MIDLAND, MICHIGAN — Bloomberg Businessweek recently published a fawning 2,000-word feature article about Dow Chemical and its new gay CEO, Jim Fitterling, entitled “How Dow Got Woke.” Bloomberg presents the chemical giant as an enlightened corporation with a long history of laudable political activism.
It notes how the company scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, meaning that it “protects employees from discrimination,” provides coverage for the health needs of transgender employees, and has a long track record of “advocating publicly for LGBT causes.” According to the article, Dow hired its first female research scientist in 1929 and in 2002 added domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couple workers, eventually coming to employ thousands of LGBT workers as the company did all it could to provide a “safe environment” for LGBT and minority staff.
Unfortunately, Dow appears to be much less concerned about providing a safe environment for the many victims of its chemical weapons. During the Vietnam War, Dow (along with Monsanto) manufactured the infamous Agent Orange chemical spray, estimated to have killed 400,000 Vietnamese and led to 500,000 birth defects, including thousands to this day. Decades later, Vietnamese towns and cities still suffer from dangerously high levels of dioxin, one of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to humanity.
Breezing over this inconvenient history, Bloomberg provides its readers with a photo gallery showing Dow’s diverse range of employees and tells us that “last year, Dow started flying the rainbow flag outside its headquarters” in Midland, Michigan. It does not mention that a large area of Central Michigan around Dow’s chemical manufacturing plant is contaminated with the same carcinogenic poison dioxin and that Dow agreed to move tens of thousands of cubic yards of affected soil from the Tittabawassee River that runs past it.
Will the real Dow Chemical please stand up?
In fact Dow Chemical’s history is one shocking example of corporate malfeasance after another. This includes the leakage of waste from its Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility, which the Denver Post described as “one of America’s worst toxic messes;” the Bhopal disaster, where a pesticide plant owned by Dow’s subsidiary Union Carbide poisoned more than 600,000 people and killed up to 16,000; and the scandal surrounding the creation of a $1 billion tax shelter.
In short, in no way can the giant chemical and weapons corporation be considered “woke.” The article is merely the latest example of the corporate world trying to improve its image and market itself to liberals and progressives through the language of inclusion and social justice.
For another “how nice!” example, missile manufacturer Raytheon tried to pink wash its role in suffering and devastation around the world by rebranding itself as a tool of women’s empowerment, linking up with the Girl Scouts of America to encourage girls to study STEM subjects. Much has been made of the fact that four of the top five military contractors are headed by women. But having a female boss, it should go without saying, does not make the military industrial complex feminist, no matter how much it tries to present itself as such.
Meanwhile, Unilever’s Dove brand of soaps and body washes markets to women through their “real beauty” ad campaign promoting body acceptance while, at the same time, its Axe body spray commercials (aimed at men) dehumanize women as unthinking creatures controlled by their own instinctual urges.
Lipstick on the corporate pig
By their very nature corporations cannot be woke. This new wave of presenting themselves as such is simply a cynical branding exercise to improve their tarnished image or to increase sales. Corporations don’t care about social justice, only profit, as displayed by the online store RedBubble.com, where you can buy pro- and anti-fascist merchandise on the same page.
The attempt at trying to appear woke has been used by neoliberal politicians who embody the corporate mentality in the political arena. Hillary Clinton, despite her questionable record on race, used words like “intersectionality” to attempt to appeal to progressives, while Justin Trudeau rarely misses an opportunity to symbolically present himself on the side of social justice while continuing to sign arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
This tactic of corporations feigning political positions is not limited to the left. Many also try to carve out a conservative audience. For example, after fast food giant Chick-Fil-A’s CEO came out to oppose same-sex marriage its sales rose by 12 percent.
As the principle drivers of capitalism, corporations are actively holding back the emancipation of oppressed groups and cannot, by their very nature, be vehicles for positive social change. Employing the language of social justice is another phony attempt to sell us more products and increase profits.