E S O T E R I C
April 16, 2018 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Peter Thiel's Apocalypse
For two decades, Thiel has been one of the most blood pressure–raising figures in Silicon Valley, provoking fury from his liberal opponents and caveat-dripping defenses from even his most loyal allies. Yet there’s something oddly elusive about him, something that goes beyond his identities as a semi-closeted gay man, a heterodox Christian, and an exceedingly flexible libertarian—something reflected in the mishmash of seemingly irreconcilable beliefs to which he subscribes. Trying to discern what drives Peter Thiel can be an exercise in extreme futility, especially when he declines interview requests, as he did for this story. Yet everywhere Thiel goes, he leaves behind clues.

The referenced 2009 essay by Thiel: The Education of a Libertarian
I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself “libertarian.”

But I must confess that over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, 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.
Peter Thiel's essay The Straussian Moment in POLITICS AND APOCALYPSE

Peter Thiel: the "libertarian" who loves mass government surveillance, monopolies, and censorship - The Libertarian Logic of Peter Thiel


Sorry Peter Thiel; Libertarianism is Not Compatible with Authoritarianism [compare and contrast: The Insidious Libertarian-to-Alt-Right Pipeline, The Libertarianism-to-Fascism Pipeline, A Rejoinder To Matt Lewis On Libertarians And The Alt-Right]


Why Peter Thiel Wants to Topple Gawker and Elect Donald Trump
Neoreaction has a number of different strains, but perhaps the most important is a form of post-libertarian futurism that, realizing that libertarians aren’t likely to win any elections, argues against democracy in favor of authoritarian forms of government. In this guise, it’s a heretical offshoot of Valley nerd culture, and has particular associations with Thiel. Mencius Moldbug (real name Curtis Yarvin), the “founder” of neoreaction, is a Bay Area programmer whose start-up, Urbit, is backed by Thiel; and reactionary blogger Michael Anissimov was formerly media director at the Thiel-funded Machine Intelligence Research Unit (MIRI). Even Nick Land, the major NRx figure after Moldbug (whom I’ve written about before), has no personal connections to the Valley but shares many of its peculiar cultural interests: Before his neoreactionary conversion, he spent much of the 1990s as a rogue academic writing philosophy-fiction about the Singularity, killer-AI, and time travel. So when it came out that Thiel was attacking a media company and supporting a candidate already perceived as a neo-fascist, it looked a little like some Pynchon-esque conspiracy coming to fruition.

What’s more interesting, however, than Peter Thiel being the shadowy puppetmaster behind a neoreactionary conspiracy — he’s not, and one doesn’t exist — is why he doesn’t need to be. It may seem a little puzzling why a tech entrepreneur, whose own interests include “disruption” and high-modernist sci-fi dreams of space travel and life extension, might get in bed with Trump’s brand of strongman bullying and populist white resentment. But we’re living through a number of crises in our liberal-democratic political system that have no obvious way out, and that are pushing all sorts of different people to react and realign in similar ways. It shouldn’t be a surprise if some are beginning to converge on pretty weird positions.

Peter Thiel and the Authoritarian-Libertarian Alliance for Trump


french
Peter Thiel and the Struggle Beyond Politics - "It’s subtle, but it points to a key idea from this now past election, that put both major parties on their heels: Thiel sees himself as something beyond these ideologies, implying that he himself is a kind of shepherd, sent to guide us beyond our mortal trappings. A kind of Superman, if you will, reinforced by the undeniable success he’s had in 21st century business."

The French Origins of "You Will Not Replace Us"
“You will not replace us”: a French philosopher explains the Charlottesville chant - "American white nationalists may not realize it, but the fear of replacement is essential to the work of a controversial French writer named Renaud Camus."

