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“Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed. They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers. To Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twenty-four hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of allegiance, and after that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new stratagem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.” – From Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, thought by many to be an anti-war novel when it was actually an anti-bureaucratic stupidity novel.

The Red Scare

The Red Scare was a period of heightened fear of communists, socialists, and anarchists in the United States after World War I. The second Red Scare came immediately after World War II when the United States and the Soviet Union became engaged in a series of political and economic clashes known as the Cold War. At the top of the list of fears was nuclear war and so a desperate arms race got underway. At one point, the USA and the Soviet Union had a combined 70,000 nuclear bombs in their stockpiles. 

The other big fear was that every known or suspected communist was a spy that posed a grave threat to U.S. security. Eager for the spotlight, one of the slimiest figures in American political history took center stage. Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy went on a personal witch hunt, claiming he had a list of State Department employees whose true loyalty was only to the Soviet Union. Although he never revealed those names, his dramatic performances dominated televised U.S. Senate hearings in 1954.

Blacklisting refers to lists of persons who are to be banned, boycotted, and punished

During the furor of the early years of the Cold War, anti-communism came to Hollywood. Union-haters Walt Disney and actor Ronald Reagan led the charge, attaching the label of communist to anyone in the industry who supported worker unions. Thousands of actors, directors, writers and others in the film industry were barred from working at the studios. Hollywood notables Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland and others protested against the blacklisting until enough others joined them and the practice was finally brought an end.

Loyalty oaths

These are pledges of allegiance to one organization while forsaking all others. The United States Constitution requires the president and all officers of the United States take an oath. I took one at Fort Hamilton when I joined the Air Force.

During the Cold War frenzy, one excitable California State Senator introduced thirteen bills aimed at ferreting out suspected communists in government. One method that gained popularity was the loyalty oaths that people were forced to sign as “proof” of their loyalty (Never mind that real communists would be among the first to sign these oaths so they wouldn’t be suspected). Some of those who were offended by this hysterical nonsense refused to sign and many who did so were dismissed without the due process of law as outlined in the United States Constitution. One count holds that 12,000 people were forced from their jobs.

I’ll bet you didn’t know America’s best-known loyalty oath originally included a salute

The Pledge of Allegiance has been recited in U.S. public schools since Francis Bellamy wrote it in 1892. For 50 years it was followed by the salute shown in the photo above. When WW II came along, people worried it looked too much like the Nazi salute and so it was replaced by the familiar hand over the heart in 1942.

Boycotts

Boycotts are organized protests, ways of expressing strong disapproval by punishing organizations for behaving badly. The East India Company signed a deal with the British government that gave them exclusive distribution rights for the New World. Tea drinkers got angry and organized 1773’s Boston Tea Party, the most famous example of boycotting in the United States. 

Another famous historical boycott came during the Civil Rights Era when activists organized a Montgomery, Alabama city bus boycott. Organized and supported by Martin Luther King, the boycott lasted for a year. In spite of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s attempts to smear King as a communist, segregated buses were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1957. In modern times, Chick-fil-A, Toyota, Pokemon, Uber, Amazon, Fitbit, UCLA, Wayfair and many more have been boycotted, most ineffectively, on a small scale, and not for long. 

The USA boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in protest of Soviet military activity in Afghanistan. The USSR returned the snub by boycotting the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Corporate social responsibility

The first big demonstration of corporate social responsibility I can recall is from 1982, when seven people were fatally poisoned by drug tampering in a case that was never solved. Johnson & Johnson executives immediately ordered the removal and recall of all Tylenol products from store shelves. This recall cost them $100 million and their market share instantly went from 37% to 7% Their act of putting customers’ safety above corporate profits remains a model for outstanding corporate crisis management.

Marketers saw how consumers responded positively to Johnson & Johnson’s actions

Always on the lookout for selling opportunities, they landed on the idea that by publicly proclaiming their commitment to practicing corporate social responsibility, companies could convince consumers that they weren’t only soulless greedy bastards, but people who care more about you than they do about their profits.

What could be a more ridiculous claim for corporations whose primary goal is to maximize shareholder value?

Naturally Waste Management wants to be seen as a responsible steward of the environment. Anyone can tell you that claiming to be environmentalists who practice sustainability sounds better than being a garbage company. Anyone can tell you that a “renewable energy park” named after a butterfly sounds far more socially responsible than the Deerfield Beach dump.

We have a corporate social responsibility arms race on our hands

The hot button for many consumers today is choosing brands for their social values more than for the products they make. Scores of surveys have showed the vast majority of consumers want to do business with companies that practice the right kinds of social responsibility. Once this was discovered, the stampede began and now most companies have jumped on the bandwagon with advertisements that emphasize their values and how responsible they are. Pay close attention to how it is now standard practice for advertisers to spend little or no time telling us about the quality and value of their products. Instead, they are spending their marketing dollars on efforts to make us feel that buying from them is somehow affirmation that we are doing the right thing.

Companies upped the arms race ante by adding community involvement (whatever that is), racial justice, and openness to all types of human-to-human sexual orientation to their attempts to lure customers. 

I am not the only who finds this fashionable posturing as off-putting and absurd as the loyalty oaths in Catch-22

In the New York Times, Ross Douthat said the corporate social responsibility movement is rife with hypocrisy. He cites Apple, one of the world’s most valuable companies, as a prime example: “It’s worth noting how Tim Cook’s willingness to play the social justice warrior when the target is a few random Indiana restaurants that might not want to host hypothetical same-sex weddings does not extend to reconsidering Apple’s relationship with the many countries around the world where human rights are more in jeopardy than they are in the American Midwest.”

Fairness And Accuracy in Reporting says “many corporate overtures to diversity, racial justice, and progress are marketing gimmicks that don’t actually address structural economic inequality and at worst are meant to distract from any kind of class reckoning.”

In his article published by The Foundation of Economic Education, Richard Morrison says “We now have a routine spectacle of corporate social responsibility seminars where widget makers of all kinds commit to promoting climate activism, identity politics, union labor and sundry other causes.” Morrison asks how as a society we arrived at a place where “selling an honest product at a fair price seems like a secondary concern in a corporate America increasingly focused on an array of stakeholders with such (deliberately) diffuse boundaries as “the local community,” “the global environment,” and “society at large.”

Real corporate social responsibility, not image-building

Woke is a fashionable term used to describe people and companies who are attentive to the world’s injustices. It is easier to say than corporate social responsibility, but loses some of the meaning contained inside those ten extra syllables. Thinking people pay less attention to the woke commercials and claims we see today. Instead, they keep a sharp eye out for the undeniably genuine philanthropic acts that stand out as entirely authentic ways of showing your corporation’s social responsibility. 

Chocolate King Milton Hershey built schools, parks, churches, recreational facilities, housing, and a trolley system for employees of the Hershey company.

Industrial Age giant Andrew Carnegie gave away 90% of the vast fortune he made in steel to universities, foundations, and charities. Oh yeah – he built more than 2,500 libraries, too.

What other companies can you think of that have demonstrated responsibility on such a large scale that benefits so many people?

Me, either.

Young moderns say they support brands whose values align with their own.

What is more likely is that they support brands that are skilled at giving the appearance of having socially responsible values.

The We Five was the first woke band I knew. Watch Fred Astaire introduce them on Hollywood Palace here.

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