Friday, February 10, 2017

Right-wingers are a major force driving the Silicon Valley

And Trump is making the innovators more influential than the previous PC admins

The Guardian has published a nontrivial investigative article about the right-wingers in the Silicon Valley and their connections (hat tip: Lisa Randall)
Meet the rightwing power players lurking beneath Silicon Valley's liberal facade
Julia Carrie Wong reported from San Francisco. As a whole, the Bay Area is highly if not obnoxiously extremely left-wing and PC. (I've spent half a year in Santa Cruz and visited Stanford 5 times or so.) And we've heard about companies that have fired their leaders for voting to oppose gay marriage, among many other insane excesses. However, when you look at the people who actually matter and who made the Silicon Valley so special, their distribution of political opinions is very, very different.

I had to choose a picture with an ambitious project by the Bay Area conservatives. This is a floating libertarian colony that Thiel wants to build near the San Francisco coastline.

Wong describes all these people as a bunch of friends of Peter Thiel. That's a powerful point, of course, because Thiel's opinions about politics are the clearest ones and he's also the only one whom I have talked to in person. So it makes some sense to present him both as the ideological beacon and the social glue. But even if this beacon didn't live in the Silicon Valley, the political opinions would be very different from the stereotype of wealthy people whose opinions otherwise coincide with those who break windows and burn cars at Berkeley to protest Trump, or similar things.

The article enumerates various people who are friends of Peter Thiel, including those who are generally more famous than he is, e.g. Elon Musk. It can't be shocking that Thiel and Musk are close enough to each other given their having parented PayPal, along with a few other folks. But similar comments apply to Facebook that Thiel really "founded" as a financially large company. Thiel has been a great fan of Zuckerberg's skills and I am sure that Zuckerberg was impressed by this support.

But Thiel and his soulmates have a powerful say also in companies such as Airbnb, Lyft, Reddit, SpaceX, Uber and Zenefits. Wong also mentions some more PC Republicans of the old era, like Carly Fiorina of HP and Meg Whitman of eBay, who have tried to become GOP politicians. Michael Dell and some founders or leaders of Sun Microsystems, Intel, and other companies were mentioned as conservatives or libertarians from older generations.

Libertarianism is obviously "overrepresented" among the very wealthy, and especially Silicon-Valley-like, folks. This ideological attitude may called an utopia but the beautiful utopias where no government exists etc. are somewhat less likely to be picked by the people who aren't sure whether they will be able to pay their dinner tonight. So the government-free, clean world is a dream of many innovative people who got rich in the Silicon Valley – and I know at least one Czech counterpart of those folks, too. A libertarian paradise is a natural utopia for the rich.

And while many people would love to expect the Silicon Valley to become one giant fortress resisting Trump's presidency now, what is actually happening is very different. Some people may deliberately decouple themselves from politics or wage a war against the new U.S. government but others simply don't see that this is what their ethics dictates them to do.

Thiel has obviously been intellectually consistent, honest, and repeatedly provocative throughout his life. But there are also folks who could have been seen as "Obama's men" but they seem more than willing to cooperate with Trump. This includes Elon Musk and I would basically add Apple's Tim Cook, too. Yes, I would call them opportunists and this label is mostly a negative one from my viewpoint. But it is not a terribly negative one – opportunism is often associated with business and it is often good for business. (When I told Thiel that it seemed to me that companies were naturally trying to resemble the mainstream of the population, Thiel responded that this is often untrue for numerous impressive startups.)

In fact, Trump himself is a natural dealmaker which makes him highly compatible with the world of business. He knows how to look for mutually beneficial solutions, too. (While he views China as a problem, you must have noticed that he will respect the one-China policy, after all.) And who expects wealthy and ambitious companies like Apple and Tesla to become fortresses that will spend years by bitterly fighting the U.S. president, he is gonna be greatly disappointed. It just doesn't work this way. And Tesla may need some Trump friendship for its bare survival now. Or look at this Disqus metadisussion on free and "hate" speech. Do you think that Disqus, the ambitious commenting system beneath our blog as well, will say good-bye to Breitbart and other pro-Trump websites? I don't think so.

