Vivek Ramaswamy — the former CEO of biopharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences — explained that he resigned from his post in January due to frustration over corporate wokeness.
In an op-ed for The New York Post, Ramaswamy likened companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to a magician’s mirage:
All great magicians master the art of distraction — flashing lights, smoke, beautiful women on stage. Today’s captains of industry do it by promoting progressive social values. Their tactics are far more dangerous for America than those of the older robber barons: Their do-good smoke screen expands not only their market power, but their power over every other facet of our lives. As a young 21st-century capitalist myself, the thing I was supposed to do was shut up and play along: Wear hipster clothes, lead via practiced vulnerability, applaud diversity and inclusion, and muse on how to make the world a better place at conferences in fancy ski towns. Not a bad gig.
Ramaswamy announced that he is instead “defecting.”
I’m fed up with corporate America’s game of pretending to care about justice in order to make money… It’s not just ruining companies. It’s polarizing our politics. It’s dividing our country to a breaking point. Worst of all, it’s concentrating the power to determine American values in the hands of a small group of capitalists, rather than in the hands of the American citizenry at large, which is where the dialogue about social values belongs.
Comparing corporate America to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, Ramaswamy wrote that both liberals and conservatives are duped by large firms’ tactics — the former by their “love of woke causes,” and the latter by their belief that “the market can do no wrong.”
This new woke-industrial Leviathan gains its power by dividing us as a people. When corporations tell us what social values we’re supposed to adopt, they take America as a whole and divide us into tribes. That makes it easier for them to make a buck, but it also coaxes us into adopting new identities based on skin-deep characteristics and flimsy social causes that supplant our deeper shared identity as Americans.
Corporations win. Woke activists win. Celebrities win. Even the Chinese Communist Party finds a way to win. But the losers of this game are the American people, including both sincere progressives who are used as pawns and everyday conservatives who are silenced, our hollowed-out institutions, and American democracy itself.
After Ramaswamy wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Silicon Valley firms were wrong to censor conservatives after the January 6 Capitol riot — which he called “a stain on our history” — advisers to his company resigned, and friends called him to explain that they were disappointed. Months earlier, Ramaswamy also faced criticism for not doing “enough” to condemn systemic racism following George Floyd’s death.
Apparently, being a CEO required me to speak out about politics sometimes, yet other times it required me to stay silent. As CEO, I needed to effectively run a business focused on developing medicines, without getting intertwined in political matters. Yet as a citizen, I felt compelled to speak out about the perils of woke capitalism. I tried my best to avoid using my company as a platform to foist my views on others. But eventually I had to admit that I couldn’t do justice to either while trying to do both at once.
Ramaswamy stepped down from his own company six months ago, granting the chief executive job to the CFO. He is preparing to release a book — “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam” — in August.
Ramaswamy is not the only prominent entrepreneur to express frustration over wokeness in the American business world.
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk also slammed corporate censorship in the wake of the January 6 riot, tweeting that “a lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”
Months earlier, Musk became weary of the leftist governance of California, which prevented Tesla’s facilities from resuming operations despite low risk from COVID-19. He encouraged Twitter users to “take the red pill.”
Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy — who was recently banned from Twitter for reasons that remain unclear — also despises censorship.
“There is an audience that appreciates, and it’s not even Left or Right, it’s kind of both, like, ‘I like how these guys aren’t backing down.’ And our audience allows us to do that, so people have always asked, ‘Why do you fight back’ or ‘Why do you push back’ or ‘Why don’t you just shut up when someone takes a shot at you that you feel is unfair,’ it’s like, I’m not going to do that. I will never throw the first punch, but if you throw a shot at me on Twitter — out of the clouds — it’s not my responsibility to protect you,” said Portnoy in an April interview with Ben Shapiro.