Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1017 Supreme Court Trump Card: Family Trump, Family [Anthony] Kennedy and Peter Thiel

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: Much has been said about Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­na­tion of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to become a Supreme Court jus­tice, replac­ing Antho­ny Kennnedy.

In this pro­gram, we high­light exten­sive net­work­ing between the Trump and Kennedy fam­i­lies and, in turn, some appar­ent “deep net­work­ing” between some of the indi­vid­u­als in the Trump/Kennedy nexus and insti­tu­tions linked to key ele­ments of the remark­able and dead­ly Bor­mann flight cap­i­tal net­work.

Deutsche Bank and the shad­ow of the I.G. Far­ben chem­i­cal com­plex fig­ure into the lat­ter part of this equa­tion.

The con­nec­tions between the fam­i­ly of Antho­ny Kennedy and the Trump milieu run deep. Antho­ny Kennedy’s son Justin was  Trump’s  banker at Deutsche Bank. In FTR #919, we ana­lyzed a New York Times arti­cle high­light­ing Don­ald Trump’s alto­geth­er opaque real estate devel­op­ments and evi­dence that those projects had sig­nif­i­cant links to ele­ments of the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.

In that pro­gram we set forth the pri­ma­ry role of Deutsche Bank in financ­ing Trump’s real estate projects.

” . . . While many big banks have shunned him, Deutsche Bank AG has been a stead­fast finan­cial backer of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial candidate’s busi­ness inter­ests. Since 1998, the bank has led or par­tic­i­pat­ed in loans of at least $2.5 bil­lion to com­pa­nies affil­i­at­ed with Mr. Trump, accord­ing to a Wall Street Jour­nal analy­sis of pub­lic records and peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter. That doesn’t include at least anoth­er $1 bil­lion in loan com­mit­ments that Deutsche Bank made to Trump-affil­i­at­ed enti­ties. The long-stand­ing con­nec­tion makes Frank­furt-based Deutsche Bank, which has a large U.S. oper­a­tion and has been grap­pling with rep­u­ta­tion­al prob­lems and an almost 50% stock-price decline, the finan­cial insti­tu­tion with prob­a­bly the strongest ties to the con­tro­ver­sial New York busi­ness­man. . . .”

The fact that Deutsche Bank is the pri­ma­ry finan­cial backer of “Trump Incor­po­rat­ed” is of pri­ma­ry impor­tance. The bank is cen­tral to the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.

The con­nec­tions between the fam­i­ly of Antho­ny Kennedy and the Trump milieu run deep. Antho­ny Kennedy’s son Justin was  Trump’s  banker at Deutsche Bank.

Fur­ther­more, jurists who clerked for Antho­ny Kennedy fig­ure promi­nent­ly in Trump’s judi­cial appoint­ments:

  1. ” . . . . He [Trump] picked Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such, who had served as a law clerk to Jus­tice Kennedy, to fill Jus­tice Scalia’s seat. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Then, after Jus­tice Gorsuch’s nom­i­na­tion was announced, a White House offi­cial sin­gled out two can­di­dates for the next Supreme Court vacan­cy: Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Cir­cuit and Judge Ray­mond M. Keth­ledge of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Cir­cuit, in Cincin­nati. The two judges had some­thing in com­mon: They had both clerked for Jus­tice Kennedy. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . In the mean­time, as the White House turned to stock­ing the low­er courts, it did not over­look Jus­tice Kennedy’s clerks. Mr. Trump nom­i­nat­ed three of them to fed­er­al appeals courts: Judges Stephanos Bibas and Michael Scud­der, both of whom have been con­firmed, and Eric Mur­phy, the Ohio solic­i­tor gen­er­al, whom Mr. Trump nom­i­nat­ed to the Sixth Cir­cuit this month. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . Jus­tice Kennedy’s son, Justin . . . . spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, even­tu­al­ly ris­ing to become the bank’s glob­al head of real estate cap­i­tal mar­kets, and he worked close­ly with Mr. Trump when he was a real estate devel­op­er, accord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of his role. Dur­ing Mr. Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr. Trump’s most impor­tant lender, dis­pens­ing well over $1 bil­lion in loans to him for the ren­o­va­tion and con­struc­tion of sky­scrap­ers in New York and Chica­go at a time oth­er main­stream banks were wary of doing busi­ness with him because of his trou­bled busi­ness his­to­ry. . . .”

After Kennedy left Deutsche Bank in 2009 he went on to become co-CEO LNR Prop­er­ty LLC. LNR Prop­er­ty saved Jared Kushner’s mid­town Man­hat­tan prop­er­ty in 2011:

  1. ” . . . . from 2010–2013 Justin Kennedy was the co-CEO of LNR Prop­er­ty LLC with Tobin Cobb. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Accord­ing the New York Times, in 2007 Kush­n­er Com­pa­nies pur­chased ‘an alu­minum-clad office tow­er in Mid­town Man­hat­tan, for a record price of $1.8 bil­lion.’ At the time the NYT wrote that this deal was ‘con­sid­ered a clas­sic exam­ple of reck­less under­writ­ing. The trans­ac­tion was so high­ly lever­aged that the cash flow from rents amount­ed to only 65 per­cent of the debt ser­vice.’ . . .”
  3.  ” . . . Who came to the res­cue? None oth­er than LNR Prop­er­ty, the com­pa­ny whose CEO at the time was Justin Kennedy. Accord­ing to the NYT and the Real Deal, Mr. Kush­n­er and LNR ‘reached a pos­si­ble agree­ment with LNR Prop­er­ty, a firm spe­cial­iz­ing in restruc­tur­ing trou­bled debt and which over­sees the mort­gage, that would allow him to retain con­trol of the tow­er by mod­i­fy­ing the terms of the $1.2 bil­lion mort­gage tied to the office por­tion of the build­ing.’ . . .”

The links between Trump­World and Antho­ny Kennedy’s sons is deep­er still. Kennedy’s oth­er son Gre­go­ry, has long-stand­ing ties to Trump Sil­i­con Val­ley advis­er Peter Thiel, whom we first ana­lyzed in FTR #718.

” . . . . . . . . Kennedy’s seat, mean­time, seemed des­tined to go to Kavanaugh, thanks in part to the glow­ing review of Kennedy, whose son, Justin, knows Don­ald Trump Jr. through New York real estate cir­cles, and whose oth­er adult child has con­nec­tions to Trump World via the president’s 2016 Sil­i­con Val­ley advis­er Peter Thiel, most recent­ly when the Kennedy firm Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers worked with Thiel’s Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies. . . .”

Gre­go­ry Kennedy’s DTA has an unusu­al­ly close rela­tion­ship with Palan­tir, a com­pa­ny that has helped the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

Kennedy’s DTA has oth­er per­son­al con­nec­tions to Palan­tir. Alex Fish­man and Alex Davis, two oth­er DTA founders, “enjoyed a very close rela­tion­ship” with Palan­tir co-founder Alex Karp, accord­ing to the law­suit.

It should be not­ed that the alleged secre­cy with which Palan­tir treats its oper­at­ing and invest­ing infor­ma­tion is char­ac­ter­is­tic of Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tions. A clos­et­ed, insid­ers-only oper­at­ing eth­ic serves the need for this con­sum­mate­ly pow­er­ful orga­ni­za­tion to main­tain a rel­a­tive­ly low pro­file, even as it gains pow­er, influ­ence and wealth.

” . . . . Yet Palan­tir — whose stock changes hands only through pri­vate trades — goes to great lengths to keep any detailed infor­ma­tion about its busi­ness pri­vate. . . .”

A law­suit by Palan­tir investor KT4 Part­ners alleges that Palan­tir is ille­gal­ly block­ing investors from sell­ing shares in the com­pa­ny and that Kennedy’s Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advi­sors (DTA) is a key part­ner and ben­e­fi­cia­ry of this strat­e­gy.

KT4 claims that when it tried to sell its shares of Palan­tir to a third-par­ty, Palan­tir would have DTA con­tact the third-par­ty and con­vince them to have Palan­tir sells them the shares direct­ly instead. DTA would then col­lect a com­mis­sion.

The cen­tral dynam­ic in the alle­ga­tions of plain­tiff (and Palan­tir investor) KT4 is set forth as fol­lows: ” . . . . But remark­ably, KT4 claims that when Palan­tir receives infor­ma­tion from an investor about a planned sale, it uses that infor­ma­tion to con­tact the buy­er and per­suade them instead to buy shares direct­ly from the com­pa­ny or from cer­tain Palan­tir insid­ers. One par­tic­u­lar bro­ker, Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers, or DTA, repeat­ed­ly gets com­mis­sions from these sales, even when it ‘per­formed no legit­i­mate work,’ KT4 claims. KT4 says it expe­ri­enced inter­fer­ence by Palan­tir when it tried to sell shares to High­bridge Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, a hedge fund that was owned by JPMor­gan Chase, in May 2015. After KT4 noti­fied Palan­tir of the planned sale, Palan­tir turned around and instruct­ed DTA to ‘take the oppor­tu­ni­ty, on Palantir’s behalf,‘and arrange a sale from Palan­tir to High­bridge instead, accord­ing to the law­suit. . . .”

In FTR #946, we exam­ined Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, its Trump and Steve Ban­non-linked tech firm that har­vest­ed Face­book data on behalf of the Trump cam­paign.

Peter Thiel’s Palan­tir was appar­ent­ly deeply involved with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s gam­ing of per­son­al data har­vest­ed from Face­book in order to engi­neer an elec­toral vic­to­ry for Trump, set­ting the GOP cam­paign to con­trol the Supreme Court in a deep­er, broad­er con­text.

Thiel was an ear­ly investor in Face­book, at one point was its largest share­hold­er and is still one of its largest share­hold­ers. ” . . . . It was a Palan­tir employ­ee in Lon­don, work­ing close­ly with the data sci­en­tists build­ing Cambridge’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­nol­o­gy, who sug­gest­ed the sci­en­tists cre­ate their own app — a mobile-phone-based per­son­al­i­ty quiz — to gain access to Face­book users’ friend net­works, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by The New York Times. The rev­e­la­tions pulled Palan­tir — co-found­ed by the wealthy lib­er­tar­i­an Peter Thiel — into the furor sur­round­ing Cam­bridge, which improp­er­ly obtained Face­book data to build ana­lyt­i­cal tools it deployed on behalf of Don­ald J. Trump and oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump, serves on the board at Face­book. ‘There were senior Palan­tir employ­ees that were also work­ing on the Face­book data,’ said Christo­pher Wylie, a data expert and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca co-founder, in tes­ti­mo­ny before British law­mak­ers on Tues­day. . . . The con­nec­tions between Palan­tir and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca were thrust into the spot­light by Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on Tues­day. Both com­pa­nies are linked to tech-dri­ven bil­lion­aires who backed Mr. Trump’s cam­paign: Cam­bridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mer­cer, the com­put­er sci­en­tist and hedge fund mag­nate, while Palan­tir was co-found­ed in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an ini­tial investor in Face­book. . . .”

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  1. Review of Peter Thiel’s high regard for Carl Schmitt: “. . . . a Nazi and the Third Reich’s pre­em­i­nent legal the­o­rist. For Thiel, Schmitt is an inspir­ing throw­back to a pre-Enlight­en­ment age, who exalts strug­gle and insists that the dis­cov­ery of ene­mies is the foun­da­tion of pol­i­tics. . .” 
  2. Review of Peter Thiel’s ear­ly legal expe­ri­ence with Sul­li­van & Cromwell, the Dulles law firm.
  3. A recount­ing of the role of John Fos­ter Dulles and Sul­li­van & Cromwell’s roles in the for­ma­tion of I.G. Far­ben.
  4. Review of Thiel’s Ger­man her­itage and his father’s prob­a­ble role with one of the I.G. suc­ces­sor com­pa­nies.

1a. The con­nec­tions between the fam­i­ly of Antho­ny Kennedy and the Trump milieu run deep. Antho­ny Kennedy’s son Justin was  Trump’s  banker at Deutsche Bank. In FTR #919, we ana­lyzed a New York Times arti­cle high­light­ing Don­ald Trump’s alto­geth­er opaque real estate devel­op­ments and evi­dence that those projects had sig­nif­i­cant links to ele­ments of the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.

In that pro­gram we set forth the pri­ma­ry role of Deutsche Bank in financ­ing Trump’s real estate projects.

” . . . While many big banks have shunned him, Deutsche Bank AG has been a stead­fast finan­cial backer of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial candidate’s busi­ness inter­ests. Since 1998, the bank has led or par­tic­i­pat­ed in loans of at least $2.5 bil­lion to com­pa­nies affil­i­at­ed with Mr. Trump, accord­ing to a Wall Street Jour­nal analy­sis of pub­lic records and peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter. That doesn’t include at least anoth­er $1 bil­lion in loan com­mit­ments that Deutsche Bank made to Trump-affil­i­at­ed enti­ties. The long-stand­ing con­nec­tion makes Frank­furt-based Deutsche Bank, which has a large U.S. oper­a­tion and has been grap­pling with rep­u­ta­tion­al prob­lems and an almost 50% stock-price decline, the finan­cial insti­tu­tion with prob­a­bly the strongest ties to the con­tro­ver­sial New York busi­ness­man. . . .”

The fact that Deutsche Bank is the pri­ma­ry finan­cial backer of “Trump Incor­po­rat­ed” is of pri­ma­ry impor­tance. The bank is cen­tral to the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile; Paul Man­ning; Copy­right 1981 [HC]; Lyle Stu­art Inc.; ISBN 0–8184-0309–8; p. 139.

“. . . . When Bor­mann gave the order for his rep­re­sen­ta­tives to resume pur­chas­es of Amer­i­can cor­po­rate stocks, it was usu­al­ly done through the neu­tral coun­tries of Switzer­land and Argenti­na. From for­eign exchange funds on deposit in Swiss banks and in Deutsche Sudamerikan­ishe Bank, the Buenos Aires branch of Deutsche Bank, large demand deposits were placed in the prin­ci­pal mon­ey-cen­ter banks of New York City; Nation­al City (now Citibank), Chase (now Chase Man­hat­tan N.A.), Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Hanover (now man­u­fac­tur­ers Hanover Trust), Mor­gan Guar­an­ty, and Irv­ing Trust. Such deposits are inter­est-free and the banks can invest this mon­ey as they wish, thus turn­ing tidy prof­its for them­selves. In return, they pro­vide rea­son­able ser­vices such as the pur­chase of stocks and trans­fer or pay­ment of mon­ey on demand by cus­tomers of Deutsche bank such as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Bor­mann busi­ness orga­ni­za­tions and and Mar­tin Bor­mann him­self, who has demand accounts in three New York City banks. They con­tin­ue to do so. The Ger­man invest­ment in Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions from these sources exceed­ed $5 bil­lion and made the Bor­mann eco­nom­ic struc­ture a web of pow­er and influ­ence. The two Ger­man-owned banks of Spain, Ban­co Ale­man Transat­lanti­co (now named Ban­co Com­er­cial Transat­lanti­co), and Ban­co Ger­man­i­co de la Amer­i­ca del Sur, S.A., a sub­sidiary of Deutsche Bank served to chan­nel Ger­man mon­ey from Spain to South Amer­i­ca, where fur­ther invest­ments were made. . . .”

1b. Bor­man­n’s FBI file revealed that he had been bank­ing under his own name in New York for some time.

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile; Paul Man­ning; Copy­right 1981 [HC]; Lyle Stu­art Inc.; ISBN 0–8184-0309–8; p. 205.

. . . . The file revealed that he had been bank­ing under his own name from his office in Ger­many in Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires since 1941; that he held one joint account with the Argen­tin­ian dic­ta­tor Juan Per­on, and on August 4, 5 and 14, 1967, had writ­ten checks on demand accounts in first Nation­al City Bank (Over­seas Divi­sion) of New York, The Chase Man­hat­tan Bank, and Man­u­fac­tur­ers Hanover Trust Co., all cleared through Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires. . . . 

1c. The con­nec­tions between the fam­i­ly of Antho­ny Kennedy and the Trump milieu run deep. Antho­ny Kennedy’s son Justin was  Trump’s  banker at Deutsche Bank.

Fur­ther­more, jurists who clerked for Antho­ny Kennedy fig­ure promi­nent­ly in Trump’s judi­cial appoint­ments:

  1. ” . . . . He [Trump] picked Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such, who had served as a law clerk to Jus­tice Kennedy, to fill Jus­tice Scalia’s seat. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Then, after Jus­tice Gorsuch’s nom­i­na­tion was announced, a White House offi­cial sin­gled out two can­di­dates for the next Supreme Court vacan­cy: Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Cir­cuit and Judge Ray­mond M. Keth­ledge of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Cir­cuit, in Cincin­nati. The two judges had some­thing in com­mon: They had both clerked for Jus­tice Kennedy. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . In the mean­time, as the White House turned to stock­ing the low­er courts, it did not over­look Jus­tice Kennedy’s clerks. Mr. Trump nom­i­nat­ed three of them to fed­er­al appeals courts: Judges Stephanos Bibas and Michael Scud­der, both of whom have been con­firmed, and Eric Mur­phy, the Ohio solic­i­tor gen­er­al, whom Mr. Trump nom­i­nat­ed to the Sixth Cir­cuit this month. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . Jus­tice Kennedy’s son, Justin . . . . spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, even­tu­al­ly ris­ing to become the bank’s glob­al head of real estate cap­i­tal mar­kets, and he worked close­ly with Mr. Trump when he was a real estate devel­op­er, accord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of his role. Dur­ing Mr. Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr. Trump’s most impor­tant lender, dis­pens­ing well over $1 bil­lion in loans to him for the ren­o­va­tion and con­struc­tion of sky­scrap­ers in New York and Chica­go at a time oth­er main­stream banks were wary of doing busi­ness with him because of his trou­bled busi­ness his­to­ry. . . .”

“Inside the White House’s Qui­et Cam­paign to Cre­ate a Supreme Court Open­ing” by Adam Lip­tak and Mag­gie Haber­man; The New York Times; 06/28/2018.

 Pres­i­dent Trump sin­gled him out for praise even while attack­ing oth­er mem­bers of the Supreme Court. The White House nom­i­nat­ed peo­ple close to him to impor­tant judi­cial posts. And mem­bers of the Trump fam­i­ly forged per­son­al con­nec­tions.

Their goal was to assure Jus­tice Antho­ny M. Kennedy that his judi­cial lega­cy would be in good hands should he step down at the end of the court’s term that end­ed this week, as he was rumored to be con­sid­er­ing. Allies of the White House were more blunt, warn­ing the 81-year-old jus­tice that time was of the essence. There was no telling, they said, what would hap­pen if Democ­rats gained con­trol of the Sen­ate after the Novem­ber elec­tions and had the pow­er to block the president’s choice as his suc­ces­sor. . . .

. . . .When Mr. Trump took office last year, he already had a Supreme Court vacan­cy to fill, the one cre­at­ed by the 2016 death of Jus­tice Antonin Scalia. But Mr. Trump dear­ly want­ed a sec­ond vacan­cy, one that could trans­form the court for a gen­er­a­tion or more. So he used the first open­ing to help cre­ate the sec­ond one. He picked Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such, who had served as a law clerk to Jus­tice Kennedy, to fill Jus­tice Scalia’s seat. . . .

. . . .Then, after Jus­tice Gorsuch’s nom­i­na­tion was announced, a White House offi­cial sin­gled out two can­di­dates for the next Supreme Court vacan­cy: Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Cir­cuit and Judge Ray­mond M. Keth­ledge of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Cir­cuit, in Cincin­nati.

The two judges had some­thing in com­mon: They had both clerked for Jus­tice Kennedy.

In the mean­time, as the White House turned to stock­ing the low­er courts, it did not over­look Jus­tice Kennedy’s clerks. Mr. Trump nom­i­nat­ed three of them to fed­er­al appeals courts: Judges Stephanos Bibas and Michael Scud­der, both of whom have been con­firmed, and Eric Mur­phy, the Ohio solic­i­tor gen­er­al, whom Mr. Trump nom­i­nat­ed to the Sixth Cir­cuit this month. . . .

. . . . Mr. Trump was appar­ent­ly refer­ring to Jus­tice Kennedy’s son, Justin. The younger Mr. Kennedy spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, even­tu­al­ly ris­ing to become the bank’s glob­al head of real estate cap­i­tal mar­kets, and he worked close­ly with Mr. Trump when he was a real estate devel­op­er, accord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of his role.

Dur­ing Mr. Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr. Trump’s most impor­tant lender, dis­pens­ing well over $1 bil­lion in loans to him for the ren­o­va­tion and con­struc­tion of sky­scrap­ers in New York and Chica­go at a time oth­er main­stream banks were wary of doing busi­ness with him because of his trou­bled busi­ness his­to­ry. . . .

1d.  After Kennedy left Deutsche Bank in 2009 he went on to become co-CEO LNR Prop­er­ty LLC. LNR Prop­er­ty saved Jared Kushner’s mid­town Man­hat­tan prop­er­ty in 2011:

  1. ” . . . . from 2010–2013 Justin Kennedy was the co-CEO of LNR Prop­er­ty LLC with Tobin Cobb. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Accord­ing the New York Times, in 2007 Kush­n­er Com­pa­nies pur­chased ‘an alu­minum-clad office tow­er in Mid­town Man­hat­tan, for a record price of $1.8 bil­lion.’ At the time the NYT wrote that this deal was ‘con­sid­ered a clas­sic exam­ple of reck­less under­writ­ing. The trans­ac­tion was so high­ly lever­aged that the cash flow from rents amount­ed to only 65 per­cent of the debt ser­vice.’ . . .”
  3.  ” . . . Who came to the res­cue? None oth­er than LNR Prop­er­ty, the com­pa­ny whose CEO at the time was Justin Kennedy. Accord­ing to the NYT and the Real Deal, Mr. Kush­n­er and LNR ‘reached a pos­si­ble agree­ment with LNR Prop­er­ty, a firm spe­cial­iz­ing in restruc­tur­ing trou­bled debt and which over­sees the mort­gage, that would allow him to retain con­trol of the tow­er by mod­i­fy­ing the terms of the $1.2 bil­lion mort­gage tied to the office por­tion of the build­ing.’ . . .”

“The Kennedy, Kush­n­er, and Trump Con­nec­tion: A Curi­ous Con­ver­sa­tion and A Busi­ness Deal” by C’Zar Bern­stein & Gabe Rusk; Medi­um; 03/01/2017.

. . . . Jus­tice Kennedy has two very suc­cess­ful sons in their own right, Gre­go­ry and Justin Kennedy. Gre­go­ry Kennedy, a Stan­ford Law grad­u­ate (a Stan­ford man like his father), was named CEO of Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers in Octo­ber of 2016. Accord­ing to his LinkedIn page: Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advi­sors is a “Los Ange­les based mer­chant bank with an exclu­sive focus on mid to late stage growth com­pa­nies.” . . . .

Justin Kennedy, a grad­u­ate of UCLA and Stanford(again like his father), has spent his career in the world of bank­ing, invest­ment, and, inter­est­ing­ly, real estate. In par­tic­u­lar, from 2010–2013 Justin Kennedy was the co-CEO of LNR Prop­er­ty LLC with Tobin Cobb. In the world of high-stakes NYC real estate it would be fair­ly improb­a­ble that the Trump or Kush­n­er groups, mono­liths in their own right, would not have min­gled or done busi­ness with the LNR at some point in time. We were not sur­prised, there­fore, to dis­cov­er that there is a like­ly con­nec­tion. Here’s what we know:

Accord­ing the New York Times, in 2007 Kush­n­er Com­pa­nies pur­chased “an alu­minum-clad office tow­er in Mid­town Man­hat­tan, for a record price of $1.8 bil­lion.” At the time the NYT wrote that this deal was “con­sid­ered a clas­sic exam­ple of reck­less under­writ­ing. The trans­ac­tion was so high­ly lever­aged that the cash flow from rents amount­ed to only 65 per­cent of the debt ser­vice.” The Times con­tin­ues:

“As many real estate spe­cial­ists pre­dict­ed, the deal ran into trou­ble. Instead of ris­ing, rents declined as the reces­sion took hold, and new leas­es were scarce. In 2010, the loan was trans­ferred to a spe­cial ser­vicer on the assump­tion that a default would occur once reserve funds being used to sub­si­dize the short­fall were bled dry. But the sto­ry may yet have a hap­py end­ing for Kush­n­er, a fam­i­ly-owned busi­ness that moved its head­quar­ters from Florham Park, N.J., to 666 Fifth, its first major acqui­si­tion in Man­hat­tan.”

Who came to the res­cue? None oth­er than LNR Prop­er­ty, the com­pa­ny whose CEO at the time was Justin Kennedy. Accord­ing to the NYT and the Real Deal, Mr. Kush­n­er and LNR “reached a pos­si­ble agree­ment with LNR Prop­er­ty, a firm spe­cial­iz­ing in restruc­tur­ing trou­bled debt and which over­sees the mort­gage, that would allow him to retain con­trol of the tow­er by mod­i­fy­ing the terms of the $1.2 bil­lion mort­gage tied to the office por­tion of the build­ing.” A spokesman for Mr. Kush­n­er told the Wall Street Jour­nal in March of 2011 that “[t]he Kushner’s are ready and will­ing to invest more mon­ey into the prop­er­ty as soon as they can come to mutu­al­ly sat­is­fac­to­ry terms with the ser­vic­ing agent.” In that same arti­cle Kushner’s father-in-law and the future Pres­i­dent com­ment­ed on the nego­ti­a­tions with Justin Kennedy’s com­pa­ny. Speak­ing about the deal, Trump told the WSJ that Kush­n­er is “a very smart young man…I think it (loan rene­go­ti­a­tions) will come out well for him and every­body.” At this point there is no doubt that there was a direct busi­ness rela­tion­ship between LNR and Kush­n­er Com­pa­nies at the time Justin Kennedy and Jared Kush­n­er were both CEO. Even the future Pres­i­dent was aware of the deal and com­ment­ed on its respec­tive mer­its. (That being said, it is not impos­si­ble that Jared Kush­n­er and Justin Kennedy did not meet in con­nec­tion with the spe­cif­ic deal in ques­tion; how­ev­er, giv­en the stakes involved it does seem more than like­ly that the two CEO’s would have inter­act­ed as nego­ti­a­tions were being con­duct­ed.)

The con­nec­tions between Kush­n­er, Kennedy, and Trump do not end there. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, in 2011, the year in which some of these nego­ti­a­tions took place, Justin Kennedy for the first time was ranked on the New York Observer’s 100 Most Pow­er­ful Peo­ple in New York Real Estate at #36. Don­ald Trump clocked in at #12. The New York Observ­er was owned at the time by none oth­er than Jared Kush­n­er him­self. . . .

