A poisonous cultural virus is infecting Texas. Its damage—and warning—is well catalogued elsewhere in America.

“Woke” was once just the past tense form of the word “wake.” In modern times, it means something completely different: being a social justice warrior. In practice, it is a political ideology that promotes hate—not love—in society, an approach that has served as the foundation for atrocities such as slavery and genocide. Now, woke is also used to advocate for the grooming of children.

In 2021 Fox News reported on the rise of the modern version of the term, which was coined in 1962. At that time, it referred to the growing popularity of jazz and black American slang. Since then, it devolved into destructive political advocacy. Starting in 2013, Black Lives Matter co-opted the term to advance their mission to line their pockets while defunding police.

But wokeness does not just target government policy; it is used to infect all aspects of life.

Tesla founder and Twitter owner Elon Musk recognized this trend and announced the stakes for Western civilization. “The woke mind virus is either defeated or nothing else matters,” he tweeted on December 12, 2022.

Culture War

Journalist Andrew Breitbart once said that “politics is downstream of culture.” It is possible this is why those pushing wokeness mutated their cultural virus so it could be transmitted to businesses.

It was in that environment where the virus adapted into two forms. The first of these is environment, social, and governance (ESG); its child is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

“The S in ESG for practical purposes refers to DEI. ESG is how the major financial institutions drive change in all other industries, Hollywood included,” explained editor-in-chief and founder of Midnight’s Edge (a YouTube channel focused on discussion and analysis of film and television entertainment) Andre Einherjar. “DEI is one of the policies they have to adopt for a favorable ESG (or corporate social credit) score. For Hollywood, this most notably means DEI in front of and behind the camera. So, corporate-driven DEI is an expression of ESG.”

Einherjar has a background in banking and finance. Midnight’s Edge has several working Hollywood professionals among its list of recurring contributors and correspondents, as well as a number of studio insiders who wish to remain anonymous in order to protect their careers.

Dr. Brent Bennett of the Texas Public Policy Foundation said that a form of ESG has existed since the beginning of investing. It used to be “people investing their money according to their values.” An example Bennett pointed to is special funds for Catholic and institutional investors who don’t want to park their money with those who kill preborn babies. But what we’re seeing today is a new twist. “The new part is this movement to basically get companies—starting with the investment firms but working its way all the way down through corporate America—to adhere to a set of political values and standards,” he told Texas Scorecard.

One way this manifests in your everyday life is with a credit card. “Visa now has a credit card where they basically can score you, and you can get points based on buying what they deem to be low emission products.”

Bennett explained how ESG spread. “When you have three investment firms that control 20 percent of the votes in the S&P 500, and you have another two proxy advisory firms, Glass Lewis and ISS, that control another 20-plus percent of any of the votes in any corporate election, then it doesn’t take much to just get a few companies on your side,” he said.

The three largest investment firms he referred to are Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street. He noted “the ESG commitments vary widely,” that Vanguard leans less heavily into ESG than the others, and that nearly all asset managers have ESG commitments. There’s a reason why that should be so scary. “You can vote board members off companies, you can get companies to adopt certain policies, simply by influencing less than 10 companies.”

Blackock, the manager of $10 trillion of assets, announced in January they were shedding “up to” 500 of their more than 18,000 workforce.

When put into practice, results show ESG’s child, DEI, more accurately stands for Divide, Excommunicate, and Indoctrinate. “At best, diversity has come to mean an identity-based approach to society and racial quotas. At worst, it is a rigid enforcement of leftist orthodoxy,” wrote Mike Gonzalez of The Heritage Foundation.

One apt example of this occurred in 2022.

That was the year the Florida Legislature passed the Parental Rights in Education Act, in response to the deviant sexual indoctrination taking place in public schools. This set off a firestorm of rage from the political left, as well as Hollywood. Both labeled the pro-parent law as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

That was when calls rang out for one of the largest empires in Hollywood to step into the conflict against families: the formerly family-friendly Walt Disney Company.

Bob Chapek, the Disney CEO at the time, initially refused to directly combat the Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Disney did not even publicly comment on the matter until anti-parent forces in Hollywood started calling out the company for its silence.

Following the uproar, Chapek faced an internal rebellion. Employees at Pixar, the once revolutionary animation studio now residing within Disney, complained about Chapek’s inaction. They also claimed the Chapek administration had blocked Pixar from inserting homosexual propaganda in its upcoming animated film “Lightyear,” a movie about Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear’s origins. The film clearly targeted children in its marketing.

