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FTR #718 In Your Facebook: A Virtual Panopticon?

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MP3 Side 1 [1] | Side 2 [2]

Introduction: Recorded on 7/4/2010–Independence Day–this program contemplates how independent our innovative technology really makes us. Conceptualized as a “liberating” technology, Facebook (and by extension other social networking sites) exposes its clients to potential widespread dissemination of sensitive personal information.

Analyzing the individuals and elements involved with Facebook, the program should give potential users of the network pause to reflect. Do you really want these folks handling your most sensitive data?

Beginning with the background of Peter Andreas Thiel [3], the broadcast analyzes the background and political philosophy and activism of this primary backer of Facebook. Son of a chemical engineer an apparent employee of a successor firm to the I.G. cartel, Thiel’s residences include stints in South Africa and Namibia, both locations of Underground Reich activity [4].

Underlying this examination is the fundamental question of the family’s possible membership in the Underground Reich. (In order to gain a working understanding of the argument presented in these programs, listeners should familiarize themselves with Paul Manning’s Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile [5]. Dominating the successor firms to the I.G. and embracing the diverse elements of the postwar Nazi diaspora, the network Manning describes [6] is to be found throughout the elements discussed in FTR #718.

Over the years, Thiel has manifested a far-right/libertarian political philosophy. In addition to spawning a conservative political review while at Stanford and authoring a conservative tome The Diversity Myth, he has networked with a neo-conservative organization The Vanguard.Org.

Another Facebook luminary is the grandson and namesake of Roelof (Pik) Botha [7], former foreign minister of South Africa. Although one certainly can’t judge the younger Botha by his grandfather’s politics, one should also weigh the possibility that they may constitute a trans-generational nexus of power, not unlike that looked at in connection with the Bush family in the Russ Baker interviews (FTR #’s 711-716.)

Also looming large in Facebook’s background is a CIA venture capital firm [8], In-Q-tel.

Of paramount importance in considering the Facebook milieu is the fact that much of what is going on on the tech frontier is being dominated by a small group of people–dubbed the PayPal Mafia by wags–who are the Thiel/Botha milieu.

Program Highlights Include: “Pik” Botha’s close relationship with Third Reich alumnus Franz Richter [9]; review of the death of the U.N. administrator for Namibia (controlled by the apartheid regime of South Africa) on Pan Am 103; review of “Pik” Botha’s escape from death on Pan Am 103; Peter Thiel’s belief in the Peak Oil philosophy; review of the fascist overtones and history of Peak Oil.

1. The program’s title asks the implicit question: with its exposure of vast amounts of personal data and under the control of, or associated with, some apparently dark individuals and institutions, is Facebook a “virtual panopticon.”

Panopticon is a type of prison:

The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”[1]
Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.

“Panopticon”; Wikipedia. [10]

2. Beginning with the background of Peter Andreas Thiel, the broadcast analyzes the background and political philosophy and activism of this primary backer of Facebook. Son of a chemical engineer an apparent employee of a successor firm to the I.G. cartel, Thiel’s residences include stints in South Africa and Namibia, both locations of Underground Reich activity [4].

Underlying this examination is the fundamental question of the family’s possible membership in the Underground Reich. (In order to gain a working understanding of the argument presented in these programs, listeners should familiarize themselves with Paul Manning’s Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile [5]. Dominating the successor firms to the I.G. and embracing the diverse elements of the postwar Nazi diaspora, the network Manning describes [6] is to be found throughout the elements discussed in FTR #718.)

. . . It’s hard to say when Peter Andreas Thiel first decided that one person could outsmart the crowd. Born in Frankfurt in 1967, Thiel bounced among seven elementary schools — from California, to Namibia, to Ohio, to South Africa — as his father, Klaus, a chemical engineer, worked around the world.

Klaus; his wife, Susanne; Thiel; and Thiel’s younger brother, Patrick, eventually settled in Foster City, California, north of Silicon Valley. . . .

“PayPal’s Thiel Scores 230 Percent Gain with Soros-Style Fund” by Deepak Gopinath [Bloomberg.com]; CanadianHedgeWatch.com; 12/4/2006. [3]

3. Thiel worked for Sullivan & Cromwell and Credit Suisse Group after leaving law school. One of America’s premier white-shoe law firms, Sullivan & Cromwell has profound connections to the fascist international, handling the business affairs of families such as the Bushes and the Bin Ladens.

