PayPalMafia, Investor,

Believes Capitalism is incompatible with Democracy and chooses the former over the latter, therefore supports DonaldTrump and the rise of RightWingPopulism


hot take that's probably true: Peter Thiel finally relinquishing his FaceBook board seat suggests he thinks Facebook's influence over politics and culture is on the wane for good

the conflicts/tensions stuff is valid but not new. this guy rode out disclosures that he hangs out with white nationalists, funds a literal slavery advocate who's also his pal, etc. - all while FB was supposedly in the thrall of woke employees. his grip on that seat was iron

also worth remembering that Thiel personally disdains social media, including Facebook. he was in it this long for the opportunity to exert influence over something that play(s/ed) a huge role in shaping culture and politics

Remember a few years ago when Thiel wrote a thing saying democracy was bad, and everyone was like “that’s crazy, who could be against democracy?” And now it’s the official stance of the Republican Party. You can’t say the guy doesn’t get results

Gawker Story

On Quora, Ryan Holiday wrote :

In my study of the billionaire Peter Thiel over the last year for my book Conspiracy, I found that he was one of the few from Silicon Valley who understood the intense will to power as a precondition to success and was willing to openly discuss it. If you read his book Zero to One, it’s all there: the necessity of secrets, the drive to monopoly, owning the future. He quotes Emerson, “weak men believe in luck, strong men believe in cause and effect.” Or as the deeply competitive Thiel supposedly said after a chess match, “Show me a good loser and and I’ll show you a loser.”

You can see in Peter’s own development, a hardening that mirrors the evolution of the startup scene. His first company, PayPal, began in an attempt to create a kind of early cryptocurrency and as it got more successful, ended up, in one famous anecdote, having to debate whether to accept payments from pornographers and then after 9/11, whether they were hiding money for terrorists. Facebook, his best investment, went from a fun place for college students to share party photos to connecting the world to being a distributor of fake news. And Palantir, which he founded with PayPal’s anti-fraud technology, began as a big data company…that is now used for drone strikes and SEAL Team Six raids. Success raised their profiles, which raised the stakes.

And Peter’s merciless plot to destroy Gawker (itself a former startup that had become an enormously powerful media company)? Thiel was caught off guard when Gawker outed him as gay in 2007. There was a time he looked to resolve things amicably with Gawker. One Gawker editor would tell me about meeting Thiel in 2008 and finding him almost painfully naive about the media business, thinking that he could appeal to personal relationships to get gossip journalists to back up. By 2012, he had hardened, sold a billion dollars in Facebook stock, and become convinced that Gawker was an obstacle to his business plans, as well as his vision for the future and needed to be crushed. Part of that cold-eyed calculation was the belief that Gawker’s power as a media outlet could not be met effectively in the marketplace of ideas, but rather had to be met with the power of his bank account. Which is what he did. It took nearly a decade, but at the end Gawker fell and he remained standing. A $300 million dollar company with 300+ employees ceased to exist.

I’m not saying this to praise these kinds of moves, but in fact to wash away the vestiges of naïveté which allow them to happen unchecked. One of Gawker’s editors would say in a documentary about Peter Thiel’s plot, “It was scarcely believable that something so cinematically vindictive and conspiratorial and underhanded could have actually happened.”

Certainly that disbelief is exactly why it happened. “We live in a world where people don’t think conspiracies are possible,” Thiel would tell me in an interview. “We tend to denounce ‘conspiracy theories’ because we are skeptical of privileged claims to knowledge and of strong claims of human agency. Many people think they are not possible, that they can’t be pulled off.”

The robber baron type of today and yesterday live in a world where the opposite belief is true, and where power is raw and real and there to be used in furtherance of such conspiracies. Too many others, as Gawker was, are misled by their own cynicism and virtue signaling. They forget how the world works. Gawker certainly did, or they would not have acted so recklessly or indiscriminately, not only outing married men with children and tweeting things like this, but deliberately making enemies like Peter Thiel—men who accrued real power—and expecting that there would never be a reckoning.

An immutable law of history: actions have consequences. There is the apocryphal story about Vanderbilt after he was cheated by two business partners in Nicaragua and lost his license to operate in the country. He sent them a letter, “Gentlemen: You have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you. Yours truly, Cornelius Vanderbilt.”

Power is sought so it can be wielded. Just as no one builds a multi-billion dollar empire without some sort of savage determination and intense will to power (otherwise they would have stopped at some earlier point, taken their winnings and gone home), no one accumulates power and then declines to use it in the face of existential threats—of which Thiel counted Gawker as one to his business interests. A Mark Zuckerberg or an Elon Musk doesn’t build an empire and allow others to encroach on their borders. And yet, it says something about our reflective, childlike understanding of the minds of these people that we condemn, the Koch Brothers or George Soros for various schemes, without stopping to think about why they are doing these things. It’s not simply to save on their taxes, I’ll tell you that. It’s because they have those same “privileged claims to knowledge” and “strong claims of human agency,” that Peter was talking about.

They are trying to own the future, or direct it where they want to go. Sometimes we’ll agree with their attempts—such as when Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to New Jersey schools—and other times we’ll be shocked and upset—as people have been with many of Peter Thiel’s when he set up scholarships for dropouts, funded SeaSteading, and of course, destroyed a media outlet.

I would argue that this is only a taste of what is to come. Silicon Valley was place of a generational—perhaps epoch-level—transfer of power. Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, himself once observed that New York gossip had transitioned from Zuckerman (as in Mortimer Zuckerman, the media tycoon and former owner of the New York Daily News) to Zuckerberg. It’s true, and he, and, we, the public, are now experiencing what that will mean.

The press, the public, and politicians need to understand this rising force if they wish to put up guardrails against it or put it to good use solving society’s problems. By understand, I don’t mean clutch at pearls constantly, I mean understand it the way we recognize a riptide or the ferocity of a wild animal. Artists need to understand it too, and create works that teach lessons about it.

I wrote about Thiel’s arc from technology investor to Straussian power broker for that same reason. I think we need a wake up call about how this all works, what kind of forces have been unleashed by the gold rush of California, just as powerful forces and names like Hearst and Stanford and Huntington were unleashed in the original Gold Rush.

Because we ignore them at our peril.

My new book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, which the New York Times raved about, is out now. Not only is the book an epic page turner, it’s designed to be a deep meditation on strategy and power inspired by the decade-long conspiracy engineered by the billionaire Peter Thiel to take down Gawker. Order your copy now.