rene girard
Mimesis, Violence, and Facebook: Peter Thiel’s French Connection
Thiel’s connection to the late René Girard, his former teacher at Stanford, is well known but poorly understood. Most accounts of the Girard-Thiel connection have described the common ground between them as “conservatism,” but this oversimplifies the matter. Girard, a French Catholic pacifist, would have likely found little common ground with most Trump delegates. While aspects of his thinking could be described as conservative, he also described himself as an advocate of “a more reasonable, renewed ideology of liberalism and progress.” Nevertheless, as the Politics and Apocalypse symposium reveals, Thiel and Girard both believe that “Western political philosophy can no longer cope with our world of global violence.” “The Straussian Moment,” Thiel’s contribution to the conference, seeks common ground between Girard’s mimetic theory of human social life – to which I will return shortly – and the work of two right-wing, anti-democratic political philosophers who were in vogue in the years following 9/11: Leo Strauss, a cult figure in some conservative circles, and a guru to some members of the Bush administration; and Carl Schmitt, a onetime Nazi who has nevertheless been influential among academics of both the right and the left. Thiel notes that Girard, Strauss, and Schmitt, despite various differences, share a conviction that “the whole issue of human violence has been whitewashed away by the Enlightenment.” His dense and wide-ranging essay draws from their writings an analysis of the failure of modern secular politics to contend with the foundational role of violence in the social order.
Reading Rene Girard At The End Of The World

The Concept of carl schmitt - Nazi-era philosopher [and jurist] who wrote blueprint for New Authoritarianism
Politics Above Law: How Trump channels Far Right icon Carl Schmitt without Knowing It
It is safe to assume that Trump has not read the writings of the German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt, who wrote his most important books during the Weimar Republic and leading up to the Nazi regime. At the root of these writings was Schmitt’s emphasis on placing politics above law. According to Schmitt, legality of a particular constitutional order cannot be separated from the specific political system it which it originates. He argued that sovereign authority of the ruler is superior to rigid, abstract legal principles, especially during a crisis, when he argued, the ruler must be freed from legal restraints.
The Prehistory of the Alt-Right


leo strauss
Rise of the Reactionary - "How a handful of Weimar émigrés came to have an outsize influence on the ideology of the American right."
Richard Spencer’s Master’s Thesis Was an Anti-Semitic Critique — of a Jewish Philosopher - " And, seriously, how does an anti-Semite build a philosophy of white nationalism — at least to some extent — on the study of Jewish philosophers? That last question is difficult to answer, because much of Spencer’s writing on those philosophers — Theodore Adorno, on whom he wrote his thesis in a master’s program in the humanities at University of Chicago, Leo Strauss, and the heavily Jewish Frankfurt School of whom Adorno was a part — is inaccessible."

oswald spengler: Pessimism's Prophet
sadly, the best Spengler references are lots in the fever-swamps of neoreaction. moving on.

roberto calasso
"As part of the René Girard Lectures, Calasso will be speaking on “The Last Superstition”"
Roberto Calasso's Encyclopedia Mind At Play, a " “neo-gnostic,” a master of secret knowledge. " a sacred egoist

_____

The Rise of Anti-Liberalism
The alt-right are targeting disgruntled white male lefties to join their movement
Answering the Alt-Right

some extended previouslies:
Peter Thiel[readme] (Paypal inventor, venture capitalist, libertarian, vampire, techno-optimist, futurist, tranhumanist, lawsuit-machine finanicier and inflation-predicting billionaire) is supporting Donald Trump for President of the United States, and thinks America made a (one of many) wrong turn granting women the vote. Why?
//
want to understand schmitt, spengler and r.camus? try adorno, arendt and gramsci!
posted by the man of twists and turns (82 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
Peter Thiel is not an ideologue, he is a sociopath. And as such, can find ideologies useful for manipulating others even while he believes himself not beholden to them.
posted by at by at 8:53 AM on April 16 [57 favorites]


Peter Thiel and The Dark Enlightenment, are the worst things to come out of Silicon Valley, bar none. I've got my issues with his former partner, Elon Musk and his union-busting, missing-the-obvious naivete about transit, general cluelessness, and chauvinism, too. Though if I had to choose between Elon Musk and Peter Thiel's influence, I'd pick Elon in a heartbeat. At least we'd get electric cars, not a surveillance company with a name so fucking on-the-nose that you almost expect it to be a joke in an episode of Silicon Valley.

Ugh.
posted by SansPoint at 8:54 AM on April 16 [27 favorites]


Peter Thiel is not an ideologue, he is a sociopath. And as such, can find ideologies useful for manipulating others even while he believes himself not beholden to them.