Actor and writer Benjamin Siemon, who was a writer on Disney’s recent remake of its classic show “DuckTales,” had also criticized Chapek’s refusal to oppose the proposed parental rights law. Siemon admitted that when he was in middle school, a teacher encouraged him into homosexuality.

Later, Chapek gave the anti-family forces what they demanded and contacted DeSantis, telling him the company disapproved of the proposed law.

The Florida Legislature still passed the pro-parent legislation, and DeSantis signed it into law. In response to woke Disney’s attack, the Legislature stripped Walt Disney World—the company’s Florida-based crown jewel—of its coveted self-governing status. Founder Walt Disney himself had negotiated and arranged this status with Florida’s public servants many decades ago. None of the company’s theme park competitors in the state enjoyed the many benefits Disney held.

DeSantis was re-elected later that year with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

The Walt Disney Company, on the other hand, sustained damage.

The Wrap recently published the results of an internal Disney poll that showed the company had lost ground with “families with young kids (due to the parks’ exorbitant pricing) and those over 50 (over perceptions of the company’s political stances).” The Wrap reported these are two key demographics. The company then determined it wasn’t worth fighting with DeSantis for the next two to four years to win back its self-governance status for Disney World.

This red-hot cultural battle can be traced right back to the implementation of the DEI program within Disney.

DEI in The Dream Factory

In the midst of the chaotic civil war within Disney against Chapek, pressuring him to fight Florida’s pro-parent law, recordings of an internal company meeting were leaked. This meeting was about the proposed law and what the company’s response should be.

These videos, published to Twitter last year by investigative reporter Christopher Rufo, included a recording of what appeared to be a hostage video of Chapek bending the knee to Disney’s woke employees.

Included in these leaked company videos was one with Disney’s General Entertainment Content President Karey Burke. In this video, she advocates for the company to indoctrinate minors with homosexuality and gender dysphoria.

 

The background banner throughout these records was the phrase “Reimagine Tomorrow.”

Launched in October 2021, this phrase stands for “​​an effort that embodies Disney’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and shines a light on the scope of our aspirations,” said LaTondra Newton, Disney’s chief diversity officer. She stated this in the company’s announcement of their launch of the “Reimagine Tomorrow” online portal. Newton was hired in 2017, when Bob Iger, Chapek’s predecessor, was CEO. Iger has since returned to the top job.

Right here is an undeniable connection between Disney’s Divide, Excommunicate, and Indoctrinate program and their subsequent culture war against parents in 2022.

The DEI weapon was also used against talent. It was widely reported that Disney-owned Lucasfilm tried to force fan favorite Gina Carano, former star of the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian,” to participate in a struggle session after she refused to put pronouns in her Twitter bio. Later, she added “Beep/Bop/Boop” to her profile to illustrate the absurdity of the pronoun push. She also said that before exterminating human beings, the Nazis encouraged Germans to hate their neighbors. Carano was later publicly kicked off the Disney+ series.

But DEI-driven divisiveness in Hollywood companies is not a blip. According to Midnight’s Edge’s Einherjar, this has been a pattern ever since Hollywood companies welcomed the cultural virus into their bodies.

“When we first started out [in 2015], DEI and ESG were unknown to the public at large, and their influence over Hollywood and dominance over the entertainment landscape had yet to manifest itself,” Einherjar told Texas Scorecard. He pointed to the 2016 remake of “Ghostbusters,” directed by Paul Feig, as an example of the promotion of division and hate. “[It] disrespected the earlier ‘Ghostbusters’ movies, disparaged every male character on screen, and … went out of its way to antagonize and gaslight its own built-in audience and fanbase by accusing them of misogyny and racism.”

Einherjar noted that even though “legacy media film critics” gave the movie support, customers “soundly rejected” it and Sony Pictures lost an estimated $70 million. “Traditionally, a failure of that magnitude would not only cancel the studio’s own plans for any direct sequels; the other Hollywood studios would also take note, and cancel any similar movies they might have had in the works,” he said. “Instead, driven by DEI and ESG—and the earmarked funding from key financial players that comes with it—the ‘Ghostbusters’ remake functionally became the template for most branded high-profile blockbusters to come out since.”

These are not isolated incidents. Einherjar continued:

Over the next few years, franchises with worldwide followings like Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and more, all moved in the same direction. Male characters were replaced with female counterparts (who without exception were treated as superior in every way), traditionally white characters were awkwardly made diverse, and the story was relegated to the backseat; the social and ideopolitical messaging was behind the wheel. Also, a new villain appeared on the scene: the audience.

