Woke corporations are increasingly embracing the left’s political agenda and taking aim at the values we as conservatives cherish.
So what can we do about it?
Matt Peterson is cofounder of New Founding, president of New Founding Media, and host of “The Matthew Peterson Show.” He’s fighting back against woke corporations and joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to tell us about New Founding.
Rob Bluey: You and I had the opportunity to be part of a panel at The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank earlier this year. Thank you for your remarks at that event and the work you’re doing today.
For our listeners who aren’t familiar, you founded The American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute, and you have years of experience working in digital media communications and political consulting. So what inspired Nate Fischer and you to start New Founding?
Matt Peterson: I think it was in 2020 after the election for me when I just thought, “We need to take this battle.” And in some ways, the real battle is being fought in the economic space and the cultural space. You can’t really separate the commercial and the cultural in America, we’re a commercial republic after all. And so much of the problem is that we have woke capital being used against the people who give it money.
We’re all giving money to corporations, we’re all investing money in large structures that are acting against us and, in my opinion, are really harming America, destroying it.
After the result of that election, I knew that, although I’m very proud of the work I do with Claremont and I still work with them, that we needed to move forward into this commercial-cultural space.
And Nate was thinking similarly. We had been talking for the last year and a half before that and it was just sort of go time, I think it was a release of energy, of people just to go out and start doing what needs to be done.
Bluey: Reading your mission, it’s to build networks, businesses, and organizations that are free to flourish and protected from this woke ideology that seems to invest so much of our culture today. How do we get to this point where those institutions have turned so dramatically in this direction?
Peterson: Look, there’s a lot of different causes, but I think what you have is a kind of civic religion that is protecting very powerful interests who’ve adopted it. Some because they really believe in wokeness, others perhaps more cynically. And I think there was a vacuum. There was a vacuum of a compelling and comprehensive moral vision of what society is and should be.
And in the past we used to say business was neutral. It was never neutral. But we could regard this neutral because we just all agreed on the basic principles and purposes of government and we were arguing about other things.
And so now when there’s a divide over what men and women are, what the family is, what citizenship is, what the nation state is, all of a sudden it’s apparent that business itself wants to, for good reason, be doing something for the common good of society even though it’s motivated by profit.
Everyone wants meaningful work. And so I think what the wokeness did is come in and give meaning to work, but it poisoned everything.
So right now you have a situation in which you know can say go woke and go broke. We can say that until we’re blue in the face. But the fact is these are large organizations that aren’t going broke. They might take a hit here and there, but they’re very committed to this cause, both for personal interest and for principle for many of the people who are more radical. So I mean, in a sense, though, however we got here, we are here. And the question is, what do we do about it?
Bluey: So should we, as conservatives, be content with neutrality or do you believe that we need to push these corporations and other institutions toward our values?
Peterson: I am one of those who firmly reject the idea that we’re just trying to go back to neutrality because I don’t think there ever was neutrality. You cannot have a nation and a healthy flourishing system. Ultimately, you’ll destroy the free market itself.
If you say that sort of all things are lawful for corporations and business can put its own interest above that of the nation, at a certain point it can’t. And you see that with a globalization problem, at a certain point, you’re either on America’s side or you’re on China’s side. And so, while I’m not against trade, I don’t think you can have neutrality.
And I think this is what’s got us in trouble because we’re trying to replace a positive with a negative when you argue for neutrality.
They have a comprehensive moral vision of how work can be meaningful. They have an ethical system. They have all of that in a neat package. You know what social justice is when you see it, you know what ESG [environmental, social, and governance] is, and it all kind of hangs together. And you can’t replace that positive with a negative, just saying, “Well, I’m anti-woke, I’m for neutrality.”
And that’s also not how you sell products and services. You sell products and services based on a compelling vision of a way of life that’s attractive. And this is not a top-down solution either. And that really is the true mission, I think, of New Founding, is providing that vision and getting people excited to see what we could be fighting for rather than just fighting against.
Bluey: What kind of reception have you received to what you’re trying to do? Specifically, one of the ways that you’re attempting to take on some of these challenges is to bring people together so that we can, as you say, build and defend a better way of life. So how are you bringing people together?
Peterson: Many ways. I mean, look, in the beginning, this started with people over the last few years, last four or five years or so, contacting me privately and I just noticed how many talented professionals in sectors like media, tech, and finance were, or law were knocking on my door, saying, “Hey, buddy, can you get me out? I don’t want to work for this big will corporation anymore. Can I get with like-minded people?”
So in the beginning it’s really grassroots and to some extent it still is. I still get direct messages. People who want to contribute in some way, want to be connected in some way.
And so the question is, how do you scale that? First, you need to put out this positive vision and I think that’s ultimately the most important thing we’re doing. But as you do that, people start coming together in different ways.
So one way is Return.Life, which is a community that has a publication and the publication is Return. And it’s a guide to living well in the digital age. We have some exciting plans for expansion in the near future for Return.