Exactly. And as long as people persist in believing him to be an ideologue and trying to crack his code or whatever instead of acknowledging the truth -- Peter Thiel gives no fucks about anything other than enriching Peter Thiel -- they'll keep getting played by him and the next huckster to come along.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:57 AM on April 16 [19 favorites]


want to understand schmitt, spengler and r.camus? try adorno, arendt and gramsci!

Also, I am apparently not the only person who sees a profitable potential comparison between Land's accelerationism and more leftist thinkers like Arthur Kroker (and from there people like Kathy Acker, etc) and Paul Virilio (and from there the more familiar French postmodernists).
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:01 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I don't think the burden of proof has been met to dismiss Thiel as a sociopath. It sure seems like he has a philosophy that allow himself to position himself as advancing civilization but this zero-to-one Dark Enlightenment bullshit can be supremely selfish without being sociopathic.

Put another way, you can be a sociopathic socialist.
posted by Merus at 9:12 AM on April 16


Peter Thiel is not an ideologue, he is a sociopath.

Those are not mutually exclusive states. I'd probably put the Kochs in the same bucket. Extreme wealth can breed extreme beliefs utterly disconnected from reality, as well as attitudes toward society in-general that are, shall we say, highly destructive to anyone not in the idealogue's tax bracket.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:19 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years

There’s your problem.
posted by Frayed Knot at 9:22 AM on April 16 [34 favorites]


Libertarians are no mystery. Anytime they invoke freedom and liberty, they mean my freedom, my liberty.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:24 AM on April 16 [37 favorites]


Kitty Stardust: Yup. It's my freedom to exploit you, not your freedom to not be exploited.

I mean, not me, but the Libertarian I'm ostensibly putting words in the mouth of. I don't want to exploit anyone.
posted by SansPoint at 9:30 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


I'm in the middle of a book about the English Civil War, and it's interesting how many of today's political movements are there in embryo. You've got your theocrats who want the nation to be ruled by a committee of God-fearing saintly men; you've got your Levellers, who were advocating for an approximation of what we've got now, and your Diggers, who wanted to take equality to its communistic end-point; you've got your plumpers for military dictatorship; and you've got a wealthy slice of the population who think that freedom and property rights (the same thing to them) are incompatible with democracy. (In their case, one of the big issues was tithes. They had managed to buy up the right to collect and keep tithes as a form of income property, and they were willing to throw things into chaos as best they could if their right to their tithing income was threatened by no-quality, no-name, no-class parliamentarians.)
posted by clawsoon at 9:32 AM on April 16 [17 favorites]


I stand against totalitarian collectives...
...
I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.


Must be nice to believe self-contradictory things. Try as I might, it just hurts my brain.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:36 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


Peter Thiel is not an ideologue, he is a sociopath.


Peter Thiel's main ideology is Peter Thiel.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:40 AM on April 16 [11 favorites]


Mental Wimp: Once we finally replace the English Language with Newspeak, wrongthink will be impossible, and you will be able to doubleplusgood newthink doublethink.
posted by SansPoint at 9:42 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


It's not self-contradictory, it just means his vision of corporate feudalism isn't a totalitarian collective.

What these types are really searching for is a secular replacement for the Great Chain of Being and the related Divine Right of Kings, some sort of ideological structure that lets people accept their lot in the eternal, unchanging order of things.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:43 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


SansPoint: Yup. It's my freedom to exploit you, not your freedom to not be exploited.

The idea that a difference in bargaining power between two parties could shade over into exploitation is an idea which libertarians I've had discussions with have had a very hard time accepting. You're a billionaire, and I'm on the edge of starvation, and we sign a crushingly unequal contract? Well, a contract is a contract, and I wasn't the one who made you starve, was I?