1e. Fol­low­ing the nom­i­na­tion by Pres­i­dent Trump of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Jus­tice Antho­ny Kennedy on the Supreme Court, we get con­fir­ma­tion that Trump got Kennedy to resign by agree­ing to replace him with Kennedy’s for­mer clerk Kavanaugh:

“It Was Always Kavanaugh: After Meet­ing With Kennedy, Trump Was Set On His Pick” by Nicole Lafond; Talk­ing Points Memo; 07/10/2018

While the White House was suc­cess­ful for the most part in keep­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s SCOTUS pick under wraps for the past two weeks, Trump was essen­tial­ly decid­ed on his nom­i­nee after Jus­tice Antho­ny Kennedy told him he would retire in a meet­ing, Politi­co report­ed.

Accord­ing to aides close to the White House who spoke to Politi­co, in that meet­ing Kennedy rec­om­mend­ed Trump pick Brett Kavanaugh, who had served as a for­mer law clerk to Kennedy. While Trump was report­ed­ly already inter­est­ed in Kavanaugh before that dis­cus­sion with Kennedy, the retir­ing jurist’s rec­om­men­da­tion helped seal the deal. . . .

2. The links between Trump­World and Antho­ny Kennedy’s sons is deep­er still. Kennedy’s oth­er son Gre­go­ry, has long-stand­ing ties to Trump Sil­i­con Val­ley advis­er Peter Thiel, whom we first ana­lyzed in FTR #718.

” . . . . . . . . Kennedy’s seat, mean­time, seemed des­tined to go to Kavanaugh, thanks in part to the glow­ing review of Kennedy, whose son, Justin, knows Don­ald Trump Jr. through New York real estate cir­cles, and whose oth­er adult child has con­nec­tions to Trump World via the president’s 2016 Sil­i­con Val­ley advis­er Peter Thiel, most recent­ly when the Kennedy firm Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers worked with Thiel’s Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies. . . .”

“How a Pri­vate Meet­ing with Kennedy Helped Trump Get to ‘Yes’ on Kavanaugh” by Christo­pher Cade­la­go, Nan­cy Cook and Andrew Restuc­cia; Politi­co; 07/09/2018.

After Jus­tice Antho­ny Kennedy told Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump he would relin­quish his seat on the Supreme Court, the pres­i­dent emerged from his pri­vate meet­ing with the retir­ing jurist focused on one can­di­date to name as his suc­ces­sor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s for­mer law clerk.

Trump, accord­ing to con­fi­dants and aides close to the White House, has become increas­ing­ly con­vinced that “the judges,” as he puts it, or his administration’s remak­ing of the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry in its con­ser­v­a­tive image, is cen­tral to his lega­cy as pres­i­dent. And he cred­its Kennedy, who spent more than a decade at the cen­ter of pow­er on the court, for help­ing give him the oppor­tu­ni­ty.

So even as Trump dis­patched his top lawyers to comb though Kavanaugh’s rul­ings and quizzed allies about whether he was too close to the Bush fam­i­ly, poten­tial­ly a fatal flaw, the pres­i­dent was always lean­ing toward accept­ing Kennedy’s par­tial­i­ty for Kavanaugh while pre­serv­ing the secret until his for­mal announce­ment, sources with knowl­edge of his think­ing told POLITICO. . . .

. . . . Kennedy’s seat, mean­time, seemed des­tined to go to Kavanaugh, thanks in part to the glow­ing review of Kennedy, whose son, Justin, knows Don­ald Trump Jr. through New York real estate cir­cles, and whose oth­er adult child has con­nec­tions to Trump World via the president’s 2016 Sil­i­con Val­ley advis­er Peter Thiel, most recent­ly when the Kennedy firm Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers worked with Thiel’s Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies. . . .

3.  As the fol­low­ing arti­cle from last year about the Trump/Kennedy fam­i­ly ties notes, Gre­go­ry Kennedy and Peter Thiel are more than just busi­ness asso­ciates. They went to Stan­ford Law School togeth­er and served as pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety in back-to-back years.

“Trump’s Hid­den Back Chan­nel to Jus­tice Kennedy: Their Kids” by Shane Gold­mach­er; Politi­co; 04/06/2017

. . . . Anoth­er is through Kennedy’s oth­er son, Gre­go­ry, and Trump’s Sil­i­con Val­ley advis­er Peter Thiel. They went to Stan­ford Law School togeth­er and served as pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety in back-to-back years, accord­ing to school records. More recent­ly, Kennedy’s firm, Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers, has worked with Thiel’s com­pa­ny Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies.

In fact, dur­ing the ear­ly months of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, Gre­go­ry Kennedy has worked at NASA as a senior finan­cial advis­er as part of the so-called “beach­head” team. . .

Alex Karp

4. Gre­go­ry Kennedy’s DTA has an unusu­al­ly close rela­tion­ship with Palan­tir, a com­pa­ny that has helped the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

Kennedy’s DTA has oth­er per­son­al con­nec­tions to Palan­tir. Alex Fish­man and Alex Davis, two oth­er DTA founders, “enjoyed a very close rela­tion­ship” with Palan­tir co-founder Alex Karp, accord­ing to the law­suit.

It should be not­ed that the alleged secre­cy with which Palan­tir treats its oper­at­ing and invest­ing infor­ma­tion is char­ac­ter­is­tic of Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tions. A clos­et­ed, insid­ers-only oper­at­ing eth­ic serves the need for this con­sum­mate­ly pow­er­ful orga­ni­za­tion to main­tain a rel­a­tive­ly low pro­file, even as it gains pow­er, influ­ence and wealth.

” . . . . Yet Palan­tir — whose stock changes hands only through pri­vate trades — goes to great lengths to keep any detailed infor­ma­tion about its busi­ness pri­vate. . . .”

A law­suit by Palan­tir investor KT4 Part­ners alleges that Palan­tir is ille­gal­ly block­ing investors from sell­ing shares in the com­pa­ny and that Kennedy’s Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advi­sors (DTA) is a key part­ner and ben­e­fi­cia­ry of this strat­e­gy.

KT4 claims that when it tried to sell its shares of Palan­tir to a third-par­ty, Palan­tir would have DTA con­tact the third-par­ty and con­vince them to have Palan­tir sells them the shares direct­ly instead. DTA would then col­lect a com­mis­sion.

The cen­tral dynam­ic in the alle­ga­tions of plain­tiff (and Palan­tir investor) KT4 is set forth as fol­lows: ” . . . . But remark­ably, KT4 claims that when Palan­tir receives infor­ma­tion from an investor about a planned sale, it uses that infor­ma­tion to con­tact the buy­er and per­suade them instead to buy shares direct­ly from the com­pa­ny or from cer­tain Palan­tir insid­ers. One par­tic­u­lar bro­ker, Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers, or DTA, repeat­ed­ly gets com­mis­sions from these sales, even when it ‘per­formed no legit­i­mate work,’ KT4 claims. KT4 says it expe­ri­enced inter­fer­ence by Palan­tir when it tried to sell shares to High­bridge Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, a hedge fund that was owned by JPMor­gan Chase, in May 2015. After KT4 noti­fied Palan­tir of the planned sale, Palan­tir turned around and instruct­ed DTA to ‘take the oppor­tu­ni­ty, on Palantir’s behalf,‘and arrange a sale from Palan­tir to High­bridge instead, accord­ing to the law­suit. . . .”

“A Sil­i­con Val­ley Giant Blocked Its Investors From Sell­ing Their Shares, Law­suit Claims” by William Alden; Buz­zFeed News; 03/17/2017

Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies, one of the most valu­able star­tups in Sil­i­con Val­ley, has deprived investors of basic infor­ma­tion about its busi­ness and repeat­ed­ly hin­dered efforts by investors to sell their shares, accord­ing to a blis­ter­ing law­suit filed by a long­time investor.

In addi­tion to keep­ing at least some share­hold­ers in the dark about its finan­cial per­for­mance, Palan­tir has “engaged in a pat­tern and prac­tice” of attempt­ing to thwart their attempts to sell stock, accord­ing to the law­suit, filed by invest­ment firm KT4 Part­ners. Instead of let­ting these investors sell shares, Palan­tir has steered their sale oppor­tu­ni­ties to itself or its exec­u­tives, while show­er­ing a favored bro­ker­age firm with com­mis­sions even when the firm does no work at all, the law­suit claims.

KT4 Part­ners first bought Palan­tir shares over a decade ago and is seek­ing to com­pel Palan­tir to hand over finan­cial records, which it says are need­ed to under­stand the val­ue of its invest­ment. Fur­ther, KT4 claims it needs this infor­ma­tion to inves­ti­gate whether Palan­tir or its exec­u­tives have engaged in “improp­er and ille­gal con­duct” to harm minor­i­ty share­hold­ers. The law­suit was filed under seal last week in the Delaware Court of Chancery; a par­tial­ly redact­ed ver­sion was released on Mon­day and is report­ed here for the first time. . . .

. . . . Co-found­ed in 2004 by the bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel, who is now advis­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Palan­tir ana­lyzes data for gov­ern­ment agen­cies and major cor­po­ra­tions. It has a $20 bil­lion val­u­a­tion, mak­ing it the third most high­ly val­ued start­up in Sil­i­con Val­ley, behind only Uber and Airbnb. Yet Palan­tir — whose stock changes hands only through pri­vate trades — goes to great lengths to keep any detailed infor­ma­tion about its busi­ness pri­vate. A report by Buz­zFeed News last year gave an unprece­dent­ed, though lim­it­ed, account of its com­mer­cial oper­a­tions.

The law­suit, a high­ly unusu­al step for a start­up investor, fol­lows efforts by KT4 to obtain busi­ness infor­ma­tion through oth­er means. KT4 made a writ­ten demand last August to inspect Palantir’s books and records, the law­suit says. But then, accord­ing to the law­suit, Palan­tir retroac­tive­ly amend­ed its investors’ rights agree­ment “for the sole and express pur­pose” of avoid­ing dis­clo­sure oblig­a­tions. . . .

. . . . Palan­tir is under increas­ing pres­sure from its share­hold­ers, a num­ber of whom have held its stock for a decade or more and are anx­ious­ly await­ing a pay­day. For­mer employ­ees, who received a major part of their pay in stock options, have strug­gled to cash out, despite lim­it­ed share pur­chase offers arranged by the com­pa­ny. Last fall, in a rever­sal of his long­time refusal to pur­sue an IPO, Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp said at a tech con­fer­ence, “We’re now posi­tion­ing the com­pa­ny so we could go pub­lic.”

This state­ment by Karp has a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed back­sto­ry, accord­ing to the law­suit: KT4 says it came after a for­mal request by the investor for infor­ma­tion on whether Palan­tir had con­sid­ered an IPO.

KT4 says its stake in Palan­tir is worth over $60 mil­lion — a sig­nif­i­cant sum by many mea­sures, but small in the con­text of Palan­tir, which has raised more than $2 bil­lion from investors. When KT4 tried to sell por­tions of its stake, Palan­tir repeat­ed­ly inter­fered, the law­suit claims. Palan­tir, fol­low­ing a com­mon prac­tice in Sil­i­con Val­ley, requires that any sell­ers of its stock seek the company’s approval for the trans­ac­tion; com­pa­nies do this to lim­it and man­age own­er­ship of their shares.

But remark­ably, KT4 claims that when Palan­tir receives infor­ma­tion from an investor about a planned sale, it uses that infor­ma­tion to con­tact the buy­er and per­suade them instead to buy shares direct­ly from the com­pa­ny or from cer­tain Palan­tir insid­ers. One par­tic­u­lar bro­ker, Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Advis­ers, or DTA, repeat­ed­ly gets com­mis­sions from these sales, even when it “per­formed no legit­i­mate work,” KT4 claims.

KT4 says it expe­ri­enced inter­fer­ence by Palan­tir when it tried to sell shares to High­bridge Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, a hedge fund that was owned by JPMor­gan Chase, in May 2015. After KT4 noti­fied Palan­tir of the planned sale, Palan­tir turned around and instruct­ed DTA to “take the oppor­tu­ni­ty, on Palantir’s behalf,” and arrange a sale from Palan­tir to High­bridge instead, accord­ing to the law­suit.

But when Alex Fish­man, a founder of DTA, met with a senior man­ag­ing direc­tor at High­bridge, the hedge fund exec­u­tive said he would not break his deal with KT4, telling Fish­man to leave his office, accord­ing to the law­suit. The sit­u­a­tion esca­lat­ed when Karp, the Palan­tir CEO, learned of Highbridge’s affil­i­a­tion with JPMor­gan — a very impor­tant cus­tomer of Palantir’s — and that the bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, “would be asked to con­tact Karp direct­ly to express dis­plea­sure” at these tac­tics, the law­suit says. Karp then alleged­ly let the sale by KT4 go through.

Lat­er, in Decem­ber 2015, Palan­tir and DTA had more suc­cess in imped­ing a sale of shares by KT4 and oth­er investors to a Chi­nese invest­ment com­pa­ny, whose name is redact­ed in the doc­u­ment, the law­suit says. DTA, rep­re­sent­ing Palan­tir, con­tact­ed the buy­er and led it to believe that it was required to buy the shares direct­ly from Palan­tir, ulti­mate­ly lead­ing the buy­er to call off the deal with KT4 and the oth­ers.

Until KT4 made its recent demand for finan­cial infor­ma­tion, Palan­tir refused to pro­vide finan­cial infor­ma­tion to buy­ers of its shares except through DTA — forc­ing buy­ers and sell­ers to do busi­ness with that firm or with Fish­man, the law­suit says.

Even when DTA was not involved in a deal, it still could get paid, accord­ing to KT4. Last sum­mer, when UBS Secu­ri­ties was bro­ker­ing a sale of Palan­tir shares, Karp demand­ed that UBS pay 25 cents a share to Fish­man and DTA, even though DTA “had per­formed no work on the trans­ac­tion” — and UBS agreed to make the pay­ment, the law­suit says. (KT4 says it learned this from a UBS man­ag­ing direc­tor, but in an inter­view with Buz­zFeed News, a per­son close to UBS dis­put­ed that the bank par­tic­i­pat­ed in such a sale and denied that UBS agreed to pay DTA.)

Fish­man and Alex Davis, the oth­er DTA founder, recent­ly “enjoyed a very close rela­tion­ship” with Karp, accord­ing to the law­suit. (Accord­ing to Fishman’s LinkedIn pro­file, he sold his half of DTA to Davis last week and no longer works there.) . . .

. . . . Even as it blocks sales by small­er investors, Palan­tir has allowed Karp and Thiel to sell shares, accord­ing to the law­suit. KT4 claims that these sales fly in the face of rights it has as an investor to par­tic­i­pate in such trans­ac­tions. . . .

5. We have cov­ered Peter Thiel in numer­ous pro­grams, begin­ning with our warn­ing about him in FTR #718.

Some of the points we have made about him include:

  1. His fam­i­ly back­ground in the Frank­furt (Ger­many) chem­i­cal busi­ness. Prob­a­bly I.G. Farben/Bormann, in that con­text.
  2. His pri­ma­ry role in Palan­tir, appar­ent­ly the mak­er of the PRISM soft­ware at the epi­cen­ter of L’Af­faire Snow­den.
  3. His role as the pri­ma­ry financier of Ron Paul’s super PAC. (Paul is an unabashed white suprema­cist, joined at the hip with David Duke and the neo-Con­fed­er­ate move­ment. He was the Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of choice for Eddie “The Friend­ly Spook” Snow­den and Julian Assange.) Snow­den’s first attor­ney and the attor­ney for the Snow­den fam­i­ly–Bruce Fein–was the chief legal coun­sel for Ron Paul’s 2012 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.
  4. Thiel’s belief sys­tem is ante­dilu­vian: . . . . ‘I no longer believe that free­dom and democ­ra­cy are com­pat­i­ble,’ Thiel wrote in a 2009 man­i­festo pub­lished by the lib­er­tar­i­an Cato Insti­tute. ‘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.’ . . . .”

Thiel began his pro­fes­sion­al life as an attorney–working for Sul­li­van & Cromwell. His lead­er­ship of Stan­ford’s Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety (Gre­go­ry Kennedy lead the group as well) rais­es some inter­est­ing ques­tions about Thiel’s legal point of view.

We note that his apoc­a­lyp­tic, anti-Enlight­en­ment ide­ol­o­gy draws on, among oth­er influ­ences, Carl Schmitt. Arguably the prime mover behind the Ger­man Con­ser­v­a­tive Rev­o­lu­tion, Schmitt was also: “. . . . a Nazi and the Third Reich’s pre­em­i­nent legal the­o­rist. For Thiel, Schmitt is an inspir­ing throw­back to a pre-Enlight­en­ment age, who exalts strug­gle and insists that the dis­cov­ery of ene­mies is the foun­da­tion of pol­i­tics. . .”

“Peter Thiel’s Apoc­a­lypse” by Scott Lucas; San Fran­cis­co Mag­a­zine; 11/29 2017.

. . . . If press reports are cor­rect, Pres­i­dent Trump is con­sid­er­ing appoint­ing Thiel to be chair of the President’s Intel­li­gence Advi­so­ry Board—a posi­tion pre­vi­ous­ly held by such estab­lish­ment sages as Brent Scow­croft and Chuck Hagel. This would make the 50-year-old entre­pre­neur one of the top exec­u­tive branch advis­ers on America’s intel­li­gence agen­cies. And it would be one of the most pecu­liar high-lev­el appoint­ments in Amer­i­can polit­i­cal his­to­ry. . . .

. . . . For Thiel, Osama bin Laden is a kind of return of the reli­gious repressed, an evil erup­tion from an archa­ic world we thought had van­ished. “Today mere self-preser­va­tion forces all of us to look at the world anew, to think strange new thoughts, and there­by to awak­en from that very long and prof­itable peri­od of intel­lec­tu­al slum­ber and amne­sia that is so mis­lead­ing­ly called the Enlight­en­ment,” he writes.

To explore these “strange new thoughts,” Thiel turns to Ger­man legal schol­ar Carl Schmitt—a bril­liant thinker who was also a Nazi and the Third Reich’s pre­em­i­nent legal the­o­rist. For Thiel, Schmitt is an inspir­ing throw­back to a pre-Enlight­en­ment age, who exalts strug­gle and insists that the dis­cov­ery of ene­mies is the foun­da­tion of pol­i­tics. . . . .

6. Thiel’s brief legal career was at Sul­li­van & Cromwell, the old Dulles law firm.

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

. . . 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.

7. In FTR #946, we exam­ined Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, its Trump and Steve Ban­non-linked tech firm that har­vest­ed Face­book data on behalf of the Trump cam­paign.

Palan­tir was appar­ent­ly deeply involved with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s gam­ing of per­son­al data har­vest­ed from Face­book in order to engi­neer an elec­toral vic­to­ry for Trump. Thiel was an ear­ly investor in Face­book, at one point was its largest share­hold­er and is still one of its largest share­hold­ers. ” . . . . It was a Palan­tir employ­ee in Lon­don, work­ing close­ly with the data sci­en­tists build­ing Cambridge’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­nol­o­gy, who sug­gest­ed the sci­en­tists cre­ate their own app — a mobile-phone-based per­son­al­i­ty quiz — to gain access to Face­book users’ friend net­works, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by The New York Times. The rev­e­la­tions pulled Palan­tir — co-found­ed by the wealthy lib­er­tar­i­an Peter Thiel — into the furor sur­round­ing Cam­bridge, which improp­er­ly obtained Face­book data to build ana­lyt­i­cal tools it deployed on behalf of Don­ald J. Trump and oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump, serves on the board at Face­book. ‘There were senior Palan­tir employ­ees that were also work­ing on the Face­book data,’ said Christo­pher Wylie, a data expert and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca co-founder, in tes­ti­mo­ny before British law­mak­ers on Tues­day. . . . The con­nec­tions between Palan­tir and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca were thrust into the spot­light by Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on Tues­day. Both com­pa­nies are linked to tech-dri­ven bil­lion­aires who backed Mr. Trump’s cam­paign: Cam­bridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mer­cer, the com­put­er sci­en­tist and hedge fund mag­nate, while Palan­tir was co-found­ed in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an ini­tial investor in Face­book. . . .”

“Spy Contractor’s Idea Helped Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca Har­vest Face­book Data” by NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and MATTHEW ROSENBERG; The New York Times; 03/27/2018

As a start-up called Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca sought to har­vest the Face­book data of tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in sum­mer 2014, the com­pa­ny received help from at least one employ­ee at Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies, a top Sil­i­con Val­ley con­trac­tor to Amer­i­can spy agen­cies and the Pen­ta­gon. It was a Palan­tir employ­ee in Lon­don, work­ing close­ly with the data sci­en­tists build­ing Cambridge’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing tech­nol­o­gy, who sug­gest­ed the sci­en­tists cre­ate their own app — a mobile-phone-based per­son­al­i­ty quiz — to gain access to Face­book users’ friend net­works, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by The New York Times.

Cam­bridge ulti­mate­ly took a sim­i­lar approach. By ear­ly sum­mer, the com­pa­ny found a uni­ver­si­ty researcher to har­vest data using a per­son­al­i­ty ques­tion­naire and Face­book app. The researcher scraped pri­vate data from over 50 mil­lion Face­book users — and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca went into busi­ness sell­ing so-called psy­cho­me­t­ric pro­files of Amer­i­can vot­ers, set­ting itself on a col­li­sion course with reg­u­la­tors and law­mak­ers in the Unit­ed States and Britain.

The rev­e­la­tions pulled Palan­tir — co-found­ed by the wealthy lib­er­tar­i­an Peter Thiel — into the furor sur­round­ing Cam­bridge, which improp­er­ly obtained Face­book data to build ana­lyt­i­cal tools it deployed on behalf of Don­ald J. Trump and oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump, serves on the board at Face­book.

“There were senior Palan­tir employ­ees that were also work­ing on the Face­book data,” said Christo­pher Wylie, a data expert and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca co-founder, in tes­ti­mo­ny before British law­mak­ers on Tues­day. . . .

. . . .The con­nec­tions between Palan­tir and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca were thrust into the spot­light by Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on Tues­day. Both com­pa­nies are linked to tech-dri­ven bil­lion­aires who backed Mr. Trump’s cam­paign: Cam­bridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mer­cer, the com­put­er sci­en­tist and hedge fund mag­nate, while Palan­tir was co-found­ed in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an ini­tial investor in Face­book. . . .

. . . . Doc­u­ments and inter­views indi­cate that start­ing in 2013, Mr. Chmieli­auskas began cor­re­spond­ing with Mr. Wylie and a col­league from his Gmail account. At the time, Mr. Wylie and the col­league worked for the British defense and intel­li­gence con­trac­tor SCL Group, which formed Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca with Mr. Mer­cer the next year. The three shared Google doc­u­ments to brain­storm ideas about using big data to cre­ate sophis­ti­cat­ed behav­ioral pro­files, a prod­uct code-named “Big Dad­dy.”

A for­mer intern at SCL — Sophie Schmidt, the daugh­ter of Eric Schmidt, then Google’s exec­u­tive chair­man — urged the com­pa­ny to link up with Palan­tir, accord­ing to Mr. Wylie’s tes­ti­mo­ny and a June 2013 email viewed by The Times.

“Ever come across Palan­tir. Amus­ing­ly Eric Schmidt’s daugh­ter was an intern with us and is try­ing to push us towards them?” one SCL employ­ee wrote to a col­league in the email.

. . . . But he [Wylie] said some Palan­tir employ­ees helped engi­neer Cambridge’s psy­cho­graph­ic mod­els.

“There were Palan­tir staff who would come into the office and work on the data,” Mr. Wylie told law­mak­ers. “And we would go and meet with Palan­tir staff at Palan­tir.” He did not pro­vide an exact num­ber for the employ­ees or iden­ti­fy them.

Palan­tir employ­ees were impressed with Cambridge’s back­ing from Mr. Mer­cer, one of the world’s rich­est men, accord­ing to mes­sages viewed by The Times. And Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca viewed Palantir’s Sil­i­con Val­ley ties as a valu­able resource for launch­ing and expand­ing its own busi­ness.

In an inter­view this month with The Times, Mr. Wylie said that Palan­tir employ­ees were eager to learn more about using Face­book data and psy­cho­graph­ics. Those dis­cus­sions con­tin­ued through spring 2014, accord­ing to Mr. Wylie.

Mr. Wylie said that he and Mr. Nix vis­it­ed Palantir’s Lon­don office on Soho Square. One side was set up like a high-secu­ri­ty office, Mr. Wylie said, with sep­a­rate rooms that could be entered only with par­tic­u­lar codes. The oth­er side, he said, was like a tech start-up — “weird inspi­ra­tional quotes and stuff on the wall and free beer, and there’s a Ping-Pong table.”

Mr. Chmieli­auskas con­tin­ued to com­mu­ni­cate with Mr. Wylie’s team in 2014, as the Cam­bridge employ­ees were locked in pro­tract­ed nego­ti­a­tions with a researcher at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty, Michal Kosin­s­ki, to obtain Face­book data through an app Mr. Kosin­s­ki had built. The data was cru­cial to effi­cient­ly scale up Cambridge’s psy­cho­met­rics prod­ucts so they could be used in elec­tions and for cor­po­rate clients. . . .

8. A recount­ing of the role of John Fos­ter Dulles and Sul­li­van & Cromwell’s roles in the for­ma­tion of I.G. Far­ben.

The Broth­ers: John Fos­ter Dulls, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinz­er; St. Mar­tin Grif­fin [SC]; Copy­right 2013 by Stephen Kinz­er; ISBN 978–1‑250–05312‑1; pp. 49–52.

. . . . Fos­ter had helped design the Dawes Plan of 1924, which restruc­tured Ger­many’s repa­ra­tion pay­ments in ways that opened up huge new mar­kets for Amer­i­can banks, and lat­er that year he arranged for five of them to lend $100 mil­lion to Ger­man bor­row­ers. In the sev­en years that fol­lowed, he and his part­ners bro­kered anoth­er $900 mil­lion in loans to Germany–the equiv­a­lent of more than $15 bil­lion in ear­ly-twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry dol­lars. This made him the pre­em­i­nent sales­man of Ger­man bonds in the Unit­ed States, prob­a­bly the world. He sharply reject­ed crit­ics who argued that Amer­i­can banks should invest more inside the Unit­ed States and protest­ed when the State Depart­ment sought to restrict loans to Ger­many that were unre­lat­ed to repa­ra­tion pay­ments or that sup­port­ed car­tels or monop­o­lies.

