The Contrarian Goes Searching for Peter Thiels Elusive Core – The New York Times

Posted: September 16, 2021 at 5:51 am

Thiel sat on President Trumps executive transition team; Palantir, Thiels data analytics firm, procured a number of lucrative government contracts. Behind the scenes, Chafkin says, Thiel was pushing for a Republican crackdown on tech companies, and more specifically on Google, his nemesis. (Googles size and reach presented, in Chafkins words, a threat to nearly every company in Thiels portfolio.) You might think that this deployment of government power would go against everything the libertarian Thiel believed in, but you begin to wonder, while reading The Contrarian, whether the Big Government bullying that conservatives warned against before Trump became president was in fact just a projection of the big-footing they would gladly do if given the chance Trumpism as a form of wish fulfillment. In Chafkins summary: Get on the Trump train, or get a visit from the F.T.C.

As it happens, Thiel was bullied as a child a skinny, socially awkward, chess-playing boy, he protected himself by becoming resolutely disdainful. He was born in Germany and moved to the United States as an infant, in 1968. His fathers job at an engineering firm also meant a sojourn in apartheid South Africa, where the younger Thiel attended an elite, all-white prep school. He went to Stanford and started the Stanford Review, a conservative newspaper, staying put to go to law school. An unsatisfying stint as a corporate lawyer ended when he failed to get the Supreme Court clerkship he so desperately wanted. I was devastated, Thiel would later recall, saying it precipitated a quarter-life crisis.

The Contrarian recounts Thiels professional trajectory in full, depicting him stumbling into the tech industry not out of any particular passion but because it presented an opportunity to get rich. Thiel, unlike the fantasy of the American entrepreneur who risks it all for his dream, was always hedging his bets even, at one point, proposing that PayPal turn over its limited cash reserves to his own hedge fund so that he could speculate with the money.

Chafkin portrays Thiels support for Trump on the 2016 campaign trail in similar terms. Chances are, any establishment Republican would have been fine for Thiels business interests, and Thiel had already scandalized Silicon Valley with his criticisms of womens suffrage and immigration. But if Trump won, Thiel was bound to be rewarded by a president who clearly prized demonstrations of loyalty above all else. Not to mention that Thiel by any material measure a master of the universe relished the thought of Trump sticking it to that part of the elite club that wouldnt have him as a member. As one of Thiels investors put it, He wanted to watch Rome burn.

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The Contrarian Goes Searching for Peter Thiels Elusive Core - The New York Times

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