What ‘Woke Capital’ Means For Tech Censorship | Poppy Coburn

We’re in the middle of what is likely the most extreme corporate censorship crusade in modern history. ‘Big Tech’ officials have moved to purge the sitting President of the United States from nearly all online communication platforms – from Twitter to Facebook to Pinterest. After four years of handwringing over ‘threats to democracy’, a democratically elected head of state was censored online and the reaction of political pundits of all colours has been largely one of relief (with a few notable exceptions). While many commentators have written at length on the obvious hypocrisy on display, a less-examined feature of the ‘big tech’ crackdown is who made the decision to remove the Commander in Chief from the internet, and why? Indeed, the censorship efforts in big tech companies are not coming from the CEOs plotting in a dark room, but rather from the rank-and-file of the big tech companies, exerting an extraordinary level of social power against those who are supposedly in charge. 

A new term has been coined to describe the bizarre configuration of activist radicalism and big business: ‘Woke Capital’. One twitter user under the same name has taken to recording the increasing descent of the corporate world down the ‘woke’ rabbit hole. There is certainly an undeniable, if unintentional, element of humour to many of these woke missives. That The Dow Chemical Company would tweet that when “we see injustice and inequity, we cannot be silent… we must stand up and speak out” is ludicrous, to put it lightly. It is less humorous to see what happens to those businesses that don’t virtue-signal when it’s demanded of them: threats, abuse, and boycotts.   

It has become popular in online left spaces for those who consider themselves further ‘left’ than the media establishment to murmur about the danger of censorship. Of course, the argument is that seditious Nazis (and whomever else deemed ‘problematic’) should be censored, but also that emboldening tech companies to deplatform on demand will then be used against the brave freedom fighters of the new left. It is through this argument that the concealing of power is achieved: after all, the new left cannot be on the side of the evil big tech companies if they too may, at some indeterminate point in the future, face the same suppression. What is left out of the equation, however, is the point that the new left and the tech companies are today one and the same – wokeness is the overriding ideology that guides both red rose twitter users and Facebook employees. So divorced is the new left from the traditional politics of class that an oligarch like Mark Zuckerberg may be praised for his ‘anti-fascism’ in suppressing the speech of the opponents of this new elite. 

There is no better example of how the new ‘woke’ class has taken charge than the phenomena of highly paid, job secure tech workers beginning to unionise. The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) is comprised of employees at the parent company of Google. The AWU mission statement goes beyond what one would typically expect of a labour union – namely, of agitating for higher wages and better working conditions. Alphabet Union is not your typical union. Its rank and file is made up of well-paid, highly educated tech workers with large amounts of social capital and who are not content to restrain themselves to merely fighting for labour rights: nay, these workers claim to “protect Alphabet workers, our global society, and our world.”. These tech staffers insist that “the diversity of our voices makes us stronger”, and that they will “ensure Alphabet acts ethically and in the best interests of society and the environment”. Ironically, looking at the ‘History’ section on the Alphabet Workers Union website displays “Fighting censorship” as one of the Union’s victories, alongside “Protecting LGBTQ+ people” and “No Police Contracts”. One can only hope the Union’s newest achievement – to deplatform the ‘fascist’ US President Donald Trump from all major social media sites – will be added to this stellar list of social justice victories.  

An organisation like the AWU disproves the idea that the new ‘wokeification’ of business is simply a cynical way to cash in on hot new social movements. These workers aren’t lowering themselves to doing ‘icky’ things like collectively organising, but demanding that their bosses instead ‘protect’ the voices of the marginalised, and directly engage and shape the culture wars. It is not a rational business decision to ban President Donald Trump from the face of the internet, but banned he was.  A cigar-chomping Monopoly man didn’t cook up “white fragility” in order to bust a union. Many members of the new elite genuinely believe the most radical tenets of woke thought. Such is the power of ‘woke capital’ that the interests of shareholders can be sublimated to the imagined interests of black transgender sex workers, or whichever new minority group becomes du jour on the left. 

The question remains, however: why is it that the new left has jumped onto concepts like critical race theory and other ‘woke’ staple ideologies with such relish? In order to understand this, it is worth analysing the class position that our new precarious educated elites find themselves in. Michael Lind uses the term “professional-managerial class” (PMC) in his essay ‘The Double Horseshoe Theory of Class Politics’, and defines those who fall within it as “a new ruling class of technocrats or bureaucrats, whose income, wealth and status is linked to their positions in large, hierarchical organizations”. In addition to these already-established ‘PMCs’ there is an ever growing pool of highly educated young people looking for ‘high-status’ employment. Since 1990, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded have increased fivefold, with Masters’ degrees being ten times as common as they once were. The demand for ‘professional’ jobs far outstrips supply, and the problem becomes worse each year. Is it any surprise that this over-educated contingent is desperate to oust the ‘pale, male and stale’ from their coveted positions? After all, this highly ideological group is not just calling for some abstract concept of social justice – it is demanding companies hire unconscious bias co-ordinators, diversity and inclusion managers, and gender justice organisers. What a happy coincidence that these roles can only be filled by university-educated ‘activists’ such as themselves!

A non-productive class with few demonstrable skills requires subsidisation beyond the level that universities can provide: where better to look than the bloated, increasingly bureaucratic mega-corporations? While the Right bemoans its old enemy, the public sector, the corporate entities central to our service economy have been morphing into job creation schemes for the talentless, the dull, and the overeducated. As our ‘elite’ class swells greater in size each year, the jostling for paid, high status positions become ever more frantic. 

What, then, is to be done? Mainstream conservative commentators – those who have made lucrative careers out of mocking the ‘looney left’ – seem to believe it is all a matter of people coming to their senses through public debate: look, say these brave culture-warriors, this sort of nonsense will never fly in the real world! However, as Oliver Traldi points out, this nonsense is the real world. Cancel culture, wokeness – these once fringe concepts are now deeply embedded in our current reality. This new ‘PMC’ class has wormed its way into the centres of power, and is constantly demanding more jobs, more money, more power. Attempting to debate this new order of business is quickly becoming a fast way to commit social suicide and, given the total takeover of big tech by the woke guild, such debate may not even be possible for much longer. 

As elite overproduction continues, this powerful minority will demand ever greater tithes from the rest of the country. More money will be funnelled from the productive to the unproductive, and our new ‘experts’ will invent ever more crimes for gig workers, small business owners, and tradesmen to commit, so that they may continue to extort from these morally impure, undeserving proles. If we are to have any hope at pushing back against the woke ideology, we must strike at the very structures that sustain it; to dismantle the patronage network before it is too late. 

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