Fos­ter made much mon­ey build­ing and advis­ing car­tels, which are based on agree­ments among com­pet­ing firms to con­trol sup­plies, fix prices, and close their sup­ply and dis­tri­b­u­tion net­works to out­siders. Reform­ers in many coun­tries railed against these car­tels, but Fos­ter defend­ed them as guar­an­tors of sta­bil­i­ty that ensured prof­its while pro­tect­ing economies from unpre­dictable swings. Two that he shaped became glob­al forces.

Among Fos­ter’s pre­mier clients was the New Jer­sey-based Inter­na­tion­al Nick­el Com­pa­ny, for which he was not only coun­sel but also a direc­tor and mem­ber of the exec­u­tive board. In the ear­ly 1930s, he steered it, along with its Cana­di­an affil­i­ate, into a car­tel with France’s two major nick­el pro­duc­ers. In 1934, he brought the biggest Ger­man nick­el pro­duc­er, I.G. Far­ben, into the car­tel. This gave Nazi Ger­many access to the cartel’s resources.

“With­out Dulles,” accord­ing to a study of Sul­li­van & Cromwell, “Ger­many would have lacked any nego­ti­at­ing strength with [Inter­na­tion­al Nick­el], which con­trolled the world’s sup­ply of nick­el, a cru­cial ingre­di­ent in stain­less steel and armor plate.”

I.G. Far­ben was also one of the world’s largest chem­i­cal companies–it would pro­duce the Zyk­lon B gas used at Nazi death camps–and as Fos­ter was bring­ing it into the nick­el car­tel, he also helped it estab­lish a glob­al chem­i­cal car­tel. He was a board mem­ber and legal coun­sel for anoth­er chem­i­cal pro­duc­er, the Solvay con­glom­er­ate, based in Bel­gium. Dur­ing the 1930s, he guid­ed Solvay, I. G. Far­ben, the Amer­i­can firm Allied Chem­i­cal & Dye, and sev­er­al oth­er com­pa­nies into a chem­i­cal car­tel just as potent as the one he had orga­nized for nick­el pro­duc­ers.

In mid-1931, a con­sor­tium of Amer­i­can banks, eager to safe­guard their invest­ments in Ger­many, per­suad­ed the Ger­man gov­ern­ment to accept a loan of near­ly $500 mil­lion to pre­vent default. Fos­ter was their agent. His ties to the Ger­man gov­ern­ment tight­ened after Hitler took pow­er at the begin­ning of 1933 and appoint­ed Fos­ter’s old friend Hjal­mar Schacht as min­is­ter of eco­nom­ics.

Allen [Dulles] had intro­duced the two men a decade ear­li­er, when he was a diplo­mat in Berlin and Fos­ter passed through reg­u­lar­ly on Sul­li­van & Cromwell busi­ness. They were imme­di­ate­ly drawn to each oth­er, Schacht spoke flu­ent Eng­lish and under­stood the Unit­ed States well. Like Dulles, he pro­ject­ed an air of brisk author­i­ty. He was tall, gaunt, and always erect, with close-cropped hair and high, tight col­lars. Both men had con­sid­ered enter­ing the cler­gy before turn­ing their pow­er­ful minds toward more remu­ner­a­tive pur­suits. Each admired the cul­ture that had pro­duced the oth­er. Both believed that a resur­gent Ger­many would stand against Bol­she­vism. Mobi­liz­ing Amer­i­can cap­i­tal to finance its rise was their com­mon inter­est.

Work­ing with Schacht, Fos­ter helped the Nation­al Social­ist state find rich sources of financ­ing in the Unit­ed States for its pub­lic agen­cies, banks, and indus­tries. The two men shaped com­plex restruc­tur­ings of Ger­man loan oblig­a­tions at sev­er­al “debt con­fer­ences” in Berlin–conferences that were offi­cial­ly among bankers, but were in fact close­ly guid­ed by the Ger­man and Amer­i­can governments–and came up with new for­mu­las that made it eas­i­er for the Ger­mans to bor­row mon­ey from Amer­i­can banks. Sul­li­van & Cromwell float­ed the first Amer­i­can bonds issued by the giant Ger­man steel­mak­er and arms man­u­fac­tur­er Krupp A.G., extend­ed I.G. Far­ben’s glob­al reach, and fought suc­cess­ful­ly to block Canada’s effort to restrict the export of steel to Ger­man arms mak­ers. Accord­ing to one his­to­ry, the firm “rep­re­sent­ed sev­er­al provin­cial gov­ern­ments, some large indus­tri­al com­bines, a num­ber of big Amer­i­can com­pa­nies with inter­ests in the Reich, and some rich indi­vid­u­als.” By anoth­er account it “thrived on its car­tels and col­lu­sion with the new Nazi regime.” The colum­nist Drew Pear­son glee­ful­ly list­ed the Ger­man clients of Sul­li­van & Cromwell who had con­tributed mon­ey to the Nazis, and described Fos­ter as chief agent for “the bank­ing cir­cles that res­cued Adolf Hitler from the finan­cial depths and set up his Nazi par­ty as a going con­cern.”

Although the rela­tion­ship between Fos­ter and Schacht began well and thrived for years, it end­ed bad­ly. Schacht con­tributed deci­sive­ly to Ger­man rear­ma­ment and pub­licly urged Jews to “real­ize that their influ­ence in Ger­many has dis­ap­peared for all time.” Although he lat­er broke with Hitler and left the gov­ern­ment, he would be tried at Nurem­berg for “crimes against peace.” He was acquit­ted, but the chief Amer­i­can pros­e­cu­tor, Robert Jack­son, called him “the facade of starched respon­si­bil­i­ty, who in the ear­ly days pro­vid­ed the win­dow dress­ing, the bait for the hes­i­tant.” He bait­ed no one more suc­cess­ful­ly than Fos­ter.

Dur­ing the mid-1930s, through a series of cur­ren­cy maneu­vers, dis­count­ed buy­backs, and oth­er forms of finan­cial war­fare, Ger­many effec­tive­ly default­ed on its debts to Amer­i­can investors. Fos­ter rep­re­sent­ed the investors in unsuc­cess­ful appeals to Ger­many, many of them addressed to his old friend Schacht. Clients who had fol­lowed Sul­li­van & Cromwell’s advice to buy Ger­man bonds lost for­tunes. That advice, accord­ing to one study, “cost Amer­i­cans a bil­lion dol­lars because Schacht seduced Dulles into sup­port­ing Ger­many for far too long.’ . . . .

. . . . Fos­ter had clear finan­cial rea­sons to col­lab­o­rate with the Nazi regime, and his ide­o­log­i­cal reason–Hitler was fierce­ly anti-Bolshevik–was equal­ly com­pelling. In lat­er years, schol­ars would ask about his actions in the world. Did he do it out of a desire to pro­tect eco­nom­ic priv­i­lege, or out of anti-Com­mu­nist fer­vor? The best answer may be that to him there was no dif­fer­ence. In his mind defend­ing multi­na­tion­al busi­ness and fight­ing Bol­she­vism were the same thing.

Since 1933, all let­ters writ­ten from the Ger­man offices of Sul­li­van & Cromwell had end­ed, as required by Ger­man reg­u­la­tions, with the salu­ta­tion Heil Hitler! That did not dis­turb Fos­ter. He churned out mag­a­zine and news­pa­per arti­cles assert­ing that the “dynam­ic” coun­tries of the world–Germany, Italy, and Japan–“feel with­in them­selves poten­tial­i­ties which are sup­pressed,” and that Hitler’s semi-secret rear­ma­ment project sim­ply showed that “Ger­many, by uni­lat­er­al action, has now tak­en back her free­dom of action.” . . . .

Discussion

15 comments for “FTR #1017 Supreme Court Trump Card: Family Trump, Family [Anthony] Kennedy and Peter Thiel”

  1. Dave, you briefly link to FTR #757 in the above text but I think it’s so impor­tant that it should also be high­light­ed by a com­ment. Lis­ten­ers would do very well to review that pro­gram and the net­work behind Palan­tir.

    https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-757-the-adventures-of-eddie-the-friendly-spook-part-4-dramatis-personae-part-4-the-gruppenhobbit-and-the-underground-reich/

    Your point on the prob­a­ble — but denied — link between all of the PRISM soft­ware in use around the world is excel­lent. The name Palan­tir was inspired by the mag­ic crys­tals in Tolkien’s LOTR tril­o­gy which were placed in dif­fer­ent king­doms but all linked togeth­er allow­ing their users to con­nect and share infor­ma­tion, know­ing­ly or not. That type of inspi­ra­tion leads me to believe the denials of the link are just pre­var­i­ca­tion.

    Posted by Sampson | August 3, 2018, 6:14 am
  2. With the sur­prise last minute move by Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jeff Flake to delay the con­fir­ma­tion of Brett Kavanaugh by a week to give the FBI (not enough) time to inves­ti­ga­tion the wave of alle­ga­tions of past sex­u­al assaults and pos­si­ble gang rapes, Amer­i­can soci­ety is set to spend anoth­er week scru­ti­niz­ing the increas­ing­ly dis­turb­ing pro­file of Kavanaugh­’s char­ac­ter. So giv­en that we’re talk­ing about appoint­ing a man who appears to have embraced a world­view of machis­mo and the misog­y­nis­tic and dehu­man­iz­ing objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women to a life­time appoint­ment to one of the most pow­er­ful posi­tions in the US, it’s prob­a­bly a use­ful time to note that the casu­al cul­ture of rank misog­y­ny that Kavanaugh appears to have been immersed rep­re­sents a meta-prob­lem that has plagued human­i­ty for­ev­er: the dehu­man­iza­tion of ‘oth­ers’.

    Whether those ‘oth­ers’ of mem­bers of anoth­er race, tribe, gen­der, or what­ev­er. There’s sim­ply no deny­ing that the dehu­man­iza­tion of ‘oth­ers’ is a trag­i­cal­ly ‘human’ thing to do, and there’s per­haps no bet­ter and old­er exam­ple of that facet of human­i­ty than misog­y­ny. And when you com­bine that human ten­den­cy towards dehu­man­iza­tion with an embrace of a preda­to­ry mind­set and hor­mones and apply it in the con­text of a misog­y­nis­tic cul­ture (which is vir­tu­al­ly every tra­di­tion­al cul­ture), you’re going to end up with a soci­ety inevitably pop­u­lat­ed with a lots of lit­tle Brett Kavanaughs. Guys who have adopt­ed a world­view where women are con­quests and lit­tle else.

    Sure, such men might have some women in their lives that they don’t objec­ti­fy, but it’s unde­ni­able that the view of women as prop­er­ty, sex objects, and not much else is one of those meta-sto­ries across human his­to­ry. And that fun­da­men­tal dri­ve to dehu­man­ize and prey on ‘oth­ers’ isn’t just found at the core of misog­y­nis­tic world­views. All sorts of dif­fer­ent aspects of author­i­tar­i­an cul­tures rely on that same under­ly­ing human capac­i­ty to dehu­man­ize and prey on oth­ers. And Brett Kavanaugh just hap­pens to be a great exam­ple of high­light­ing this foun­da­tion of dehu­man­iz­ing pre­da­tion shared by every­thing from misog­y­nists to dic­ta­tors to theocrats and any oth­er pow­er mon­ger. And most espe­cial­ly fas­cists. If you had to give a name to an ide­ol­o­gy that essen­tial­ly embraces the spir­it of dehu­man­iz­ing pre­da­tion it’s facism.

    When that desire by the pow­er­ful few to cap­ture soci­ety and put it under their thumb under the spir­it that the strong should dom­i­nate and sub­ju­gate the weak is man­i­fest­ed as a polit­i­cal move­ment, that’s invari­ably going to be a move­ment with heavy fas­cist over­tone. And one of those over­tones is a dri­ve to remove what­ev­er pro­tec­tions might exist to pre­vent the strong from prey on every­one else. Cre­at­ing a vir­tu­al ‘law of the jun­gle’ that empow­ers the strong to dom­i­nate the weak isn’t just an ends and a means when it comes to fas­cist thought. It’s also an under­ly­ing human impulse embraced by those who have adopt­ed a fun­da­men­tal­ly preda­to­ry mind­set. A preda­to­ry impulse that’s found in every­one from a ser­i­al rapist to a ser­i­al strong­man. Or an author­i­tar­i­an oli­garch intent on cap­tur­ing soci­ety.

    And in the realm of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, it’s hard to come up with a group more emblem­at­ic of that move­ment by the pow­er­ful to shape soci­ety in ways that empow­er the pow­er­ful to dom­i­nate the weak and vul­ner­a­ble than a group like the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, of which Brett Kavanaugh is a mem­ber. Because the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety just hap­pens to be the most influ­en­tial judi­cial orga­ni­za­tion in the US — the four cur­rent right-wing mem­bers of the Supreme Court are all Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety mem­bers — and the entire goal of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety is to reshape the US courts in a way that makes them friend­lier to the very wealthy, big busi­ness, and the author­i­tar­i­an reli­gious right. Oh, and it’s heav­i­ly financed by the Koch broth­ers. It’s that kind of orga­ni­za­tion.

    So if the US Sen­ate is about to appoint a ser­i­al preda­tor to the Supreme Court, it’s prob­a­bly a good time to point out that mak­ing life eas­i­er for elite ser­i­al preda­tors — i.e. right-wing oli­garchs who want to cap­ture soci­ety — is the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety:

    The New States­men

    Who are the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety? Inside the right-wing group pick­ing Trump’s Supreme Court judges

    How a group for lib­er­tar­i­an law stu­dents found­ed in 1982 has come to dom­i­nate the judi­cial nom­i­na­tion process.

    By Sophie McBain
    7 Sep­tem­ber 2018

    When Brett Kavanaugh is con­firmed as Supreme Court Jus­tice, as he almost cer­tain­ly will be, it will mean that five of the nine Supreme Court jus­tices are mem­bers of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, a net­work of con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an lawyers that has become one of the most pow­er­ful groups in Amer­i­ca today.

    The most endur­ing lega­cy of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion may be its remak­ing of the courts: in addi­tion to two Supreme Court appointees (Trump’s oth­er pick, the con­ser­v­a­tive Neil Gor­such was appoint­ed last Jan­u­ary), Trump inher­it­ed 107 oth­er judi­cial vacan­cies. Accord­ing to New York Times fig­ures, Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan inher­it­ed 35 unfilled judge­ships and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma had 54.

    Trump has effec­tive­ly out­sourced the task of fill­ing these seats to the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, and in par­tic­u­lar to its exec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent, an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive, devout Catholic named Leonard Leo, who has helped trans­form the lawyers net­work into, as the New York­er describes it, a “con­ser­v­a­tive pipeline to the Supreme Court”.

    So how did the Soci­ety, which began as a stu­dents’ group, become so pow­er­ful – and what does it stand for?

    The Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety was start­ed in 1982 by con­ser­v­a­tive law stu­dents at Yale and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go who want­ed to cre­ate a coun­ter­bal­ance to what they saw as the lib­er­al ortho­doxy of law fac­ul­ties around the coun­try. Its first fac­ul­ty advis­ers were Robert H. Bork at Yale (who was a Rea­gan nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court but who was reject­ed by the Sen­ate) and Antonin Scalia (who served on the Supreme Court from 1986–2016, hav­ing been appoint­ed by Rea­gan).

    The organ­i­sa­tion rapid­ly spread to cam­pus­es across the coun­try, spurred by fund­ing from wealthy con­ser­v­a­tive donors such as the Koch broth­ers, and lat­er sprung pro­fes­sion­al chap­ters too. Today the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety has 70,000 mem­bers and a pres­ence on almost every uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus and in every major city. It organ­is­es reg­u­lar talks and events for law stu­dents and prac­tic­ing lawyers, which pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for con­ser­v­a­tive lawyers to net­work and build rep­u­ta­tions.

    That the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety has such an active stu­dent and pro­fes­sion­al body makes it dif­fer­ent from many oth­er inter­est groups, which tend to be dom­i­nat­ed by Wash­ing­ton staff, says Steven Teles, the author of Rise of the Con­ser­v­a­tive Legal Move­ment: The Bat­tle for Con­trol of the Law. It means that Leo has a very “dense intel­li­gence net­work”, Teles told me when we spoke on the phone.

    As well as build­ing links between con­ser­v­a­tive lawyers, the Fed­er­al­ist Society’s talks and events have pro­vid­ed a way for it to spread and devel­op its ideas and approach to judi­cial phi­los­o­phy. The Soci­ety grew up with its first stu­dent mem­bers, as they began tak­ing up senior jobs in gov­ern­ment and the judi­cia­ry, pro­vid­ing the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety with a net­work of like-mind­ed lawyers that extends right up to the Supreme Court and the Pres­i­dent (the White House lawyer Don McGahn is a mem­ber of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety) and across cam­pus­es, com­pa­nies and local courts around the coun­try.

    As well as being well-organ­ised and well-fund­ed, the Fed­er­al­ist Society’s ide­o­log­i­cal puri­ty makes it a for­mi­da­ble polit­i­cal force, Teles argues. Its mem­bers are unit­ed by their judi­cial phi­los­o­phy rather than any par­ti­san affil­i­a­tion to the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    On its web­site it describes these prin­ci­ples as “that the state exists to pre­serve free­dom, that the sep­a­ra­tion of gov­ern­men­tal pow­ers is cen­tral to our Con­sti­tu­tion, and that it is emphat­i­cal­ly the province and duty of the judi­cia­ry to say what the law is, not what it should be”, which entails “reorder­ing pri­or­i­ties with­in the legal sys­tem to place a pre­mi­um on indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty, tra­di­tion­al val­ues, and the rule of law”.

    As this abstract word­ing sug­gests, the range of opin­ions held by mem­bers of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety is quite broad though they share a sim­i­lar approach to the law. The main ten­sion with­in the group is between those who believe their pri­ma­ry func­tion should be con­strain­ing the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry and those who believe their role is to empow­er the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry to enforce what they see as America’s found­ing prin­ci­ples, Teles says.

    “In gen­er­al they pro­mote these kinds of ideas: they are in favour of small gov­ern­ment as opposed to big gov­ern­ment, they oppose most gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion of busi­ness and prop­er­ty, their core val­ue is pri­vate prop­er­ty and the abil­i­ty of a pri­vate prop­er­ty own­er to do what he or she wants with their pri­vate prop­er­ty, they are strong believ­ers in Amer­i­can excep­tion­al­ism and believe the US has a spe­cial role to play in the world and that peo­ple in the US are some­how a spe­cial kind of peo­ple, they would rather have things done by the state than fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and they are strong on reli­gious free­dom but reli­gious free­dom of a some­times extreme nature – argu­ing, for exam­ple, that reli­gion is an excuse for not com­ply­ing with anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws,” says Michael Avery, the co-author with Danielle McLaugh­lin of the book, The Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety: How Con­ser­v­a­tives Took the Law Back from Lib­er­als.

    The Fed­er­al­ist Society’s influ­ence rose with the pres­i­den­cy of George W Bush – all the fed­er­al judges that were appoint­ed by Bush were either mem­bers of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety or were approved by the group – but it has nev­er been more pow­er­ful than it is today. Not only does the large num­ber of judi­cial vacan­cies present them with an unprece­dent­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to remake the courts, but Trump has also giv­en Leo more pow­er than any pre­vi­ous pres­i­dent over judi­cial nom­i­na­tions.

    At the Trump administration’s request, Leo drew up a list of 25 poten­tial Supreme Court nom­i­nees for the president’s con­sid­er­a­tion, which includ­ed Kavanaugh. At the same time, the influ­ence exert­ed by the Sen­ate on the nom­i­na­tion process has decreased.

    “It used to be that Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors played a much more impor­tant role in judi­cial selec­tion than they do now, so ordi­nary par­ty patron­age mech­a­nisms used to be more impor­tant. But I think this ide­o­log­i­cal net­work that we asso­ci­at­ed with the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety has clawed away more and more pow­er from that sen­a­to­r­i­al role over time,” says Teles. “And it’s clear­ly the case that Trump… has been will­ing to com­plete­ly sub­con­tract this over to these con­ser­v­a­tive judi­cial net­works.”

    ...

    One of the most effec­tive checks on Trump has been the US courts, who have chal­lenged some of the administration’s most egre­gious poli­cies, from the Mus­lim ban, to child sep­a­ra­tions, the rescind­ment of DACA and envi­ron­men­tal dereg­u­la­tion. In addi­tion to the threat to women’s repro­duc­tive rights and LGBT rights, a judi­cial sys­tem dom­i­nat­ed by right-wing lib­er­tar­i­ans might have respond­ed very dif­fer­ent­ly to Trump’s exec­u­tive orders.

    “It’s impor­tant for all Amer­i­cans to under­stand that the extreme right wing, the extreme con­ser­v­a­tives, are much bet­ter organ­ised, much bet­ter financed, and have a much bet­ter idea of what they’re about than the lib­er­als or pro­gres­sives do. The lib­er­als or pro­gres­sives need to wake up and take a look at what’s hap­pen­ing at the oth­er end of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum and fig­ure out a way to get their own house in order, because lib­er­als and pro­gres­sives have been los­ing ground now for the last almost 40 years, and even to this day they have not come with either an effec­tive set of ideas or an effec­tive organ­is­ing prin­ci­ple that allows them to make this a fair con­test,” Avery tells me.

    In the absence of an effec­tive lib­er­al alter­na­tive to the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, the best hope for lib­er­als is that they will win back con­trol of Con­gress at the Midterms, he says. “If the left-wing and pro­gres­sives can’t cap­ture the leg­isla­tive branch and turn the pop­u­lar will into their way of think­ing, we’re in for a rough ride for the next sev­er­al years if not decades.”

    ———–

    “Who are the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety? Inside the right-wing group pick­ing Trump’s Supreme Court judges” by Sophie McBain; The New States­men; 09/07/2018

    ““It’s impor­tant for all Amer­i­cans to under­stand that the extreme right wing, the extreme con­ser­v­a­tives, are much bet­ter organ­ised, much bet­ter financed, and have a much bet­ter idea of what they’re about than the lib­er­als or pro­gres­sives do. The lib­er­als or pro­gres­sives need to wake up and take a look at what’s hap­pen­ing at the oth­er end of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum and fig­ure out a way to get their own house in order, because lib­er­als and pro­gres­sives have been los­ing ground now for the last almost 40 years, and even to this day they have not come with either an effec­tive set of ideas or an effec­tive organ­is­ing prin­ci­ple that allows them to make this a fair con­test,” Avery tells me.”

    The lib­er­als or pro­gres­sives need to wake up and take a look at what’s hap­pen­ing at the oth­er end of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum. It’s a chill­ing an apt warn­ing. And in the con­text of these alle­ga­tions of Kavanaugh oper­at­ing in a world where women were sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly preyed upon, it’s a warn­ing that’s become espe­cial­ly chill­ing and apt. Because, again, that under­ly­ing capac­i­ty to dehu­man­ize and prey upon the vul­ner­a­ble isn’t just a the core of misog­y­ny. It’s also at the core of all sorts of oth­er human behav­iors that involve the sys­tem­at­ic abuse of pow­er. And when we look at what the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety fights for, and who it’s fight­ing for, it’s hard to avoid the con­clu­sion that it’s a soci­ety ded­i­cate to mak­ing it eas­i­er for the pow­er­ful to wield their pow­er:

    ...
    On its web­site it describes these prin­ci­ples as “that the state exists to pre­serve free­dom, that the sep­a­ra­tion of gov­ern­men­tal pow­ers is cen­tral to our Con­sti­tu­tion, and that it is emphat­i­cal­ly the province and duty of the judi­cia­ry to say what the law is, not what it should be”, which entails “reorder­ing pri­or­i­ties with­in the legal sys­tem to place a pre­mi­um on indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty, tra­di­tion­al val­ues, and the rule of law”.

    ...

    “In gen­er­al they pro­mote these kinds of ideas: they are in favour of small gov­ern­ment as opposed to big gov­ern­ment, they oppose most gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion of busi­ness and prop­er­ty, their core val­ue is pri­vate prop­er­ty and the abil­i­ty of a pri­vate prop­er­ty own­er to do what he or she wants with their pri­vate prop­er­ty, they are strong believ­ers in Amer­i­can excep­tion­al­ism and believe the US has a spe­cial role to play in the world and that peo­ple in the US are some­how a spe­cial kind of peo­ple, they would rather have things done by the state than fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and they are strong on reli­gious free­dom but reli­gious free­dom of a some­times extreme nature – argu­ing, for exam­ple, that reli­gion is an excuse for not com­ply­ing with anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws,” says Michael Avery, the co-author with Danielle McLaugh­lin of the book, The Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety: How Con­ser­v­a­tives Took the Law Back from Lib­er­als.
    ...

    Yep, the pow­er­ful judi­cial orga­ni­za­tion in the US has, at it’s core cre­do, the idea that busi­ness and prop­er­ty own­ers should be able to do what­ev­er they want with­out inter­fer­ence. And while that is no doubt por­trayed as “stop­ping the oppres­sive gov­ern­ment from tram­pling on the help­less pri­vate cit­i­zen”, it’s unde­ni­able that the groups is fight­ing for the rights of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the coun­try to act with impuni­ty. In addi­tion, the reli­gious right should get the pow­er to use reli­gion as an excuse to dis­crim­i­nate, extend­ing that capac­i­ty to abuse pow­er to aver­age cit­i­zens to be wield­ed against their fel­low cit­i­zens. It’s tru­ly a ‘wolf in sheep­’s cloth­ing’ move­ment. A move­ment ded­i­cat­ed to pow­er for pow­er’s sake under the guise of judi­cial phi­los­o­phy. A phi­los­o­phy torn between the goal of lim­it­ing the abil­i­ty of the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry to act on the pub­lic’s behalf and the goal of enabling that same judi­cia­ry to enforce a tra­di­tion­al­ist right-wing reli­gious world­view:

    ...
    As this abstract word­ing sug­gests, the range of opin­ions held by mem­bers of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety is quite broad though they share a sim­i­lar approach to the law. The main ten­sion with­in the group is between those who believe their pri­ma­ry func­tion should be con­strain­ing the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry and those who believe their role is to empow­er the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry to enforce what they see as America’s found­ing prin­ci­ples, Teles says.

    ...

    One of the most effec­tive checks on Trump has been the US courts, who have chal­lenged some of the administration’s most egre­gious poli­cies, from the Mus­lim ban, to child sep­a­ra­tions, the rescind­ment of DACA and envi­ron­men­tal dereg­u­la­tion. In addi­tion to the threat to women’s repro­duc­tive rights and LGBT rights, a judi­cial sys­tem dom­i­nat­ed by right-wing lib­er­tar­i­ans might have respond­ed very dif­fer­ent­ly to Trump’s exec­u­tive orders.
    ...

