may be a hint of much larger things to come.

The lines dividing government, corporations, radical activism and organized crime are becoming blurred. Critics of this tendency have coined a term for this – anarcho-tyranny. Here, tiny or nonexistent offenses are punished severely, while major offenses, if committed by “protected” people, are excused or even condoned. Resistance to this arrangement is crucial, but it requires exposing corrupt political and financial networks. It is a contradiction of capitalism, of sorts, that rooting out this corruption requires the use of software created by the culprits.