Instead, the actual result will be obvious. The Silicon Valley is getting and will be getting "politically rebuilt" a bit and some people who may have been less visible – or silent about politics – will suddenly be more visible and more frequently heard because they are more compatible with the new political winds. We might say that lots of these voices have previously been suppressed. The Silicon Valley has had such a left-wing and PC image largely because the left-wing and PC governments have indirectly imposed their power over the area. Lots of people were defending such attitudes not because they found them important but because they wanted their companies to have good ties with the U.S. government.

Now, the U.S. government has arguably changed more dramatically than it has in decades, if ever, and this is bound to have consequences for the Silicon Valley's political image, too. And less impartially, it seems to me that Donald Trump is actually giving more power to these innovative brains that have changed their industries than the previous administrations did. He no longer wants the politics to revolve around the D.C. insiders, folks like Hillary etc. who haven't really succeeded in any professional activity outside politics. He gives the power to other Americans and some Americans are bound to be more influential than others. It just makes sense that people who founded impressive companies should be able to advise the U.S. government, too.

The author of the Guardian article had to collect quite some information – it is not another newspaper piece with the omnipresent clichés and a few propositions copied from another cheap newspaper article. At least I think that she hasn't plagiarized anyone. But it's still funny to see several sentences that betray that the author is a left-wing journalist who is ready to spread some utterly illogical statements. For example, I laughed when I read:
A certain amount of self-congratulation for the industry’s enlightened liberalism has since been widely on display, from Airbnb’s Super Bowl ad to the 10th annual Crunchies, which took place on Monday night.
This is funny. Is the industry "congratulating itself" for its being left-wing? The answer should be obvious but it's apparently not. Well, the answer is that one may only "congratulate itself" for something if he thinks that this something is a good thing. And if you think that left-wing causes are good things, it's because you are a left-winger yourself, not because you are "in the industry". So it wasn't the industry that congratulated itself for its being left-wing. It was the leftists in the industry who congratulated themselves for their ability to control a company, its TV ads, and a big majority of companies during the Obama years.

A right-winger in the industry wouldn't "congratulate" his company for its being left-wing. He would be more likely to express the sorrow about it. So you can see, Julia Carrie Wong ultimately gets caught in a logical trap and conflates the industry with the left-wing politics. But these are two totally different things and much of her article is an effort to separate these two different things. So it's strange that she was still unable to separate them in this sentence – and a few others.

OK, many folks over there must be rather excited because they will get some opportunity to realize their dreams even at the government level and build a better world – perhaps a country of citizens who may enjoy some really cool technological innovations. Peter Thiel in particular, and some guys around him, have really made an investment. You could have read newspaper articles claiming that he was "paying the price" for his views and beliefs that were labeled as minority views.

But here we may see that a different wording is more accurate: By his association with Trump before the elections, he's made an investment and his and his pals' influence over the government affairs that is already emerging is already proving that it was a rather successful or ingenious investment, like his bet on Facebook, his payment to lawyers defending a man against Gawker, and numerous other investments (even though not all of them) that Thiel has done in the past.

So Thiel is really "making a fortune" of some kind, instead of "paying the price", and Wong helps intelligent readers see that another aspect of the left-wing propaganda about Thiel was rubbish, too. He was often described as the most lonely guy in the Silicon Valley. Now he is the social glue and a man with a tree-like clique of friends that has so many members that they control much of the Silicon Valley. Can you see the contrast between these two descriptions? They're almost exactly opposite to each other. Which of them is more correct? Be sure that Wong's "octopus" image is much more accurate than the left-wing propaganda that has painted Thiel as an isolated exot whom you should avoid, too.

America has a chance to experience some "phenomenal" changes of the tax system in two or three weeks. But in a few months or years, it may undergo numerous improvements that do require some exceptional imagination and not just the wisdom of those who understand why "low taxation is good for us". Let's hope that the world will emerge as a better place out of it, with America first and Czechia second. ;-)