Einherjar noted how audiences, upset with and rejecting this indoctrination, were themselves input into more woke products. They were framed as “toxic” villains in Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” and Marvel’s Disney+ series “She Hulk: Attorney at Law.” But Einherjar points out Hollywood, not the customers, were the problem.

“I maintain that the fans were never toxic, they were passionate, and they never changed. It is the creatives who are toxic. Their output, which they proclaim to be inclusive, is in reality divisive and exclusionary,” he told Texas Scorecard. “The proof of this is in the pudding. For movies based around DEI, the story is a distant second priority, and the end result is audience rejection. Over the last few years, every single ‘woke’ production has either bombed, or if it is associated with a major brand, underperformed.”

Einherjar said there are financial consequences for DEI as well for a company that injects, rather than rejects, the cultural virus. He points to Star Wars, a once powerful story brand that has fallen ever since the DEI-driven “The Last Jedi.” That movie subverted audience expectations and destroyed the heroic character the original trilogy of films revolved around: Luke Skywalker. “Star Wars is no longer a theatrical brand; the series is attracting smaller and smaller audiences on Disney+, and the merchandise is collecting dust on shelves.”

The woke virus, and its damage, is contaminating other Disney brands too. “Though a few years behind, this is the same direction Marvel is headed too. More and more fans are leaving these brands behind, as they no longer fulfill the needs they once did,” Einherjar said. “It also spills over into the parent companies too, with there being indications that Disney in particular have lost the faith and goodwill of parents.”

Dr. Bennett of the Texas Public Policy Foundation said that it’s hard yet to weigh the financial effects of ESG, DEI’s parent. “Where you kind of get into a rabbit hole, because ESG, particularly in the investment sphere, is so ill defined,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been around long enough, and a lot of them aren’t consistent enough in how they apply ESG criteria to really say that like, ‘Oh, they’re underperforming.’ In theory they should, right? You do things that go against market principles, you make companies waste money on all this stuff.”

One thing that distorts the marketplace and can shield companies from accountability are the actions of public servants in government. “Part of the problem also, in some ways, is when ESG is working in concert with federal policy, then ESG is actually the better thing for the company’s balance sheet, even when it’s bad for society.”

Einherjar cautions that, as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, serving customers, not wokeness, is the way.

ESG and the funding that comes with it will only compensate so much. When the audience leaves—[and] they are—these companies are in trouble.

DEI’s Destructive Cultural Wake

Seeing the cultural and financial damage the woke cultural virus has wrought should trigger reconsideration of any proposals to spread it further.

Even segments of the political left have felt the need to sound alarms. A guest essay from Jesse Singal, a man of the left, published by the statist New York Times, questioned if diversity trainings did more harm than good. “The specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue—mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems—may have a net negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about.”

Alarms in the world of corporate America about DEI’s destructiveness have been sounding off for some time. Consultants at McKinsey & Co raised concerns last year with their article “Don’t Train Your Employees on DE&I. Build Their Capabilities.”

But what about the problem Divide, Excommunicate, and Indoctrinate advertises itself as trying to solve?

In McKinsey & Co’s 2017 piece, Harvard professor Iris Bohnet shared what the data was already showing back then. “About $8 billion a year is spent on diversity trainings in the United States alone. Now, I tried very hard to find any evidence I could. I looked not just in the United States but also in Rwanda and other post-conflict countries, where reconciliation is often built on the kind of diversity trainings that we do in our companies, to see how this is working,” she said. “Sadly enough, I did not find a single study that found that diversity training in fact leads to more diversity.”

The historical world record confirms this reality. Countries that are highly diverse—by religion, color, ethnicity, and other characteristics—and emphasize these differences, rather than unite around shared values, rapidly devolve into chaos and bloodshed. Conservative economist Thomas Sowell notes the examples of India, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and the Balkans in his book “Ever Wonder Why?”

Each of these countries is a case study on the rampant violence and bloodshed that arose once people began defining each other based on their color or ethnic background rather than their character and actions.

The Alternative

America stands as the exception to the rule. Renowned radio host and political commentator Dennis Prager highlights the unique aspects of American culture compared to other countries in his book “Still the Best Hope”:

If you are Japanese, you are Japanese because you were born to Japanese parents. There is no other way to be considered Japanese (even if a non-Japanese could in some rare instance become a citizen of Japan). The same has held true for virtually all other groups, from tribes to countries, throughout history. America went against the human norm in adopting E Pluribus Unum. This motto ended any significance people attached to race, ethnicity, or blood, each of which has been among the most important values in all societies.

America’s defining values are not diversity, equity, and inclusion—and for good reason. While every other country is defined by a racial or ethnic identity, America alone is built on the values of liberty, in God we trust, and “e pluribus unum.” The latter phrase, inscribed on all American currency, means “out of many, one.”

