The Machine Lurched

And now the whole machine, which whirred away so quietly that people had forgotten that it was a machine at all and thought it was just the way the world worked, had given a lurch.

– Terry Pratchett, “Feet of Clay”

This quote has been stuck in my head ever since public companies pulled out of Georgia at an astonishing rate in response to their new restrictive voter laws. These moves came soon after companies committed to pulling funding from Senators who challenged the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

In the wake of World War II, a new world order was created with American democracy front and center. This new machine spun and many companies were more than willing to unscrew components, confident the machine would keep running. Tech companies in particular would appear extremely woke on Twitter and showily donate to left leaning-causes while simultaneously belonging to ultra-conservative lobbying groups (e.g. ALEC), and spending millions funding and lobbying the entire political spectrum. Big Tech was not alone in playing both sides but blatantly spends more money than any other industry.

In the almost 80 years since the second world war, this new machine has trundled on. People forgot it was a machine. Until January 6th, when it gave a lurch.

The machine lurched because the peaceful transfer of power failed. A powerful man lied. Some complicitly spread that lie. Others wholeheartedly believe it. Our world order is built on a foundation of democracy. This world order was undermined in D.C. when a mob attempted to thwart democracy with violence and again in Georgia when legislators passed laws to effectively disfranchise legitimate voters.

Boards and CEOs try to have their companies act in rational self-interest. And yet they’re not “punishing” Georgia or certain Senators because of an industry issue such as regulation. In fact, these moves seem to hurt more than help corporate bottom lines. These moves are a defense against an emerging threat. They’re making these moves because when Senators baselessly challenge a vote count or Georgia disenfranchises voters, they undermine American democracy. And a threat to democracy is an existential threat to the world order in which these companies operate, and therefore also a threat to the companies themselves.

Companies pulling funding from Georgia or Senators aren’t just being woke, they’re terrified. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) goals of efforts like the new Georgian laws are clear – permanent rule by a political minority. We need to see this pulling of funding for what it is: the canary in the coal mine.

The canary indicates deadly risks. Far right groups, and the Republican party they’ve currently captured, are a threat. Not only to the democracy and country they claim to love, but to everything that depends on democracy including their own party. And modern conservatives voting Republican because they like conservatism but don’t want white supremacy or attacks on democracy are like people trying to have a refreshing beverage and somehow drink around the poison in it.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22007612@N05/9977050093

Author

Eldridge Alexander

Manager of Duo Labs at Duo Security. Formerly employed at Cloudflare and at Google. Technologist, magician, designer, musician, videographer, blogger, and avid sweet tea drinker.