Some of them - usually the ones who were attracted to libertarianism because they thought it was about non-violence - eventually come around.
posted by clawsoon at 9:43 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


A tweet I saw this weekend suddenly seems apropos:
friedrich nietzsche's whole problem was that he was an atheist in germany that somehow, someway, could not find and maintain a goth gf and so this is why he is the patron saint of the reddit incel subreddit
— Michelle Perez @mperezwritesirl
Don't think there's anything esoteric about Thiel and it's probably pointless to speculate on whether he's a sociopath or just looks like one. His choice of mythologies suggest, to me, a self-loathing burner-downer longing for the orgasm of camp apocalypse, while his career suggests just another rich dude who wants money, power, and immortal life. That sums him up, I'd say. Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool he ain't.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:43 AM on April 16 [20 favorites]


Drivers? er, money. Oh, and ego.
posted by sfts2 at 9:44 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I get kind of an Eldon Tyrell vibe from Peter Thiel, except he's the one who wants more life. I also have a hard time trusting anyone - rich, poor or otherwise - who wants to live forever.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 AM on April 16


Isn't Ayn Rand the Occam's Razor of all this? I love all TMOTAT's links in the original post, and it's clear from the first article that Thiel fancies himself a philosophe, but I think I agree with the folks here who say it just boils down to sociopathic ego and greed.
posted by PhineasGage at 9:49 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


clawsoon: "Some of them - usually the ones who were attracted to libertarianism because they thought it was about non-violence - eventually come around."

The ones who lose everything in a flash and find themselves suddenly at the bottom rung of the bargaining power ladder often do too, but it usually evaporates again if they manage to get out of their predicament. Largely because, as has been astutely observed, they are the group most inclined to think of their plight as that of merely a "temporarily embarrassed millionaire."
posted by mystyk at 9:53 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


But isn't the sort of meddling he's advocating and talking about like a subversive new idea just business as usual? What America been doing for ages, and which provoked the terrorist response in the first place.
One of Strauss’s central ideas is that there are truths, known only to philosophers, that are concealed in esoteric writing and should not be communicated to the masses, whom he viewed with Platonic disdain. One of those “taboo” truths, Strauss writes, is that “America owes her greatness not only to her habitual adherence to the principles of freedom and justice, but also to her occasional deviation from them.”

In other words, playing dirty has been essential to the nation’s success. Thiel argues that this subversive insight provides the middle ground between ineffectual modern liberalism and the state of permanent war. At first glance, he argues, it would seem impossible for America to embrace the taboo of outright deception, because “a direct path forward is prevented by America’s constitutional machinery.” However, he goes on, “there are more possibilities for action than first appear,” including what the Italian writer Roberto Calasso calls “the secret services…murders, traps, betrayals, assassinations, cover-ups, and weapons shipments.”
posted by ver at 9:53 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Hey I've got an idea guys let's talk about freedom all the time while in actuality condoning slavery
posted by XMLicious at 9:55 AM on April 16 [11 favorites]


These guys are super villains in every way except the process colour-friendly spandex outfits.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:59 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


From the first link:
> And his friendship with reactionary authoritarians like Eliezer Yudkowsky and Curtis Yarvin
That labels fits Yarvin to a tee, but I've never read anything of the sort from Yudkowsky. Am I missing something or is the author?
posted by ReadEvalPost at 10:04 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Libertarianism comes down to two principles:

1) The right of property owners to exercise full control over their property is the only real right; all other rights and freedoms are extensions of property.
2) The right of Property must never, ever be infringed.

They really ought to call themselves Proprietarians, as their views don't really track with what most people think of when they talk about liberty, but as the ideology was literally invented in the 1950's as a dishonest way to justify conservative politics, it's no surprise that most libertarian rhetoric tends to just assume that liberty=property and avoid saying it outright.

So when Peter Thiel says "freedom and democracy are incompatible", what he means is that a society which lets people vote on how it's structured is incompatible with those principles- that if people are allowed to vote on whether or not he should be able to do literally whatever he wants with his vast wealth, they vote no and insist that there be, at the very least, some rules. Most people would (and should!) recognize that as a very good thing.

Incidentally, that conflation of "freedom" with "the absolute right of property owners to be unchallenged in their right to dictate the disposition of their property" leads to a lot of horrors if you really take it as an organizing principle and not just a justification to be a Republican who's cool with weed and (maybe, depending on the Libertarian) abortion. Dark Enlightenment neo-monarchism comes from the idea that since the owner of property will take the most and best care of it, it naturally follows that the head of state should be the owner of the country. Hans Hermann Hoppe is probably the best-known exponent of this idea; he envisions a world of nations owned by their kings, who are the only ones with any rights whatsoever except the right to leave and find another nation whose king will allow you to live there.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:07 AM on April 16 [36 favorites]




ver: One of those “taboo” truths, Strauss writes, is that “America owes her greatness not only to her habitual adherence to the principles of freedom and justice, but also to her occasional deviation from them.”

