Global Standard Time: Swatch, homocapitalism and the corporate state

Malaysian police have just made a very unusual arrest: a dangerous gang of hardened homosexual wristwatches.

Vice-squads in the strict Muslim-majority nation raided 16 retail outlets back in May, seizing a total of 172 bright, rainbow-coloured watches issued by Swatch, intended to honour Gay Pride Month in June. On July 17, it further emerged that the Swiss watch-maker had issued a lawsuit against the Malaysian government demanding their wares back, with them being worth some US$14,250. The items were worth far more than that sum in free publicity for Swatch, however, who used the confiscation as an opportunity to posture politically.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and although such laws are inconsistently enforced, cases of deviants being caned or imprisoned for their alleged sins do appear in the media from time to time, particularly when, as now, elections are looming and politicians wish to court the nation’s substantial conservative Islamic voter-base. Confiscating the watches could thus be viewed as an attempt by the current government to gain easy religious votes.

So, that might explain the Malaysian government’s actions here. But what about Swatch’s own initial bizarre behaviour? Why have previously morally neutral Swiss watch-makers now changed from precision-engineering to social-engineering instead?

Objects of desire

Swatch thought they had spied a loophole in Malaysia’s anti-gay legislation, to the effect that, whilst homosexuality itself might have been illegal, certain symbols promoting it were not specifically outlawed likewise. “As far as we know, the picture of a rainbow and the acronym LGBTQIAS+ [printed on the watches’ straps] are not banned in Malaysia,” a Swatch spokesperson said.

“The watches did not promote any sexual activity. They are merely a fun and joyous expression of peace and love,” Swatch continued, sounding more like a bunch of loved-up hippies than businessmen. Nick Hayek Jr, Swatch’s current chief executive, wondered sarcastically how Malaysian policemen would “confiscate the beautiful natural rainbows” appearing in the sky over the Asian nation, before adding that: “Swatch promotes a positive message of joy. This is nothing political.”

Except it clearly is political, as the watches were openly labelled as part of a Gay Pride collection in a country where homosexuality is well-known to be illegal and generally disapproved of, whilst the rainbow timepieces themselves came in six colours, rather than seven, as real-life rainbows do. Hence, they were an obvious manifestation of the six-hued LGBTQ rainbow flag, an internationally recognised overt political symbol, every bit as much as the hammer and sickle is.

Equally disingenuous was Nick Hayek Jr’s other assertion that “Swatch promotes a positive message of joy”, blatant Newspeak code-words for “Swatch promotes a message of encouraging homosexuality amongst the general public.” But why? Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think foreign nations’ laws, ways of life and codes of sexual morality should be being set for them from outside by random Swiss watchmakers.

Swatch was founded in 1983, as an entry-level Swiss watch brand competing with the ultra-cheap quartz-powered models then being successfully pumped out by Japanese manufacturers like Seiko. The only message Swatch was intended to promote by its actual founders, therefore, was “please buy our cheap watches”. What was it, precisely, that changed in the interim? 

Corporate politics

One answer would be to portray the Swatch company of 2023 as just yet another cog in the increasingly all-encompassing mechanism of the gigantic corporate state today’s West is so clearly now being transformed into, step by lock-march step. Corporatism is best defined as the total merger of private enterprise and industry with the arms of the state in pursuit of some shared grand, overarching visionary end, the differences between the two previously separate realms thus eroding away into almost nothing over time. The greatest “success” corporatism ever had came during the 1920s and 1930s, when it helped give birth to fascism, first in Benito Mussolini’s explicitly proclaimed “corporate state” of Italy, then in Adolf Hitler’s more familiar Third Reich of Nazi Germany.

In the face of various genuine immediately pressing crises of the past, Western democracies have also adopted corporatist methods, albeit hitherto only on a limited, short-term basis. To defeat the corporate states of Mussolini and Hitler, Great Britain and the United States had to temporarily become organisationally similar enterprises too, with industry, science, agriculture, government, law and the media all co-opted into serving the war effort. Likewise, during the 1930s, FDR’s America came perilously close to becoming a corporate state to combat the immediate menace of the Great Depression.

Yet these threats of the past were at least real. Now conveniently rebranded as “stakeholder capitalism“, corporatism today is more transnational in scope, and the “threats” it portrays as being necessary for all mankind to combat together in willingly affixed manacles on the benign globalist chain-gang are much more nebulous, illusory or exaggerated: patriarchal sexism, systemic white racism, transphobia, homophobia, “misinformation” or planet-destroying climate-change.

Governments, international corporations, banks, universities, trade unions, lobby-groups, charities, NGOs, celebrities, media groups and even sports teams are all increasingly signed up to precisely the same agenda, whether their actual customers, shareholders, fans or voters want them to be or not. This “soft corporatism” of today is diluted, #BeKind fascism with a human face.

