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OPINION

Is Pleasing Unreasonable Media Tyrants Worth Unending Aggravation?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, file

In recent years, corporate America has become obsessed with conforming to the latest demands of the “progressive” political movement. Through fashionable concepts such as ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), the Left has taken de facto control over nearly every domestic industry. In the subsequent environment of fear they’ve created, no one wants to face ostracism for failing to quickly adhere to its latest edicts.

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Enforcing these diktats is the self-imposed responsibility of the corrupt American press, which ruthlessly attacks those deemed insufficient. When firms do comply, however, the smears aren’t rescinded. You’re simply guilty and remain so, no matter what.

Beyond the shunning and shaming, non-compliant firms face painful financial fallout as well. According to Bloomberg, ESG-related investing is projected to exceed $53 trillion by 2025, comprising more than one-third of all worldwide assets under management (AUM). Can your operation afford to lose out?

What ESG truly stands for can be vague and highly subjective. Rapidly shifting based on the Left’s whims, compliance means understanding a concept detractors now derisively call “The Current Thing”. In early 2022, The Current Thing became Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Debate over the war’s complex origins was shut down by American and European media outlets before it could even begin. Corporations were expected to exit Russia without delay, despite any complications that would slow down that process.

Desperately searching for “proof” that firms thought to be right-leaning were stalling or even refusing to shut down operations inside the country, media bullies went on a fishing expedition. This crusade received assistance from a research team at Yale University, which found 30 companies it could accuse of “digging in”, while almost everyone else fled.

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One relatively small Russian operator caught the attention of Jane Mayer, a notorious far-left propagandist who writes for The New Yorker.

US-based Guardian Glass opened a float glass plant in Rostov in 2012. This followed earlier expansion in Eastern Europe and Latin America as part of a global strategy.

But what made Guardian jump off the page in Mayer’s eyes as opposed to many of the others? The obvious answer is that it happens to have been acquired in 2017 by Koch Industries, one of the Left’s all-time favorite attack targets.

Koch’s glassmaking subsidiary was deemed too slow to exit by Mayer and “progressive” Twitter allies, leading to a series of social media attacks: “Koch Industries has finally explained its position: it would rather keep doing business in Russia than heed Zelensky’s pleas to stop fueling Putin’s war machine.”

It wasn’t confined to Mayer and Twitter, however. Over a period of several months, media outlets long critical of Koch released a slew of articles portraying it as a recalcitrant center-right corporation unwilling to leave Russia.

“…According to a list compiled by Yale management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his research team, Koch Industries is one of about 30 companies described as ‘digging in’ and ‘defying demands’ for an exit or reduction of activities in Russia,” reported The Washington Post. “Koch is one of the few that have opted both to stay and openly condemn the Russian government.”

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But the company’s position was that it didn’t want to simply abandon its employees there or worse, hand over operations to Putin’s regime, further enriching the Kremlin. Because that doesn’t play into Mayer’s partisan agenda, it was ignored.

In a tweet, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer contended Koch’s call for an exit strategy appeared to be nothing more than empty symbolism.

"Given how small Koch says its Russian operation is, hard not to see this as purely symbolic, sending the message that all of Koch's talk of rights and liberty means nothing,” Mayer wrote. “Making money is what they value.”

Ultimately, Guardian Glass did pull out of Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. “As of today, Guardian has…sold its business in Russia to Vladimir Alexandrovich Voronin, President of FSK Group, a private enterprise in the construction industry,” Koch Industries President Dave Robertson wrote in an e-mail to employees. “This is an outcome facilitated and supported by plant employees and complies with all applicable sanctions, laws and regulations. We continue to condemn Russia’s actions and aggression in Ukraine and remain united in support of all who have been harmed by this horrible conflict.”

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“Guardian asked its Russian employees to shut down [its] two glass plants,” Robertson wrote in a statement at the time. “When made aware of this plan, Russian authorities repeated earlier warnings that local Guardian employees would violate Russian law and be prosecuted and imprisoned if they followed through with any shutdown activities, further reinforcing our concerns for employees’ safety. Therefore, Guardian is working with its local management team at Guardian Steklo (Russia) to find an exit strategy that maintains our commitment to employees’ safety and does not result in the Russian government taking over the plants and financially benefiting from them.”

Guardian contends that by selling its business to Voronin, it followed through on an April commitment to an exit strategy that would protect employees faced with potential repercussions from Russian authorities.

Mayer, The Washington Post, and the overwhelming majority of others who tried and convicted Koch and Guardian of being “Putin lovers” have yet to publish updated stories. Tweets have not been corrected.

So if full compliance with the latest demands leads to crickets from these tyrants, at what point will companies decide trying to please them is simply not worth the aggravation?

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MALONEY is the co-founder of the Media Equality Project.

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