In Silicon Valley, and among the wider group of venture capitalists who invest in startup companies hoping to cash in early on the next tech or science or finance giant, there are a lot of people who are very smart. There are also a lot of people who are very rich. These two groups of people are not necessarily the same. But one of the annoying aspects of the general capitalist mythos of this country is that very rich people are often told that they are very smart, and come to regard themselves as very smart. With money comes power, and with power comes confidence, and so in the end what you get out of the strange boxland in the Southern San Francisco Bay region is a pandemic of very rich people blithely tweeting some of the absolute dumbest dogshit ever put online and maintaining that instead of a turd, what they have offered up is intellectual gold.
That leads us to this tweet that I saw today which is shockingly dumb and also racist, for good measure, by Eric Weinstein, the managing director of Thiel Capital.
We could spend the entire blog focusing on the myriad ways that this tweet is wrong and offensive, or picking apart the truly deranged thread — based largely on weird race science — that preceded it, but frankly, I think that would be doing a disservice to the vast majority of readers, who are smart enough to look at this tweet and think something along the lines of “Jesus Christ dude what the fuck.”
What’s more useful, I think, is placing this tweet in the context of a trend of very wealthy and powerful people being convinced that the ideas they have are as rich intellectually as their bank accounts are financially. More to the point, it is an example of why the entire industry of tech CEOs and venture capitalist think-boys needs to fuck off immediately.
Let’s post some more examples. For the record, I am going to exclude everything Elon Musk has said from this blog because I already wrote a blog about him, but safe to say he is a stunning example of this trend. Elon Musk, fuck off.
A common theme among these posts is the CEO or VC in question comparing something they feel is unfair toward them to a massively disproportionate harm. (Weinstein’s tweet fits this bill.) For another example, here’s powerful VC legend Tom Perkins saying that Bay Area residents not liking rich gentrifiers could be a new Kristallnacht. (From his letter to the Wall Street Journal):
“From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these ‘techno geeks’ can pay.
“This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”
Another common Type of Post is one that starts as a technological argument but veers right onto the Racism Onramp at the first opportunity. This is best exemplified by VC titan Marc Andreesen’s tweet about anti-colonialism being bad for the Indian people, which came at the end of an argument about a Facebook internet project aimed at drawing in new users to feed its advertising and data-gathering bases by providing them a “free” version of the internet that could only run Facebook.
There’s another kind, which can be best described as uh, “tone-deaf.” Here’s an example from Sarah Cone, the founder of VC firm Social Impact Capital.
Was there malice behind this tweet? Probably not, but it’s not really for me to say. It is certainly a mistaken joke attempting to acknowledge the reality of police violence against Black people coupled with the lack of diversity in tech and finance, but the sheer fact that this woman saw fit to post it to her feed (it has since been deleted) suggests that she is a bit of an idiot, to put it mildly.
There are also less harmful examples, which are my personal favorite, like this legendary post from one of the founders of Y Combinator:
If you want to read more examples there is an entire Twitter account called “VC Brags” set up to catch this kind of dumbass posting.
If all of the big rich smarties’ stupid posts were innocuous like this, that would be fine: everyone is allowed to put on their dumb motherfucker hat online every now and then. But far too often, the VCs and CEOs of this world are insulated from any sort of measurable accountability when their posts aren’t so innocent. For many people, doing racist tweets or posts can get you fired. But if you’re the boss, advancing an overtly racist argument usually doesn’t usually correspond to a measurable loss of power — only fucking things up so bad you actually cause financial losses can do that. Instead, it’ll lead to a Twitter break, or a fine in the form of the fees they have to pay to a crisis PR firm if shit gets really bad. At worst, they’ll “step down” from something and take a generous golden parachute before starting over again somewhere else. This is how money works — once you get enough of it, it’s basically impossible to fuck up so bad it all goes away.
The only recourse we have is telling all of these people to fuck off, publicly, as often as possible. It might not be much, but if it gets them to delete their account for a couple days, the entire internet will probably be better off.