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‘He's Making Up a World He Wants to Attack’: Vivek Ramaswamy and the Making of an Anti-ESG Culture Warrior

Hi, welcome to your Weekend! 

On Friday morning, just minutes after we published this week’s cover story, I saw a New York Times headline that echoed one of our piece’s theses: “How Republicans Are ‘Weaponizing’ Public Office Against Climate Action.”

Both the Times investigation, by David Gelles, and our own, by veteran business journalist Michelle Celarier, explain aspects of a coordinated campaign by conservative state officials and media personalities like Vivek Ramaswamy to undermine corporate efforts addressing climate change. 

But what really gives away the ballgame is the Republicans’ repeated use, in both stories, of the word ‘woke.’ The ESG-opposed politicians and pundits want to “push back against the woke capitalists.” They promise to fight “liberal ‘woke’ agenda.” They insist that market economics will “curtail woke fund managers.”

Tell me: Does Larry Fink—the man who runs the world’s largest asset management firm BlackRock, who once served on a Trump advisory committee, and who donates to the New York City Police Foundation, which provides funding for the NYPD—really sound like a “woke” dude to you? Even Ramaswamy seems to be tiring of the term, telling Michelle that it’s become “utterly meaningless.”

If that’s so, why does it keep coming out of his and so many other conservatives’ mouths? Maybe there’s something else going on here. 

Read on below...


the big read

‘He’s Making Up a World He Wants to Attack’: How Vivek Ramaswamy Became a Rightwing Firebrand

Almost overnight, Ramaswamy went from high-flying biotech entrepreneur to the flame-throwing author of “Woke, Inc.” In her debut story for The Information Weekend, Michelle speaks with the frequent Fox News guest about his meteoric rise to right-wing fame; his crusade to take down BlackRock; and how the George Floyd murder convinced him that corporate culture had veered off course.


social studies

BeReal—But Not Too Real: Photo-Snapping Gen Z Employees Create a New Privacy Worry for Employers

BeReal—the rapidly rising social media app that captures images of authentic “boringness”—is causing a new headache for employers.  Feeds once filled with shots of frat parties are now peppered with desktop screens and spreadsheets, as the app’s mostly Gen Z users transition from college to the office. Annie looks at the potentially sensitive materials being passed around by blasé BeRealers. 


Q&A

A Filmmaker’s Ode to Virtual Reality and the People Who Live in It

Joe Hunting’s 93-minute HBOMax documentary “We Met in Virtual Reality” traces the lives of fellow VRChat users, recording their avatars in conversation as they cope with grief, search for love and form deep and fulfilling friendships. Annie chats with the 23-year-old director-writer-producer-editor about filming in this brave new medium. 


asked and answered

Why Did Netflix Sue the ‘Bridgerton’ TikTok Musical—but Not MrBeast’s YouTube ‘Squid Game’?

According to Hollywood entertainment lawyers, the 20-something, newly internet-famous songwriting duo behind “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” may have gone a step too far in monetizing their homage to the Netflix romcom. Now they’re being sued by the streamer. However, Abe asks, why is their Bridgerton musical provoking legal action while an even more popular—and lucrative—YouTube riff on “Squid Game” has been left alone?


Watching: The relatable realness of Rap Sh!t"
The latest series from YouTuber turned Hollywood showrunner Issa Rae, “Rap Sh!t” is ostensibly about striving, struggling Miami hip-hoppers. Really though, the HBOMax series is about our uneasy—often unhealthy—relationship with social media and technology. Early episodes depict cringey clout-chasing via Instagram, child support payments made over Cash App and some awkward AF virtual sex. It’s a funny and sharp look at our always-on existence in the era of 24/7 live-streaming. —Abe


Reading: The unmasking of the Bored Apes bosses 
When Buzzfeed revealed the identities of the Bored Ape Yacht Club cofounders in February, the NFT moguls accused the publication of putting them in mortal danger. Six months later, the danger has apparently subsided and the press tour has commenced! Input’s Jessica Klein pulls the monkey masks off of Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow, chronicling Aronow’s struggles with drug addiction, their friendship with Hollywood agent Guy Oseary, and the accusations that Bored Apes are filled with racist symbols. The founders also make it clear they’re no longer competing with grassroots NFT projects. They have a $450 million warchest to build the preeminent metaverse, and they’re coming for Meta’s throat. —Margaux


Listening: A podcast about a messy food fight
In 2020, Instagram influencer Emily Gellis began probing into Tanya Zuckerbrot’s celebrity-favorited nutrition empire, one built on the high-fiber F-Factor diet. Her investigation prompted a feud between them that eventually turned litigious. The whole unsavory saga makes for the compelling subject of Fed Up, a chart-topping new podcast from Wondery (“The Shrink Next Door”). The pod weighs what constitutes truth on the internet and what might just be hot goss. One thing’s for sure: GG crackers, a brand of Scandinavian bran crisps beloved by Zuckerbrot’s followers, sound truly revolting. —Abe


Makes You Think

Happy trails to everyone embarking on some August travels. Delete all emails...except ours. 


Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.

—Jon

Weekend Editor, The Information


Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine, where his work won many National Magazine Awards.
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