Maybe Don’t Get Rid of Peter Thiel for Supporting Trump But For Everything Else

This is a thing for people who heard some people are calling for Peter Thiel to be fired for supporting Donald Trump and are scared about the idea of firing people for supporting a candidate.

I could be wrong about some of this, and would welcome corrections, but it seems like worrying about being wrong before you publish something is passe lately so when in Rome I guess. But seriously if you think I missed something just say, “Well but haven’t you thought about this,” you don’t have to yell or anything.

Background

I think the average person knows Peter Thiel best as the billionaire who shut down Gawker by funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit, and maybe recently as the guy who gave $1.25 million to Donald Trump’s campaign only AFTER the sexual assault allegations came out.

He also spoke at the RNC this year. Politically he considers himself libertarian. He has a long history of pooh-poohing “multiculturalism” and attempts to bring minorities and women closer to equality, his most famous statement being that women getting the right to vote ruined chances at whatever he thinks our ideal society should be.

The Current Brouhaha

The $1.25 million donation was the last straw for a lot of pro-social-justice Silicon Valley people, who want Facebook to remove him from their board and Y Combinator (a very influential VC/incubator/organization/thing) to dump him as their [very hazily defined role as mentor and advisor].

Mark Zuckerberg has refused to remove him from Facebook’s board because they “value diversity” and Sam Altman of Y Combinator refuses to remove him from whatever it is he does there (though Altman keeps reminding people that he barely does anything official there, even though he’s Altman’s mentor and holds “office hours” for YC startup founders). He says that cutting off people with different views is how we got Trump in the first place.

Here’s Zuckerberg’s post:

And here’s Altman’s recent blog post. And one of his tweets:

For more links: this is a very anti-Thiel post by an ex-Gawker dude, so not an “unbiased source” but it has a lot of relevant links and background from way back up to now.

Is It Really About “Firing” Someone For “Voting For A Different Candidate”?

A lot of people are agreeing with Zuckerberg and Altman and saying it’s an important principle not to fire someone for supporting a different candidate than you. Which, if you keep it that vague, is true. But this specific case seems different to me.

(1) It’s not exactly “firing” the way the average person thinks of “firing.” He doesn’t work for YC at all in any official capacity, and in both cases he is not there as an employee (someone down the hierarchy) but an advisor. He is not someone the company hands orders and tasks down to, he is the person the company looks up to for direction. His job is to guide the company, whether tangibly, as in Facebook, or as an angelic figurehead like in YC maybe. (Sorry, Altman is a lot more clear on what Thiel isn’t doing there than what he is.)

Both companies are actively trying to do this weird half-movement half-company thing where they claim their main mission is almost equal parts trying to make money and trying to improve society. YC is funding basic income research projects and medical stuff and Facebook is doing a lot of PR about diversity and giving internet access to poor people.

One of the key people guiding you on this pivot to becoming a “benefitting society” organization should probably not be a guy who thinks it sucks that women got the vote and that multiculturalism is ruining America.

(2) If this was the first crappy thing he’s done, then sure, you could think of it as an isolated incident of just supporting a different political candidate and it might be kind of abrupt to cut off a person just for doing that. I think his support of Trump is not the problem in itself, but it’s just one more piece of evidence that reveals who he really is, and there are quite enough pieces of evidence already that it seems logical this might be the final piece that gives a lot of people a complete enough picture to take some kind of action.

This fits in with the “should we cut off 40% of the country that supports Trump then?” argument, where all we know about these people in the collective is that they are voting for Trump, not their reasons or anything else about them, and we can’t dismiss them all while only knowing this one thing about them. Maybe some are not racists or xenophobes, but single-issue voters or protest voters or who knows.

But as mentioned, the public knows a lot more about Thiel than that, and Zuckerberg and Altman probably know way more. They can’t act like they’re making this decision based on knowing nothing about him other than that he supports some candidate.

Can’t you just say that there have been signs building up over the years that he’s not the kind of person you want on your board advising you toward your brighter utopian future or whatever, and that this is the last piece of the puzzle? That it’s not about a “different choice of political candidate” but about an entire picture, of which this was only the last pixel?

Or is the idea that everything else about him is not a big deal and the Trump thing is the only thing they disagree with him on?