And to join Return is to join a community of people that ultimately is going to be getting all kinds of content and all kinds of ways to interact behind the scenes with each other. That has a digital tech focus, but it’s not exclusive to tech.
And then Align is for businesses that are not woke and connecting them with consumers who want to find products and services from people who don’t hate them.
Right now that’s as simple as a widely read newsletter every week, a directory that’s growing online, and a beta version of a platform that’ll allow people to curate these businesses. And as we grow, there’s a number of other ways in which we’ll connect people.
And ultimately, though, what people are rallying around, there’s always ways to connect them, but what they’re rallying around, especially in response, is this positive vision of a pro-American, pro-family, pro-self-sufficiency sort of way of life. We all know we want that and that’s how people band together.
And I would say, given that fact that people want this, demand is there, the real problem is organizational. I mean, every day we’re thinking about new ways to connect people.
Bluey: It’s so important for individual Americans, including listeners of this show, to fight back and get involved. We’ll provide links in the show notes in the transcript, but for our listeners, tell us what steps they can take right now to learn more about New Founding and perhaps sign up and support the work you’re doing.
Peterson: Absolutely. The easiest way is to go to newfounding.com, you can join us there. That membership, those memberships are going to include really everything we do. Return.Life also has a membership. And those are going to be the same thing. You’ll get access to everything as we build it.
So if you go to newfounding.com, you can see all the different things we’re doing and click out on there and you can just join us there with one simple membership.
And that membership is important because we’re going to a lot of investors now and when they see that people are signing up based on what we’re doing now and that are growing with us, that excites them and that helps us to hire more engineers and help build this movement. So I appreciate anyone going there. You can become a member today.
Bluey: That’s fantastic. As you build these alternatives, how is that competition going to force the entrenched interest or the existing institutions to perhaps change?
Peterson: That’s where things get fun. What excites me the most is the idea of taking small, medium-sized companies and building them into larger and larger entities that really start to draw blood from the big dogs. When you start to think about the investment side of this, Principal Investments is one of our adjacent entities that’s working on this.
What’s really going to change the dial is when you take a $10, $15 million company and turn it into a $50, $60 million company and all of a sudden the regional distributor of the large soft drink company is looking at this up-and-coming soft drink company that’s really trading on their wokeness and what will change the dial. That is what, ultimately, I think it takes to win.
A boycott is not sufficient. It’s very difficult to do, especially when these companies are so big. That’s why they’re able to get away with it. So the more we create alternatives and we have some real winners that emerge from this movement, the better.
But as it becomes easier and easier to buy all kinds of products from even smaller businesses that maybe don’t grow exponentially, you’re still taking billions of dollars that’s being used against you to support all this garbage that’s destroying America and bringing it out into a new ecosystem where it’s going to help consolidate power and bring people together in a way that can then retake the country.
And that’s what I would say to people who say, “Well, this is divisive and this will further divide us.” I say, “No, this is what people want. We don’t want to be hijacked by, well, corporate. We want to create a whole new media, tech, and financial ecosystem that ultimately retakes and saves America.”
Bluey: I’m glad you mentioned tech because digital platforms have provided conservatives with, certainly, unprecedented opportunities to reach the American people directly, bypassing the traditional corporate media filters.
And frankly, outlets like The Daily Signal and The American Mind might not be as successful as they are if they weren’t able to distribute that content across some of those platforms. And yet it seems that today it’s increasingly challenging because Big Tech has turned against conservatives, even some of the listeners of this show who occasionally write and tell us about their own experiences with censorship.
What changed in that Big Tech community to make them turn so hostile to conservatives?
Peterson: That’s quite a story. I mean, someone looking back, hopefully after we win, is going to have a tale to write. But what you can see is really the political moment, it changed very quickly.
And so the internet was good for many years and [Barack] Obama was the first Twitter president, remember? And that’s when he was getting all the information from Facebook and Google and those execs at Google were working on his campaign and digital technology was great, it was free and everything was hunky dory. It was when [Donald] Trump won that all of a sudden, actually, this digital media is really dangerous and we have to do something about this.
And that moment really profoundly changed everything. And even the last election, they changed their rules again so that it’s very hard to advertise for many conservatives. They got very nervous about politics.
So, I mean, I would say that it certainly, there’s a lot of woke people in tech, but it’s especially that the most powerful forces in the country and the most powerful institutions in the country, which are not really conservatives, all said, “What the heck is going on? We have to put an end to this. We can’t have this happen again.” And that’s when you saw the censorship really begin.
I would also say that we shouldn’t neglect the fact that China has a far greater influence than Russia on this sort of thing. You could see that when Twitter yanked zero hedge for saying true things about the virus very early on.