Well, sure, if you mistake "greatness" for "power", and "occasional" for "a couple of centuries", you might start thinking about how much American wealth and power was built on slavery.

Lots of historical "greatness" - Egyptians, Assyrians, Romans, etc., etc. - has been built on slavery, so that's not a surprise.
posted by clawsoon at 10:09 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


That labels fits Yarvin to a tee, but I've never read anything of the sort from Yudkowsky. Am I missing something or is the author?

Elizabeth Sandifer's Neoreaction A Basilisk goes over Yudkowsky's role in contributing to the origin and rise of neoreaction, but she thinks he's just a naif who isn't really capable of confronting the ways in which his ideas are compatible with neoreaction, and not a neoreactionary himself.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:09 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


I have made some choices in my career that, looking back, are somewhere on the regrettable-to-shameful spectrum. Among them are working for 2 startups that took money from Founder's Fund, Thiel's investment vehicle. Including the one I'm currently at, which is otherwise a lovely place to work and is a bunch of good people engaged in a positive mission. With Thiel's money.
posted by bgribble at 10:10 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


"And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human."
-- William Gibson, Count Zero.
posted by gauche at 10:23 AM on April 16 [52 favorites]


Elizabeth Sandifer's Neoreaction A Basilisk

... Is extremely good and you should go read it. Yes, you in the back.
posted by PMdixon at 10:24 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


He can fuck off back to his Blood Monolith, which just did a flyby of the solar system.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on April 16


I stand against . . . the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual.

This is insane; he believes he can achieve personal immortality.

As he ages, and his own personal death inexorably and undeniably approaches, he may well self-destruct in spectacular ways.
posted by jamjam at 10:26 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


My problems with Peter Thiel are as much aesthetic as they are moral and political (and you'd better believe they're hella moral and political). Above and beyond his fascism, sociopathy, etc. etc., he's just so tasteless and crass and unutterably naff.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:50 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


Why is there not more blood in this post?

I am convinced that Peter Thiel wants to consume the blood of the worker because he both recognizes his nature and is afraid of metaphors.
posted by The Gaffer at 10:53 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Have any of you ever eaten at Burger King?
posted by kevinbelt at 11:18 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Guys, guys, I've got it—Thiel is Elon Musk's supervillain.

I mean, he's perfect. He's got a nonsense philosophy but basically just wants to watch the world burn, stupendous resources to put towards crazy vanity projects, and he and Musk even have an intertwined origin story for when they do the prequel teen TV show tie-in. All they need is a love triangle and we're good to go.

Pretty sure at least one or two major cities are going to get fucked up during the inevitable mechsuit death fight in the second reel, though. Might be a good idea to steer clear of NYC, Washington, SF, or Tokyo for a while.

Boston is probably safe. Nobody ever fucks up Boston, for some reason.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:22 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


The ultimate freedom for me is if everyone is my slave. QED.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:31 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I automatically assume that anyone who's fantastically rich and that obsessed with living forever is just desperately trying to avoid having the Devil collect on his half of the bargain. We all know how well that plays out.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:32 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


From the NRO article, this made me lol:
I think one of the chief barriers to my ever concluding that Martin Luther correctly interpreted St. Paul’s letters is that I don’t want to become a person who wears khakis and a broad smile when prefacing a difficult conversation with the words, “The Lord put something on my heart.”
posted by clawsoon at 12:00 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


Nobody ever fucks up Boston, for some reason

You cannot kill that which never lived.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:01 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


Boston is probably safe. Nobody ever fucks up Boston, for some reason.

This is a slightly uncomfortable sentiment on Patriot's Day, for what I hope are obvious reasons.
posted by theorique at 12:03 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


"I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual."

What does that lat bit even mean? Is he on some trip about immortality?
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:16 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


What does that lat bit even mean? Is he on some trip about immortality?