. . . After collecting his law degree, Thiel clerked for U.S. Federal Circuit Judge Larry Edmondson in Atlanta and then joined Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. He lasted seven months and three days before quitting out of boredom, he says.

He jumped to CS Financial Products, a unit of what’s now Credit Suisse Group, where he traded derivatives and currency options for a little more than a year. Then he went home to California, raised $1 million from his friends and family and started his first macro fund, Thiel Capital Management. . . .

Idem. [3]

4. Thiel subscribes to the Peak Oil [11] philosophy, which has strong fascist underpinnings and overtones [12].

. . . Thiel is a proponent of a geologic theory known as peak oil, which holds that global oil production is now at or near its apex. Among his picks was Calgary-based EnCana Corp., which wrings oil from the tar sands of Canada. EnCana stock rose 54 percent in 2005. . . .

Idem. [3]

5. Over the years, Thiel has manifested a far-right/libertarian political philosophy. In addition to spawning a conservative political review while at Stanford and authoring a conservative tome The Diversity Myth, he has networked with a neo-conservative organization The Vanguard.Org.

In addition, a CIA technology subsidiary is deeply involved with the Facebook milieu.

Although it can be taken for granted that the intelligence community will centrally position itself with regard to any and all technological developments, the fact that intelligence services are involved with an organization that collects and organizes vast amounts of personal data should not be overlooked.

Facebook is a well-funded project, and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology. Like PayPal before it, it is a social experiment, an expression of a particular kind of neoconservative libertarianism. On Facebook, you can be free to be who you want to be, as long as you don’t mind being bombarded by adverts for the world’s biggest brands. As with PayPal, national boundaries are a thing of the past.

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners (more on him later). Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook’s current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.

Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently called him “one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country”. He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken. He and his absurdly wealthy Silicon Valley mates have recently been labelled “The PayPal Mafia” by Fortune magazine, whose reporter also observed that Thiel has a uniformed butler and a $500,000 McLaren supercar. Thiel is also a chess master and intensely competitive. He has been known to sweep the chessmen off the table in a fury when losing. And he does not apologise for this hyper-competitveness, saying: “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford. He claimed that the “multiculture” led to a lessening of individual freedoms. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review – motto: Fiat Lux (“Let there be light”). Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack MoveOn.org, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself “way libertarian”.

The Vanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. On the site, Thiel says: “Rod is one of our nation’s leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than most executives have of their own businesses.”

This little taster from their website will give you an idea of their vision for the world: “TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us.” Their aim is to promote policies that will “reshape America and the globe”. TheVanguard describes its politics as “Reaganite/Thatcherite”. The chairman’s message says: “Today we’ll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined.”

So, Thiel’s politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes’ famous characterisation of life as “nasty, brutish and short”, and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: “For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe.”

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries – and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Thiel’s philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel’s virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel’s intellectual soirees. What you don’t hear about in Thiel’s philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world’s wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it’s fair to say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: “You can’t have a workers’ revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu,” he says.

If life in the past was nasty, brutish and short, then in the future Thiel wants to make it much longer, and to this end he has also invested in a firm that is exploring life-extension technologies. He has pledged £3.5m to a Cambridge-based gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey, who is searching for the key to immortality. Thiel is also on the board of advisers of something called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. From its fantastical website, the following: “The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are several technologies … heading in this direction … Artificial Intelligence … direct brain-computer interfaces … genetic engineering … different technologies which, if they reached a threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence.”

So by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world, which he also calls “nature”, and install a virtual world in its place, and it is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook. Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation, and Thiel is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies. Not someone I want to help get any richer.

The third board member of Facebook is Jim Breyer. He is a partner in the venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12.7m into Facebook in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Marvel Entertainment, he is also a former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really making things happen in America, because they invest in the new young talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like. Facebook’s most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Greylock’s senior partners is called Howard Cox, another former chairman of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What’s In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their website), this is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which “identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions”.

