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Pop Goes the DEI Bubble

In order to give DEI a proper send-off, I'd like to offer up this inspiring video.




Pop Goes the DEI Bubble

Claudine Gay’s resignation proved we are moving away from this harmful ideology.


By Andy Kessler, WSJ

Jan. 21, 2024


Have we reached peak DEI? The unraveling of “diversity, equity and inclusion” initiatives had already begun—five states banning DEI programs; Google, Facebook and others cutting DEI staff; Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard—well before Harvard President Claudine Gay was demoted.


Author Christopher Rufo, echoing 1960s student activists, called the rise of DEI a “long march through the institutions”—a 50-plus-year ideology infiltration into universities, K-12 schools, government, media and corporations with the goal of telling us all how to live. That’s why I enjoy that the word “rot” is back in style to describe what is happening inside the walls of academia.


Like everything based on the writings of Karl Marx—seeing oppressors and colonial struggles everywhere—DEI was doomed to fail. The uniformity of thought known as intersectionality, fostered by DEI, meant all oppressed people must support all others who are oppressed. But that idea burst on Oct. 7 when Hamas raped, murdered and kidnapped Israelis. Many liberals, especially Jewish ones, couldn’t support genocidal “colonized” terrorists. Pop! The long march is in retreat.


By the way, ESG, or investing based on “environmental, social and governance” principles, peaked last June, when BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said he would stop using “the word ESG anymore, because it’s been entirely weaponized.” Never mind that performance of ESG funds has been sketchy and that BlackRock had been adding the label “sustainable” or “ESG” to funds and charging up to five times as much. Then a study published in December by Boston University’s Andrew King found “no reliable evidence for the proposed link between sustainability and financial performance.” Pop!


Most offensive to me was DEI’s devious underlying agenda: societal design. Blinded by fanatical devotion, activists were pawns for the cause of reshaping the world into a collective utopia to be run, of course, by progressive, self-identifying elites. That was the “my truth” that Ms. Gay invoked on her exit. Critical theories and Marxist techniques would take power from you and me, using big government as the enforcer.


The new societal design, embedded in DEI and ESG, envisioned idyllic communal progress. History shows this never works because power corrupts. Diversity meant ideological conformity. Equity meant discrimination. Inclusion meant blurring the sexes. Men winning women’s athletic events would be considered normal. It was all theatrics, like the tampons I’ve seen in men’s bathrooms on Ivy League campuses. Somewhere George Orwell is rolling on the floor laughing.


One goal of progressive societal design is to shrink—depopulation. Twenty-somethings now question having children. Net zero and degrowth, both World Economic Forum approved, are pushed via energy myths: carbon bad, cows bad. A plant-based chicken in every pot and two electric cars in every garage. They envy the merit-touting rich, shout “inequality” and wear “Tax the Rich” dresses. They tear down statues to erase history. How did we let this happen?


While Marxism is a means of gaining power to implement societal design, it quickly turns authoritarian. There was very little free speech at Harvard—the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression ranked it last of all colleges last year. Those against the societal-design agenda were shouted down. Dissent was met with accusations of privilege or cancellation. Conform or be cast out. On a larger scale, the Biden administration co-opted social media to censure opposing views.


I, like most Americans, am for diversity, but not when it’s forced or mandated. In a 2017 interview, Mr. Fink admitted BlackRock would use DEI tactics to “force behaviors” of corporations on “gender or race,” including via management compensation. Now that’s power.


This power inevitably leads to a march of intellectual corruption through institutions, which we’ve seen at Harvard, the Biden administration and elsewhere. Does national security adviser Jake Sullivan really care about equity or climate change? It polled well and put him back in power to implement his own societal design via “industrial strategy.”


The good news is that economics eventually outlasts the control freaks. Central planning loses. Real life is about markets that every day transmit trillions of price signals of human desires. Those prices inform production much better than any government bureaucrat or Harvard professor. Societal design—remember Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society?—requires government control. I’ll take freedom.


Preferred pronouns are fading. College admissions, and maybe hiring, based on race is illegal. DEI departments are being deconstructed. But while the DEI movement may have peaked, like that Monty Python character, it’s not dead yet. The feverish whining of those grasping for the last reins of power will probably get worse before DEI eventually dies with a whimper.


Write to kessler@wsj.com.


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