    And this orga­ni­za­tion run by and for the pow­er­ful is now more pow­er­ful than it’s ever been before and the most influ­en­tial judi­cial orga­ni­za­tion in the coun­try. And yet it was only start­ed in 1982. It shows just how pow­er­ful the pow­er­ful are in the US: with enough financ­ing from wealth donors like the Kochs, this group that was start­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive law stu­dents at Yale (where Kavanaugh went) and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go man­aged to basi­cal­ly take over the US judi­cial sys­tem in a few decades:

    ...
    The Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety was start­ed in 1982 by con­ser­v­a­tive law stu­dents at Yale and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go who want­ed to cre­ate a coun­ter­bal­ance to what they saw as the lib­er­al ortho­doxy of law fac­ul­ties around the coun­try. Its first fac­ul­ty advis­ers were Robert H. Bork at Yale (who was a Rea­gan nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court but who was reject­ed by the Sen­ate) and Antonin Scalia (who served on the Supreme Court from 1986–2016, hav­ing been appoint­ed by Rea­gan).

    The organ­i­sa­tion rapid­ly spread to cam­pus­es across the coun­try, spurred by fund­ing from wealthy con­ser­v­a­tive donors such as the Koch broth­ers, and lat­er sprung pro­fes­sion­al chap­ters too. Today the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety has 70,000 mem­bers and a pres­ence on almost every uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus and in every major city. It organ­is­es reg­u­lar talks and events for law stu­dents and prac­tic­ing lawyers, which pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for con­ser­v­a­tive lawyers to net­work and build rep­u­ta­tions.

    ...

    The Fed­er­al­ist Society’s influ­ence rose with the pres­i­den­cy of George W Bush – all the fed­er­al judges that were appoint­ed by Bush were either mem­bers of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety or were approved by the group – but it has nev­er been more pow­er­ful than it is today. Not only does the large num­ber of judi­cial vacan­cies present them with an unprece­dent­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to remake the courts, but Trump has also giv­en Leo more pow­er than any pre­vi­ous pres­i­dent over judi­cial nom­i­na­tions.

    At the Trump administration’s request, Leo drew up a list of 25 poten­tial Supreme Court nom­i­nees for the president’s con­sid­er­a­tion, which includ­ed Kavanaugh. At the same time, the influ­ence exert­ed by the Sen­ate on the nom­i­na­tion process has decreased.

    “It used to be that Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors played a much more impor­tant role in judi­cial selec­tion than they do now, so ordi­nary par­ty patron­age mech­a­nisms used to be more impor­tant. But I think this ide­o­log­i­cal net­work that we asso­ci­at­ed with the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety has clawed away more and more pow­er from that sen­a­to­r­i­al role over time,” says Teles. “And it’s clear­ly the case that Trump… has been will­ing to com­plete­ly sub­con­tract this over to these con­ser­v­a­tive judi­cial net­works.”
    ...

    And that takeover of the US courts by an orga­ni­za­tion run by and for the pow­er­ful to make them­selves even more pow­er­ful is one of the meta-sto­ries that isn’t just tan­gen­tial­ly con­nect­ed to the sto­ry of Brett Kavanaugh­’s appar­ent his­to­ry of sex­u­al assault and misog­y­ny. It’s deeply con­nect­ed. To some extent it’s dif­fer­ent facets of the same under­ly­ing sto­ry of that all too human capac­i­ty to prey on those you don’t see ful­ly human. And that sto­ry, in today’s con­text, is the sto­ry of the rise of ascen­dan­cy of fas­cism and the far right across the globe. Brett Kavanaugh­’s nom­i­na­tion is just one par­tic­u­lar­ly sor­did chap­ter in that larg­er under­ly­ing sto­ry.

    It’s also worth not­ing that act of dehu­man­iz­ing and prey­ing on oth­ers rep­re­sents does­n’t just rep­re­sent an all too human capac­i­ty. And also rep­re­sents an all too human inca­pac­i­ty, in the sense of that the dehu­man­iza­tion of oth­ers tends to be a pro­found­ly stu­pid act in addi­tion to being evil. Because evil and pro­found stu­pid­i­ty are deeply inter­twined phe­nom­e­na. And if you’re the kind of guy that, hor­mones or not, does­n’t feel awful about abus­ing women you prob­a­bly lack a cog­ni­tive capac­i­ty to do so and that’s a real form of stu­pid­i­ty. Espe­cial­ly when alco­hol is involved. If you can’t see peo­ple of the oppo­site sex or dif­fer­ent tribes, reli­gions, social class­es, or what­ev­er as ful­ly human, you aren’t just evil. You are pro­found­ly stu­pid too, at least in that key area of cog­ni­tion and that’s inevitably going to affect all sorts of oth­er areas of cog­ni­tion. The ‘ol ‘stu­pid or evil’ ques­tion is real­ly a trick ques­tion. Because while you can have stu­pid­i­ty with­out evil, you can’t real­ly have evil with­out some sort of pro­found stu­pid­i­ty. So that’s anoth­er aspect of this sto­ry. It’s a stu­pid sto­ry about the Supreme Court. Or rather, a very impor­tant sto­ry about pro­found stu­pid­i­ty and the Supreme Court and the pow­er dynam­ics of soci­ety in gen­er­al and the dan­gers of putting some­one on that court who appears to have embraced a world­view where the pow­er­ful should be able to act with impuni­ty. This is prob­a­bly a good week for the US to explore all of that and hope­ful­ly learn about the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety in the process.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 29, 2018, 1:59 pm
  3. With the nom­i­na­tion of Brett Kavanaugh cur­rent­ly await­ing the results of an FBI inves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing a wave of sex­u­al assault alle­ga­tions, one of the big ques­tions at this point is why is the GOP stick­ing with this guy, and risk­ing alien­at­ing even more women from the GOP, when they could just as eas­i­ly ask him to with­draw and choose a dif­fer­ent can­di­date? And while attempts to answer that ques­tion usu­al­ly revolve around the obser­va­tion that Kavanaugh­’s views the a sit­ting pres­i­dent can’t be indict­ed are going to be high­ly prized by some­one like Pres­i­dent Trump.

    But as the fol­low­ing pair of arti­cles point out, there’s anoth­er area of sig­nif­i­cant sup­port for Kavanaugh with­in the GOP estab­lish­ment: He is real­ly close to the Bush fam­i­ly. Brett served as the Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent and Staff Sec­re­tary for Pres­i­dent George W. Bush from 2003–2006. He also worked in George H. W. Bush’s solic­i­tor gen­er­al’s office. And, of course, he was the prin­ci­pal author of the Starr Report.

    And his wife Ash­ley Kavanaugh is also quite close to the Bush­es. She was the assis­tant to George W. Bush when he was gov­er­nor of Texas from 1996 to 1999. She worked on the Bush-Cheney cam­paign in 2000. From 2001 to 2005 she was George W. Bush’s per­son­al sec­re­tary. From 2005–2009 she was the Direc­tor of Spe­cial Projects for the George W. Bush pres­i­den­tial Foun­da­tion. And from 2009–2010 she was the media rela­tions coor­di­na­tor for the George w. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter.

    So if it seems amaz­ing that the GOP estab­lish­ment appears to be will­ing to stick with Kavanaugh and risk solid­i­fy­ing the GOP’s Trumpian brand as a haven for sex­u­al assaulters, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that the Bush-fac­tion of the GOP is prob­a­bly par­tic­u­lar­ly keen on see­ing Kavanaugh get that seat:

    Heavy.com

    Brett Kavanaugh & George W. Bush: What are the Ties?

    By Jes­si­ca McBride

    Updat­ed Jul 10, 2018 at 10:35am

    Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Supreme Court nom­i­nee to replace Antho­ny Kennedy, has long­stand­ing ties to for­mer Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, as does his wife, Ash­ley Estes Kavanaugh.

    Both Brett and Ash­ley Kavanaugh served in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion and Bush nom­i­nat­ed Brett M. Kavanaugh to the posi­tion he cur­rent­ly holds on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Wash­ing­ton D.C. Trump revealed Kavanaugh as his pick for Supreme Court on July 9, 2018. Kavanaugh was one of four rumored final­ists, with Judges Amy Coney Bar­rett, Thomas Hardi­man, and Ray­mond Keth­ledge also among them. Because Trump and the Bush fam­i­ly have a pub­li­cized feud, some peo­ple thought Brett Kavanaugh’s Bush ties could hurt his chances with the pres­i­dent. How­ev­er, that didn’t stop the pres­i­dent from pick­ing him in the end, even though some con­ser­v­a­tive infight­ingbroke out over the pick, with “whis­per cam­paigns” call­ing Brett Kavanaugh the “low-ener­gy Jeb Bush pick,” accord­ing to Nation­al Review..

    Bush praised the selec­tion.

    JUST IN: For­mer Pres. George W. Bush “Pres­i­dent Trump has made an out­stand­ing deci­sion in nom­i­nat­ing Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the; Supreme Court...He will make a superb Jus­tice of the Supreme Court of the Unit­ed States.” https://t.co/K7XhW1iSMb pic.twitter.com/T9brBFNQ1U— Evan McMur­ry (@evanmcmurry) July 10, 2018

    Here’s what you need to know about Brett Kavanaugh’s Bush ties:

    Brett Kavanaugh Served as the Staff Sec­re­tary to George W. Bush

    Brett Kavanaugh is a judge serv­ing on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit Court. He is a grad­u­ate of Yale Law School who also spent time in pri­vate prac­tice.

    A bio for Brett Kavanaugh also sketch­es out his Bush ties, say­ing, “From July 2003 until his appoint­ment to the court in 2006, he was Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent and Staff Sec­re­tary to Pres­i­dent Bush.”

    Kavanaugh, the for­mer staff sec­re­tary to George W. Bush, also played a role in draft­ing the Ken Starr report into the impeach­ment of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. When Kavanaugh was sworn in as a fed­er­al judge, Bush said, “for the past five years, he has served in the White House as Asso­ciate Coun­sel, a senior Asso­ciate Coun­sel, and as Staff Sec­re­tary.”

    At the same event, Kavanaugh told Bush he had the “great­est respect” for him. “I also appre­ci­ate the oppor­tu­ni­ty to have served under the Vice Pres­i­dent and under Chiefs of Staff Andy Card and Josh Bolten. The White House staff are ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic ser­vants who have been good col­leagues and good friends, and I’ll miss work­ing with all of you very much,” Kavanaugh said at his swear­ing-in hear­ing.

    He has held oth­er gov­ern­ment jobs, and served in George H.W. Bush’s admin­is­tra­tion too in the solic­i­tor general’s office. “Kavanaugh was a pro­tegé of Ken­neth Starr,” reports Vox. “He was a prin­ci­pal author of the Starr Report.”

    The Dai­ly Caller, a con­ser­v­a­tive web­site, report­ed on the snip­ing against Brett Kavanaugh, quot­ing one anony­mous source as say­ing, “Kavanaugh is Jeb Bush’s pick for the Supreme Court. This is the low-ener­gy Jeb Bush pick. No one in the base will be ani­mat­ed by [Kavanaugh] — espe­cial­ly Trump sup­port­ers who reject­ed the Bush lega­cy.”

    George W. Bush Called Brett Kavanaugh a ‘Good Man’ & Joked That He Arranged His Mar­riage

    Bush nom­i­nat­ed Brett Kavanaugh to the Court of Appeals, and he spoke at the swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny in 2006. Accord­ing to a sto­ry post­ed by the White House, Bush praised Brett Kavanaugh, say­ing, “the sec­ond-high­est in our land gains a bril­liant and tal­ent­ed new mem­ber. The staff of the White House cel­e­brates a friend they admire and a col­league they will miss. I con­grat­u­late a good man and a fine pub­lic ser­vant on a job well done.” Bush then quipped, “I’m espe­cial­ly pleased to be with Brett’s wife, Ash­ley, whose face I know well and whose mar­riage was the first life­time appoint­ment I arranged for Brett.”

    The for­mer pres­i­dent added, “I chose Brett because of the force of his mind, his breadth of expe­ri­ence, and the strength of his char­ac­ter.”

    Bush also men­tioned Kavanaugh’s then new daugh­ter. “Wel­come the star of Brett’s most recent tele­vised hear­ing, Mar­garet Mur­phy Kavanaugh,” Bush said to laugh­ter from the crowd. “Mar­garet has his mother’s — has her mother’s good looks, and her dad’s pref­er­ence for hear­ings that do not last too long.”

    At the same hear­ing, Brett Kavanaugh called Mar­garet, his only child at the time, a “dai­ly inspi­ra­tion.”

    “Ash­ley and our lit­tle girl Mar­garet are a dai­ly inspi­ra­tion. Ash­ley, as the Pres­i­dent not­ed, is from Abi­lene, Texas. For those of you who don’t know much about Texas geog­ra­phy, it’s about halfway between Dal­las and Mid­land,” he said. “Ashley’s par­ents are here, and I thank them for com­ing. Ash­ley likes to remind me that true love, true love is a Texas girl who is will­ing to mar­ry a guy with a life­time appoint­ment in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.”

    Accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er, “In 2004, Kavanaugh mar­ried pres­i­den­tial assis­tant Ash­ley Estes, who gave birth to their daugh­ter, Mar­garet, 13 months lat­er. The fam­i­ly lives in Chevy Chase, direct­ly across the street from White House Coun­sel Dan Bartlett.”

    ...

    Kavanaugh’s Wife Has Deep Ties to the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion

    Ash­ley Estes Kavanaugh, the spouse of Brett Kavanaugh, has deep ties to the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush as well. Her links to Bush go back to his days as Texas gov­er­nor.

    Accord­ing to her LinkedIn page, Ash­ley Estes Kavanaugh worked as media rela­tions coor­di­na­tor for the George W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter from 2009–2010; worked as Direc­tor of Spe­cial Projects for the George W. Bush pres­i­den­tial Foun­da­tion from 2005 to 2009; was Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s per­son­al sec­re­tary from 2001 to 2005; was an assis­tant in the White House from 2001 to 2005; and worked on the Bush-Cheney 2000 cam­paign from 1996 to 2000.

    Her time with Bush dates to his work in Texas as gov­er­nor there. She was assis­tant to Gov­er­nor George W. Bush from 1996 to 1999. She attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin from 1994 to 1997.

    Her LinkedIn page says she is Town Man­ag­er, Sec­tion 5 of the Vil­lage of Chevy Chase, Mary­land. A newslet­ter for the town reports, “She has lived in Sec­tion 5 on Under­wood Street for the last ten years along with her hus­band, Brett, and their two daugh­ters, Mar­garet and Liza.”

    ———

    “Brett Kavanaugh & George W. Bush: What are the Ties?” by Jes­si­ca McBride; Heavy.com; 07/10/2018

    Both Brett and Ash­ley Kavanaugh served in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion and Bush nom­i­nat­ed Brett M. Kavanaugh to the posi­tion he cur­rent­ly holds on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Wash­ing­ton D.C. Trump revealed Kavanaugh as his pick for Supreme Court on July 9, 2018. Kavanaugh was one of four rumored final­ists, with Judges Amy Coney Bar­rett, Thomas Hardi­man, and Ray­mond Keth­ledge also among them. Because Trump and the Bush fam­i­ly have a pub­li­cized feud, some peo­ple thought Brett Kavanaugh’s Bush ties could hurt his chances with the pres­i­dent. How­ev­er, that didn’t stop the pres­i­dent from pick­ing him in the end, even though some con­ser­v­a­tive infight­ingbroke out over the pick, with “whis­per cam­paigns” call­ing Brett Kavanaugh the “low-ener­gy Jeb Bush pick,” accord­ing to Nation­al Review..”

    Both Brett and his wife Ash­ley go way back with the Bush­es. It’s a key fea­ture of Kavanaugh­’s resume. And not a good fea­ture giv­en the polit­i­cal nature of the Bush clan, but a rel­e­vant one:

    ...
    Brett Kavanaugh Served as the Staff Sec­re­tary to George W. Bush

    Brett Kavanaugh is a judge serv­ing on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit Court. He is a grad­u­ate of Yale Law School who also spent time in pri­vate prac­tice.

    A bio for Brett Kavanaugh also sketch­es out his Bush ties, say­ing, “From July 2003 until his appoint­ment to the court in 2006, he was Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent and Staff Sec­re­tary to Pres­i­dent Bush.”

    Kavanaugh, the for­mer staff sec­re­tary to George W. Bush, also played a role in draft­ing the Ken Starr report into the impeach­ment of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. When Kavanaugh was sworn in as a fed­er­al judge, Bush said, “for the past five years, he has served in the White House as Asso­ciate Coun­sel, a senior Asso­ciate Coun­sel, and as Staff Sec­re­tary.”

    At the same event, Kavanaugh told Bush he had the “great­est respect” for him. “I also appre­ci­ate the oppor­tu­ni­ty to have served under the Vice Pres­i­dent and under Chiefs of Staff Andy Card and Josh Bolten. The White House staff are ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic ser­vants who have been good col­leagues and good friends, and I’ll miss work­ing with all of you very much,” Kavanaugh said at his swear­ing-in hear­ing.

    He has held oth­er gov­ern­ment jobs, and served in George H.W. Bush’s admin­is­tra­tion too in the solic­i­tor general’s office. “Kavanaugh was a pro­tegé of Ken­neth Starr,” reports Vox. “He was a prin­ci­pal author of the Starr Report.”
    ...

    And Ash­ley Kavanaugh arguably has just as close ties to the Bush­es as her hus­band:

    ...
    Kavanaugh’s Wife Has Deep Ties to the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion

    Ash­ley Estes Kavanaugh, the spouse of Brett Kavanaugh, has deep ties to the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush as well. Her links to Bush go back to his days as Texas gov­er­nor.

    Accord­ing to her LinkedIn page, Ash­ley Estes Kavanaugh worked as media rela­tions coor­di­na­tor for the George W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter from 2009–2010; worked as Direc­tor of Spe­cial Projects for the George W. Bush pres­i­den­tial Foun­da­tion from 2005 to 2009; was Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s per­son­al sec­re­tary from 2001 to 2005; was an assis­tant in the White House from 2001 to 2005; and worked on the Bush-Cheney 2000 cam­paign from 1996 to 2000.

    Her time with Bush dates to his work in Texas as gov­er­nor there. She was assis­tant to Gov­er­nor George W. Bush from 1996 to 1999. She attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin from 1994 to 1997.
    ...

    But this all does­n’t quite cap­ture just how influ­en­tial a role Kavanaugh played in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. For that, we’ll take a look at the fol­low­ing arti­cle, which cov­ers how Kavanaugh was basi­cal­ly George W. Bush’s “intel­lec­tu­al body man” and mil­lions of doc­u­ments relat­ed to his work for Bush are being with­held dur­ing this nom­i­na­tion process:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Brett Kavanaugh: Bush’s intel­lec­tu­al body man

    By Robert O’Har­row Jr.
    August 24, 2018

    It was the apogee of Brett Kavanaugh’s rise through the ranks of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, a job that put him in dai­ly prox­im­i­ty to Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and made him an intel­lec­tu­al “umpire” for a wel­ter of polit­i­cal and pol­i­cy aides who were aim­ing to shape the Repub­li­can agen­da.

    Kavanaugh, now Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court, had an ordi­nary-sound­ing title: staff sec­re­tary. But he wield­ed extra­or­di­nary influ­ence as the advis­er respon­si­ble for screen­ing, review­ing and edit­ing doc­u­ments deliv­ered to Bush, inter­views and doc­u­ments show.

    “Ulti­mate­ly, the umpire was Brett,” said Karl Rove, a Bush advis­er and one of the peo­ple Kavanaugh worked with close­ly as staff sec­re­tary.

    Many Supreme Court jus­tices over the decades have held strong polit­i­cal views or been active in lib­er­al or con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es. Jus­tice Ele­na Kagan, a law pro­fes­sor, served as an asso­ciate coun­sel and advis­er in the Clin­ton White House. For­mer Jus­tice Abe For­t­as pri­vate­ly advised Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son on polit­i­cal mat­ters. William Rehn­quist was ­active in the Repub­li­can Par­ty in Ari­zona before he became a ­jus­tice.

    But no jus­tice in recent mem­o­ry has worked as intent­ly as Kavanaugh at the high­est lev­els of the nation’s polit­i­cal machin­ery, schol­ars said. His time as staff sec­re­tary, from 2003 to 2006, was the cul­mi­na­tion of a polit­i­cal and legal appren­tice­ship that last­ed more than a decade, enabling him to demon­strate his zeal for con­ser­v­a­tive prin­ci­ples and putting him on a path to the Supreme Court.

    Doc­u­ments and inter­views show that while Kavanaugh was not a pol­i­cy­mak­er, he was direct­ly involved in help­ing the White House man­age a wide array of sen­si­tive mat­ters, includ­ing the war on ter­ror­ism, the treat­ment of ene­my com­bat­ants and war­rant­less wire­tap­ping.

    “It put Kavanaugh at the cen­ter of every polit­i­cal and pol­i­cy deci­sion at the Bush White House,” said Peter Irons, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at San Diego and author of sev­er­al books about the Supreme Court. “He is exact­ly the kind of per­son that the legal con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment wants on the court.”

    His tenure is now a source of con­tro­ver­sy, because much of his work in the White House has been cloaked by pres­i­den­tial priv­i­lege. Repub­li­cans have declined to request records from that era, sug­gest­ing that they would not be rev­e­la­to­ry.

    “He was more or less a traf­fic cop,” Sen­ate Major­i­ty Whip John Cornyn (R‑Tex.) said last month.

    Ques­tions about Kavanaugh’s work in the polit­i­cal realm sur­faced in 2004, after he was nom­i­nat­ed by Bush to be a cir­cuit court judge. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D‑N.Y.) alleged that the “nom­i­na­tion appears to be judi­cial pay­ment for polit­i­cal ser­vices ren­dered.”

    “In fact, Mr. Kavanaugh would prob­a­bly win first prize as the hard-right’s polit­i­cal lawyer,” Schumer said, accord­ing to a tran­script of the nom­i­na­tion hear­ing.

    Kavanaugh defend­ed him­self vig­or­ous­ly, say­ing that pri­or polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tions did not nec­es­sar­i­ly impede a good judge’s per­for­mance.

    “There is one kind of judge,” he said dur­ing the hear­ing. “There is an inde­pen­dent judge under our Con­sti­tu­tion. And the fact that they may have been a Repub­li­can or Demo­c­rat ... in a past life is com­plete­ly irrel­e­vant to how they con­duct them­selves as judges.”

    As the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee pre­pares for con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings start­ing Sept. 4, much remains unknown about that sig­nif­i­cant stretch of Kavanaugh’s career.

    Most of the mil­lions of doc­u­ments relat­ing to his White House ser­vice will not be avail­able for review before his con­fir­ma­tion. The com­mit­tee has received batch­es of records from the George W. Bush library, releas­ing tens of thou­sands of doc­u­ments in recent weeks. But most relate to Kavanaugh’s years in the White House Counsel’s Office, before he became staff sec­re­tary, and have been devoid of telling detail. Democ­rats have com­plained they can’t prop­er­ly take stock of ­Kavanaugh.

    “We asked for doc­u­ments from Kavanaugh’s time as staff sec­re­tary because he admit­ted those years shaped his views as a judge, par­tic­u­lar­ly with regard to issues of exec­u­tive pow­er,” Sen. Dianne Fein­stein (D‑Calif.) said in a ­state­ment.

    “We also need to know more about his involve­ment with con­tro­ver­sial issues like tor­ture, war­rant­less wire­tap­ping and pres­i­den­tial sign­ing state­ments,” Fein­stein said. “He has a far more exten­sive record in pol­i­tics than pre­vi­ous nom­i­nees. It’s crit­i­cal that sen­a­tors see the full pic­ture to under­stand how those polit­i­cal posi­tions influ­enced his cur­rent views.”

    White House spokesman Raj Shah said Kavanaugh has demon­strat­ed his com­mit­ment to tak­ing a judi­cious and fair-mind­ed approach to the Supreme Court.

    “What will tell you most about the type of Supreme Court Jus­tice he will make are the 307 opin­ions he wrote as a Judge on the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, a dozen of which were affirmed by the Supreme Court, over the last 12 years,” Shah said in a state­ment. “His opin­ions are wide­ly cit­ed by judges, appoint­ed by pres­i­dents of both par­ties, in courts across the coun­try. They demon­strate inde­pen­dence and a fideli­ty to our laws and con­sti­tu­tion.”

    To find clues about Kavanaugh’s role as staff sec­re­tary, The Wash­ing­ton Post exam­ined more than 2,000 pages of emails and oth­er doc­u­ments pre­vi­ous­ly released by the Bush library, along with scores of emails con­tained in 191 pages of doc­u­ments released last week by the Jus­tice Depart­ment in response to a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request by Fix the Court, a group advo­cat­ing for more trans­paren­cy in the fed­er­al court sys­tem.

    The Bush library and Jus­tice Depart­ment emails have been heav­i­ly redact­ed, with most of the con­tent removed, as part of the government’s nor­mal appli­ca­tion of exemp­tions under the fed­er­al Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act or the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act. But com­bined with Kavanaugh’s pub­lic state­ments and writ­ings, the email address­es and sub­ject lines pro­vide gran­u­lar­i­ty to a com­pos­ite por­trait of him in the years he was staff sec­re­tary and before.

    Kavanaugh was respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing the process that helped shape the president’s think­ing and fueled the Bush admin­is­tra­tion agen­da. “He was every­where,” said Michael Ger­son, a speech­writer in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion and now a syn­di­cat­ed colum­nist at The Post.

    Ger­son, Rove and oth­ers said Kavanaugh was an hon­est bro­ker, even as he con­veyed com­pet­ing ideas to the pres­i­dent.

    “Vir­tu­al­ly every piece of paper had to pass through the staff secretary’s hands,” Rove said.

    Kavanaugh, now 53, has described the White House jobs — end­ing in 2006 when he was con­firmed as a fed­er­al judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit — as an unre­lent­ing mix of demands that required him to con­stant­ly con­sid­er the legal, pol­i­cy, leg­isla­tive, polit­i­cal, inter­na­tion­al and pub­lic rela­tions impli­ca­tions of White House actions.

    “I spent a good deal of time on Capi­tol Hill, some­times in the mid­dle of the night, work­ing on leg­is­la­tion — it’s not a pure or pris­tine process,” Kavanaugh wrote in an essay for Mar­quette Lawyer Mag­a­zine in the fall of 2016.