And so if you’re in tech, I mean, I would say, yeah, they’re woke and you should be angry at them. They shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. But I think the real impetus for this came from very powerful forces, both foreign and domestic, that did not want Trump to happen again, and that saw an opportunity to really clamp down and force the kind of speech they wanted. And it’s shameful.
It’s shameful to see what has happened in America. And it’s a kind of collusion between large corporate structures and governmental entities and the foundations on the left and everyone else just pushing, pushing.
So I do have some hope there. I mean, I think that we all know what needs to be done and there’s a certain element of we have to race to be there when the new internet is born. We have to be the users of the most cutting-edge tech to make us more self-sufficient. And that’s why we’re interested in Return.Life and creating that because we have to get ahead of the game.
It’s going to be very difficult to stop Google and Facebook, but the next round of technology is something that we really need to be part of and it needs to make us more self-sufficient. … Technology should make us more free. It should make us more human, not less. It should not enslave us.
And we know this now, so there’s no excuse. We need investors and founders to work together, to come together to really foster a new movement in technology.
And let me tell you, it’s latent, it exists. I mean, I see both sides of it. I mean, there’s investors who really want to find the best young talent who are going to build in this way. And there’s lots of young people in their 20s who are part of the blockchain, crypto communities who want to move in this direction. So we can do this, we can beat them, but it’s going to take a sustained effort and we have to foster this as a movement.
Bluey: Do you see any opportunities for there to be policy changes, whether it be in Washington, D.C., or increasingly, what it seems, state capitals to address some of these issues? Or are you more bullish on the private sector, as you are doing yourself, being the ones that are going to stimulate the change?
Peterson: It’s always a combination. I think both things influence each other. And one side of it is that politicians will do what you tell them if you’re part of a popular movement that has money. Just seems to work that way.
So that’s what we need to create, a commercial-cultural movement that really is demanding this way of life. And then let the policymakers figure out how to get us there. And I think, overall, that means encouraging people in policy in the state capitals or D.C. to just think more boldly about when and get more inventive, be more innovative about what might be done.
If you don’t have that kind of push to innovate in policy, just like in any other realm, things stale, get stale and stagnate. And we’re in a very exciting time here because people are starting to wake up, especially in red states, to the fact that, “Wait a minute, we are in charge. We can pass laws. What laws should we be passing that actually address the problems of reality that we see around us?”
And I think there’s a wide variety of things that we could be doing. Obviously, you see some great things in Florida with [Gov.] Ron DeSantis and all over. I think you see more experimentation. So I do think that there’s a lot that could be done in that area. There’s a lot that will be done in the area and both sides will nourish each other.
Now, one really important thing with the policy right now when it comes to tech is to protect, I think, a lot of the newer technology, and that includes bitcoin, crypto. There’s a real desire in the part of governments to take that over and use it in electronic currency to sort of tyrannize populations. And that’s one area in which policymakers can get inventive and that’s a traditional conservative stance to kind of keep things free.
But I have some hope here because I know that demand is there. I know the Republican base is increasingly demanding action, and I hope that we will see that and help foster it in the next five years.
Bluey: It’s critical that we do. … You’ve talked about some of the initiatives that you’re doing at New Founding. I also want to give you an opportunity to talk about the partners, particularly those who may be interested more in investing. You have Principal Investments, you have Firebrand, American Reformer. Anything you want to say about some of the other ventures that you’re doing?
Peterson: Some of the other things we’ve started along the way, I mean, they’re each wonderful. I’ll take two. Principal Investments existed before New Founding. My co-founder, Nate Fischer, started that at first to invest himself and now it’s become a much larger thing.
My colleague Bart Lomont does an incredible job as president of Principal, and the goal at Principal now is to create a growth equity fund that will do exactly what I was talking about earlier, right? We’ll start to invest in America, in the companies that are going to provide an alternative path rather than woke capital. So that’s very important stuff.
The other thing is we do have a super PAC, American Firebrand, which is making hot fire when it comes to content. And the goal there is to really curate and credential the messages that reward and punish, whether they’re on the right or left, the right messages.
So we don’t have a problem criticizing Republicans through American Firebrand where we feel like they should be criticized. We want to push an “America first” agenda. And I think a lot of your listeners would really like American Firebrand. And it’s one of those things where we get funding to make stuff. We can make all kinds of creative content that will really turn the dial up.
Bluey: And you have your own show, “The Matthew Peterson Podcast,” which we, of course, encourage our listeners to check out and subscribe to, where you can obviously follow a lot of the work that you’re doing at American Firebrand and New Founding. So thank you for being on the front lines and pushing those messages and making sure that more and more Americans, I think, are waking up and seeing the reality of what the left is trying to do.
Peterson: Thank you, Rob, and I thank Heritage for having me. I mean, I think it’s really exciting things are happening all around for all our organizations and more. We continue to work together on this, we can indeed fight to win, and I have a lot of hope for the future based on the response to what we’ve been doing. America’s not over, this isn’t done, we haven’t even begun to fight.
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