What we end up with is a sort of enforced moral hegemony in which, for example, troublesome non-compliant politicians can be denied bank accounts for holding the “incorrect” opinions, companies can be refused funding by activist investors for failing to sign up to Diversity, Equity and Inclusions frameworks … or nations like Malaysia can be sued by companies like Swatch for having the temerity to try and enforce their own laws, derived from their own religions, in their own historic homelands. In the usual denunciatory rubric of contemporary stakeholder corporatism, this would normally be deemed “colonialism”.

Kiss of fate

Another recent high-profile case of such moral colonialism in action came on July 21, when British rock band The 1975 were hauled off-stage at a gig in Kuala Lumpur after self-righteously interrupting their set to lecture the audience on gay rights. Despite apparently being straight himself, frontman Matty Healy kissed his male bandmate Ross MacDonald on the mouth before complaining he “could not see the point” of festival organisers inviting them to Malaysia “and then telling us who we can have sex with.”

“I’m sorry if that offends you and you’re religious,” Healy continued, “[But] I don’t care anymore.” Nonetheless, Healey generously absolved his audience of all sins against the new pink religion of the West on the grounds that “you’re not representative of your government because you are young people, and I’m sure a lot of you are gay and progressive and cool.”

Then, with the rest of the festival immediately cancelled by the authorities, Healey and his fellow fools could fly away free to Britain to bask in all the adulation from rainbow leftists back home, whilst leaving actual homosexuals in Malaysia to face the inevitable further backlash from the government, who were probably very glad to receive a free propaganda victory: vote for us, or Westerners will come over here and try to turn your kids queer just like Swatch want to do. 


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Pride and Prejudice

You may reasonably think trying to sell gay watches to Muslims is as futile a task as trying to sell them clocks with pork sausages for hands: yet there may also be a certain hidden commercial logic to the seemingly self-defeating actions of corporatist cogs like Swatch. The so-called “gay dollar” is worth trillions globally nowadays, and selling virtue-signallers hi-vis wearable signs to don so they can feel good about themselves in public is a lucrative business. If you examine the website for Swatch’s rainbow-powered “Love Is Love” range, it is obvious how shallow and preening these items are – ideally designed, you might say, to appeal to their intended customers.

Billed as being “bold and vibrant”, the “PROUDLY RED” Swatch is a “scarlet starlet”, just like the Whore of Babylon. Its “PROUDLY YELLOW” sister-product is both “the bright and radiant centre of the Pride flag and the perfect colour to encapsulate the positive life-giving centre of our solar system”: wearing it can make you feel the indispensable homosexual hinge-point around which the entire universe revolves too. Swatch can clearly make easy cash from appealing to certain people’s innate sense of superior moral vanity – or “pride”, perhaps.

If marketing watches to gays like this was just a simple commercial decision upon Swatch’s behalf, though, then enriched shareholders could reasonably say it was entirely justifiable. Presumably some people do actually buy them, after all.

But there is a clear problem: Muslim Malays, by and large, don’t want to buy gay timepieces. Ideally, manufacturers would seek to create products which appeal to all demographics, even diametrically opposed ones – some people prefer cold snacks to hot ones, so a baker’s shop will sell both cold pies and warm pies. But you can’t really imagine a jewellery store in 2023 selling rival pro-gay watches and anti-gay watches for different consumers from different aisles in order to maximise profits.

Explicitly seeking to appeal to one side of this consumer divide will only result in you alienating the other one, reducing potential income, as shown with Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney. How to solve this? In the same way as the corporate state has “solved” the problem of how best to organise society in a wider sense: by forcibly merging the two previously opposing sides together into one seamless whole.

According to Swatch’s website, “Two rainbow loops [on the watches’ straps] bring the colours together to celebrate the unity and diversity that make our society – and Swatch – so strong.”  But these are pure antonyms. To describe something as being united and diverse – homogeneous and heterogeneous, identical and different, conformist and independent – simultaneously is a paradox. Mystical concepts like the Holy Trinity might possess such contradictory qualities, but how can a humble wristwatch?

Consumer camps

Swatch could try selling pro-gay products in the West, and anti-gay ones in the Islamic world, but these two competing products would surely undermine one another in the eyes of the two opposed consumer blocs. Far better to try and forcibly unite everyone on Earth into one superficially diverse global corporatist ummah, in which relatively trivial things like national dress and cuisine are retained, but more significant differences in morals and religion are flattened out entirely. Then, Swatch could sell queer quartzes to everyone, godless Westerners and defanged Malay Muslims alike!