    “I worked on draft­ing and revis­ing exec­u­tive orders, as well as dis­putes over exec­u­tive branch records,” he wrote. “I saw reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies screw up ... I saw the good and the bad sides of a president’s try­ing to run for reelec­tion and to raise mon­ey while still being pres­i­dent. I was involved in the process for lots of pres­i­den­tial speech­es. I trav­eled almost every­where with the pres­i­dent for about three years. I ­most­ly recall the mas­sive deci­sions that had to be made on short notice.”

    Kavanaugh’s roots in the con­ser­v­a­tive legal world date to at least 1988. While attend­ing Yale Law School, he joined the con­ser­v­a­tive-lib­er­tar­i­an Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety for Law and Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Stud­ies, and has since spo­ken at dozens of the group’s events.

    In the ear­ly 1990s, he worked under Ken­neth Starr in the Solic­i­tor General’s Office in the admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush. He served as clerk to Supreme Court Jus­tice Antho­ny M. Kennedy and worked under Starr again in the inde­pen­dent counsel’s office that inves­ti­gat­ed Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

    Some of the emails released by the Bush library come from Kavanaugh’s days in the White House Counsel’s Office, which he joined in 2001.

    On Octo­ber 10, 2002, Kavanaugh received or was copied on emails relat­ing to ene­my com­bat­ants and the Guan­tanamo prison. The sub­ject line of one email read: “If you get asked about detainees at Quan­tanamo.” The email con­tained a set of Defense Depart­ment talk­ing points from Jan. 17, 2002, titled “The War Against Ter­ror­ism.”

    “Karen — here are some on the GITMO folks. I am work­ing with Jus­tice on the domes­tic peo­ple we are hold­ing. Stay turned for more talk­ers.”

    The emails also show that Kavanaugh worked with oth­ers on up to 22 drafts to refine Bush’s speech­es, while also edit­ing radio address­es and rou­tine state­ments. Peo­ple famil­iar with his work said he was effec­tive­ly an intel­lec­tu­al body man for the pres­i­dent, one who con­stant­ly asked ques­tions of his col­leagues and kept in mind the impli­ca­tions of the president’s state­ments and poli­cies.

    Kavanaugh was often at Bush’s side, here and abroad. On June 5, 2004, the day that for­mer pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan died, Kavanaugh had to wake up Bush in the Amer­i­can Embassy dur­ing a trip to France to make a state­ment.

    On Sept. 3, 2005, Kavanaugh received a call that Rehn­quist had died. He need­ed to meet with Bush and White House speech­writ­ers ear­ly the next morn­ing to pre­pare remarks.

    ...

    In Decem­ber 2005, not long before he left the White House, Kavanaugh joined in an admin­is­tra­tive scram­ble to respond to bomb­shell rev­e­la­tions in the New York Times of a war­rant­less wire­tap­ping pro­gram that was launched after Sept. 11, 2001, accord­ing to the Jus­tice Depart­ment emails.

    Kavanaugh and oth­ers weighed in on talk­ing points from the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency that spelled out the legal autho­riza­tion for the sur­veil­lance pro­gram. On Dec. 20, 2005, Kavanaugh rec­om­mend­ed that amend­ed talk­ing points be shared with the NSA before their release.

    “I think we should make sure Gen­er­al Hay­den sees these before they go,” Kavanaugh wrote.

    ———-

    “Brett Kavanaugh: Bush’s intel­lec­tu­al body man” by Robert O’Har­row Jr.; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 08/24/2018

    “It was the apogee of Brett Kavanaugh’s rise through the ranks of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, a job that put him in dai­ly prox­im­i­ty to Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and made him an intel­lec­tu­al “umpire” for a wel­ter of polit­i­cal and pol­i­cy aides who were aim­ing to shape the Repub­li­can agen­da.

    An “intel­lec­tu­al umpire” for the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. That’s not exact­ly an uncon­tro­ver­sial part of one’s resume. And as part of his work for Bush as the staff sec­re­tary Kavanaugh was work­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly close with “Bush’s Brain” Karl Rove:

    ...
    Kavanaugh, now Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court, had an ordi­nary-sound­ing title: staff sec­re­tary. But he wield­ed extra­or­di­nary influ­ence as the advis­er respon­si­ble for screen­ing, review­ing and edit­ing doc­u­ments deliv­ered to Bush, inter­views and doc­u­ments show.

    “Ulti­mate­ly, the umpire was Brett,” said Karl Rove, a Bush advis­er and one of the peo­ple Kavanaugh worked with close­ly as staff sec­re­tary.
    ...

    And this is why Kavanaugh stands out as being an unusu­al­ly polit­i­cal Supreme Court nom­i­nee. Many jus­tices have had some sort of involve­ment with pol­i­tics before join­ing the high court, but none in recent mem­o­ry are as much of a polit­i­cal ani­mal of Kavanaugh. And a polit­i­cal ani­mal for not just any admin­is­tra­tion but the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. When you’re the for­mer “intel­lec­tu­al umpire” of that admin­is­tra­tion that’s a pret­ty mas­sive issue that needs to be addressed before you’re appoint­ed to the Supreme Court:

    ...
    Many Supreme Court jus­tices over the decades have held strong polit­i­cal views or been active in lib­er­al or con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es. Jus­tice Ele­na Kagan, a law pro­fes­sor, served as an asso­ciate coun­sel and advis­er in the Clin­ton White House. For­mer Jus­tice Abe For­t­as pri­vate­ly advised Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son on polit­i­cal mat­ters. William Rehn­quist was ­active in the Repub­li­can Par­ty in Ari­zona before he became a ­jus­tice.

    But no jus­tice in recent mem­o­ry has worked as intent­ly as Kavanaugh at the high­est lev­els of the nation’s polit­i­cal machin­ery, schol­ars said. His time as staff sec­re­tary, from 2003 to 2006, was the cul­mi­na­tion of a polit­i­cal and legal appren­tice­ship that last­ed more than a decade, enabling him to demon­strate his zeal for con­ser­v­a­tive prin­ci­ples and putting him on a path to the Supreme Court.

    Doc­u­ments and inter­views show that while Kavanaugh was not a pol­i­cy­mak­er, he was direct­ly involved in help­ing the White House man­age a wide array of sen­si­tive mat­ters, includ­ing the war on ter­ror­ism, the treat­ment of ene­my com­bat­ants and war­rant­less wire­tap­ping.

    “It put Kavanaugh at the cen­ter of every polit­i­cal and pol­i­cy deci­sion at the Bush White House,” said Peter Irons, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at San Diego and author of sev­er­al books about the Supreme Court. “He is exact­ly the kind of per­son that the legal con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment wants on the court.”

    His tenure is now a source of con­tro­ver­sy, because much of his work in the White House has been cloaked by pres­i­den­tial priv­i­lege. Repub­li­cans have declined to request records from that era, sug­gest­ing that they would not be rev­e­la­to­ry.

    “He was more or less a traf­fic cop,” Sen­ate Major­i­ty Whip John Cornyn (R‑Tex.) said last month.
    ...

    So it should come as no sur­prise that the major­i­ty of the doc­u­ments relat­ed to his work as Bush’s “intel­lec­tu­al umpire” aren’t being made avail­able to the Democ­rats or the pub­lic dur­ing the nom­i­na­tion process. The offi­cial line from the Trump White House is that the only part of Kavanaugh­’s past that’s wor­thy of review is his work as a judge. His work as George W. Bush’s intel­lec­tu­al umpire is appar­ent­ly irrel­e­vant:

    ...
    As the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee pre­pares for con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings start­ing Sept. 4, much remains unknown about that sig­nif­i­cant stretch of Kavanaugh’s career.

    Most of the mil­lions of doc­u­ments relat­ing to his White House ser­vice will not be avail­able for review before his con­fir­ma­tion. The com­mit­tee has received batch­es of records from the George W. Bush library, releas­ing tens of thou­sands of doc­u­ments in recent weeks. But most relate to Kavanaugh’s years in the White House Counsel’s Office, before he became staff sec­re­tary, and have been devoid of telling detail. Democ­rats have com­plained they can’t prop­er­ly take stock of ­Kavanaugh.

    “We asked for doc­u­ments from Kavanaugh’s time as staff sec­re­tary because he admit­ted those years shaped his views as a judge, par­tic­u­lar­ly with regard to issues of exec­u­tive pow­er,” Sen. Dianne Fein­stein (D‑Calif.) said in a ­state­ment.

    “We also need to know more about his involve­ment with con­tro­ver­sial issues like tor­ture, war­rant­less wire­tap­ping and pres­i­den­tial sign­ing state­ments,” Fein­stein said. “He has a far more exten­sive record in pol­i­tics than pre­vi­ous nom­i­nees. It’s crit­i­cal that sen­a­tors see the full pic­ture to under­stand how those polit­i­cal posi­tions influ­enced his cur­rent views.”

    White House spokesman Raj Shah said Kavanaugh has demon­strat­ed his com­mit­ment to tak­ing a judi­cious and fair-mind­ed approach to the Supreme Court.

    “What will tell you most about the type of Supreme Court Jus­tice he will make are the 307 opin­ions he wrote as a Judge on the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, a dozen of which were affirmed by the Supreme Court, over the last 12 years,” Shah said in a state­ment. “His opin­ions are wide­ly cit­ed by judges, appoint­ed by pres­i­dents of both par­ties, in courts across the coun­try. They demon­strate inde­pen­dence and a fideli­ty to our laws and con­sti­tu­tion.”
    ...

    But despite the refusal to release the bulk of the doc­u­ments that cov­er Kavanaugh­’s work dur­ing the Bush years, there are still hints from the avail­able doc­u­ments of the kind of work he was doing. And those hints point towards Kavanaugh influ­enc­ing vir­tu­al­ly every pol­i­cy agen­da of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion. As Karl Rove put it, “Vir­tu­al­ly every piece of paper had to pass through the staff secretary’s hands” on the way to Bush’s desk. In that sense he real­ly was Bush’s intel­lec­tu­al umpire:

    ...
    To find clues about Kavanaugh’s role as staff sec­re­tary, The Wash­ing­ton Post exam­ined more than 2,000 pages of emails and oth­er doc­u­ments pre­vi­ous­ly released by the Bush library, along with scores of emails con­tained in 191 pages of doc­u­ments released last week by the Jus­tice Depart­ment in response to a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request by Fix the Court, a group advo­cat­ing for more trans­paren­cy in the fed­er­al court sys­tem.

    The Bush library and Jus­tice Depart­ment emails have been heav­i­ly redact­ed, with most of the con­tent removed, as part of the government’s nor­mal appli­ca­tion of exemp­tions under the fed­er­al Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act or the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act. But com­bined with Kavanaugh’s pub­lic state­ments and writ­ings, the email address­es and sub­ject lines pro­vide gran­u­lar­i­ty to a com­pos­ite por­trait of him in the years he was staff sec­re­tary and before.

    Kavanaugh was respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing the process that helped shape the president’s think­ing and fueled the Bush admin­is­tra­tion agen­da. “He was every­where,” said Michael Ger­son, a speech­writer in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion and now a syn­di­cat­ed colum­nist at The Post.

    Ger­son, Rove and oth­ers said Kavanaugh was an hon­est bro­ker, even as he con­veyed com­pet­ing ideas to the pres­i­dent.

    “Vir­tu­al­ly every piece of paper had to pass through the staff secretary’s hands,” Rove said.
    ...

    So when the Bush/Rove-fac­tion of the GOP con­tin­ues to stand behind Kavanaugh despite the grow­ing polit­i­cal dam­age his nom­i­na­tion is doing to the GOP don’t for­get that they’re about to get Bush’s intel­lec­tu­al umpire on the Supreme Court! It’s a pret­ty mas­sive prize.

    It’s also worth not­ing that a law­suit to force the release of 100,000 of those unre­leased Bush-admin­is­tra­tion Kavanaugh doc­u­ments being put for­ward by Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jeff Merke­ly is slow­ly mak­ing its way through the courts. So it’s pos­si­ble those doc­u­ments will even­tu­al­ly be released. But if it does hap­pen it prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen until after the nom­i­na­tion vote that’s sup­posed to hap­pen soon.

    So don’t for­get that while it’s abun­dant­ly clear that the GOP would pre­fer it if a recount­ing of Brett Kavanaugh­’s drunk­en abu­sive school days were left out of the nom­i­na­tion process, there’s a much more recent chap­ter of Kavanaugh­’s life they’re also try­ing to avoid talk­ing about.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 1, 2018, 2:50 pm
  4. There’s no short­age of ques­tions raised by the con­fir­ma­tion of Brett Kavanaugh­’s nom­i­na­tion as a Supreme Court jus­tice. The fact that the Supreme Court now has the first clear hard right major­i­ty in decades rais­es basic ques­tions about what, if any­thing, of the post-New Deal era of jurispru­dence is going to sur­vive the com­ing onslaught. It’s easy to for­get that the right-wing oli­garchy in the US has nev­er viewed pro­grams like Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare as con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly legit­i­mate (let alone Oba­macare) and has nev­er giv­en up on its decades-long strug­gle to over­turn those laws through any means nec­es­sary, but it’s going to be a lot hard­er to for­get these things now that the Supreme Court real­ly is poised to become the ulti­mate right-wing ‘activist’ court. John Roberts is the new ‘swing’ vote. That’s how in per­il the lib­er­al lega­cies of the last 80 years are.

    And then there’s the clear pos­si­bil­i­ty of the court becom­ing even more right-wing should some­thing hap­pen to one of the four remain­ing left-lean­ing jus­tices. We could eas­i­ly see a 6–3 far right major­i­ty before the end of Trump’s first term. And this, of course, is all hap­pen­ing in the con­text of the near total dom­i­na­tion of the US gov­ern­ment at fed­er­al and state lev­els by a Repub­li­can par­ty that is infused with the spir­it of fas­cism and white nation­al­ism.

    So the long-term ques­tions about the impli­ca­tions of this his­toric shift loom large. But per­haps the ques­tion that looms the largest in the imme­di­ate term is what kind of impact that is going to have on the 2018 mid-terms that are just a month away. After all, the fight over the mul­ti­ple alle­ga­tions of sex­u­al assault lev­eled against Brett Kavanaugh has clear­ly caused a surge in Repub­li­can vot­er enthu­si­asm now that the Trump, the GOP, and the right-wing media com­plex all ral­lied around the idea that the accu­sa­tions are com­plete­ly base­less and part of a mas­sive smear cam­paign and part of some sort of broad­er left-wing attack against all white men (Tuck­er Carl­son actu­al­ly sug­gest­ed Kavanaugh­’s nom­i­na­tion fight could spark a race war). It’s the kind of argu­ment that has become a GOP spe­cial­ty, so it’s no sur­prise that this nar­ra­tive worked yet again.

    It’s still unclear if the par­ty is going to be able to nurse kind of vic­tim­hood nar­ra­tive over the next month now that Kavanaugh is con­firmed. But all signs at this point indi­cate that the GOP is going to try to use that vic­tim­hood nar­ra­tive as its best tool for keep that right-wing vot­er enthu­si­asm going into the Novem­ber vote. And to some extent that log­ic makes sense: giv­en the yawn­ing ‘enthu­si­asm’ gap the GOP was suf­fer­ing up until this point that was closed by the right-wing back­lash against the Kavanaugh accu­sa­tions, it’s pret­ty clear that the GOP has lit­tle to lose by con­tin­u­ing to stoke out­rage with the Repub­li­can base by pro­mot­ing the nar­ra­tive that all of the alle­ga­tions against Kavanaugh are part of a giant con­spir­a­cy to base­less­ly destroy a good, hon­or­able man.

    And per­haps that will con­tin­ue to be a suc­cess­ful tac­tic. But part of what’s so fas­ci­nat­ing about the cur­rent polit­i­cal dynam­ic is that it’s a high­ly unsta­ble dynam­ic in the sense that there’s still so much that isn’t known about Brett Kavanaugh­’s back­ground — includ­ing, but not lim­it­ed to, the sex­u­al assault accu­sa­tions — and there’s noth­ing stop­ping more of that infor­ma­tion from com­ing out over the next month and shap­ing that dynam­ic. For instance, it’s now become clear that the White House total­ly rigged the one week FBI inves­ti­ga­tion into the alle­ga­tions. The New York Times just report­ed that Trump was about to give the FBI per­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate any­one but White House lawyer Don McGahn report­ed­ly stopped him after warn­ing that a full inves­ti­ga­tion could imper­il Kavanaugh­’s chances. And the FBI only inter­viewed 10 peo­ple, and that did­n’t include Ford or Kavanaugh. And that report about what appears to be a joke FBI inves­ti­ga­tion came out before the vote to con­firm Kavanaugh. It’s an exam­ple of the kind of new infor­ma­tion that could come out and poten­tial­ly shape how this issue is per­ceived over the next month and high­lights how big a polit­i­cal gam­ble this is going to be for the GOP to nation­al­ize the right-wing out­rage over Kavanaugh­’s nom­i­na­tion head­ing into the final stretch of the mid-terms.

    And yet, giv­en the remark­able pow­er of the right-wing media com­plex to sell pret­ty much any nar­ra­tive they want to their audi­ences, it’s unclear what, if any­thing, could emerge about Kavanaugh that would punc­ture the ‘Kavanaugh was attack with smears and lies’ nar­ra­tive that man­aged to so suc­cess­ful­ly fire up the right-wing based. Still, it’s very pos­si­ble that left-wing and inde­pen­dent vot­ers could become even moti­vat­ed to vote as new infor­ma­tion about Kavanaugh comes out. The polit­i­cal impact of Kavanaugh­’s ascen­sion to the Supreme Court remains a high­ly flu­id sit­u­a­tion.

    So giv­en all that, it’s worth not­ing that there’s anoth­er unre­solved issue over Kavanaugh that did­n’t get much atten­tion dur­ing the nom­i­na­tion process but could actu­al­ly end up impact­ing the pub­lic per­cep­tion of Kavanaugh in ways that change the pub­lic per­cep­tion of the verac­i­ty of the sex­u­al assault claims against him: the ques­tion of whether or not Kavanaugh lied to Con­gress over the role he may have played in a 2002 GOP scan­dal over the theft of Demo­c­ra­t­ic doc­u­ments from a con­gres­sion­al serv­er, a.k.k the ‘Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal’. That’s the scan­dal sur­round­ing Man­u­al Miran­da, the for­mer Repub­li­can Sen­ate coun­sel on the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee who noticed in 2002 that Demo­c­ra­t­ic files — files con­tain­ing infor­ma­tion on strate­gies for how to deal with judi­cial nom­i­na­tions — stored on a shared serv­er were acces­si­ble so he took the files. And Brett Kavanaugh, who was work­ing as assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent at the time and work­ing on select­ing judi­cial nom­i­nees, was alleged­ly giv­en access to the files.

    These alle­ga­tions of course came up dur­ing the nom­i­na­tion process and Kavanaugh of course denied any involve­ment in it. So if evi­dence emerges sug­gest­ing that Kavanaugh did, in fact, work with those stolen doc­u­ments and knew they were stolen he could be charged with per­jury. And in the con­text of a ‘he-said/she-said/she-said/she-said/she-said’ series of alle­ga­tions over sex­u­al harass­ment, an emerg­ing per­jury nar­ra­tive prob­a­bly isn’t going to help Kavanaugh­’s case.

    So is there some new infor­ma­tion that’s com­ing out about this Sen­ate email scan­dal and Kavanaugh­’s role? Maybe. That will depend on the speed of two Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) law­suits work­ing their way through the courts. Both are law­suits to get access to cur­rent­ly unre­leased doc­u­ments from Kavanaugh­’s time in the Bush White House and both are set to have new doc­u­ments released in com­ing weeks. Which means we could see some scan­dalous dis­clo­sures about Kavanaugh hit­ting right before the mid-terms. Maybe. We’ll see. And release of the doc­u­ments is still sub­ject to White House approval, mean­ing this could eas­i­ly start look­ing like a White House Kavanaugh cov­er-up.

    One of the law­suits is pur­sued by the Elec­tron­ic Pri­va­cy Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter (EPIC). The oth­er is by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors on the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee. Yes, even the Sen­a­tors who had to vote on Kavanaugh weren’t giv­en access to these doc­u­ments. Doc­u­ments that could have revealed whether or not Kavanaugh ear­li­er per­jured him­self before them.

    So what do we know about these doc­u­ments? Well, one ‘smok­ing gun’ in the doc­u­ments is that there were a num­ber of emails sent from Miran­da to Kavanaugh short­ly after the reports of Miran­da’s theft of the Democ­rats’ doc­u­ments. Yep, we have sto­ries about the hack­ing scan­dal hit­ting the news, and then Miran­da emails Kavanaugh. But we don’t know what those emails said because they were sent in Decem­ber 2003, which was after Kavanaugh left the job of assis­tant to the pres­i­dent and moved on to become the staff sec­re­tary. And any­thing after his time as assis­tant to the pres­i­dent was deemed out­side the scope of the doc­u­ments that need­ed to be pro­duced to the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee. So we know Miran­da sent Kavanaugh emails short­ly after this scan­dal went pub­lic but Sen­a­tors did­n’t get access to the con­tent of those emails due to a tech­ni­cal­i­ty caused by Kavanaugh shift­ing roles in the White House. And now these FOIA law­suits are set to see the release of those emails in com­ing weeks.

    But, the release of these emails is still up to White House review. So we could eas­i­ly see a sit­u­a­tion where the White House refus­es to release these emails, at least until after the mid-terms. They will no doubt incor­po­rate it into the pre­vail­ing right-wing nar­ra­tive and frame it as pro­tect­ing Kavanaugh from a witch-hunt or some­thing. But that whole sit­u­a­tion real­ly could unfold. Poten­tial­ly right before the mid-terms. It’s a remark­able polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and a big rea­son why the cur­rent polit­i­cal dynam­ic sur­round­ing the nation­al­iza­tion of the Kavanaugh nom­i­na­tion as a polit­i­cal issue is such a big gam­ble:

    Yahoo News

    Law­suits point to large trove of unre­leased Kavanaugh White House doc­u­ments

    Luppe B. Lup­pen Con­trib­u­tor
    ‚Yahoo News•October 5, 2018

    New details have emerged about poten­tial­ly thou­sands of Brett Kavanaugh’s White House emails and oth­er records relat­ed to the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal from ear­ly in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion and oth­er con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects that have not been dis­closed to the Sen­ate, accord­ing to Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors on the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee.

    The undis­closed doc­u­ments, which date from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House, are set to be pro­duced in com­ing weeks as a result of two Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act law­suits, one pur­sued by Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors on the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee and anoth­er by an out­side pri­va­cy group, the Elec­tron­ic Pri­va­cy Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter (EPIC). Release of the doc­u­ments is still sub­ject to White House approval and oth­er con­sul­ta­tions.

    The Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal involved a Repub­li­can Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee aide, Man­ny Miran­da, who, accord­ing to an offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion, infil­trat­ed the elec­tron­ic files of Democ­rats on the com­mit­tee with the help of a co-con­spir­a­tor, James Lun­dell, and passed the intel­li­gence on to oth­er sen­a­tors, the White House, and friend­ly opin­ion colum­nists over a peri­od of years. The pil­fered mate­r­i­al con­tained, among oth­er things, Democ­rats’ research and pre­pared ques­tions for judi­cial nom­i­nees.

    With Kavanaugh fac­ing a poten­tial final con­fir­ma­tion vote over the week­end or ear­ly next week, the doc­u­ments that are cleared for release by the FOIA law­suits will like­ly emerge too late for sen­a­tors to take them into account.

    “This high­lights how lit­tle we know about Judge Kavanaugh’s record,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D‑Vt., said in a state­ment. “More than 90 per­cent of his White House records remain hid­den. The fact that he appears to have had so many con­ver­sa­tions about a top­ic that he denied hav­ing involve­ment with, under oath, rais­es even more ques­tions,” Leahy con­tin­ued, refer­ring to the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal.

    The tab­u­la­tions pro­vid­ed to Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors and EPIC by offi­cials at the Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion before the poten­tial pro­duc­tion of the doc­u­ments show that poten­tial­ly only a frac­tion of Kavanaugh’s cor­re­spon­dence relat­ed to sev­er­al con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects dis­cussed at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings was made avail­able to sen­a­tors, accord­ing to Democ­rats on the com­mit­tee. The tab­u­la­tions indi­cate that the undis­closed doc­u­ments con­cern the Bush-era Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal; Kavanaugh’s inter­ac­tions with attor­ney John Yoo in the weeks fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; and Kavanaugh’s work on the USA Patri­ot Act and var­i­ous domes­tic sur­veil­lance pro­grams, air­port screen­ing pro­grams and oth­er pri­va­cy-relat­ed sub­jects.

    The tab­u­la­tions for EPIC, which are detailed in the table includ­ed below, were drawn from a sub­set of the over­all records the pri­va­cy group request­ed from the Nation­al Archives, accord­ing to Alan But­ler, EPIC’s legal direc­tor. In nego­ti­a­tions with EPIC, the Nation­al Archives agreed to tab­u­late first the records from the Judi­cia­ry Committee’s request that it has iden­ti­fied as being eli­gi­ble for release to the pub­lic and that are under­go­ing a final 60-day review by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bush and Pres­i­dent Trump. It is these records, already iden­ti­fied by the Nation­al Archives for pub­li­ca­tion, that are reflect­ed in table below. “This fur­ther under­scores the fact that there is impor­tant infor­ma­tion out there that is pend­ing release,” But­ler said. “It’s why we’ve called for the Sen­ate to post­pone the vote on Kavanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion.”

    Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides com­pared the Nation­al Archives’ totals for these sub­jects to what they received short­ly before the Judi­cia­ry Committee’s hear­ings, through an unprece­dent­ed process over­seen by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s pri­vate lawyer and Kavanaugh’s for­mer deputy, William A. Bur­ck. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides found that the Nation­al Archives’ num­bers are sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er in some cas­es. “How­ev­er, But­ler, EPIC’s legal direc­tor, point­ed out that these doc­u­ments had been iden­ti­fied as ready for pub­lic release by the Nation­al Archives, so he found it unlike­ly that they con­tained sig­nif­i­cant clas­si­fied or priv­i­leged mate­r­i­al.

    Because the doc­u­ments have not yet come to light, there is no way to tell how many are mere­ly dupli­cates of pre­vi­ous­ly pro­duced records. How­ev­er, pre­vi­ous pro­duc­tions from Bur­ck have includ­ed thou­sands of dupli­cate records, accord­ing to Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides. It is also uncer­tain how many doc­u­ments were with­held due to legit­i­mate claims of con­sti­tu­tion­al priv­i­lege or because they con­tained clas­si­fied or high­ly sen­si­tive per­son­al infor­ma­tion.