Yes.
posted by atoxyl at 12:33 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Yes, he's talking about biological immortality, the stuff Aubrey de Grey works on. I suspect it's the main reason he and Eliezer Yudkowsky are friends -- Yudkowsky claims loudly that ending aging through bioengineering is being blocked by everyone just seeing senescence and death as inevitable.
posted by ver at 12:37 PM on April 16


This is insane; he believes he can achieve personal immortality.

I'm five years older than he is, my lifestyle involves a hell of a lot less fear and stress, and I shall thoroughly enjoy reading his obituary.
posted by flabdablet at 12:41 PM on April 16 [18 favorites]


My problems with Peter Thiel are as much aesthetic as they are moral and political (and you'd better believe they're hella moral and political). Above and beyond his fascism, sociopathy, etc. etc., he's just so tasteless and crass and unutterably naff.

Well, yes; as Walter Benjamin famously put it, the logical outcome of fascism is the aestheticization of politics, basically building your politics around the way the images you like seem to work.

Morality, legality, and humanity don't matter: only the Romanticized vision.
posted by kewb at 12:58 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


Guys, guys, I've got it—Thiel is Elon Musk's supervillain.

Idk, Musk is really relentlessly anti-union and there have been many reports of pretty shitty conditions in his factories. And he was happy to be on the Trump train until Trump picked coal interests over Musk’s business interests (solar panels). People like him because he does goofy things like launching a dummy in a car into space, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Thiel were more alike than we imagine.
posted by mrmurbles at 1:08 PM on April 16 [24 favorites]


mrmurbles: People like him because he does goofy things like launching a dummy in a car into space, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Thiel were more alike than we imagine.

I made a similar point upthread. Musk isn't without his problems, but he's not quite as evil and openly sociopathic as his former partner. If I had to pick between the two of them, it's no contest, Musk would win any day of the week, and twice on Sundays. Doesn't mean I like Musk, but I certainly loathe him a lot less.
posted by SansPoint at 1:25 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Well, the whole premise of 95% of 21st century gritty reboot superhero movies is that hero and the villain are deep down just the saaaame, so yeah, this checks out.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:26 PM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Musk's mom, however, is legit a supervillain (or at least presents as one).
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:03 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Isn't there a paradox in Girard's thought, namely, that if all desire is mimetic and we only want things because we see that other people want them, then one can extrapolate back to an original desire that cannot have been mimetic. Perhaps, in so far as we participate in society, desires are mimetic--but I suspect that the original desire stems from the individual. Hence, Thiel's preoccupations: "I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself “libertarian.” Girard deflects us from our own Godlike power of originating a desire by positing that Christ was the exception that proved the rule and therefore made all subsequent scapegoating unnecessary. However, I suspect that gay people are more aware of their power to originate desire, since, certainly when Peter Thiel was growing up, he may not have seen examples from society of what to desire but was nevertheless aware that he wanted something other people apparently did not. With that may come an anxiety that scapegoating is by no means over, and the originator of different desires may be the one chosen to be the scapegoat.
posted by Tarn at 3:17 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Tarn: The original desire is survival. Food, shelter, mates, whatever have you, that’s in limited supply but necessary for your individual survival and the survival of your genome. Everything spirals out from that.
posted by SansPoint at 3:43 PM on April 16


SansPoint: That may be so. But it seems you agree with me that individuals can generate desires that are not imitations of others. I don't recall Girard ever making that distinction.
posted by Tarn at 3:54 PM on April 16


Musk's mom, however, is legit a supervillain (or at least presents as one).

Holy shit this is exactly how I want to age
posted by schadenfrau at 4:04 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


People like him because he does goofy things like launching a dummy in a car into space

Most people I know like him because he does seem to be advancing green energy causes, even if there are criticisms to be made about how he does it. Whereas Thiel is not doing anything worthwhile at all.

Maybe some people care more about the stunts, but I'd say most I know have positive feelings either because of electric cars / batteries / solar panels / etc or because of SpaceX (those who are more upset about America's current space program priorities/spending/etc).

I have never really heard anyone in SV express positive views of Thiel, which is what is so amazing. Even in Silicon Valley he's a villain.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:05 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]


I wonder if he has bothered to make any kind of will or trusts since he seems to believe that he can stave off biology with pseudoscience and hand-waving. We may end up with a real shit-show when he takes the dirt nap.
posted by Megafly at 4:33 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


We may end up with a real shit-show when he takes the dirt nap.

