You may have heard of Peter Thiel, the right-wing “libertarian” co-founder of Paypal and early investor in Facebook. He seems to be a magnet for controversy and intrigue, with his penchant for casual misogyny and exotic philanthropic endeavors. So, who or what is he really?
Despite his attempts to label himself a libertarian, it should be clear he is anything but. His ideology seems neoconservative or worse if you trace some of his other “philanthropy.” For instance, he gave $75,000 to the far-right Institute on Religion and Public Life, gave $25,900 to Meg Whitman’s failed gubernatorial campaign, and provided the funding to the smear group that attacked ACORN.
I wish that were all, but he has a long history of this sort of thing. What kind of libertarian funds anti-immigrant groups? All the real libertarians I know are borderline anarchists and often don’t even believe in borders. Xenophobia and libertarianism are incompatible by any sensible definitions.
What you may not know is that Thiel was a founder of Palantir Technologies, a company that provides analysis and informatics tools to governments and large corporations. Palantir was in the news this week for its role in waging cyber warfare on Wikileaks and its supporters at the behest of Bank of America.
Through different sources posted yesterday, it has been found that Palantir and other firms were hired by the US Chamber of Commerce to “develop tactics for damaging progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition called Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.”
Libertarianism as a philosophy can be a very noble thing, and fighting for market freedom can also be a noble thing. The actions of Palantir were neither noble nor in support of free markets. The Chamber of Commerce lives for only one thing: corporatism. The last thing they would want is to have to compete on a free market without the aid of subsidies, economic rent, barriers to entry, regulatory capture, patents, limited liability, corporate personhood, and the many other market interventions on behalf of centralized wealth.
[UPDATE: After being exposed, Palantir is now very sorry for what they have done to Wikileaks... no word on if they are sorry for their work with the Chamber]
Disturbingly, the lastest post on Palantir Technology’s twitter account was to advertise a company event with Silicon Valley Robotics, makers of military robots. The event seems to promise an up close and personal look at the “killer robots” of the future. Not surprisingly, Palantir's other big investor was In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA.
People of conscience, consider this your warning before undertaking any relationship with Mr Thiel.