In the world of right-wing punditry, the woke and anti-woke binary is the prevailing order for explaining nearly everything that happens in culture, politics, and business. When fresh meat falls into the news churn, it is promptly deemed woke or anti-woke, and an explanation for how either label applies is usually decided upon after the fact.
Such backward logic was put on full display this week following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the biggest American bank failure since 2008. In the immediate aftermath, SVB was ruled a casualty of wokeness by everyone from House Oversight chairman James Comer and Governor Ron DeSantis to Donald Trump Jr. Citing the women, Black, and LGBTQ+ members of its board, Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler even theorized that the bank may have been too “distracted by diversity demands” to focus on banking.
Lately, this slapdash reasoning has been refined: Republicans are now claiming the bank was not only felled by its emphasis on diversity but also the tens of millions it allegedly donated to Black Lives Matter. “Silicon Valley Bank, brace yourself, spent more than $73 million on donations to BLM and related organizations,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Tuesday, citing a report produced by the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank. His on-air colleagues Ainsley Earhardt, Jesse Watters, and Maria Bartiromo made similar declarations.
The reality? Silicon Valley Bank has donated zero dollars to Black Lives Matter. That empty figure is even confirmed by a Claremont Institute database that tracks corporate pledges to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation and its associated or related groups, which is probably why right-wing pundits are instead citing the think tank’s compilation of donations to “organizations and initiatives that advance one or more aspects of BLM’s agenda.” But that ill-defined description could mean any number of things. (It also doesn’t help that, as Popular Information noted, the Claremont Institute has described BLM’s agenda in remarkably broad terms, accusing the movement of conspiring to “undermine capitalism, the nation state, and Western civilization.”)
Specifically, Republicans have objected to a pledge to spend $50 million over five years on an internal initiative aimed at elevating more women, Black people, and Latinos in the venture capitalist field, per Popular Information. So not quite the “Marxist” spending spree alleged by Fox Business host Larry Kudlow, an economist infamous for confidently predicting a market rebound days before Lehman Brothers collapsed.
SVB’s $20 million pledge “to support additional COVID-19 relief” and provide “full-ride, needs-based” university scholarships was also included in the Claremont Institute’s math. Why that qualified as a donation to anything Black Lives Matter–related is an open question. And for what it’s worth, only one of the schools included in the program, Florida A&M, is a historically black university.
Ultimately, the facts behind SVB’s collapse make for a far less fantastical narrative than a bank––one largely used by venture capitalists like the right-wing Peter Thiel, no less––overspending on anti-capitalist causes. SVB, the 16th largest bank in the US, appears to have failed due to poorly timed investments and faulty risk strategies that tied up the bulk of its depositors’ money during a harsh comedown period in the tech industry. When customers sensed trouble last week, a classic bank run ensued, with the bank being unable to meet the withdrawal demand.