So my first reaction was "Nahhhh he can't be that delusional" but then I remembered blood of teenagers so now I'm wondering if they even have cameras in probate court.
posted by PMdixon at 4:36 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Isn’t Tesla losing executives at Trump administration levels? Good money is on the company going full Enron in a year- there are defiantly rumors that Musk is giving some bizarre public appearances.

Anyway as provisional speaker for the Sodomite International I must remind all members that sleeping with Theil is a punishable offense.
posted by The Whelk at 4:37 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Both of these individuals have almost no class whatsoever.
posted by Alexander J. Luthor at 4:40 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


sleeping with Theil is a punishable offense.

And not the fun, sexy kind, just to be clear.

(The offense is about 20% of the punishment tbf. Another 10% or so is him monologueing at you during before and after the act. The other 80% is when he exsanguinates you. That math is correct.)
posted by PMdixon at 4:41 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Presumably if the rich never pass on their property because they die, eventually there will be someone born who owns nothing but their own body. If robots can accomplish all manual labor, and existing people all other work, such a person's efforts would be worthless, and thus their only freedom would be to starve and die.

What a great future to look forward to. :-p
posted by gryftir at 5:42 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


This is basically the stated goal of Land. Maybe.

It's hard to tell.
posted by PMdixon at 5:45 PM on April 16


I remember learning from a seasteading proponent about Thiel's involvement in 2009, and my reaction being something about this feels like Moonraker. So now I associate Thiel with Hugo Drax.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:24 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


he believes he can achieve personal immortality.

Peter Thiel's death is going to be the biggest self-own of the 21st century.

Also, fuck Elon Musk.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:24 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


I mean they defeated taxes, why can’t they think they can defeat death?
posted by The Whelk at 1:00 AM on April 17 [11 favorites]


This is insane; he believes he can achieve personal immortality.

Which, combined with his willingness to fund start-ups, makes him a prime target for some advanced cryonics scam - you know, freeze him, put him in a glass coffin and shoot him into space towards Alpha Centauri.

But seriously, what stuck in my mind is this:
In the long run, Thiel writes, Girard’s pacifist Christian vision will triumph. Judgment Day will come.

Is he one of those who hate this world and this life and can't wait for it to end, hoping to get their virgins or whatever?

Also, he has donated millions to scholars of Girard, and even credits his old professor with inspiring his investment in Mark Zuckerberg’s company.

If people with such mind-set can become very, very rich in this world, what gives? Does that make them right and us wrong?
posted by Laotic at 4:22 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: sleeping with Theil is a punishable offense.

Ugh, not even with a someone else's borrowed dick.
posted by SansPoint at 6:43 AM on April 17


Laotic: Alpha Centauri? Too good for him. Fire Peter Thiel into the sun.
posted by SansPoint at 6:45 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Well, the whole premise of 95% of 21st century gritty reboot superhero movies is that hero and the villain are deep down just the saaaame, so yeah, this checks out.

"WE ARE NOT SO DIFFERENT, YOU AND I. COME, LET US JOIN FORCES AND RULE THE WORLD TOGETHER."
posted by theorique at 7:31 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


They really ought to call themselves Proprietarians

There is, apparently, a Propertarian movement.

CW: The most up-to-date link in the blog is "Let’s Not Fall for Jewish Propaganda", so ... uh, yeah.
posted by theorique at 8:22 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


theorique: This is my complete and utter lack of surprise.
posted by SansPoint at 8:58 AM on April 17


According to people who’ve met him Theil eats ice cold chicken soup thinking it will make him immortal, which is a scam that goes back to Joan Crawford at least.

Sitting in your fancy house, eating ice cold soup to own the libs. Wonderful.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Once you sell yourself on the faith that unrestricted human freedom is the cause of all past and present human success, you are primed to do anything you can imagine without remorse.

I'm almost jealous.
posted by quillbreaker at 9:51 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


These guys seem oblivious to the lesson the 19th century Robber Barons left: roughly, the good that men do lives after them.

