January 23, 2018
As wealth separated these performers from society, they sought new and more remote means of moral connectivity. The celebrity “cause” was born (and has now matured such that a celebrity without one has become an object of suspicion—just ask Taylor Swift). To celebrity causes were soon added celebrity endorsements. These allowed already-rich individuals to rent out their burnished moral credentials to corporates in return for resources to reinvest in their personal brands. The central pivot of this revolving door became entirely fictional sets of “values.” Yet it is a revolving door that turns both ways. Perceived moral transgressions now hit celebrities in the pocket—perish the thought that they take drugs—while corporates worry about where their bets are placed on the moral roulette table. And so L’Oréal is applauded for hiring a transgender model until—oh no!—she exhibits racism and has to be fired. Unable to restrain itself, the company just reentered the fray with a model in a hijab—only for the same ridiculous cycle to repeat itself as she frantically deletes anti-Semitic tweets.
Corporates have discovered that they cannot raid the culture wars for dividends without taking fire on their way out. This happened to British fashion brand H&M recently. Its outlet in Johannesburg was wrecked because they had used a black kid to model a hoodie deemed to have inappropriate wording (the alternative would have left them open to accusations of being “too white,” of course). Since its early experiments with AIDS awareness, Benetton has become a past master at such failed cultural fumblings—recently bringing down the ire of SJWs when a selective edit from one of its social campaigns went viral. All in the service of the lie that corporates care about social engineering for its own sake. Meanwhile, consumers yearn for the simple, unspoken truth that train companies run trains, outfitters sell clothes, and cosmetics companies make you more attractive. And not only consumers. I bet harassed corporates are starting to feel just the same way. Well, good luck finding the exit sign. Like Theseus, they’ve blundered right up to the Minotaur. Unlike Theseus, they forgot to bring a thread.
*Update: L’Oreal’s second vitue-signalling model hire has now also resigned for unvirtuous behaviour.