Wondering what’s behind the disaster at Silicon Valley Bank last week? Well, the brainiacs at Fox News and The Wall Street Journal have figured it out: Apparently, the company spent too much time worrying about “wokeness” and “diversity.” Specifically, Fox claims that SVB gave $73 million to “Black Lives Matter-related” activities.
“Silicon Valley Bank, brace yourself, spent more than $73 million on donations to BLM and related organizations,” Tucker Carlson told his audience Tuesday night. Ainsley Earhardt followed up Wednesday on Fox & Friends, reporting that SVB donated “more than $73 million to Black Lives Matter.” Dispatches on Fox continued throughout the day; the story was picked up on Breitbart and the Daily Mail.
It was all based on data compiled by the Claremont Institute—the right-wing think-tank last seen gifting the American people with the nutty electoral theories of Trump attorney John Eastman—and it represents some astonishingly bad reporting. Josh Marshall of Talking Point Memo and Judd Legum of Popular Information broke it down, and if you need a window onto the ignorance and credulity that passes for right-wing “research,” check their receipts.
It turns out Claremont has a whole database of the investments major corporations have made to BLM groups, and it represents many billions of dollars. If BLM truly had that kind of funding, the movement would be unstoppable. But Marshall examines where the corporate largesse is really going. He can’t find any evidence that SVB funded BLM activities. Claremont cites nine SVB internal reports to back up its claim, but the reports document nothing to do with funding BLM; there are studies of diversity endeavors; there’s a mention of investment in low to moderate-income local communities. Even if you assume anything having to do with Black people gets counted as funding BLM, that funding is far less than the $73 million Claremont claimed to find.
Claremont’s dishonest accounting is clearer when it calls out other corporations for their BLM projects. It shows the firm 3M pledging a whopping $50 million to “BLM.” But the investment is mainly focused on supporting STEM learning in Black communities, Marshall says, with a pledge of $50 million over five years. The first year, $5 million went to the United Negro College Fund for work in St. Paul, Minn., hardly the same as BLM.
Chevron put $15 million into “BLM,” Claremont reports: Of that, $7 million went to historically Black colleges and universities; $2 million to that radical United Negro College Fund; $5.1 million in grants for K-12 education; $1.6 million to the $1 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Judd Legum and folks at Popular Info delved into the mindset that lets Claremont claim SVB gave BLM $73 billion. In fact, it is counting donations to “organizations and initiatives that advance one or more aspects of BLM’s agenda.” So the group counts a $50 million internal endeavor to get women, Blacks, and Latinos networking in the white male-dominated venture capitalism ecosystem. The database includes SVB donations to the NAACP, the ACLU, and the National Urban League, which the Claremont folks seem to consider subsidiaries of BLM. Since Claremont scholars have written that BLM is a loosely affiliated movement that seeks to “undermine capitalism, the nation-state and western civilization,” you could conceivably link a lot of nefarious activities to those outcomes. (Although getting excluded groups better connected with venture capitalism seems like a strange way to undermine capitalism.)
To other conservatives, the problem wasn’t just BLM, but a focus on diversity altogether. Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler wrote: “In its proxy statement, SVB notes that besides 91% of their board being independent and 45% women, they also have ‘1 Black,’ ‘1 LGBTQ+’ and ‘2 Veterans.’ I’m not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.” That one Black board member must have been extremely distracting!
Of course, the bank’s real problem was that it pushed back on Obama-era regulation and got its way under the Trump administration. The closer monitoring that had earlier been required might have caught the liquidity issues that unraveled the bank. But our right-wing media ecosystem has become too frivolous to engage with real issues. It reminds me of an old expression by the United Negro College Fund (unless they retired it when they became a BLM affiliate): “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Today, a bogus story about wokeness run amok is what Fox finds terrible to waste.