Don't miss the special, extra-length issue of In These Times devoted entirely to the subject of socialism in America today. This special issue is available now. Order your copy today for just $5.00, shipping included.
When James Hulsizer worked for the Trump Organization in the 1990s, his mission was simple: to discourage workers at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, from organizing. Hulsizer departed the Trump Organization in 2000, but he applied many of the same tactics as COO for a firm called Kulture Consulting, whose website notes that he was an “integral part of Kulture’s leadership team since the beginning.”
In a veritable rogues’ gallery of union-busting consultants, which have advised major companies, private firms and powerful individuals trying to keep workers from exercising their rights, Kulture Consulting has set itself apart. In years past, it has worked with multinationals like Coca-Cola and AT&T, as well as the security products manufacturer Allegion and the medical testing giant LabCorp. Now, an In These Times investigation finds that websites registered or operated by Kulture Consulting CEO Peter List have social media accounts that spread QAnon conspiracy theories, disinformation and memes that may implicitly encourage right-wing violence.
List is an Ayn Rand devotee and CPAC panelist who has been linked to the conservative coalition Groundswell, which seeks to advance an ultraconservative agenda through widescale propaganda campaigns. Notes from a 2013 Groundswell meeting indicate that List was designated as the lead for the coalition’s “Groundgame” in its “30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation.”
Spreading QAnon Memes and Mocking Mask-Wearing
Details of List’s exact role in Groundswell are unknown, but websites and social media accounts traceable to Kulture Media LLC have disseminated Trumpist propaganda that includes anti-mask messaging and false claims of election fraud. They have also fed conspiracy theories that NBA star Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, was assassinated, and that the Nashville bombing last Christmas was linked to damaged voting machines.
Kulture Media’s ties to these accounts are undeniable. List, who acknowledges on his LinkedIn page that he writes under different pseudonyms, is the registered agent of Kulture Media LLC — the same entity that operates a website called Dienekes’ Place, where much of this hateful content appears. Twitter has suspended its account, but the website and other “Kulture” entities continue to post to platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
Sites and accounts managed by Kulture Media are not just promoting conspiracy theories that some might dismiss as loopy. The images they share not infrequently glorify violence, with threats that appear to target Democratic officials.
On Instagram, to offer one example, Dienekes’ Place has posted an image of a Bernie Sanders 2020 tee shirt with the word “Wolverines” superimposed over it. The text alludes to the 1984 movie “Red Dawn” in which a band of high schoolers, calling themselves “Wolverines,” lead an insurrection following a Soviet invasion. This call to arms is accompanied by several Trump and gun-themed hashtags, along with an account description that simply reads: “This is awesome!”
Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t the only politician Kulture Media has targeted. In one photo-shopped image, Dienekes’ Place labels Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “She Guevara.” In another shared by an affiliated Instagram account, a photo of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez locked arm in arm is transposed against anti-Maduro protesters in gas masks. “The problem with socialism is you can vote your way into it,” it reads, “but you always have to shoot your way out of it.”
Twitter has suspended one Kulture Media-affiliated account, but another one of its users, @WorkPlaceRpt, remains active. That account has “liked” a tweet that mocks mask-wearing and vaccinations, a homophobic joke about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a claim of election fraud, and a separate tweet that ridicules members of Congress who said they were afraid during the January 6 Capitol riot.
Other Kulture Media-generated Facebook and Instagram accounts continue to spread misinformation. One Instagram user has posted a doctored photo implying that women Democrats are sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan, if not members themselves. The post, which was flagged by fact-checkers as false, included a #QAnon hashtag. As recently as March 1, the same account had posted a quote from “Red Dawn” over an image of the Biden-Harris campaign logo. As is often the case with Kulture Media-affiliated content, it communicates a violent intent under the cloak of plausible deniability.
In an emailed response to a request for comment, List acknowledged that he operated Kulture Media’s various websites and accounts on Facebook and Twitter. He also conceded that some corporate clients may not use his services due to his political views, but that he believes others understand that his “outspokenness” is often designed to be provocative.
List disputed the notion that he holds a leadership position in Groundswell, claiming that a Mother Jones report on the organization was filled with “misinformation” that linked him to people he’d never met. He maintains that he has never encouraged violence “against any person — politician or otherwise” and denied the idea that he’s a “big conspiracy theorist,” although he insisted “there were questions about the November 2020 election.” As for the “the Q-Anon stuff,” he wrote that it was “interesting and entertaining” but that it was “mostly over-the-top unbelievable.” List similarly shrugged off tweets from @WorkPlaceRpt, saying he often retweets items he finds “interesting” whether “I agree with them or not.”
The Companies That Hire Kulture Consulting
Still, Kulture Media would not be able to spread this kind of hate if there were not an appetite for its union-busting services. While numerous corporations have issued high-minded condemnations of the U.S. capitol riot, several have employed Kulture Consulting in recent years.
According to records filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, these companies include Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Allegion, each of which has rebuked the events of January 6 in one form or another. Allegion’s CEO supported a statement from the National Association of Manufactures urging VP Mike Pence to consider invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office. AT&T called the Capitol riot “an appalling insurrection bent on blocking the peaceful transfer of power following a free and fair election.” Coca-Cola announced that it was “stunned by the unlawful and violent events” perpetrated by QAnon followers and Trump supporters at the Capitol. Yet none felt compelled to mention their past business relationships with Kulture Consulting.
In response to the firm’s social media activities, spokespersons for AT&T and Coca-Cola wrote that they had no current plans to hire Kulture Consulting, although both stopped short of saying definitively what the companies would do in the future. AT&T and Coca-Cola also noted that they had not hired Kulture Consulting in several years. AT&T stated it is “proud to be a union-friendly employer and one of the largest employers of full-time, union-represented employees in America.” For its part, Coca-Cola cited its opposition to “hate speech” before adding, “We respect everyone’s right to join or not to join a union.”
Allegion and LabCorp did not respond to requests for comment.
While these statements are welcome, each belies their companies’ past work with a notorious consultant to union-busters — one that has subsequently fomented hate and violence. And corporate America continues to fill Kulture Consulting’s coffers. The firm has filed paperwork with the Department of Labor indicating that it’s been hired by at least four companies this year. Either they are ignorant of Kulture Consulting’s work on social media or just as likely, they are simply untroubled by it.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
We've partnered with the publisher, Haymarket Books, and 100% of your donation will go towards supporting In These Times.
John See is a consultant based in Washington, D.C., who provides research and strategic communications for labor unions and other progressive clients.