The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes spying easier. “We need to find new ways to deter new adversaries,” defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003. “We need to make the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of our transformation efforts.” In-Q-Tel’s first chairman was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the US department of defence, and – with Breyer – board member of BBN Technologies. When she left the US department of defence, Senator Chuck Robb paid her the following tribute: “She brought the technology and operational military communities together to design detailed plans to sustain US dominance on the battlefield into the next century.” . . . .

“With Friends Like These . . .” by Tim Hodgkinson; guardian.co.uk; 1/14/2008. [8]

6. More about the CIA link to Facebook:

. . . . Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome ‘The Diversity Myth’, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise are in “data mining technologies”.

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.

Dr Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.

She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development. . . .

“Facebook–the CIA Conspiracy” by Matt Greenop; The New Zealand Herald; 8/8/2007. [13]

7. Another Facebook luminary is the grandson of Roelof (Pik) Botha, former foreign minister of South Africa. Although one certainly can’t judge the younger Botha by his grandfather’s politics, one should also weigh the possibility that they may constitute a trans-generational nexus of power, not unlike that looked at in connection with the Bush family in the Russ Baker interviews (FTR #’s 711-716.)

. . . Roelof Botha has been a venture capitalist for three years, and he dreams of putting up the early money for a Google-scale success that is adored on Wall Street and feared by rivals. But Botha, 33, is one of the hottest dealmakers in Silicon Valley for taking the opposite tack: selling out.

Botha joined Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s elite venture capital firms, in 2003; he had helped run the PayPal online outfit. In February 2005 two PayPal pals of his started a video Weblet called YouTube. Botha put up $8.5 million in Sequoia cash for a 30% stake. In November Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Sequoia will reap a 65-fold return, catapulting Botha onto the Forbes Midas List of top tech dealmakers; he ranks 23rd . . . .

. . . Botha was born and bred in South Africa, the grandson of Roelof (Pik) Botha, a foreign minister (1977–94) in the apartheid government who supported the release of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and later served in his government (1994–96). . . .

“The Art of Selling Out” by Erika Brown; Forbes; 2/12/2007. [7]

8. As discussed in AFA #35 [14], Pik Botha apparently had prior notification of the impending bombing of Pan Am 103. He switched his reservations at the last minute, avoiding the lethal fate of the U.N. administrator for Namibia, who died on the flight.

There are indications that the Broederbond–epicenter of South African fascism–also went underground after the official fall of the apartheid regime. This “Underground Broederbond” [15], in turn, is affiliated with the Underground Reich.

His support for Nelson Mandela notwithstanding, Grandpa Botha’s political orientation can be gleaned from his support for associate Franz Richter, an alumnus of the Third Reich. (Botha was very close to Richter.)

. . . Franz Richter, who was murdered this week in a robbery near his game ranch outside Johannesburg at the age of 80, was one of the pioneers of game tourism in South Africa. Richter, who was born in Romania on October 27 1927, was an orphan by the age of five. As a youth in communist-run Romania, all he dreamt about was having a full stomach. That and Africa. When he was 15, he made his way to Germany where he was promptly drafted into the Hitler Youth and forced to fight in the German army. . . .

“Franz Richter: Pioneer of Game Tourism in SA” by Chris Barron [Times of Zambia]; psychedelicdungeon.wordpress.com; 12/22/2007. [9]

9. Beyond Facebook, per se, it is important to contemplate the concentration of power within the tech world, with a small number of individuals (“the PayPal Mafia”) controlling much of what is taking place.

. . . Thiel won big with PayPal. Eight months later, in October 2002, EBay agreed to buy the company for $1.5 billion. The PayPal crew cashed-in and moved on. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim founded video-sharing Web site YouTube Inc. and sold it to Google Inc. in October for $1.65 billion. Levchin went off and founded Slide, a photo-sharing site.

Executive Vice President Reid Hoffman founded Linked-In Corp., a business networking site. Vice President Jeremy Stoppelman created Yelp, a site that helps people find restaurants, shops and other businesses in their area. . . .

“PayPal’s Thiel Scores 230 Percent Gain with Soros-Style Fund” by Deepak Gopinath [Bloomberg.com]; CanadianHedgeWatch.com; 12/4/2006. [3]