    [see Table show num­ber of records cur­rent­ly sched­uled to be released by the Nation­al Archives vs the much small­er num­ber of doc­u­ments already made avail­able to Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Democ­rats]

    While he was not will­ing to dis­cuss the spe­cif­ic cat­e­gories of doc­u­ments iden­ti­fied by Democ­rats, Bur­ck pro­vid­ed a state­ment list­ing the rea­sons why doc­u­ments were held back.

    “As we have informed the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee, we gave to the Com­mit­tee every page of every doc­u­ment giv­en to us by the Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion (NARA), except per­son­al doc­u­ments — which the Com­mit­tee did not request and which NARA agreed should not be pro­duced — and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly priv­i­leged doc­u­ments iden­ti­fied by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice — which the cur­rent Admin­is­tra­tion direct­ed that we not pro­vide,” he wrote in a state­ment to Yahoo News. “We also exclud­ed doc­u­ments that were auto­mat­i­cal­ly removed from our review using indus­try-stan­dard soft­ware, because they were exact dupli­cates of oth­er doc­u­ments that we did review; doc­u­ments that were dat­ed on or after July 7, 2003, when Judge Kavanaugh left the White House Counsel’s Office; State Depart­ment doc­u­ments dat­ing from the 1970s that were in Judge Kavanaugh’s White House Counsel’s Office hard copy files; doc­u­ments with tech­ni­cal issues such that they could not be processed by our third-par­ty ven­dor and thus were referred back to NARA to deter­mine if NARA could pro­vide review­able copies; and doc­u­ments which were either redact­ed or, in a few cas­es, with­held entire­ly on the basis that they con­tained per­son­al pri­va­cy infor­ma­tion, such as Social Secu­ri­ty num­bers, cell phone num­bers, pri­vate email address­es, and per­son­al med­ical or finan­cial infor­ma­tion.”

    ...

    Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors are focused on what their aides say may be as many as 1,800 undis­closed records relat­ed to the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal.

    Before Kavanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, Democ­rats received 1,721 Kavanaugh doc­u­ments relat­ed to the scan­dal, which they used to call into ques­tion Kavanaugh’s pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mo­ny dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for the D.C. Cir­cuit. At those hear­ings, Kavanaugh said under oath that he had no knowl­edge of receiv­ing the pur­loined doc­u­ments from Miran­da, the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee aide at the cen­ter of the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal, either in real time or in ret­ro­spect. The Nation­al Archives’ tab­u­la­tions indi­cate that there are approx­i­mate­ly 3,500 total records relat­ed to Kavanaugh’s deal­ings with Miran­da.

    Democ­rats are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in indi­ca­tions in the Nation­al Archives’ tab­u­la­tions that there are a hand­ful of undis­closed emails from Miran­da to Kavanaugh at the time that the com­mit­tee aide’s mis­con­duct came to light, in Decem­ber 2003, which they say con­tain the word “Lun­dell,” the sur­name of the obscure staffer who con­spired with Miran­da in the hack­ing scan­dal. It is not con­firmed that the Decem­ber 2003 emails dis­cussed the hack­ing scan­dal, but Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides speak­ing on back­ground not­ed that Kavanaugh and Lun­dell were not friends and, since Kavanaugh had left the White House counsel’s office by Decem­ber 2003, he had no obvi­ous rea­son — oth­er than the hack­ing issue — to cor­re­spond with Miran­da about Lun­dell.

    “Judge Kavanaugh owes us some expla­na­tion about why he was cor­re­spond­ing with Man­ny Miran­da about Jason Lun­dell in the month after their appar­ent crim­i­nal con­spir­a­cy was exposed,” Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D‑Conn., said in a state­ment. “How can there be a plau­si­ble and inno­cent expla­na­tion for why almost 2,000 com­mu­ni­ca­tions between Kavanaugh and Miran­da were kept hid­den from the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee? These facts might be writ­ten off as coin­ci­dence if only Judge Kavanaugh hadn’t twice tried to mis­lead the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee about his rela­tion­ship with Miran­da and his receipt of stolen doc­u­ments.”

    Because the Decem­ber 2003 emails were sent to Kavanaugh after he tran­si­tioned to the staff sec­re­tary role, they would have been out­side the scope of doc­u­ments pro­duced by Bur­ck to the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee. Kavanaugh did not appear to reply to any of the emails, the tab­u­la­tions show.

    One of the first con­tro­ver­sies of the Kavanaugh hear­ings was fought over the doc­u­ment pro­duc­tion process. Kavanaugh had a volu­mi­nous record of doc­u­ments from his six years of pub­lic ser­vice in the Bush White House, first as an asso­ciate coun­sel in the White House counsel’s office and then, after July 2003, as staff sec­re­tary. Typ­i­cal­ly, a judi­cial nominee’s White House records would be req­ui­si­tioned by the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee direct­ly from the Nation­al Archives using a pro­vi­sion of the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act. The doc­u­ments would be gath­ered and screened for clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion and priv­i­leged mate­r­i­al in a process coor­di­nat­ed by the archivists, non­po­lit­i­cal civ­il ser­vants.

    Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, R‑Iowa, made his first con­tro­ver­sial move by request­ing only Kavanaugh’s records for his time in the counsel’s office, exclud­ing his years of ser­vice as staff sec­re­tary. In ear­ly August, the Nation­al Archives wrote to Grass­ley that this lim­it­ed request could not be com­plet­ed before the end of Octo­ber, sig­nif­i­cant­ly lat­er than the Repub­li­cans want­ed to hold Kavanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings.

    Notwith­stand­ing the Nation­al Archives’ time­line, Repub­li­cans were still able to hold Kavanaugh’s hear­ings in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber because they had devel­oped a new strat­e­gy for pro­duc­ing doc­u­ments, one that would con­tro­ver­sial­ly rely on a for­mer pres­i­dent and an out­side lawyer.

    Under a sep­a­rate pro­vi­sion of the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act, a for­mer pres­i­dent is per­mit­ted to request records for his own or his representative’s use. This pro­vi­sion is typ­i­cal­ly under­stood to allow the pres­i­dent to review his administration’s records for per­son­al pur­suits, like writ­ing a mem­oir. Repub­li­cans arranged to have for­mer pres­i­dent George W. Bush and his pub­lic records lawyer, Bur­ck, invoke it in Kavanaugh’s aid. Bush would request the doc­u­ments, and Burck’s legal team would coor­di­nate the process of review­ing them for priv­i­leged infor­ma­tion and turn them over to the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee.

    While this approach was demon­stra­bly faster, Democ­rats heav­i­ly crit­i­cized it through­out the sum­mer. They object­ed to plac­ing in pri­vate hands the deter­mi­na­tion of which doc­u­ments elect­ed sen­a­tors would be able to review and also point­ed to poten­tial con­flicts of inter­est. Bur­ck is a lawyer for sev­er­al cur­rent and for­mer Trump White House offi­cials in Robert Mueller’s spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­ga­tion, and he also worked inside the Bush White House as Kavanaugh’s deputy staff sec­re­tary.

    Bur­ck man­aged the pro­duc­tion before and dur­ing Kavanaugh’s hear­ings, with attor­neys from the Depart­ment of Jus­tice assist­ing him in deter­min­ing which doc­u­ments to with­hold on claims of exec­u­tive priv­i­lege and which to pro­duce on the con­di­tion that they be main­tained as “com­mit­tee con­fi­den­tial.” The doc­u­ments iden­ti­fied in the Nation­al Archives tab­u­la­tions could include those with­held by Bur­ck.

    While it’s far from clear how impor­tant the undis­closed doc­u­ments could be, and doubt­ful the mere prospect of their future dis­clo­sure will sway any votes, if new infor­ma­tion emerges about divi­sive sub­jects after the Sen­ate has already vot­ed to con­firm Kavanaugh, it could cast a per­ma­nent cloud on Kavanaugh’s ser­vice on the Supreme Court.

    “If this process were designed to find the truth, we would be answer­ing those ques­tions before rush­ing to a vote,” Sen. Leahy said.

    ———-

    “Law­suits point to large trove of unre­leased Kavanaugh White House doc­u­ments” by Luppe B. Lup­pen; Yahoo News; 10/05/2018

    “While it’s far from clear how impor­tant the undis­closed doc­u­ments could be, and doubt­ful the mere prospect of their future dis­clo­sure will sway any votes, if new infor­ma­tion emerges about divi­sive sub­jects after the Sen­ate has already vot­ed to con­firm Kavanaugh, it could cast a per­ma­nent cloud on Kavanaugh’s ser­vice on the Supreme Court.”

    Yep, while it’s far from clear how impor­tant the undis­closed doc­u­ments could have been for Kavanaugh­’s nom­i­na­tion process because that process was clear­ly a farce, there’s noth­ing stop­ping the even­tu­al release of these doc­u­ments from cast­ing a per­ma­nent cloud on Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court jus­tice. An even­tu­al release could hap­pen in com­ing weeks thanks to the two FOIA law­suits:

    ...
    New details have emerged about poten­tial­ly thou­sands of Brett Kavanaugh’s White House emails and oth­er records relat­ed to the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal from ear­ly in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion and oth­er con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects that have not been dis­closed to the Sen­ate, accord­ing to Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors on the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee.

    The undis­closed doc­u­ments, which date from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House, are set to be pro­duced in com­ing weeks as a result of two Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act law­suits, one pur­sued by Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors on the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee and anoth­er by an out­side pri­va­cy group, the Elec­tron­ic Pri­va­cy Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter (EPIC). Release of the doc­u­ments is still sub­ject to White House approval and oth­er con­sul­ta­tions.
    ...

    So will this release hap­pen before the mid-terms? We’ll see, but if it does­n’t hap­pen before the mid-terms there’s noth­ing stop­ping it from becom­ing a cam­paign issue. After all, if the GOP is going to run on out­rage over the accu­sa­tions against Kavanaugh, rais­ing this issue over pos­si­ble per­jury becomes a nat­ur­al response by Democ­rats. So this real­ly could sud­den­ly become a nation­al issue.

    And part of what makes this a poten­tial cam­paign issue is the fact that the few facts we do know just look so sus­pi­cious. Kavanaugh denied, under oath, have any involve­ment with the stolen doc­u­ments and yet we know he sud­den­ly received a bunch of emails from Miran­da short­ly after the sto­ry went pub­lic. It just looks hor­ri­ble and the only way to tru­ly clear it up is to release the doc­u­ments:

    ...
    The Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal involved a Repub­li­can Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee aide, Man­ny Miran­da, who, accord­ing to an offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion, infil­trat­ed the elec­tron­ic files of Democ­rats on the com­mit­tee with the help of a co-con­spir­a­tor, James Lun­dell, and passed the intel­li­gence on to oth­er sen­a­tors, the White House, and friend­ly opin­ion colum­nists over a peri­od of years. The pil­fered mate­r­i­al con­tained, among oth­er things, Democ­rats’ research and pre­pared ques­tions for judi­cial nom­i­nees.

    With Kavanaugh fac­ing a poten­tial final con­fir­ma­tion vote over the week­end or ear­ly next week, the doc­u­ments that are cleared for release by the FOIA law­suits will like­ly emerge too late for sen­a­tors to take them into account.

    “This high­lights how lit­tle we know about Judge Kavanaugh’s record,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D‑Vt., said in a state­ment. “More than 90 per­cent of his White House records remain hid­den. The fact that he appears to have had so many con­ver­sa­tions about a top­ic that he denied hav­ing involve­ment with, under oath, rais­es even more ques­tions,” Leahy con­tin­ued, refer­ring to the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal.
    ...

    So how many emails and doc­u­ments might get released in this process? As many as 1,800 released to the hack­ing scan­dal alone. And some of those emails sent by Miran­da to Kavanaugh appar­ent­ly con­tain the work “Lun­dell”. And Lun­dell That hap­pens to be the name of an obscure staffer who con­spired with Miran­da. It just looks so damn sus­pi­cious:

    ...
    Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors are focused on what their aides say may be as many as 1,800 undis­closed records relat­ed to the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal.

    Before Kavanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, Democ­rats received 1,721 Kavanaugh doc­u­ments relat­ed to the scan­dal, which they used to call into ques­tion Kavanaugh’s pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mo­ny dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for the D.C. Cir­cuit. At those hear­ings, Kavanaugh said under oath that he had no knowl­edge of receiv­ing the pur­loined doc­u­ments from Miran­da, the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee aide at the cen­ter of the Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal, either in real time or in ret­ro­spect. The Nation­al Archives’ tab­u­la­tions indi­cate that there are approx­i­mate­ly 3,500 total records relat­ed to Kavanaugh’s deal­ings with Miran­da.

    Democ­rats are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in indi­ca­tions in the Nation­al Archives’ tab­u­la­tions that there are a hand­ful of undis­closed emails from Miran­da to Kavanaugh at the time that the com­mit­tee aide’s mis­con­duct came to light, in Decem­ber 2003, which they say con­tain the word “Lun­dell,” the sur­name of the obscure staffer who con­spired with Miran­da in the hack­ing scan­dal. It is not con­firmed that the Decem­ber 2003 emails dis­cussed the hack­ing scan­dal, but Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides speak­ing on back­ground not­ed that Kavanaugh and Lun­dell were not friends and, since Kavanaugh had left the White House counsel’s office by Decem­ber 2003, he had no obvi­ous rea­son — oth­er than the hack­ing issue — to cor­re­spond with Miran­da about Lun­dell.

    “Judge Kavanaugh owes us some expla­na­tion about why he was cor­re­spond­ing with Man­ny Miran­da about Jason Lun­dell in the month after their appar­ent crim­i­nal con­spir­a­cy was exposed,” Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D‑Conn., said in a state­ment. “How can there be a plau­si­ble and inno­cent expla­na­tion for why almost 2,000 com­mu­ni­ca­tions between Kavanaugh and Miran­da were kept hid­den from the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee? These facts might be writ­ten off as coin­ci­dence if only Judge Kavanaugh hadn’t twice tried to mis­lead the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee about his rela­tion­ship with Miran­da and his receipt of stolen doc­u­ments.”
    ...

    And the process of releas­ing the doc­u­ments looks super sus­pi­cious too. Using an unprece­dent­ed process, the doc­u­ments to be released are being reviewed by William A. Bur­ck, who hap­pens to be George W. Bush’s pri­vate lawyer and Kavanaugh­’s for­mer deputy. You almost could­n’t come up with a more sus­pi­cious-look­ing sce­nario:

    ...
    The tab­u­la­tions pro­vid­ed to Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors and EPIC by offi­cials at the Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion before the poten­tial pro­duc­tion of the doc­u­ments show that poten­tial­ly only a frac­tion of Kavanaugh’s cor­re­spon­dence relat­ed to sev­er­al con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects dis­cussed at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings was made avail­able to sen­a­tors, accord­ing to Democ­rats on the com­mit­tee. The tab­u­la­tions indi­cate that the undis­closed doc­u­ments con­cern the Bush-era Sen­ate hack­ing scan­dal; Kavanaugh’s inter­ac­tions with attor­ney John Yoo in the weeks fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; and Kavanaugh’s work on the USA Patri­ot Act and var­i­ous domes­tic sur­veil­lance pro­grams, air­port screen­ing pro­grams and oth­er pri­va­cy-relat­ed sub­jects.

    The tab­u­la­tions for EPIC, which are detailed in the table includ­ed below, were drawn from a sub­set of the over­all records the pri­va­cy group request­ed from the Nation­al Archives, accord­ing to Alan But­ler, EPIC’s legal direc­tor. In nego­ti­a­tions with EPIC, the Nation­al Archives agreed to tab­u­late first the records from the Judi­cia­ry Committee’s request that it has iden­ti­fied as being eli­gi­ble for release to the pub­lic and that are under­go­ing a final 60-day review by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bush and Pres­i­dent Trump. It is these records, already iden­ti­fied by the Nation­al Archives for pub­li­ca­tion, that are reflect­ed in table below. “This fur­ther under­scores the fact that there is impor­tant infor­ma­tion out there that is pend­ing release,” But­ler said. “It’s why we’ve called for the Sen­ate to post­pone the vote on Kavanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion.”

    Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides com­pared the Nation­al Archives’ totals for these sub­jects to what they received short­ly before the Judi­cia­ry Committee’s hear­ings, through an unprece­dent­ed process over­seen by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s pri­vate lawyer and Kavanaugh’s for­mer deputy, William A. Bur­ck. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic aides found that the Nation­al Archives’ num­bers are sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er in some cas­es. “How­ev­er, But­ler, EPIC’s legal direc­tor, point­ed out that these doc­u­ments had been iden­ti­fied as ready for pub­lic release by the Nation­al Archives, so he found it unlike­ly that they con­tained sig­nif­i­cant clas­si­fied or priv­i­leged mate­r­i­al.

    ...

    Notwith­stand­ing the Nation­al Archives’ time­line, Repub­li­cans were still able to hold Kavanaugh’s hear­ings in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber because they had devel­oped a new strat­e­gy for pro­duc­ing doc­u­ments, one that would con­tro­ver­sial­ly rely on a for­mer pres­i­dent and an out­side lawyer.

    Under a sep­a­rate pro­vi­sion of the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act, a for­mer pres­i­dent is per­mit­ted to request records for his own or his representative’s use. This pro­vi­sion is typ­i­cal­ly under­stood to allow the pres­i­dent to review his administration’s records for per­son­al pur­suits, like writ­ing a mem­oir. Repub­li­cans arranged to have for­mer pres­i­dent George W. Bush and his pub­lic records lawyer, Bur­ck, invoke it in Kavanaugh’s aid. Bush would request the doc­u­ments, and Burck’s legal team would coor­di­nate the process of review­ing them for priv­i­leged infor­ma­tion and turn them over to the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee.

    While this approach was demon­stra­bly faster, Democ­rats heav­i­ly crit­i­cized it through­out the sum­mer. They object­ed to plac­ing in pri­vate hands the deter­mi­na­tion of which doc­u­ments elect­ed sen­a­tors would be able to review and also point­ed to poten­tial con­flicts of inter­est. Bur­ck is a lawyer for sev­er­al cur­rent and for­mer Trump White House offi­cials in Robert Mueller’s spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­ga­tion, and he also worked inside the Bush White House as Kavanaugh’s deputy staff sec­re­tary.

    Bur­ck man­aged the pro­duc­tion before and dur­ing Kavanaugh’s hear­ings, with attor­neys from the Depart­ment of Jus­tice assist­ing him in deter­min­ing which doc­u­ments to with­hold on claims of exec­u­tive priv­i­lege and which to pro­duce on the con­di­tion that they be main­tained as “com­mit­tee con­fi­den­tial.” The doc­u­ments iden­ti­fied in the Nation­al Archives tab­u­la­tions could include those with­held by Bur­ck.
    ...

    And the only rea­son these high­ly sus­pi­cious look­ing emails from Miran­da to Kavanaugh haven’t already been released is because only doc­u­ments relat­ed to Kavanaugh­’s work as Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent had to be released. For some rea­son his work as staff sec­re­tary did­n’t war­rant Sen­ate review:

    ...
    Because the Decem­ber 2003 emails were sent to Kavanaugh after he tran­si­tioned to the staff sec­re­tary role, they would have been out­side the scope of doc­u­ments pro­duced by Bur­ck to the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee. Kavanaugh did not appear to reply to any of the emails, the tab­u­la­tions show.

    One of the first con­tro­ver­sies of the Kavanaugh hear­ings was fought over the doc­u­ment pro­duc­tion process. Kavanaugh had a volu­mi­nous record of doc­u­ments from his six years of pub­lic ser­vice in the Bush White House, first as an asso­ciate coun­sel in the White House counsel’s office and then, after July 2003, as staff sec­re­tary. Typ­i­cal­ly, a judi­cial nominee’s White House records would be req­ui­si­tioned by the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee direct­ly from the Nation­al Archives using a pro­vi­sion of the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act. The doc­u­ments would be gath­ered and screened for clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion and priv­i­leged mate­r­i­al in a process coor­di­nat­ed by the archivists, non­po­lit­i­cal civ­il ser­vants.

    Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, R‑Iowa, made his first con­tro­ver­sial move by request­ing only Kavanaugh’s records for his time in the counsel’s office, exclud­ing his years of ser­vice as staff sec­re­tary. In ear­ly August, the Nation­al Archives wrote to Grass­ley that this lim­it­ed request could not be com­plet­ed before the end of Octo­ber, sig­nif­i­cant­ly lat­er than the Repub­li­cans want­ed to hold Kavanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings.
    ...

    All in all, it’s look­ing like a high­ly sus­pi­cious sit­u­a­tion. A high­ly sus­pi­cious sit­u­a­tion that strong­ly points towards per­jury. And don’t for­get that the Sen­ate ‘hack­ing’ scan­dal is only one of the poten­tial issues where Kavanaugh may have per­jured him­self that could be revealed by the release of these doc­u­ments.

    So that’s all going to be a polit­i­cal­ly fas­ci­nat­ing sit­u­a­tion to watch play out. Will the White House stonewall the release of these doc­u­ments until after the mid-terms and will the Democ­rats man­age to turn that into a polit­i­cal lia­bil­i­ty? Might the GOP suc­cess­ful­ly frame ques­tions of per­jury as an exten­sion of the ‘Democ­rats will do any­thing to destroy a good man’s rep­u­ta­tion’ nar­ra­tive and keep their base fired up? Who knows, block­ing the release of these doc­u­ments to ‘stop the destruc­tion of Brett’ could become Trump’s new ral­ly­ing cry.

    Anoth­er gen­er­al ques­tion raised by Kavanaugh­’s ascen­sion to the Supreme Court is what the impact of poten­tial­ly per­ma­nent large gen­der-gap in vot­ing pref­er­ences might do to Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. Because one thing that’s empir­i­cal­ly clear at this point is that if the GOP has deter­mined that a vot­ing demo­graph­ic is over­whelm­ing­ly going to sup­port Democ­rats (like minori­ties and urban vot­ers) the GOP is going to do every­thing in its pow­er to restrict that demo­graph­ic from being able to suc­cess­ful­ly vote. Ger­ry­man­der­ing, vot­ing restric­tions on felons, and a grow­ing array of rule lim­it­ed vot­ing access are all well-honed vot­er sup­pres­sion tech­niques tar­get­ing left-wing con­stituen­cies at this point. But they aren’t tech­niques that can clear­ly tar­get women. So if we enter into an era of a per­ma­nent large gen­der-gap, where women over­whelm­ing­ly net oppose the GOP, how are female vot­ers going to be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly sup­pressed? We know the GOP is going to try to do it so how are they going to go about it? That’s prob­a­bly a ques­tion that’s going to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant to ask going for­ward.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 6, 2018, 2:19 pm
  5. There was a poten­tial­ly explo­sive sto­ry last night on MSNBC when Lawrence O’Don­nell regard­ing the source of Don­ald Trump’s cur­rent wealth and whether or not he’s an actu­al bil­lion­aire: Accord­ing to a source described as “close to Deutsche Bank”, not only is Deutsche Bank in pos­ses­sion of Trump’s tax returns, but the bank is also in pos­ses­sion of loan doc­u­ments that show Trump obtained loans with for­eign oli­garchs are co-sign­ers. Specif­i­cal­ly Russ­ian oli­garchs close to Putin, accord­ing to this anony­mous source.

    It’s also worth recall­ing what we’ve learned about Jared Kush­n­er’s deal­ings in 2015 and 2016 with Lev Leviev to pur­chase the old New York Times build­ing from Leviev in 2015 for $295 mil­lion. Kush­n­er received a $285 mil­lion loan from Deutsche Bank about a month before the 2016 elec­tion as part of a refi­nanc­ing deal for that pur­chase. And Deutsche Bank employ­ees have said they saw sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty in both Kush­n­er’s and Trump’s accounts that had the appear­ance of mon­ey-laun­der­ing in 2016. Recall how Leviev was involved with one of the mon­ey-laun­der­ing oper­a­tions involv­ing Man­hat­tan real estate impli­cat­ed in the Mag­nit­sky inves­ti­ga­tion. Leviev is als described as ‘close to Putin’, although he is more accu­rate­ly char­ac­ter­ized as a ‘Russ­ian-Israeli’ busi­ness­man who is report­ed­ly close to Felix Sater too.

    So we already know about Kush­n­er get­ting Deutsche Bank loans in 2016 to help with pur­chase one of Lev Leviev’s prop­er­ties and this is based on Deutsche Bank employ­ees decid­ing to go to the press with this infor­ma­tion. Might this lat­est source ‘close to Deutsche Bank’ be one of those employ­ees and might Lev Leviev be the co-sign­er?

    O’Don­nell then had David Cay John­ston on to talk about this news and John­ston point­ed out that, while it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble there were Russ­ian oli­garchs co-sign­ing those loans, if Trump has been in the kind of sit­u­a­tion where he need­ed for­eign oli­garchs to co-sign his loans we should­n’t assume it’s lim­it­ed to Russ­ian oli­garchs. We should be look­ing into Sau­di, UAE, or Turk­ish oli­garchs too as like­ly sus­pects. It’s impor­tant per­spec­tive to keep in mind with this sto­ry: if Trump was broke enough to need an oli­garch co-sign­er, we should­n’t assume he was exclu­sive­ly using Russ­ian oli­garchs to get his loans giv­en the glob­al nature of his shady busi­ness rela­tion­ships:

    Raw Sto­ry

    Tax expert David Cay John­ston warns Russ­ian oli­garchs may not be the only for­eign­ers co-sign­ing Trump’s loans

    By Bob Brigham
    August 27, 2019

    On Tues­day evening, MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell broke a bomb­shell report that Deutsche Bank has loan appli­ca­tions from Don­ald Trump that were co-signed by Russ­ian oli­garchs.

    “The source close to Deutsche Bank says that the Trump tax returns reveal that the pres­i­dent pays lit­tle to no income tax in some years,” he said. “And the source says that Deutsche Bank is in pos­ses­sion of loan doc­u­ments that show Don­ald Trump has obtained loans with co-sign­ers and that he would not have been able to obtain those loans with­out co-sign­ers.”

    “The source close to Deutsche Bank says that the co-sign­ers of Don­ald Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans are Russ­ian bil­lion­aires close to Vladimir Putin,” O’Donnell report­ed.

    If con­firmed, it could make impeach­ment “absolute­ly inevitable.”

    For analy­sis, O’Donnell inter­viewed Pulitzer Prize-win­ning inves­tiga­tive reporter and tax expert David Cay John­ston of DC Report.

    “If Deutsche Bank has Don­ald Trump’s tax returns, isn’t the only pur­pose for a bank to have tax returns is for loans?” O’Donnell asked. “Is there — I can’t think of any oth­er rea­son why the bank would have his tax returns.”

