Scary rightwing anti-democratic Quillette-funding Peter Thiel

NOTE: this item was originally on the website on Google's Blogger platform, until Google decided to censor it.

Back to NG McClernan | Back to Pinkerite

I recently discovered the claim that Peter Thiel secretly funded Quillette. The claim is from a newly-released book about Thiel, "The Contrarian" by Max Chafkin.

Of course I immediately bought the book and wow, if even half of the claims are true, Thiel is a very scary person. He sounds to me like a psychopath.

I'm not the only one who found Thiel scary. From the NYTimes review:
Scared people are scary, and Chafkin's masterly evocation of his subject's galactic fear - of liberals, of the U.S. government, of death - turns Thiel himself into a threat. I tried to tell myself that Thiel is just another rapacious solipsist, in it for the money, but I used to tell myself that about another rapacious solipsist, and he became president
An excerpt from a book written by Thiel, "Zero to One," was published in 2014 by Wired, entitled You Should Run Your Startup Like a Cult. Here's How. Thiel had written:

In the most intense kind of organization, members abandon the outside world and hang out only with other members. We have a word for such organizations: cults. Cultures of total dedication look crazy from the outside. But entrepreneurs should take cultures of extreme dedication seriously.

Will Menaker's response:

Meanwhile, "The Contrarian" contains this passage:
A person who has talked to each man about the other put it more succinctly: "(Elon) Musk thinks Peter is a sociopath, and Peter thinks Musk is a fraud and a braggart."
So is Peter Thiel a sociopath or a psychopath? Are there any differences between the terms? Well psychology professionals don't agree among themselves on the terms, something I knew when I was challenged on Twitter by a friend of IDW/Quillette, which I will write about soon.

Let's get to the part about Thiel funding Quillette. From page 231:
(Charles) Johnson also used his crowdfunding company, WeSearchr, to finance a campaign to uncover evidence that (Gawker Media founder Nick) Denton, had committed a crime so that he could be sent to prison. The WeSearchr page, which included an illustration of Denton in stripes and behind bars, raised $50,000, much of it contributed by Johnson himself. Because few people outside of the shadowy world of far-right politics knew of Thiel's patronage of the alt-right, the press mistook it as a grassroots uprising. The journal Quillette - an outlet that Thiel was secretly funding, according to Johnson - used the trending hashtag (#ThankYouPeter) as proof that "ordinary readers" were on Thiel's side, effectively making Johnson's campaign look organic. 
Quillette was sleazy from the start. And Thiel had also secretly funded the lawsuit that led to Gawker folding. Quillette's founder, Claire Lehmann, predictably wrote a pro-Thiel article in Quillette and danced on Gawker's grave.

In addition to Quillette, Thiel is connected to the IDW through Eric Weinstein, "unofficial founder of the "Intellectual Dark Web," money manager for eccentric billionaire Peter Thiel."

"Eccentric" is one way to put it.

Long before getting involved in tech, Thiel was a devoted right-winger:
In 1987, Thiel poured his sense of grievance into the launch of a right-wing newspaper, the Stanford Review. It was his first entrepreneurial venture and the beginning of a network that would eventually expand and dominate Silicon Valley. Thiel's primary innovation with the Review was to connect the parochial concerns of a small elite - conservative Stanford undergraduates - to mainstream national politics. Thus the optional $29 per year dues charged by the student senate became a microcosm of tax-and-spend liberalism and a plan to add non-white authors, like Zora Neale Hurston, to Stanford's Western Culture course became a civilization-level threat. A fundraising letter later sent to older alumni warned that a professor was teaching a course on Black hairstyles. It led to a flood of donations. These sorts of antics helped draw the attention of Ronald Reagan's secretary of Education, who came to speak at a Review event and made national news recapping it on PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

Thiel's newspaper was also fixated on sex. The first issue featured a satirical column, "Confessions of a Sexual Deviant," about a young straight man who'd chosen to be celibate. According to the Review, it was almost impossible to visit a men's restroom without witnessing a gay sex act or to cross the quad without having fistfuls of free condoms pressed into your hand. In 1987, presenting homosexuality as an addiction, a columnist wrote that "unnatural" gay men had "yielded to temptation so many times that the fires of lust burn within them, making it indeed difficult for them to control themselves." During Thiel's last year on campus, his close friend and Review collaborator Keith Rabois stood outside the home of a Stanford residential fellow and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Faggot! You are going to die of AIDS! You're going to get what's coming to you!"; two days later, the Review published "The Rape Issue," with an impassioned defense of a student who'd pleaded "no contest" to statutory rape.

Thiel would go on to valorize Rabois as a free-speech martyr in a book, The Diversity Myth, co-written with the architect of the special issue, David Sacks. It's tempting to psychologize the book, with its lurid complaints about the supposed prevalence of "glory holes" across the Stanford campus. And some who know Thiel speculate, convincingly, that his mid-'90s homophobia was an expression of self-hatred. (Thiel is gay, as is Rabois.) But the book's incendiary qualities might just have easily been a product of Thiel's single-minded desire to provoke a reaction. He wanted to make his mark, and he surely knew that the prospect of recent graduates defending the guy who had shouted "Die, faggot!" on the quad of an elite university would get noticed.
It should have been no surprise to anybody who knew him that Thiel supported Trump - Thiel has been a right-wing extremist since he was a college student.

Peter Thiel has expressed hostility to women's right to vote, and not only women's. In his essay "The Education of a Libertarian" written for the Koch-funded Cato Institute in 2009, Thiel wrote:
...I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. By tracing out the development of my thinking, I hope to frame some of the challenges faced by all classical liberals today...

...Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of "capitalist democracy" into an oxymoron.
As Chafkin writes about the essay:

Thiel posted a clarification to Cato's website, in which he offered a non-apology for his comments about women. "While I don't think any class of people should be disenfranchised, I have little hope that voting will make things better," he wrote. Amazingly, this explanation, however thin, sort of worked. George Packer, in his otherwise rigorous account of Thiel's thinking in The New Yorker, reported that "Thiel didn't want to take away women's right to vote - instead, he wanted to find a way around democracy, which was incompatible with freedom," as if that was somehow exculpatory. It wasn't that Theil wanted to take away women's votes; he wanted, it seemed, to take away everyone's.

Perhaps scariest of all is Thiel's views on race. As a funder of Quillette, it's likely that Quillette's faithful support for race pseudoscience is a reflection of Thiel's values.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, who attended Stanford University the same time Thiel did, wrote:
 One day I heard a rumor that Peter defended apartheid (which was then still the law of the land in South Africa), which I found morally repugnant. To know that a fellow student, a dormmate for that matter, might defend such a brutally oppressive race-based caste system gave me the willies. But I wanted to give Peter the benefit of the doubt, so I mustered the courage to go to his room to ask him about it. He said, with no facial affect, that apartheid was a sound economic system working efficiently, and moral issues were irrelevant. He made no effort to even acknowledge the pain the concept of apartheid could possibly raise for me, a Black woman. Needless to say, the chill up my spine didn't go away that day; if anything my fear was now greater knowing I was living with someone who seemed indifferent to human suffering or felt that oppressing whole swaths of humans was a rational, justifiable element of a system of governance. The looming threat of a Trump presidency makes me feel the exact same way."
Thiel's defending apartheid is horrific, but it's the way he did it that gives the impression he's a psychopath: "He said, with no facial affect, that apartheid was a sound economic system working efficiently, and moral issues were irrelevant."

In 2016 there were many articles like this one, from Buzzfeed: Peter Thiel Met With The Racist Fringe As He Went All In On Trump. But Thiel had known the racist fringe long before he got involved with Trump. Thiel founded investment management company Clarion Capital in 2002. According to "The Contrarian": employee told me that it was common to hear talk about climate change denial and to see web browsers open to VDARE, a far-right website with a long record of publishing white nationalist writing. There were liberals at Clarion, but they understood that it was best to keep those views quiet.

VDARE receives millions from Koch and other rightwing plutocrats via Donors Trust. VDARE is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Now run by the VDARE Foundation, the site is a place where relatively intellectually inclined leaders of the anti-immigrant movement share their opinions. also regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites. 
In 2011 Thiel teamed up with racist Charles Murray to argue that too many people go to college

In 1996, in an article co-written with David Sacks, Thiel cites "The Bell Curve" to argue against affirmative action:

Another myth is that preferences simply give minority applicants a small "plus." In reality, the average SAT disparity between Stanford's African-American and white admittees reached 171 points in 1992, according to data compiled by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education and cited in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's book, The Bell Curve.

In 2017, in the student newspaper Stanford Politics, Andrew Granato wrote:
A former (Stanford Review) editor reported that at the same event in 2015 where Thiel obliquely referenced the imminent destruction of what turned out to be Gawker, he also endorsed cutting immigration to the United States by "80 percent," but at the same time supported increasing "high-skilled" immigration. Another former editor described Thiel's views on immigration as "foundationalist": "He believes that the people who come into a country are the identity of that country, and a decision to change the people who come in irrevocably alters the identity of that country." (Thiel was born in Germany, and his parents immigrated to the US when he was one; he also lived in South Africa and what is now Namibia for part of his childhood.)

Another former Review editor told me that in fall 2014, also at Thiel's home, during a discussion of Charles Murray's controversial book on IQ, The Bell Curve, Thiel wanted to "entertain" the thought of there being a biological reason for racial gaps in test scores. The editor said Thiel cited the ancient Chinese administration, which he described as a situation in which the people who scored higher on tests got more power and were more sexually successful, and he seemed curious about the idea that a civilization could, over time, end up being more intelligent than others.

We contacted Thiel's office with all the quotes sources attributed to him to see if he would elaborate on or dispute any of them; through a spokesperson, Thiel declined to comment on any of them.

Thiel is funding the political career of J. D. Vance, and Vance has his own Murray connection. In November 2020, Vulture wrote:

Last year, (Vance) appeared with Thiel, Senator Josh Hawley, and other luminaries at a conference on "national conservatism," where he criticized libertarianism, then attacked pornography and the government itself for allowing such obscene material to exist. On labor rights, meanwhile, he is relatively silent. He has complained about the "abortion lobby" and has worried - frequently and publicly - about declining American fertility rates. In 2016, during a talk with Charles Murray of Bell Curve infamy, the two joked about their "pretty clean Scotch-Irish blood" before Vance asserted "there's definitely a sort of ethnic component to what's going on" in areas like Appalachia.

In some cases Thiel has disavowed his old positions, but Thiel also has no qualms about lying. He apologized in 2016 for some rape-apologist things he wrote in "The Diversity Myth":

"But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might 'realize' that she had been 'raped' the next day or even many days later. Under these circumstances, it is unclear who should be held responsible. If the alcohol made both of them do it, then why should the woman's consent be obviated any more than the man's? Why is all blame placed on the man?"

As the Guardian said

In his apology 20 years later, Thiel said in a statement, "More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements," Forbes reports. "As I've said before, I wish I'd never written those things. I'm sorry for it. Rape in all forms is a crime. I regret writing passages that have been taken to suggest otherwise."

But according to "The Contrarian"
...the following year at a Stanford Review event, he reportedly told a student editor the apology had been for show. "Sometimes you have to tell them what they want to hear," he said.
Is Peter Thiel a psychopath? When I called him one on Twitter, I got into a kerfuffle that I think of as "The Lockwood Saga" which I will be writing about soon.