Like a lot of start-ups led by corny hype-men — WeWork, Fyre Media (producers of the Fyre Festival), and anything promoted by the MyPillow guy — the weird Ozy Media operation you’ve perhaps heard about this week was in large part a scam.
But unlike those other start-up cons, Ozy is the kind that should have been very obvious because its build-up was based on a much larger scam, a scam widely known as “social justice.”
Ozy, led by a purportedly charming man (aren’t they all?) named Carlos Watson, is currently teetering on the edge of collapse after The New York Times reported last week that the company was attempting to defraud investors for millions of dollars by lying about the size of its audience and influence.
Ozy was marketed to its investors as a semi-soft news organization pumping out videos and online articles for a predominantly black audience. Watson is himself black, and that, combined with what was apparently a relatively milquetoast product, made Ozy “the perfect, brand-safe opportunity for folks to say they were supporting a Black media company, even if the only Black person being supported in the process was Mr. Watson.” That’s how it was described in the Times by Lauren Williams, a journalist who is also black.
Since the initial story broke, there have been resignations, additional fraud inquires, and most importantly, an essay by a former Ozy staffer who, even if inadvertently, explained for the naive how exactly a social justice scam like Ozy works.
“You know I’ve had many bosses over my life but I’ve only had one boss who looked like me, and curiously, this was the worst boss I ever had,” wrote Eugene S. Robinson, who produced articles for Ozy’s website. The boss he was referring to is Watson.
Robinson continued, “In fact some of the African American employees felt that there were two OZY’s. The white OZY and the Black OZY, where like America, employees were treated worse.”
He described Watson as “the smiling, ingratiating, nervous and dead-eyed Watson that made Venture Capitalists throw millions his way,” and as a “glad-handing bon vivant, like the Black sidekick in an action flick, made [investors] feel good about whatever passes for ‘wokeness’ in the Valley.”
He also said that in the years that it grew, Ozy seemed more and more “designed to foist Watson on the rest of America,” by way of more and more highly produced web shows and TV specials. Of one of those programs, the “Carlos Watson Show,” Robinson said, “I was confused as to how the show could be a success. In a universe of Kimmels, Fallons, Eric Andre, Trevor Noah, Bill Maher for g-dssake, how were people even thinking choosing Watson made sense.”
It didn’t make sense because it wasn’t real. All indications are that Watson was inflating the size of Ozy’s mediocre audience in order to bilk more money out of ignorant white investors who buy into the idea that they can be saved from cultural exile if they show some deference to the people who say race, gender, and sexual identity should be the primary concern when doing anything.
Watson had a lame product. Had you ever even heard of it before this week? But more important than what he was selling was what he and Ozy represented: the supremacy of race, gender, and sexual identity in every facet of contemporary American culture.
Maybe Watson never explicitly raised the issue of “social justice” to his easy marks, but let’s not kid ourselves. Everyone in the country knows how this works now. In corporate America, you can either go along to get along with the social justice scam, elevating race, gender, and sexual identity grievances (sometimes referred to as “issues”), or you can be its next victim. Sparing yourself means getting ahead of things by, say, giving millions of dollars to a curious man of no remarkable talent, but who is an ethnic minority selling a product for and about other ethnic minorities.
That’s the social justice scam, wherein race, gender, and sexual identity are in and of themselves worth great value — at least until someone comes along and once again pulls back the curtain.