    “No, the bank gets your tax returns or a tran­script of your infor­ma­tion. If you apply for a mort­gage, you sign a doc­u­ment allow­ing your bank to check with the IRS to see if the income you’ve report­ed to them is the income that you’re report­ing to the bank,” John­ston replied.

    “Now, of course, Don­ald has a long his­to­ry that I’ve doc­u­ment­ed show­ing two dif­fer­ent sets of doc­u­ments to dif­fer­ent peo­ple that don’t match up, and one of the inter­est­ing ele­ments of this is they appar­ent­ly have drafts as well as signed, filed tax returns. In exam­in­ing the dif­fer­ence between those could be reveal­ing about Donald’s behav­ior,” he explained. “Remem­ber, a tax return is basi­cal­ly the start­ing point for an inves­ti­ga­tion, it’s not the end.”

    Sin­gle source report tonight by @Lawrence, when I was his open­ing guest, of Russ­ian co-sign­ers on Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans fits w/ what I’ve been say­ing for years.

    Judge should review loan docs in cham­bers. If true, judge can – and should – put in pub­lic record ASAP.

    .

    — David Cay John­ston (@DavidCayJ) August 28, 2019

    “And, David, you have stud­ied Don­ald Trump’s wealth, Don­ald Trump’s earn­ings over time. You’re one of the first peo­ple to punc­ture the myth of Don­ald Trump as a bil­lion­aire. We heard in court the lawyers for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are seek­ing this infor­ma­tion, and they say they’re seek­ing it in a Russ­ian mon­ey-laun­der­ing inves­ti­ga­tion. That’s why they say they’re seek­ing it,” O’Donnell report­ed. “If those loan doc­u­ments show co-sign­ers, let’s just go to that, your under­stand­ing of Don­ald Trump’s finances by the time he’s try­ing to get loans from Deutsche Bank after every oth­er bank has turned him down. Would it make sense that he needs co-sign­ers at that point?”

    “Oh, absolute­ly,” John­ston replied.

    “And Don­ald I’ve argued on your show and oth­ers for sev­er­al years now that Deutsche Bank in mak­ing these loans had to have some­one in the back­ground that was guar­an­tee­ing these loans. It would be sur­pris­ing if they’re actu­al­ly co-sign­ers. That would be absolute­ly aston­ish­ing and I would think man­date his removal from office,” he con­tin­ued.

    “David, know­ing what you know about Don­ald Trump’s finances as you’ve stud­ied them, when Don­ald Trump — if he came to the point where he had to look around for back­ers for his loans, co-sign­ers for his loans, is Rus­sia where he would end up look­ing?” O’Donnell asked.

    “Well, it would be the best place for him to go and it fits with the family’s own pub­lic state­ments — that they’ve tried to walk back since — about get­ting lots of assets from Rus­sia,” John­ston replied. “But, you know, Don­ald may well have oth­er back­ers. The next places to look would be the Saud­is, the Emi­ratis and per­haps some peo­ple in Turkey, giv­en Michael Fly­nn, his Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er, hav­ing been on the pay­roll ille­gal­ly of Turk­ish inter­ests when he was in the White House.”

    ...

    ———-
    “Tax expert David Cay John­ston warns Russ­ian oli­garchs may not be the only for­eign­ers co-sign­ing Trump’s loans” by Bob Brigham, Raw Sto­ry, 08/27/2019

    ““Well, it would be the best place for him to go and it fits with the family’s own pub­lic state­ments — that they’ve tried to walk back since — about get­ting lots of assets from Rus­sia,” John­ston replied. “But, you know, Don­ald may well have oth­er back­ers. The next places to look would be the Saud­is, the Emi­ratis and per­haps some peo­ple in Turkey, giv­en Michael Fly­nn, his Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er, hav­ing been on the pay­roll ille­gal­ly of Turk­ish inter­ests when he was in the White House.”

    That’s some good advice from David Cay John­ston: don’t assume this sto­ry ends with a Russ­ian oli­garch. If there’s one there’s one oli­garch co-sign­er prob­a­bly more and there’s no rea­son to believe they’re all Rus­sians.

    It’s also worth not­ing that we know the one per­son who could tell us the iden­ti­ties of any oli­garch co-sign­ers for Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans for any loans that took place before 2009: Justin Kennedy, Trump’s banker at Deutsche Bank until 2009 who report­ed­ly worked close­ly with Trump dur­ing a peri­od when Deutsche Bank was the only bank Trump could find to loan to him. So these mys­tery oli­garch co-sign­ers may explain why Deutsche Bank was will­ing to make loans to some­one no oth­er bank would touch.

    And giv­en the curi­ous rela­tion­ship between Trump, Kush­n­er, and Leviev involv­ing Man­hat­tan real estate deals and Deutsche Bank loans and the fact that Leviev was impli­cat­ed in the mon­ey-laun­der­ing activ­i­ties uncov­ered by Sergei Mag­nit­sky involv­ing Man­hat­tan real estate, it’s worth not­ing that the peri­od when Justin Kennedy was Trump’s banker at Deutsche Bank would have over­lap with the peri­od when Mag­nit­sky dis­cov­ered Man­hat­tan real estate was being used for a mon­ey-laun­der­ing. So if it turns out the anony­mous source was refer­ring to loans Trump received from Deutsche Bank co-signed by Russ­ian oli­garchs were loans from that pre-2009 peri­od when Justin was Trump’s banker, that raise all sorts of fas­ci­nat­ing new ques­tions about Trump’s pos­si­ble role in those Man­hat­tan real estate mon­ey-laun­der­ing oper­a­tions Mag­nit­sky uncov­ered. It would also obvi­ous­ly raise some fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tions about Justin’s pos­si­ble role in all that too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 28, 2019, 11:34 am
  6. Welp, it looks like that sto­ry bro­ken by Lawrence O’Don­nell on his MSNBC show Tues­day night about Pres­i­dent Trump get­ting loans from Deutsche Bank that were co-signed by a Russ­ian oli­garch ‘close to Putin’ is already being retract­ed. Although the retrac­tion isn’t a refu­ta­tion of the sto­ry. Instead, Lawrence O’Don­nell sim­ply acknowl­edged that the sto­ry was­n’t tech­ni­cal­ly ready for pub­lic dis­cus­sion when he first brought it up on his show because it had­n’t yet gone through the ver­i­fi­ca­tion stan­dards. As O’Don­nell put it on his show last night, “Last night on this show I dis­cussed infor­ma­tion that was­n’t ready for report­ing. I did not go through the rig­or­ous ver­i­fi­ca­tion and stan­dards process here at MSNBC before repeat­ing what I heard from my source. Had it gone through that process I would not have been per­mit­ted to report it. I should not have said it on air or post­ed it on Twit­ter. I was wrong to do so.“ In fair­ness, if you watch the ini­tial report where O’Don­nell reveals this scoop at the begin­ning of the show he repeat­ed­ly empha­sizes that it’s based on a sin­gle source and couch­es the sto­ry with phras­es like “if true”, so it was­n’t being pre­sent­ed as a well-sourced sto­ry.

    And note that, while O’Don­nell does say, “Had it gone through that process I would not have been per­mit­ted to report it,” that state­ment does­n’t appear to indi­cate that MSNBC had sub­se­quent­ly deter­mined that the sto­ry was inac­cu­rate. O’Don­nell goes on to say that they don’t know if the sto­ry is accu­rate at this point, say­ing, “Tonight we are retract­ing the sto­ry. We don‘t know whether the infor­ma­tion is inac­cu­rate. But the fact is, we do know it was­n’t ready for broad­cast, and for that I apol­o­gize.“ That makes it sound like the rea­son he would­n’t have been able to report on the sto­ry even after the sto­ry went through a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process is prob­a­bly because it was a sto­ry based on a sin­gle anony­mous source.

    So the ques­tion of whether or not Trump was get­ting his Deutsche Bank loans co-signed by for­eign oli­garchs remains a very open ques­tion. But this retrac­tion also opens up some more inter­est­ing ques­tions. First, was this anoth­er instance where an anony­mous source claims some sort of explo­sive Trump tie in to Rus­sia that nev­er pans out? It cer­tain­ly would­n’t be the first time it hap­pened. For exam­ple, there was the ‘Paul Man­afort was caught vis­it­ing Julian Assange at the Ecuado­ran embassy’ sto­ry in the Guardian that appears to have been dis­in­for­ma­tion being inject­ed by an anony­mous source. There was also the anony­mous­ly sourced report from McClatchy — claim­ing that Mueller’s team did indeed have evi­dence that the infa­mous Prague meet­ing between Michael Cohen and Russ­ian intel­li­gence real­ly did hap­pen — that appears to have been false and yet those reporters stood by the sources say­ing they had been impor­tant sources on oth­er sto­ries. And then there was the anony­mous­ly sourced Dai­ly Beast piece assert­ing that evi­dence of the GRU being behind “Guc­cifer 2.0” was found when a GRU offi­cer neglect­ed to turn on his VPN when log­ging in to Guc­cifer 2.0’s Twit­ter account and this cre­at­ed a dig­i­tal trail going back to the GRU’s head­quar­ters. The claims in that sto­ry have nev­er sur­faced in the released Mueller report despite it being poten­tial­ly com­pelling evi­dence. And those are just some of the exam­ples of sto­ries with explo­sive claims that appear to pro­vide pow­er­ful evi­dence of a Trump-Krem­lin con­nec­tion that were based on anony­mous sources that nev­er panned out. Might this retract­ed sto­ry be anoth­er exam­ple of that pat­tern?

    Also keep in mind anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty: Trump him­self was the source as part of a dirty trick designed to pre­emp­tive­ly deflate a real sto­ry while dis­cred­it­ing the media. Recall that this already appears to have hap­pened back in March of 2017 when David Cay John­ston was giv­en a copy of Trump’s 2005 tax returns from an anony­mous source. The tax doc­u­ments were sent to John­ston in the mail and the source remained anony­mous to John­ston him­self. In the end, the sto­ry appeared to show Trump paid the Alter­na­tive Min­i­mum Tax that year which, rel­a­tive­ly speak­ing, could be worse new for Trump. At least he paid some­thing. And it was that com­bi­na­tion of the com­plete­ly anony­mous source of these 2005 doc­u­ments and the fact that they weren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly damn­ing doc­u­ments that led to much spec­u­la­tion over whether or not Trump him­self mailed John­ston the doc­u­ments as a means of shap­ing the nar­ra­tive around his tax returns. Trump already had a his­to­ry of assum­ing fake per­sonas (John Bar­ron) to feed reporters sto­ries about him­self which only fueled the spec­u­la­tion that the source for these tax returns was indeed Trump.

    Giv­en that his­to­ry of both anony­mous sources — like­ly con­nect­ed to US law enforce­ment or intel­li­gence — and Trump him­self feed­ing reporters dubi­ous sto­ries that appear to designed to shape the nar­ra­tive around Trump, we have to ask: If indeed O’Don­nel­l’s retract­ed report ends up nev­er pan­ning out, was the anony­mous source one of the same anony­mous sources for the oth­er anony­mous­ly sourced sto­ries with explo­sive #TrumpRus­sia claims that now appear to be dis­in­for­ma­tion? Or was it Trump him­self or some­one close to Trump try­ing to pre­emp­tive­ly dis­cred­it a real sto­ry they fear com­ing out?:

    Politi­co

    MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell apol­o­gizes, retracts report on Trump finances

    By QUINT FORGEY and MATTHEW CHOI

    08/28/2019 03:47 PM EDT
    Updat­ed 08/29/2019 08:22 AM EDT

    MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednes­day retract­ed his report­ing that claimed Russ­ian oli­garchs had co-signed for Deutsche Bank loans to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and he apol­o­gized for not adher­ing to pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards.

    “Last night on this show I dis­cussed infor­ma­tion that was­n’t ready for report­ing,“ O‘Donnell said at the top of his show Wednes­day night. “I did not go through the rig­or­ous ver­i­fi­ca­tion and stan­dards process here at MSNBC before repeat­ing what I heard from my source. Had it gone through that process I would not have been per­mit­ted to report it. I should not have said it on air or post­ed it on Twit­ter. I was wrong to do so.“

    “Tonight we are retract­ing the sto­ry,” he added. “We don‘t know whether the infor­ma­tion is inac­cu­rate. But the fact is, we do know it wasn‘t ready for broad­cast, and for that I apol­o­gize.“

    O’Donnell said at the out­set of his week­night news broad­cast on Tues­day that a sin­gle anony­mous source close to Deutsche Bank told him the Ger­man lender had obtained Trump’s tax returns, which “show that the pres­i­dent pays very lit­tle income tax.”

    He said the source also told him that Trump‘s “loan doc­u­ments there show that he has co-sign­ers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans. And that the co-sign­ers are Russ­ian oli­garchs.”

    O’Donnell con­clud­ed: “That would explain, it seems to me, every kind word Don­ald Trump has ever said about Rus­sia and Vladimir Putin, if true — and I stress the ‘if true’ part of this.”

    Trump on Thurs­day morn­ing went on the attack against O’Don­nell and used the inci­dent to con­demn the broad­er media.

    “Crazy Lawrence O’Donnell, who has been call­ing me wrong from even before I announced my run for the Pres­i­den­cy, even being pre­vi­ous­ly forced by NBC to apol­o­gize, which he did while cry­ing, for things he said about me & The Appren­tice, was again forced to apol­o­gize, this time for the most ridicu­lous claim of all, that Rus­sia, Rus­sia, Rus­sia, or Russ­ian oli­garchs, co-signed loan doc­u­ments for me, a guar­an­tee,” Trump wrote. “Total­ly false, as is vir­tu­al­ly every­thing else he, and much of the rest of the LameStream Media, has said about me for years. ALL APOLOGIZE!”

    Before O’Donnell issued his retrac­tion and apol­o­gy on Wednes­day, a lawyer for Trump demand­ed that NBCU­ni­ver­sal and O’Donnell retract the report.

    “These state­ments are false and defam­a­to­ry, and extreme­ly dam­ag­ing,” attor­ney Charles Hard­er wrote in a let­ter dat­ed Wednes­day on behalf of the pres­i­dent and the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion to Susan Wein­er and Daniel Kum­mer, in-house attor­neys at NBCU­ni­ver­sal.

    “The only bor­row­ers under these loans are Trump enti­ties, and Mr. Trump is the only guar­an­tor,” Hard­er wrote in the let­ter, obtained by POLITICO. “Numer­ous doc­u­ments for each of these loans are also record­ed, pub­licly avail­able and search­able online.”

    In his let­ter, Hard­er request­ed that O’Donnell and NBCU­ni­ver­sal “imme­di­ate­ly and promi­nent­ly retract, cor­rect and apol­o­gize for the … false and defam­a­to­ry state­ments.”

    If they do not con­firm their inten­tion to do so with­in 24 hours, Hard­er warned, his clients will be left “with no alter­na­tive but to con­sid­er their legal options which could include imme­di­ate legal pro­ceed­ings against” O’Donnell and NBCU­ni­ver­sal.

    “Should that occur, my clients would pur­sue all avail­able caus­es of action and seek all avail­able dam­ages and oth­er legal reme­dies to the max­i­mum extent per­mit­ted by law,” Hard­er wrote.

    Before his on-air apol­o­gy, O‘Donnell had already tweet­ed ear­ly Wednes­day after­noon that he regret­ted the report.

    “Last night I made an error in judg­ment by report­ing an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rig­or­ous ver­i­fi­ca­tion and stan­dards process,” he wrote on Twit­ter. “I shouldn’t have report­ed it and I was wrong to dis­cuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight.”

    Asked to respond to Harder’s let­ter and O’Donnell’s report­ing, White House press sec­re­tary Stephanie Grisham said in a state­ment: “This is one of the rea­sons that a major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans have lost trust in the media. Instead of apply­ing ethics and stan­dards to their report­ing, jour­nal­ists and left-wing out­lets have weaponized the media, using it to attack and harass peo­ple with lit­tle to no regard for the truth.”

    ...

    ———-

    “MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell apol­o­gizes, retracts report on Trump finances” by QUINT FORGEY and MATTHEW CHOI; Politi­co; 08/28/2019

    “Tonight we are retract­ing the sto­ry,” he added. “We don‘t know whether the infor­ma­tion is inac­cu­rate. But the fact is, we do know it wasn‘t ready for broad­cast, and for that I apol­o­gize.“

    The sto­ry has­n’t been debunked yet. But if it does­n’t even­tu­al­ly get con­firmed it’s going to be hard to avoid sus­pect­ing it was anoth­er attempt to play the media and inject dis­in­for­ma­tion into the cov­er­age of Trump and the broad­er #TrumpRus­sia sto­ry. Still, even if the sto­ry gets con­clu­sive­ly debunked we still won’t know who was behind it or what the intent was.

    Although it’s worth not­ing that if this was indeed a dis­in­for­ma­tion piece orig­i­nat­ing for the anony­mous sources of those pre­vi­ous appar­ent dis­in­for­ma­tion pieces rely­ing on anony­mous sources to make explo­sive #TrumpRus­sia claims, it would be rather slop­py dis­in­for­ma­tion attempt pre­cise­ly because it was a sin­gle source. The prob­a­ble rea­son O’Don­nell said he would­n’t have been allowed to report the sto­ry even if it had gone through the vet­ting process is because it was still just based on a sin­gle source. When we look at past sto­ries of this nature that did­n’t pan out there was always a ref­er­ence to mul­ti­ple anony­mous sources, pre­sum­ably because it’s required for a sto­ry to get pub­lished. So the fact that this was just a sin­gle anony­mous source sug­gests it did­n’t orig­i­nate from the anony­mous sources who pushed those pre­vi­ous­ly ques­tion­able sto­ries. Trump, on the oth­er hand, prob­a­bly would­n’t be think­ing about that detail if he turns out to be the source.

    Also keep in mind that if this sto­ry was being pushed by Trump in order to pre­empt news he fears com­ing out, that would make David Cay John­ston’s spec­u­la­tion that non-Russ­ian oli­garchs (from Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE, Turkey, etc) may have also been co-sign­ers for Trump’s loans a lot more like­ly to be cor­rect. If Trump real­ly was using Russ­ian oli­garch co-sign­ers it seems like he would be unlike­ly to even bring up the top­ic even it was part of a dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tion. But if he was using non-Russ­ian oli­garch co-sign­ers and feared that sto­ry would come out, push­ing a sto­ry about Russ­ian co-sign­ers makes a lot more sense.

    All in all, whether or not this sto­ry ends up being true or ends up being part of a dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tion, either sce­nario seems entire­ly plau­si­ble. That’s kind of the big sto­ry here. And also the meta-sto­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 29, 2019, 1:39 pm
  7. Pres­i­dent Trump gave his #UkraineGate impeach­ment acquit­tal ‘vic­to­ry’ speech today. It was a speech that could be viewed as a kind of infor­mal start of the 2020 cam­paign sea­son, a cam­paign sea­son that’s poised to large­ly be a nation­al ref­er­en­dum on Trump him­self. But giv­en how the impeach­ment process played out in the Sen­ate — with near­ly all of the Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors vot­ing not to call wit­ness­es and Mitt Rom­ney mak­ing a sur­prise vote to con­vict Trump — of the inter­est­ing ques­tions going for­ward is the extent to which the polar­ized nature of the impeach­ment process turns the 2020 elec­tion into a ref­er­en­dum on the broad­er Repub­li­can Par­ty par­ty and whether or not its will­ing and able to serve as a mean­ing­ful check on a Trump White House. In oth­er words, one of the sleep­er issues of the 2020 elec­tion could sim­ply be the con­cept of checks and bal­ances. Do Amer­i­cans want an unchecked Trump for anoth­er four years?

    At the same time, we can be con­fi­dent that the right-wing is going to be using its full media might to turn the 2020 elec­tion into a ref­er­en­dum on ‘free­dom vs social­ism’, regard­less of who the Democ­rats ulti­mate­ly nom­i­nate. And it’s that com­bi­na­tion of like­ly 2020 themes — Trump and his unchecked dom­i­na­tion of the Repub­li­can Par­ty vs fear­mon­ger­ing about ‘social­ism’ — that makes the fol­low­ing arti­cle extra inter­est­ing in the con­text of the 2020 elec­tion. The arti­cle is about the pro­found intel­lec­tu­al sway Peter Thiel holds not only over today’s Repub­li­can Par­ty, includ­ing Trump him­self, but also his shap­ing of the future Repub­li­can Par­ty. And it’s about Thiel’s ide­o­log­i­cal jour­ney from a hard core lib­er­tar­i­an to some­one who is very much in favor or ‘Big Government’...when it suite him. As the arti­cle describes, Thiel has devel­oped a vision of a strong, robust cen­tral gov­ern­ment, but only as long as this strong cen­tral gov­ern­ment is lim­it­ed to pro­mot­ing the inter­ests of wealthy cap­i­tal­ists like him­self or he gets to per­son­al­ly prof­it from the the gov­ern­ment activ­i­ty, like his invest­ment in Palan­tir. As the arti­cle describes it, Thiel’s vision for a strong cen­tral gov­ern­ment is remark­able sim­i­lar to the gov­ern­ment of Chi­na, except with­out Chi­na’s poli­cies of help­ing aver­age cit­i­zens. And Thiel’s vision for cre­at­ing the kind of soci­o­log­i­cal ‘glue’ to hold a nation togeth­er is Trumpian-style blus­tery ‘Amer­i­can nation­al­ism’ that appears to most­ly involve feel-good chest-thump­ing and, iron­i­cal­ly, attacks on Chi­na. It’s that seem­ing ide­o­log­i­cal inco­her­ence — a lib­er­tar­i­an in favor of a strong, author­i­tar­i­an cen­tral gov­ern­ment — that high­lights the nature of the mod­ern Repub­li­can Par­ty’s def­i­n­i­tion of ‘free­dom’: it’s free­dom for fas­cist oli­garchs to take over gov­ern­ment and soci­ety and run it as they see fit, with no real checks on their pow­er:

    New York Mag­a­zine
    Intel­li­gencer

    Peter Thiel’s Lat­est Ven­ture Is the Amer­i­can Gov­ern­ment

    By Max Read
    Jan. 21, 2020

    In mid-Jan­u­ary, at the con­clu­sion of a spe­cial meet­ing of the Mont Pelerin Soci­ety, the ven­er­a­ble free-mar­ket orga­ni­za­tion, after appear­ances by Con­doleez­za Rice and Niall Fer­gu­son, Peter Thiel was slat­ed to give clos­ing remarks on “Big Tech and the Ques­tion of Scale.” The keynote was the lat­est in a series of pub­lic remarks and inter­views in which the Pay­Pal founder and Face­book investor showed his promi­nence in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics.

    ...

    But unlike oth­er major right-wing donors, Thiel seems intent on being known for his intel­lect as much as his wal­let. Over the past year, he has played the role of out­raged patri­ot, endors­ing Trump’s trade war and bizarrely accus­ing Google of “seem­ing­ly trea­so­nous” behav­ior in its Chi­na deal­ings. He inter­mit­tent­ly lec­tures at Stan­ford. Van­i­ty Fair has writ­ten about his hot-tick­et L.A. din­ner par­ties, where guests (includ­ing, at least once, the pres­i­dent) hold “deep dis­cus­sions” about the issues of the day. Last year, George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor and econ­o­mist Tyler Cowen called Thiel “the most influ­en­tial con­ser­v­a­tive intel­lec­tu­al with oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an intel­lec­tu­als.”

    This emerg­ing Repub­li­can mach­er is a far cry from the ultra­l­ib­er­tar­i­an sedi­tion­ist who used to encour­age entre­pre­neurs to exit the Unit­ed States and start their own coun­tries at sea. But Thiel is no stranger to incon­sis­ten­cy. For decades, he cul­ti­vat­ed a rep­u­ta­tion as a rad­i­cal Sil­i­con Val­ley anti-sta­tist; in 2009, he wrote that Face­book, in which he was an ear­ly investor, might “cre­ate the space for new modes of dis­sent and new ways to form com­mu­ni­ties not bound­ed by his­tor­i­cal nation-states.” Yet, six years ear­li­er, he had co-found­ed the most aggres­sive­ly “sta­tist” com­pa­ny in the 21st cen­tu­ry: Palan­tir, the glob­al sur­veil­lance com­pa­ny used, for exam­ple, to mon­i­tor Iran­ian com­pli­ance with the nuclear deal. Can you real­ly claim to uphold indi­vid­ual free­dom if you’re prof­it­ing from a mass-sur­veil­lance gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor? Are you real­ly a lib­er­tar­i­an if you’re a promi­nent sup­port­er of Trump?

    It would be easy enough to chalk up the seem­ing con­tra­dic­tion of Thiel’s thought to oppor­tunism or pet­ti­ness (he famous­ly fund­ed a law­suit, in secret, to bank­rupt Gawk­er, my for­mer employ­er) or per­haps even a mind less ambidex­trous than inco­her­ent. But it’s worth try­ing to under­stand his polit­i­cal jour­ney. Thiel’s increas­ing promi­nence as both an intel­lec­tu­al in and bene­fac­tor of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment — and his sta­tus as a leg­end in Sil­i­con Val­ley — makes him at least as impor­tant as more pub­lic tech CEOs like Mark Zucker­berg. In fact, he still holds sway over Zucker­berg: Recent reports sug­gest Thiel was the most influ­en­tial voice in Facebook’s deci­sion to allow politi­cians to lie in ads on its plat­form. What Thiel believes now is like­ly to influ­ence the next gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an thinkers — if not what the pres­i­dent believes the next day.

    How to square Thiel’s post-nation­al tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­an­ism with his blood­thirsty author­i­tar­i­an nation­al­ism? Strange­ly, he wants both. Today’s Thielism is a lib­er­tar­i­an­ism with an abstract com­mit­ment to per­son­al free­dom but no par­tic­u­lar affec­tion for democ­ra­cy — or even for “pol­i­tics” as a process by which peo­ple might make col­lec­tive deci­sions about the dis­tri­b­u­tion of pow­er and resources. Thiel has wed him­self to state pow­er not in an effort to par­tic­i­pate in the polit­i­cal process but as an end run around it.

    If we want­ed to con­struct a geneal­o­gy of late Thielism, one place to start might be a rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle-read essay Thiel wrote in 2015 for the con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gious jour­nal First Things. Thiel is a Chris­t­ian, though clear­ly a het­ero­dox believ­er, and in “Against Edenism,” he makes the case that “sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy are nat­ur­al allies” to what he sees as the inborn “opti­mism” of Chris­tian­i­ty. Chris­tians are nat­ur­al utopi­ans, Thiel believes, and because “there will be no return­ing” to the prelap­sar­i­an par­adise of Eden, they should sup­port tech­no­log­i­cal progress, although it may mean join­ing with “athe­ist opti­mists,” per­son­i­fied in the essay by Goethe’s Faust. At least Faust was “moti­vat­ed to try to do some­thing about every­thing that was wrong with the world,” even if he did, you know, sell his immor­tal soul to the Dev­il.

