Dylan Mulvaney, a 26-year-old man who identifies as a woman and enjoys role-playing as a prepubescent girl, has become one of the most visible faces of the mind virus known as transgenderism. Mulvaney has ridden the stardom of “trans activist” all the way to the commanding heights of pop culture and politics, meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House last fall and appearing on “The Drew Barrymore Show” in March, where the star knelt before Mulvaney in a display of servility.
It should be obvious that the celebrity of Mulvaney is less than organic. As the New York Post reported, the activist comes from a privileged background and employs a team of Hollywood experts to push a carefully crafted brand: the transgender influencer. To the ire of conservatives, it’s paying off. Corporate sponsors—from fashion brands like Nike and Kate Spade to, most recently, Anheuser-Busch, the purveyor of various brands of low-quality beer—have lined up to throw their products at Mulvaney. Anheuser-Busch sent the influencer personalized cans of Bud Light with Mulvaney’s face printed on the side and a message on the top reading, “Cheers to 365 Days of Being a Woman.” Vaguely conservative celebrities like Kid Rock responded by boycotting the company—and, in his case, shooting cases of beer with a submachine gun.
Conservatives celebrated after news broke that Anheuser-Busch had seen its value plummet by billions since it announced a branding partnership with the trans activist. “Cultural Marxism” had been dealt a blow. Damage control efforts centered on the claim that top executives were left in the dark about the partnership, passing blame onto low-level staffers who supposedly acted without their knowledge. This a dubious allegation, considering the company, initially confirmed the partnership in a statement, saying it was intended to “authentically connect with audiences across various demographics and passion points.” Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth even offered an apology—though it was as flat as his beer. But the details of Mulvaney’s partnership are beside the real point: this is not Marxism—cultural or otherwise—it’s just old-fashioned capitalism, which has done more to advance the left’s agenda in this country than any socialist working group.
Certainly, there are true believers involved. But “progress,” however hideous and destructive, tends to be profitable for these people, which is something conservatives continually fail to understand. Transgenderism is only the latest example.
Recall how Nike reacted to outrage and threats after it made NFL quarterback and race hustler Colin Kaepernick one of its ambassadors. Like Anheuser-Busch, Nike lost several billion dollars in market cap after announcing that Kaepernick would become the face of its “Just Do It” ad campaign. But from Nike’s point of view, that was a small price to pay. The company did not flinch at the losses. “The alt-right calls for a Nike boycott will fail just like the boycott of Dick’s Sporting Goods failed,” market research analyst Matt Powell said. “Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike.”
A database created by the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life shows companies contributed or pledged more than $83 billion to Black Lives Matter and related causes following the death of George Floyd. Yes, many individuals and institutions associated with the movement are self-professedly Marxist. But the people funding and supporting them are corporate suits who seem to sincerely believe the progressive pieties of our time. Or, if they are not sincere, they are willing to lie about believing in them.
There is a fundamental problem with the conservative dictum of “go woke, go broke.” Corporations are wagering that “going woke” (what an odious term) will be the most profitable course of action in the long run. The fact that an increasing number of them also believe what they are peddling merely makes the decision to peddle that much easier. It is worth briefly highlighting the problem with conservative economic thinking.
The contemporary conservative mind is so polluted by the view of man as first and foremost an economic animal that it cannot fathom someone or some institution willing to incur billions in financial losses for something as immaterial as a belief. The irony is that this sterile thinking is at odds with conservative traditions that purport to be grounded in higher things than money. Today, however, the greatest number of real jihadists and true believers are on the left.
A good deal of blame for this is owed to figures like Fox News host Sean Hannity, who rails against the radical tendencies of the left while simultaneously promoting Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner as a “conservative” transgender commentator. We also cannot forget the role Donald Trump’s family has played in elevating transgenderism in general. In a recent podcast, Donald Trump, Jr., while noting that he drew the line at gender swapping in children, expressed his support for adult transgenderism:
I don’t give a shit, dude. If you’re an adult and you wanna be trans and you do it—great! If you’re happy, you’re productive. I actually don’t give a shit. I’m fairly liberal on the issue.
Hannity, the Trumps, and conservatives like them are either deeply cynical and believe in nothing, or are not intellectually consistent enough to understand the problem with declaring yesterday’s revolution against the natural order to be today’s conservatism. They console themselves and their audiences with declarations of victory, like “go woke, go broke.”
Trump Jr. went so far as to call on conservatives to drop their boycott of Anheuser-Busch, citing the company’s donations to the GOP, which, in his mind, indemnified it from backlash. It was an odd moment when the mask had inadvertently fallen from the face of the Republican Party, thanks to Trump Jr. saying the quiet part out loud: in politics, it’s money that does the talking, and the left is buying for the whole bar.
Indeed, being a true believer can pay better than conservatives—or Marxists, for that matter—want to admit, especially in the case of transgenderism. Apart from the obvious windfall the medical industry gets from transgender drugs and surgeries, people who identify as transgender are (surprise) probably more easily manipulated to purchase things than the average person, thanks to a phenomenon called “compensatory consumption.” Chinese professor Xiaoying Zheng explains the concept of compensatory consumption in general in the journal Advances in Psychological Science:
Compensatory consumption refers to the consumption behavior which aims at coping with psychological deficit or threat. A core theme of consumer behavior research is that people consume [a] product or service not only for its functionality, but also for its signaling value.
Compensatory consumption doesn’t only apply to transgender people, obviously, but they would seem to fit the profile perfectly. In their hands, purchases become rebellion, empowerment, and liberation from heterosexuality, from the binary of man and woman. It’s hard to think of a better catalyst for compensatory consumption than Mulvaney, who has become a human billboard for a growing number of brands. In 2019, YouGov published an analysis that shows the power of this phenomenon in society. Data journalist Jamie Ballard summarized:
A plurality of Americans (44%) say a company’s perceived friendliness to LGBTQ+ populations doesn’t affect their purchasingdecisions, while one in five (18%) say they’d be less likely to do business with such companies. Conservatives (40%) are particularly likely to say they’re less likely to do business with LGBTQ+-friendly companies.
So, for the general heterosexual population, a company signaling that it is pro-trans either doesn’t move the needle or, for conservatives, moves it in the wrong direction. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. “Gay/lesbian people (58%) and bisexual people (38%) are considerably more likely than the general population (13%) to consider buying a product if the ad for it features a same-sex couple,” Ballard noted. This obviously would apply to transgender people as well, and we can find plenty of recent examples.
In 2021, Insider published a report about the mainstreaming of transgenderism, which occurred with the help of corporate marketing campaigns pushed (before Anheuser-Busch) by Mattel, Levi’s, Mastercard, Citibank, BMO Harris, and others. According to Insider, campaigns directly targeting transgender people proved extremely effective and lucrative. There is your compensatory consumption at work.
Conservatives are not up against Marxists, nor are they at odds with a passing fad that will extinguish itself under the weight of its own contradictions. Their enemies are in America’s boardrooms, where executives who, because they find it profitable or believe in its message or both, form the driving force of progressive causes in the United States today and have been doing so for some time. There is indeed a specter looming over the country—and its haunt is the C-suite.