Corporate activism for progressive causes has become so common, that it is now news when social justice warrior CEOs don’t sign joint letters that demand government to address their latest outrage.
That’s the case following the recent mass shootings in the Texas cities of El Paso and Odessa, and in Dayton, Ohio. As part of the usual outcry for more gun control legislation after such incidents, several companies co-signed an open letter addressed to U.S. Senators asking them to address the “public health crisis that demands urgent action.”
The major technology companies of left-leaning Silicon Valley regularly participate in such initiatives, and some smaller ones did join this effort, including the top executives at Airbnb, Lyft, Reddit, Twitter, Uber and Yelp.
“There are steps Congress can, and must, take to prevent and reduce gun violence,” the letter stated. “We need our lawmakers to support common-sense gun laws that could prevent tragedies like these. That’s why we urge the Senate to stand with the American public and take action on gun safety by passing a bill to require background checks on all gun sales and a strong Red Flag law that would allow courts to issue life-saving extreme risk protection orders.” (emphasis is in the original)
Advocates of the measures proposed in the letter claim there are loopholes in the gun background check system because they aren’t required for some private sales, such as at gun shows. They also want greater ability to take guns from citizens who exhibit signs (“Red Flags”) of mental illness or instability, until they can undergo psychiatric evaluations to see if they deserve to keep their firearms.
In all, top executives for 150 companies signed the letter. In recent years liberal activist groups have enlisted CEOs to jointly pressure political leaders to bend to their agenda on causes such as climate change, trangenders’ use of public facilities, abortion, and immigration. Top executives for the major technology companies – such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft – could consistently be counted on to participate.
But this time they opted out. Could they be growing weary of the constant political conflict – which often draws outcries from both their (mostly) liberal employees as well as the customers they have who are conservative – but seem to please no one? Are they tiring of the scrutiny they increasingly attract from members of Congress?
According to a report in the New York Times, executives at Facebook and Google discussed signing the letter, and decided against it.
“Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook did not sign, although he told colleagues and peers that he agreed with stricter background checks…,” the Times reported, citing anonymous company sources. “With Facebook under federal scrutiny — and contending with a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans who contend that the company’s platform silences conservative voices — Mr. Zuckerberg has decided that activism on this issue would only intensify the spotlight on the company, these people said.”
And the newspaper reported that Google declined to sign, noting its recently enacted policy directed at employees who were instructed to “do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.”
Even Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff – who sometimes has led efforts to enlist companies to jointly apply pressure for progressive causes – did not sign the gun control missive. This was despite his mandate earlier this year that all his firearms-dealing customers cease sales of “military style” guns and accessories, or they would be barred “from using [Salesforce’s] technology to market products, manage customer service operations and fulfill orders,” according to the Washington Post. Following last year’s mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla., Benioff called for a ban of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in a tweet. He also donated $1 million to student-led March for Our Lives gun-control initiative, which emerged following the Parkland attack.
On Thursday Republican Sen. Ted Cruz – who has conducted hearings under the Commerce Science and Transportation Committee to scrutinize anti-conservative bias at the major technology companies – warned the letter-signing CEOs that it was unwise to wade into the gun control debate.
“I don’t think it’s a positive thing to see big corporations shifting their focus from their customers and actually doing what they were created to do into trying to become political players on divisive social issues,” he said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, according to The Hill.
Cruz cited recent moves by large banks, including Bank of America and Citigroup, to stop providing services to manufacturers and sellers of so-called “assault weapons.” That received a backlash from Republican lawmakers in Louisiana, who passed a law that prevented the banks from bond work for the state. The two banks, which have participated in some of the corporate progressive advocacy in the past, did not sign last week’s gun control letter either.
Clearly some of the pushback from protectors of constitutional rights is making CEOs think hard before they join these liberal pressure tactics. Perhaps the potential re-election next year of a certain president, and possibly having to deal with him for four more years, is further fueling their reconsideration.