The term “homocapitalism” has been coined in recent years to describe such trends, with critics coming from both conservative right and progressive left. From the left comes academic Rahul Rao’s influential 2015 paperGlobal Homocapitalism, which described how Western-dominated global NGOs like the World Bank were denying loans to poorer countries in Africa and Asia unless their governments agreed to toe the agreed line on promoting gay rights, under the Davos-friendly rubric of “diversity and inclusion”.

Such decisions are meant to be made on financial grounds only, but as Rao showed, bodies like the Bank produced dubious statistics purporting to demonstrate that, for example, domestic prejudice against LGBTQ people was costing the Indian economy as much as 1.7% of its rightful GDP in 2012 alone.

Hence, homosexuals are explicitly hymned as being an economic benefit for any nation lucky enough to possess them. World Bank statistics suggested Western lesbians earn 9% more than their straight counterparts. Hence, remove anti-lesbian prejudice across Hindu and Muslim India, and boost your domestic sapphic wage-packets likewise, the economists said. But as Rao demonstrated, this is based on various false assumptions.

The traditional extended Western family unit in the West has increasingly collapsed, whereas in India it has not. Hence, Western lesbians tend to form DINKY (Double Income, No Kids Yet) units, whose elderly parents will be farmed out to retirement homes should they grow too frail. In India, however, even if lesbians suddenly acquired the legal right to marry, the traditional extended family structure still remains much more intact there, meaning one of the two wives would probably still have to stay at home to look after aged relatives or other family members’ kids anyway.

Hence, no increased DINKY incomes for them: unless, of course, the promotion of homosexuality becomes simply a disguised proxy for transforming Indian society into a replica of the West’s own prevailing 21st-century socioeconomic structure for the sole benefit of easing the wheels of business for multinational companies like Swatch ...    

Synchronise your watches

From the right, meanwhile, we have the views of conservative US academic Patrick J. Deneen, author of the popular 2018 book Why Liberalism Failed. As he noted way back in 2014, many corporations were at that early point in the current rainbow jihad leveraging their economic might to threaten any US States who threatened to ban the practice of gay marriage, which had not yet then been forcibly legalised America-wide by the Supreme Court.

Why? Many firms argued not being gay-friendly was bad for business, as it made such people feel unwelcome locally, potentially leading to firms based in non-compliant States missing out on talented workers who happened not to be born straight. Yet this does rather ignore the fact that States legalising gay marriage might have made conservative Christians or Muslims feel unwelcome there also, thereby causing them to miss out on their labour instead. As with Swatch and the multinational record-companies who promote The 1975, a choice had to be made about which consumers or employees to appeal to: and, once again, the gays were chosen over their opponents. Why?

According to Deneen, it was all a logical development of free-market capitalism, which sought to create atomised individuals, free of the limiting binds of tradition, as the ideal consumers: religious persons might not be motivated by accumulating ever-more unnecessary stuff, like colourful show-off wristwatches or new CDs by mediocre rock bands, but rootless, shallow consumers, free of the traditional bonds of religion, community and family, might well do so.

So, the economically constraining organisation of the family itself had to be destroyed in the name of profit; transforming the institution of marriage into a mere act of consumer choice, based primarily upon the notion of personal sexual fulfilment, was a great way to do so. Hence, preaches today’s woke corporate state, marry whomever you want to, even a member of the same sex like your nearest fellow rock group bandmate, and act like a consumer even in your private life.

For Deneen, agents of corporatism seek to transform human beings into endlessly interchangeable fungible goods, creating “a thoroughly mobile society devoted to personal satisfaction, composed of individuals whose relationships are fungible and who have no strong relationship to place, history, or the generations stretching between the past and the future.” In other words, a world in which gay rainbow watches can be sold to the willing, mindless, utterly deracinated consumer in Kuala Lumpur every bit as efficiently as they can to his identical commercial twin in San Francisco.  

Sadly, just like many of their watches, Swatch & Co’s intended brave new corporatist world of tomorrow is not a wind-up. 


Steven Tucker is a UK-based writer with over ten books to his name. His next, Hitler’s & Stalin’s Misuse of Science, comparing the woke pseudoscience of today to the totalitarian pseudoscience of the past, will be published in summer 2023.

Image: Swatch website

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  • Julian Cheslow
    commented 2023-07-29 06:52:26 +1000
    I highly doubt people on this site care about gay people in Malaysia. I get the argument that they could deal with backlash and I don’t really like Healy or the Malaysian government.

    Also the furor over Mulvaney was completely unwarranted. It was one video that you had to go her profile to see, and she didn’t deserve the bigotry sent her way.

    Personally as a bisexual person I don’t care about corporations/companies putting rainbows on there products. I would much rather just be left alone by bigots.