In “Still the Best Hope,” Prager writes:

Anyone from anywhere and of any race or ethnicity can become an American in every sense of the word. This is one reason many of America’s Founders asserted that a new type of person was being made in America. No longer would a man or woman be identified primarily by their ethnic, national, religious, or racial origins, but by their individual achievements and their willingness to identify as Americans.

DEI was not hailed as a priority by self-proclaimed anti-racists until recently. What many civil rights leaders recognized, yet few political theorists today say, is that emphasizing color and ethnic differences only increases color and ethnic division. A mindset focused wholly on what drives people apart has slim chances of bringing society together.

In an age most conducive to unity, the woke DEI ideology actually resurrects historic animosities between people of different colors. This destructive mindset imprints on an innocent generation of Americans with lies of victimhood and subservience for some, and oppressorship for others.

Americans of every ethnicity and cultural background have one thing in common: We are all Americans. If America ever achieves national unity, it will not be caused by a philosophy that seeks to divide, excommunicate, and indoctrinate. Rather, it will be achieved by Americans who recommit to standing by the unifying values—like “e pluribus unum”—that established America. It will be achieved by Americans who look beyond skin color, ethnicity, and nationality, and choose to value character, virtue, and individual accomplishments instead.

Subsidizing DEI

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Those were the words of former President Ronald Reagan. And as concerns with DEI rise, the pressure is on to keep it alive through taxpayer funding.

In fact, this cultural virus that has caused chaos in executive suites and board rooms now seems to have an allure for those in the ivory towers of politics. “We know we’ve been doing ESG since before ESG was the latest fashionable thing on Wall Street or in Washington,” Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) tweeted on January 23, 2023. He was commenting on his proposed “North to Opportunity” budget and Alaska’s natural resource development. Dunleavy was criticized for his statement. He later clarified that he was “pointing out that for decades Alaska has practiced responsible stewardship & development of our natural resources while producing billions of barrels of oil, countless tons of coal, & large amounts of natural gas.”

But this cultural virus has clearly mutated into a government form as well. Jonathan Butcher of The Heritage Foundation wrote about this in his January white paper. He cited research from the Goldwater Institute this year that found 80 percent of postings for faculty jobs at government-run universities in Arizona mandated applicants include in their applications a DEI statement. This statement was to explain how their job would help advance woke-ism at the university.

Butcher wrote:

Public money should not be used for DEI offices in public-school districts or on college campuses. For K–12 public schools, where DEI offices are becoming as common as they are in higher education, state lawmakers should ensure that no teacher or student is compelled to profess or believe any idea (especially ideas that violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964). … Such ideas would include the notion that individuals today are automatically guilty of racial crimes committed by others decades ago who happen to share the color of their skin. In public colleges and universities, lawmakers should prohibit school officials from using DEI statements to screen job applicants. Similar prohibitions on compelled speech should also apply.

And yet the pandemic is spreading. Recently, President Biden signed an executive order that all federal government agencies are to “advance equity.” The U.S. Department of Defense announced that “diversity is a strategic imperative critical to mission readiness and accomplishment.”

“Your strategic imperative is defending the United States,” replied Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

Regardless, this cultural virus is spreading rapidly. The Heritage Foundation’s Gonzalez wrote about how DEI is a top agenda for every subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House. “Yes, that is ‘House,’ as in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the GOP has a majority and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) rules,” Gonzalez wrote. “These priorities are not just wasteful and unnecessary. They are disgraceful, too.”

This isn’t happening just at the federal level, though. During our five-article investigation, Texas Scorecard revealed how woke companies benefited from a corrupt system set up by state lawmakers. This is a system certain state lawmakers are determined to revive and rebrand.

The viral spread has apparently alerted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. On February 8, his chief of staff, Gardner Pate, issued a threat to state universities and state agencies with DEI employment policies. Pate said such policies were in violation of state law protecting against discrimination. “Indeed, rather than increasing diversity in the workplace, these DEI initiatives are having the opposite effect,” he wrote. “When a state agency adjusts its employment practices based on factors other than merit, it is not following the law.”

But there are more interactions of the twin cultural viruses of ESG and DEI in Texas. In this investigative series, Texas Scorecard will expose how it has invaded state and local governing bodies in the Lone Star State.

In Part 2, Texas Scorecard will begin exposing DEI programs in Texas state and local government.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.

Kristen Stanciu

Kristen is passionate about preserving American founding principles and educating the next generation. When she's not researching, she loves reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

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