February 10, 2019

Corporate America's Social Justice Agenda

Mach 3 razor

Many Christians love to celebrate Christmas with all the trappings of commercialism; however, some complain that the commercialism has ruined the religious aspects of the holiday. I think they probably have a point. Excessive commercialism has helped to secularize Christmas, stripping much of its religious meaning. There isn't much room for Jesus in "Giftmas."

Similar complaints have been made by Baby Boomers who were part of the 60's counter-culture. Corporations co-opted and then ruined much of the hippy thing by realizing they could market and sell it. We even witnessed something that initially looked like a resurgence of this culture in the 90s, only to discover that it was merely a commercialized version that was being marketed by corporate America.

And of course, we have seen this sort of thing happen with music over and over again. Fresh new styles of music quickly become stale once they are co-opted and commercialized by the industry. The "soul" of the music is lost, and we are left with poor imitations. Those who were hungry for something authentic move on in search of it.

It is almost as if once corporate America steps in, it is only a matter of time before they destroy the appeal of whatever they touch. In many cases, this happens through mainstreaming. If we look at music, fashion, art, and similar areas, we see that the corporate influence often takes something that was once edgy and cool and turns it into garbage through mainstreaming and commercialization. Some of the songs that were once protest anthems are now featured in car commercials, obliterating whatever impact they might have once had.

Of course, corporations know that co-opting hot new trends can be profitable. And because generating profit is their mission, it is hard to blame them for doing this. They swoop in, co-opt their target, churn out flat alternatives as long as they sell, and then move on when it is no longer profitable. It does not particularly matter to them what this does to whatever was co-opted because they are already on to the next target.

Perhaps those who detest social justice, social justice activism, and/or social justice warriors should be applauding Gillette's Super Bowl ad and begging more companies to start pushing various social justice causes. The embrace of this sort of thing by corporate America is unlikely to do social justice any favors. Over time, these causes will be stripped of their significance and become far less appealing. We'll end up with various social justice movements being sponsored by various corporations, and it is hard to imagine that being beneficial to anyone but the corporations.

As someone with positive attitudes toward social justice and social justice advocacy, social justice warriorism bothers me because of how it undermines the causes it claims to champion. While I liked the Gillette ad, I hope it is not the beginning of a trend (although I am fairly certain that it is). I think that social justice activism is far better off without being commoditized by corporate America. I saw an ad today from a company I'd never heard of boasting about how they were a proud supporter of a hashtag movement I'd never heard of. And so it begins.