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?
Matt Peterson is cofounder 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 MindYou have many years of experience in political consulting and digital media communications. So what was it that inspired Nate Fischer, you and New Founding to be started?
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. The problem is that we have woken capital being used against those who give it.
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.
Nate was thinking the same. We had been talking for the past year and a bit and it was just kinda go time. I think it released energy and people just wanted to go out and do what was needed.
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 can we get to the point where these institutions have moved 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 people believe in wakingness while others are more cynical. I believe there was a vacuum. There was no compelling, comprehensive moral vision for what society should be or should be.
We used to say business was neutral in the past. It was never neutral. It was neutral because we all agreed on basic principles and purposes of government, while we were disagreeing 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. So I believe that the wokeness did bring meaning to work. But it poisoned everything.
Now you’re in a position where you 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. In a sense, however, however we got there, we are still here. Now the question is, how do we fix it?
Bluey: Should conservatives be content with neutrality? Or do you think we should push these corporations and institutions towards 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. A nation cannot exist without a healthy and 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 complete moral vision of what work can be. They have an ethical system. They have it all in one place. You already know what social justice looks like when you see it. ESG is the same. [environmental, social, and governance]It all sort 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. This is not a bottom-up solution. That is what I believe is the true mission of New Founding. It is providing that vision and getting people excited about what we can fight for, rather than 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. How do you bring people together?
Peterson:There are many. 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 make a difference in some way want to be connected.
The question is how do you scale it? First, you need to put out this positive vision and I think that’s ultimately the most important thing we’re doing. As you do this, people will start to come together in different ways.
So, one way is. Return.LifeA community that has a publication, and the publication is Return. And it’s a guide to living well in the digital age. Return has some exciting plans for expansion.
Return is a place where you can get all kinds and types of content. It also allows you to interact with others behind the scenes. 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 given that people want it, there is demand. 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 to do this is to go to newfounding.comYou can join us there. This membership, these memberships will cover really everything we do. Return.LifeA membership is also available. These will 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. I thank everyone who has signed up. You can join today.
Bluey: That’s fantastic. Bluey: That’s fantastic. How will this competition force institutions or entrenched interests to change?
Peterson: That’s where things get fun. The idea of taking small and medium-sized businesses and turning them into larger entities that can draw in the big dogs is what excites me most. This is where the investment side comes in to play. 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. This is what I believe it takes to win.
A boycott is not enough. It’s very difficult to do, especially when these companies are so big. That’s why they’re able to get away with it. The more alternatives we create and the more winners we have from this movement, then 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 was it that Big Tech did to become so hostile towards conservatives?
Peterson: That’s quite a story. Someone looking back, hopefully after the win, will have a story to tell. You can see that the political moment was very fast changing.
So the internet was great for many years. [Barack]Remember Obama was the first Twitter president? 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 sudden. However, this digital media is actually really dangerous and we must do something about it.
That moment changed everything. And even the last election, they changed their rules again so that it’s very hard to advertise for many conservatives. They were 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 must end 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. This was evident when Twitter removed zero hedge for expressing truthful information about the virus.
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 believe that the real driving force behind this was very powerful foreign and domestic forces that didn’t want Trump’s re-election. They saw an opportunity for them to clamp down on speech and make it more difficult. 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 there is some hope. 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. To become more self-sufficient, we have to use the most innovative tech. 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 people more human, not less. It shouldn’t be a slave to us.
And we know this now, so there’s no excuse. We need founders as well as investors to work together and foster a new trend in technology.
And let me tell you, it’s latent, it exists. I see both sides. 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 your eyes see any opportunities to make policy changes in Washington, D.C.? Or, more recently, in the state capitals, to address some of these problems? Or are you more positive on the private sector than you are about the government as they are the ones that will stimulate the change?
Peterson: It’s always a combination. Both of these things influence each other, I believe. 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. It seems that this is how it works.
So that’s what we need to create, a commercial-cultural movement that really is demanding this way of life. Then let’s leave it up to the policymakers to figure out how we get there. That means encouraging policymakers in D.C. and state capitals to think bolder about when and be more creative about what could 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. Florida has some amazing things. [Gov.]Ron DeSantis, and all over. I believe you should 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.
One thing that is really important in the current policy regarding tech is to protect a lot of newer technology. This includes crypto and bitcoin. 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.
I believe there is some hope because I know the demand exists. I know that the Republican base is demanding more action. I hope we can see this and foster it over 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 want to talk to you about the partners, especially those who might be more interested in investing. Principal Investments is your company, Firebrand, American Reformer is yours. 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. Prior to New Founding, Principal Investments existed. My co-founder, Nate Fischer, started that at first to invest himself and now it’s become a much larger thing.
Bart Lomont is my colleague and president of Principal. Our goal at Principal is to build a growth equity fund that does exactly what I was referring to earlier. 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.
American Firebrand, a super-PAC, is also thriving in terms of 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. American Firebrand would be a great choice for many of your listeners. And it’s one of those things where we get funding to make stuff. We can create all sorts of creative content that will really change the dial.
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. Thank you for being on the frontlines and pushing those messages, and making sure that more Americans wake up to the reality of the left’s attempts to do so.
Peterson: Rob, thank you for having me, and Heritage for having us. 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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