They better get cracking on the "good" part. It will be the only immortality available to them.
posted by Chitownfats at 9:53 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I remember a conversation I had with a childhood friend when Mel Gibson’s outbursts started to coincide with the news that he had insisted on being the hammer hand that personally drove the nails into Christ on the cross in his passion film, after being drawn and quartered etc in previous roles. We got into a Daria and Jane style game of “I’m calling it right now“, and what we called that was that Mel Gibson was either going to die of autoerotic asphyxiation, like Fox Mulder’s prophecy, some kind of horrible torture porn home movie stunt gone wrong, or Craigslist cannibalism, which had been in the news at the time because of the case in Germany. Well, it looks like Mel cleaned up his act, but I’m going to play that game of calling it right now: even if Peter Thiel is not currently an active serial killer, the scandalousness of his eventual exit from the world is going to be one for the books.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:29 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


man of twists and turns, thanks for this roundup post.

I’m not really sure how to say this without sounding like an asshole or a humanities snob, but I feel like a lot of the dismay we have a society about how to deal with these disturbing movements comes from seeing them as something uniquely new, the product of late capitalism in an uncertain future, mistaking their grasping for power as some kind a visionary understanding of humanity’s path forward, instead of pretty established terrible human tendencies that have existed in the past and will exist again. MS13 is a very, very old-fashioned blood cult/warrior society. Peter Thiel is a malignant narcissist who wants to be a feudal overlord in a very long tradition that encompasses both Hitler’s occultist bullshit and people like Gilles de Rais. During the Obama administration we had enough faith in the strength of society and social norms of decency and functionality to sort of write off this obvious stunted adult preteen with supervillain delusions of grander who openly stated that his business ambition was to be the bad guy from Lord of the Rings. Turns out the moral arc of history is something you have to consistently work for, and squashing Theil before he does more damage is going to be a more difficult. Like other commenters here I’m offended not just by his incredibly destructive influence on labor rights, his cultivation of the alt right, and what I am sure are going to be a shocking list of personal abuses against those who have worked for him intimately when details like this or ever released to the public, but at his crassness and callowness, and how shallow his understanding of the social and philosophical movement he wants to see himself as a product of really is. Of course he thinks it’s strange that more people haven’t done a real scientific investigation of whether or not the bathing in or consuming the blood of children will stop the march of time on your body. Of course the esoteric scientist whose work he’s following because he thinks it will grant him physical immortality is a disheveled whack job with a wizard beard who looks like Rasputin hanging out at Starbucks, Alan Moore’s evil twin, or somebody’s painting of a warlock from one of the older additions of Heavy Metal magazine. Of course he supports a bloated fascist strongman like Donald Trump. Of course pictures of his face and body show the unmistakable signs of anabolic steroid abuse, and his ideas reflect the similar signs of steroid psychosis.

I don’t know. I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing either the horrifying affect people like him have had on tech and the people who have to work in that industry, or the very real ideological movements like dark enlightenment that man of twists and turns is trying to chronicle here. But if you take all of his pseudo-philosophical bullshit for its actual value, which is basically zero, you get the exact same personality and social type as the guy in the documentary “the act of killing,“ who hacked people to death for Suharto in the 70s and who in the 2010s told the camera he wanted to run for public office because he would be able to frighten business owners into giving him bribes. Human evil is banal, although not necessarily in the way that Hannah Arendt thought it was. We need to stop giving air time to the idea that feel is some kind of genius, or impressive in any way, and start treating him like every other wannabe tinpot dictator who needs to be put down.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:40 PM on April 17 [10 favorites]


Before his neoreactionary conversion, he spent much of the 1990s as a rogue academic writing philosophy-fiction about the Singularity, killer-AI, and time travel.

One of the many enjoyable things about the Auralnauts Star Wars dub is that I can take that stuff as the mad ravings of a robot created without skin and abandoned by his maker, instead of something that has any credibility whatsoever.
posted by kersplunk at 4:40 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Musk's mom, however, is legit a supervillain (or at least presents as one).

That's just David Bowie cosplay
posted by Apocryphon at 5:49 PM on April 17


Looks like Trump's mom, tbh.
posted by rhizome at 5:55 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Sometimes thinking about Musk, Thiel, the Kochs, Robert Mercer, etc decaying into dust is the only way I can get through another day under late capitalism.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:05 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Don't be mean to Ray Kurzweil.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:08 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


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