    Thiel sug­gests that growth is essen­tial­ly a reli­gious oblig­a­tion — “build­ing the king­dom of heav­en today, here on Earth” — and that stag­na­tion is, well, demon­ic — the chaot­ic sea “where the demon Leviathan lives.” This bina­ry appears fre­quent­ly in Thiel’s writ­ing, where “progress” is always aligned with tech­nol­o­gy and the indi­vid­ual, and “chaos” with pol­i­tics and the mass­es. If Thiel has an apoc­a­lyp­tic fear of sta­sis, you can begin to see why his pol­i­tics have changed over the past few years, as it has become less clear whether the boom­ing tech­nol­o­gy indus­try has actu­al­ly added much to the econ­o­my or to human hap­pi­ness, let alone demon­strat­ed “progress.”

    Where some of his fel­low lib­er­tar­i­ans have moved toward the cen­ter, attempt­ing to build a “lib­er­al­tar­i­an­ism” with a rel­a­tive­ly strong wel­fare state and mass demo­c­ra­t­ic appeal, oth­ers have found them­selves artic­u­lat­ing a ver­sion of what Tyler Cowen, in a recent blog post, called “state capac­i­ty lib­er­tar­i­an­ism,” a con­cept he says was influ­enced by Thiel’s think­ing. In its essence, it’s the admis­sion that “strong states remain nec­es­sary to main­tain and extend cap­i­tal­ism and mar­kets.”. Where Thiel would dif­fer with state-capac­i­ty lib­er­tar­i­ans like Cowen is that he isn’t mere­ly a believ­er in strong states in the abstract as agents of eco­nom­ic progress. He is pur­port­ed to be a specif­i­cal­ly Amer­i­can “nation­al con­ser­v­a­tive,” at least per his con­fer­ence-keynote sched­ule. Thiel has sug­gest­ed in the past that such a con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al­ism is the only thing that can pro­vide the cohe­sion nec­es­sary to re-cre­ate a strong state. “Iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics,” he sug­gest­ed in an address at the Man­hat­tan Insti­tute, the free-mar­ket think tank, is a dis­trac­tion that stops us from act­ing at “the scale that we need to be focus­ing on for this coun­try.” MAGA pol­i­tics is the only way to grow.

    This is the con­text in which it makes sense for a gay, cos­mopoli­tan lib­er­tar­i­an like Thiel to throw his sup­port behind a red-meat con­ser­v­a­tive like Sen­ate can­di­date Kris Kobach of Kansas. The tech­no­log­i­cal progress Thiel asso­ciates with his own per­son­al free­dom and pow­er is threat­ened by mar­ket fail­ure and polit­i­cal chaos. A strong cen­tral­ized state can restore order, breed progress, and open up new tech­nolo­gies, mar­kets, and finan­cial instru­ments from which Thiel might prof­it. And as long as it allows Thiel to make mon­ey and host din­ner par­ties, who cares if its bor­ders are cru­el­ly and ruth­less­ly enforced? Who cares if its leader is an auto­crat? Who cares, for that mat­ter, if it’s demo­c­ra­t­ic? In fact, it might be bet­ter if it weren’t: If the left’s com­mit­ment to “iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics” is divi­sive enough to pre­vent tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment, its threat out­strips the kind of bel­li­cose reli­gious author­i­tar­i­an­ism that Kobach rep­re­sents. A Thielist gov­ern­ment would be aggres­sive toward Chi­na, a coun­try Thiel is obsessed with — while also seem­ing, in its cen­tral­ized author­i­ty and close ties between gov­ern­ment and indus­try, very much like it.

    There is, of course, anoth­er con­text in which it makes sense for Thiel to join forces with social con­ser­v­a­tives and nation­al­ists: his bank account. Thiel’s ide­o­log­i­cal shifts have matched his finan­cial self-inter­est at every turn. His new­found patri­o­tism is prob­a­bly best under­stood as an alliance of con­ve­nience. The U.S. gov­ern­ment is the ves­sel best suit­ed for reach­ing his immor­tal tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­an future (and a low­er tax rate), and he is hap­py to ride it as long as it and he are trav­el­ing in the same direc­tion. And if it doesn’t work out, well, he did effec­tive­ly buy New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship.

    ———–

    “Peter Thiel’s Lat­est Ven­ture Is the Amer­i­can Gov­ern­ment” by Max Read; New York Mag­a­zine; 01/21/2020

    “It would be easy enough to chalk up the seem­ing con­tra­dic­tion of Thiel’s thought to oppor­tunism or pet­ti­ness (he famous­ly fund­ed a law­suit, in secret, to bank­rupt Gawk­er, my for­mer employ­er) or per­haps even a mind less ambidex­trous than inco­her­ent. But it’s worth try­ing to under­stand his polit­i­cal jour­ney. Thiel’s increas­ing promi­nence as both an intel­lec­tu­al in and bene­fac­tor of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment — and his sta­tus as a leg­end in Sil­i­con Val­ley — makes him at least as impor­tant as more pub­lic tech CEOs like Mark Zucker­berg. In fact, he still holds sway over Zucker­berg: Recent reports sug­gest Thiel was the most influ­en­tial voice in Facebook’s deci­sion to allow politi­cians to lie in ads on its plat­form. What Thiel believes now is like­ly to influ­ence the next gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an thinkers — if not what the pres­i­dent believes the next day.

    Thiel is the guy not just whis­per­ing in the ear of Pres­i­dent Trump. He’s guid­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an thinkers. And he appears to have come up with an ide­ol­o­gy that com­bines lib­er­tar­i­an­ism when it comes to restraints on busi­ness­es with ‘con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al­ism’ to pro­vide the social cohe­sion nec­es­sary to main­tain a strong state. Thiel approves of a strong cen­tral gov­ern­ment action, but only as long as that action is done to main­tain mar­kets and sup­port ‘growth’. Which is basi­cal­ly fas­cism: gov­ern­ment should be pow­er­ful, but only as long as that pow­er is used to ben­e­fit the busi­ness­es of pow­er­ful indi­vid­u­als like Thiel. Social­ism reserved for the bil­lion­aire elites with no real checks on their pow­er. That’s Trump’s/Thiel’s ver­sion of ‘free­dom’:

    ...

    How to square Thiel’s post-nation­al tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­an­ism with his blood­thirsty author­i­tar­i­an nation­al­ism? Strange­ly, he wants both. Today’s Thielism is a lib­er­tar­i­an­ism with an abstract com­mit­ment to per­son­al free­dom but no par­tic­u­lar affec­tion for democ­ra­cy — or even for “pol­i­tics” as a process by which peo­ple might make col­lec­tive deci­sions about the dis­tri­b­u­tion of pow­er and resources. Thiel has wed him­self to state pow­er not in an effort to par­tic­i­pate in the polit­i­cal process but as an end run around it.

    ...

    Thiel sug­gests that growth is essen­tial­ly a reli­gious oblig­a­tion — “build­ing the king­dom of heav­en today, here on Earth” — and that stag­na­tion is, well, demon­ic — the chaot­ic sea “where the demon Leviathan lives.” This bina­ry appears fre­quent­ly in Thiel’s writ­ing, where “progress” is always aligned with tech­nol­o­gy and the indi­vid­ual, and “chaos” with pol­i­tics and the mass­es. If Thiel has an apoc­a­lyp­tic fear of sta­sis, you can begin to see why his pol­i­tics have changed over the past few years, as it has become less clear whether the boom­ing tech­nol­o­gy indus­try has actu­al­ly added much to the econ­o­my or to human hap­pi­ness, let alone demon­strat­ed “progress.”

    Where some of his fel­low lib­er­tar­i­ans have moved toward the cen­ter, attempt­ing to build a “lib­er­al­tar­i­an­ism” with a rel­a­tive­ly strong wel­fare state and mass demo­c­ra­t­ic appeal, oth­ers have found them­selves artic­u­lat­ing a ver­sion of what Tyler Cowen, in a recent blog post, called “state capac­i­ty lib­er­tar­i­an­ism,” a con­cept he says was influ­enced by Thiel’s think­ing. In its essence, it’s the admis­sion that “strong states remain nec­es­sary to main­tain and extend cap­i­tal­ism and mar­kets.”. Where Thiel would dif­fer with state-capac­i­ty lib­er­tar­i­ans like Cowen is that he isn’t mere­ly a believ­er in strong states in the abstract as agents of eco­nom­ic progress. He is pur­port­ed to be a specif­i­cal­ly Amer­i­can “nation­al con­ser­v­a­tive,” at least per his con­fer­ence-keynote sched­ule. Thiel has sug­gest­ed in the past that such a con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al­ism is the only thing that can pro­vide the cohe­sion nec­es­sary to re-cre­ate a strong state. “Iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics,” he sug­gest­ed in an address at the Man­hat­tan Insti­tute, the free-mar­ket think tank, is a dis­trac­tion that stops us from act­ing at “the scale that we need to be focus­ing on for this coun­try.” MAGA pol­i­tics is the only way to grow.

    This is the con­text in which it makes sense for a gay, cos­mopoli­tan lib­er­tar­i­an like Thiel to throw his sup­port behind a red-meat con­ser­v­a­tive like Sen­ate can­di­date Kris Kobach of Kansas. The tech­no­log­i­cal progress Thiel asso­ciates with his own per­son­al free­dom and pow­er is threat­ened by mar­ket fail­ure and polit­i­cal chaos. A strong cen­tral­ized state can restore order, breed progress, and open up new tech­nolo­gies, mar­kets, and finan­cial instru­ments from which Thiel might prof­it. And as long as it allows Thiel to make mon­ey and host din­ner par­ties, who cares if its bor­ders are cru­el­ly and ruth­less­ly enforced? Who cares if its leader is an auto­crat? Who cares, for that mat­ter, if it’s demo­c­ra­t­ic? In fact, it might be bet­ter if it weren’t: If the left’s com­mit­ment to “iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics” is divi­sive enough to pre­vent tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment, its threat out­strips the kind of bel­li­cose reli­gious author­i­tar­i­an­ism that Kobach rep­re­sents. A Thielist gov­ern­ment would be aggres­sive toward Chi­na, a coun­try Thiel is obsessed with — while also seem­ing, in its cen­tral­ized author­i­ty and close ties between gov­ern­ment and indus­try, very much like it.
    ...

    It’s a remark­ably Trumpian ide­ol­o­gy. But it’s the ide­ol­o­gy Peter Thiel, not Trump, is active­ly build­ing for the long-term with the Repub­li­can Par­ty. That’s why fig­ures like Peter Thiel real­ly should be part of the 2020 ref­er­en­dum on Trump: Thiel artic­u­lates the ide­ol­o­gy that guides Trump’s pres­i­den­cy. And Thiel is kind of the ulti­mate exam­ple of the kind of ‘elit­ist’ the Amer­i­can pub­lic hates. He’s the kind of elit­ist who has repeat­ed­ly made clear his dis­dain for aver­age peo­ple and repeat­ed­ly made clear that he’s per­fect­ly com­fort­able buy­ing off gov­ern­ment for his own per­son­al prof­it. And his life mis­sion is to put him­self out­side the bound­ary of gov­ern­ment con­trol. He wants to run the gov­ern­ment so he can be above it while he prof­its from it. Recall how we’ve already seen how Thiel refers to the Enlight­en­ment as a peri­od of “intel­lec­tu­al slum­ber and amne­sia” and draws inspi­ra­tion from Nazi legal schol­ar Carl Schmitt. That’s the guy guid­ing the intel­lec­tu­al foun­da­tion of Repub­li­can Par­ty. While Trump may have his fin­ger on the pulse of the aver­age Repub­li­can vot­er, it’s Thiel who rep­re­sents the beat­ing heart of the actu­al Repub­li­can Par­ty pow­er elite. And it’s Thiel’s mod­el of gov­ern­ment that Trump is tru­ly fol­low­ing: giv­ing ‘con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al­ism’ rhetor­i­cal red meat to keep the mass­es in line while actu­al poli­cies are designed by and for the oli­garchs. It’s that warped super-vil­lain ver­sion of ‘free­dom’ that real­ly should be at the core of the 2020 nation­al ref­er­en­dum on Trump and the Repub­li­cans. Free­dom for the fas­cists like Thiel to cap­ture soci­ety and run it as they see fit.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 6, 2020, 1:49 pm
  8. Buz­zFeed has an new piece out on Peter Thiel that rais­es some inter­est­ing ques­tions about the nature and scope of Thiel’s polit­i­cal activ­i­ties going for­ward. The arti­cle describes a pre­vi­ous­ly unknown July 29, 2016 din­ner par­ty of Alt Right fig­ures host­ed by Thiel with Kevin DeAn­na as the fea­tured guest. Thiel and DeAn­na report­ed­ly met for the first time at the par­ty. Recall how DeAn­na is one of the lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als on the Alt Right and a key fig­ure in the long-stand­ing push by the far right to main­stream itself with­in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    The arti­cle depicts that din­ner par­ty as per­haps the height of Thiel’s open embrace of the Alt Right in 2016 and his hopes that the Alt Right move­ment would serve to main­stream white nation­al­ism and oth­er far right ideas under a kinder, gen­tler veneer. The Alt Right was, in turn, appar­ent­ly hope­ful that Thiel could become “our George Soros.” The arti­cle goes on to describe how Thiel appears to have sub­se­quent­ly soured on the Alt Right and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion due to a series of high-pro­file inci­dents that caused Thiel to lose faith in fig­ures like Richard Spencer and even Don­ald Trump. It sounds like the annu­al con­fer­ence for Spencer’s Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute in late Novem­ber 2016 where Spencer and oth­er fig­ures were pho­tographed giv­ing the Nazi salute and chant­i­ng “ail Trump” real­ly pissed off Thiel and shook his faith in their abil­i­ty to real­ly main­stream the far right. Thiel appar­ent­ly had a sim­i­lar response to Pres­i­dent Trump’s now noto­ri­ous com­ments about “good peo­ple on both sides” in response to the vio­lence at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi ral­ly.

    So Thiel was quite hope­ful that the Don­ald Trump and Alt Right were final­ly going to be able to renor­mal­ize white nation­al­ism in Amer­i­ca but those hopes were dashed rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly on. At the same time, as the arti­cle describes, Thiel’s per­son­al for­tunes have explod­ed thanks to his close rela­tion­ship with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, in par­tic­u­lar through con­tracts for Palan­tir. What does that mean regard­ing Thiel’s sup­port for the Alt Right and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion going for­ward? Well, here’s where things get extra intrigu­ing: Thiel polit­i­cal dona­tions have seem­ing­ly been almost non-exis­tent in the 2020 cycle. He gave some mon­ey to Kris Kobach’s Sen­ate failed bid in Kansas but that’s it. So Thiel get con­cerned that his pet Nazis had made them­selves polit­i­cal­ly unpalat­able and his polit­i­cal dona­tions have in turn pub­licly dis­ap­peared. Which rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion: so has Thiel actu­al­ly stopped giv­ing heav­i­ly to Repub­li­cans and Nazis or has he mere­ly found ways to use the bro­ken US cam­paign finance sys­tem to obscure his dona­tions? And if he has sim­ply obscure his polit­i­cal activ­i­ty and since he obvi­ous­ly loves the ideas of the far right, we have to ask the fol­lowup ques­tion of how many Nazis are still get­ting that secret fund­ing. These are the ques­tions raised by reports about Thiel sour­ing on Trump and the Alt Right, not due to their far right beliefs but for being too open about them:

    Buz­zFeed News

    Peter Thiel Met With The Racist Fringe As He Went All In On Trump

    The ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and Face­book board mem­ber staked his rep­u­ta­tion on a Trump pres­i­den­cy. Now what does he have to show for it?

    by Rosie Gray and Ryan Mac
    Post­ed on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2020, at 12:50 p.m. ET

    Four years ago, bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and Face­book board mem­ber Peter Thiel made one of his biggest bets: He went all in on Don­ald Trump. The nor­mal­ly tight-lipped and enig­mat­ic Thiel gave a very pub­lic impri­matur as a promi­nent speak­er at the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, tying his rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most suc­cess­ful fig­ures in mod­ern tech to a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date despised through­out Sil­i­con Val­ley.

    “Tonight,” he said in a nation­al­ly tele­vised address at the con­ven­tion, “I urge all of my fel­low Amer­i­cans to stand up and vote for Don­ald Trump.” He made his­to­ry as the con­ven­tion’s first out gay speak­er and extolled Trump not as “a return to the past” but rather a return to “that bright future.”

    Thiel was used to mak­ing risky bets. He was a start­up vet­er­an, a Pay­Pal cofounder who wrote Face­book a check for $500,000 months after it launched. But Trump was dif­fer­ent. Few in Sil­i­con Val­ley want­ed in on that round. Still, just a week after the Access Hol­ly­wood tape leaked of Trump boast­ing about sex­u­al­ly assault­ing women — a clip that sent oth­er promi­nent Repub­li­cans flee­ing — Thiel ponied up $1.25 mil­lion.

    The dona­tion was well known. But what has not been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed is just how much Thiel was will­ing to gam­ble on Trump’s MAGA move­ment dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion. His bet went far beyond mon­ey, speech­es, or even main­stream Repub­li­can pol­i­tics. Even as Thiel staked his rep­u­ta­tion on the can­di­date in pub­lic, he met in pri­vate with the racist fringe that felt embold­ened by Trump’s rise to pow­er.

    Buz­zFeed News can reveal that in at least one instance dur­ing the sum­mer of 2016, Thiel host­ed a din­ner with one of the most influ­en­tial and vocal white nation­al­ists in mod­ern-day Amer­i­ca — a man who has called for the cre­ation of a white eth­nos­tate and played a key role in an effort to main­stream white nation­al­ism as the “alt-right.” And then Thiel emailed the next day to say how much he’d enjoyed his com­pa­ny.

    Among those on the racist right, Thiel’s out­reach raised hopes that his finan­cial bet on Trump would extend into the ascen­dant alt-right move­ment, which despite its promi­nence was a col­lec­tion of small and often cash-strapped orga­ni­za­tions. One avowed white nation­al­ist pri­vate­ly spec­u­lat­ed that Thiel’s mon­ey and influ­ence could have made him “our George Soros.”

    Thiel’s wager on Trump paid off, at least at first, and the Repub­li­can candidate’s vic­to­ry ush­ered him into a new ech­e­lon of polit­i­cal pow­er. Thiel seed­ed allies through­out the new admin­is­tra­tion and won a direct line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the White House.

    Palan­tir, the data ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny he cofound­ed, is flush with gov­ern­ment con­tracts and rush­ing to go pub­lic ahead of the Novem­ber elec­tion. Face­book, where he is a board mem­ber, counts the Trump cam­paign as one of its largest polit­i­cal adver­tis­ers, and part­ly avoid­ed the ire that peers such as Google and Twit­ter have faced from the admin­is­tra­tion. The peo­ple Thiel helped ele­vate in gov­ern­ment now over­see bil­lion-dol­lar bud­gets and nation­al secu­ri­ty deci­sions.

    But while Thiel’s asso­ciates still remain in posi­tions of pow­er in the admin­is­tra­tion and he’s main­tained fleet­ing con­tact with Trump offi­cials, the Sil­i­con Val­ley mag­nate has dis­tanced him­self from the pres­i­dent and his 2020 cam­paign, accord­ing to sources who spoke with Buz­zFeed News. He has made no media appear­ances or penned any opin­ion pieces in sup­port of Trump, as he did in 2016. More telling­ly, he’s giv­en no mon­ey so far to the president’s effort to retain the White House.

    Although Thiel has been mov­ing away from Trump for years now, his write-down on a pres­i­den­tial invest­ment dur­ing an elec­tion year is due in part to the administration’s dis­as­trous response to the coro­n­avirus. As the econ­o­my tanked and mil­lions got sick, Thiel became furi­ous, as first report­ed by the Dai­ly Beast. Two peo­ple close to Thiel have con­firmed that the pan­dem­ic was a break­ing point for the tech­no­crat, who once hoped elect­ing a polit­i­cal out­sider would dis­rupt bureau­cra­cy and bring about rad­i­cal change and inno­va­tion in gov­ern­ment.

    Asked about Thiel’s lack of involve­ment, a senior White House offi­cial said, “It’s no secret that Peter Thiel has been a long and ded­i­cat­ed sup­port­er of the pres­i­dent and the many pol­i­cy achieve­ments the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has made on behalf of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

    Thiel’s per­son­al vic­to­ries over the last four years came with risks that are only now becom­ing appar­ent. He was able to get in ear­ly on a ris­ing polit­i­cal pow­er, but his efforts also brought him into con­tact with the dark­est ele­ments of that pow­er, and to an admin­is­tra­tion whose com­pe­tence he doubts. Thiel’s bet worked until it didn’t. He has now decamped from Sil­i­con Val­ley, where he was no longer wel­come in some tech cir­cles, for Los Ange­les, where he lives with his fam­i­ly.

    ...

    An Invest­ment

    Thiel’s friends say the famed ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist viewed the Trump cam­paign as he would a Sil­i­con Val­ley start­up: It was an invest­ment, two peo­ple told Buz­zFeed News.

    By the spring of 2016, Thiel con­sid­ered Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clin­ton pres­i­den­tial non­starters, both because of their pol­i­tics and their already-estab­lished net­works of pow­er. But over on the Repub­li­can side, Trump was show­ing a sur­pris­ing dura­bil­i­ty among vot­ers, even as the par­ty estab­lish­ment made an all-out effort to stop him. Trump was an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Thiel “to get in on the ground floor,” a friend of Thiel’s pre­vi­ous­ly told Buz­zFeed News

    A long­time lib­er­tar­i­an who dab­bled in eccen­tric ideas like seast­eading — arti­fi­cial island com­mu­ni­ties in inter­na­tion­al waters far from gov­ern­men­tal juris­dic­tion — and life exten­sion, Thiel had made occa­sion­al for­ays into main­stream pol­i­tics.

    Thiel had giv­en mil­lions to pres­i­den­tial long­shots like Car­ly Fio­r­i­na and Ron Paul. He was also an ear­ly sup­port­er of Ted Cruz, help­ing him first win attor­ney gen­er­al and then US Sen­ate races in Texas. In Mis­souri Repub­li­can Josh Haw­ley, whom he sup­port­ed for state attor­ney gen­er­al before he became sen­a­tor, Thiel found a fel­low ene­my of Google.

    But Trump was dif­fer­ent. By the spring of 2016, Thiel was telling those in his close cir­cles that he thought the real­i­ty tele­vi­sion star had a bet­ter shot of win­ning than peo­ple thought, a belief that was for­ti­fied when Thiel’s for­mer favorite, Cruz, dropped out in May. The investor was named a Cal­i­for­nia RNC del­e­gate for Trump and met the can­di­date and his fam­i­ly for the first time in per­son in Cleve­land ahead of the con­ven­tion in July.

    On paper, there was lit­tle in com­mon between the can­di­date and Thiel beyond their places on the Forbes Bil­lion­aires list. But Thiel was intrigued by Trump’s out­sider appeal, his sup­posed non-estab­lish­ment qual­i­ty that might shake up what the investor saw as a staid and bloat­ed bureau­cra­cy. And there were per­son­al moti­va­tions, said one per­son who was close to Thiel at the time.

    That per­son said the bil­lion­aire saw his sup­port of Trump as a poten­tial way to sell his assets while avoid­ing scruti­ny. Because he owned chunks of Face­book and the still-pri­vate Palan­tir, Thiel’s stock sales could trig­ger con­cerns from the mar­ket that all was not well with the com­pa­nies. A Trump win and a poten­tial admin­is­tra­tion appoint­ment for Thiel, the think­ing went, could allow him to sell his stakes and pos­si­bly avoid cap­i­tal gains tax­es with­out dam­ag­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of the com­pa­nies and trig­ger­ing a fol­low-along sell-off from oth­er investors.

    “Ful­ly Enlight­ened”

    If Thiel had doubts, they didn’t pre­vent him from going ful­ly in on Trump and the move­ment for which the New York real estate mogul was a fig­ure­head. This includ­ed meet­ing with fig­ures in fringe and alt-right cir­cles whose influ­ence had grown dur­ing the elec­tion cycle.

    The peo­ple he met or had had plans with are unfa­mil­iar to the vast major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans, but they were for a time key fig­ures push­ing racist ide­ol­o­gy and white nation­al­ism toward a place of greater accept­abil­i­ty with­in the hard-right world of Trump­ism. This laun­der­ing of white nation­al­ist ideas into wider con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles was the alt-right’s rai­son d’être.

    A hand­ful of events Thiel attend­ed with some of the most influ­en­tial voic­es in the far-right and white nation­al­ist move­ments in 2016 and 2017 pro­vid­ed a venue for those con­nec­tions.

    In May 2016, after he turned down an offer to appear on Bre­it­bart News edi­tor Milo Yiannopoulos’s pod­cast, Thiel invit­ed the provo­ca­teur to have din­ner at his home in Hol­ly­wood Hills the fol­low­ing month.

    Yiannopou­los has large­ly been shunned from the right since Buz­zFeed News pub­lished footage of him per­form­ing a Nazi salute and a con­ser­v­a­tive news out­let post­ed video of him appear­ing to endorse pedophil­ia. But cor­re­spon­dence dur­ing the height of Yiannopoulos’s pop­u­lar­i­ty pre­vi­ous­ly obtained by Buz­zFeed News sug­gests Thiel’s lib­er­tar­i­an­ism might be some­thing dark­er.

    “He’s ful­ly enlight­ened, just plays it very care­ful­ly,” Cur­tis Yarvin, bet­ter known as far-right blog­ger Men­cius Mold­bug, wrote about Thiel in an email to Yiannopoulous in late 2016, as Buz­zFeed News pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.

    Yarvin, a soft­ware devel­op­er who counts Thiel as an investor in his for­mer com­pa­ny Tlon, used his writ­ings to advance an anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic world­view that helped form the basis of the “Dark Enlight­en­ment” move­ment, which posits that democ­ra­cy has out­lived its use­ful­ness and that gov­ern­ments should instead be led by author­i­tar­i­an fig­ures.

    New­ly uncov­ered emails seen by Buz­zFeed News show white nation­al­ist lead­ers were chat­ter­ing about plans with Thiel in the sum­mer of 2016.

    On July 2, Peter Brimelow, the founder of lead­ing white suprema­cist web­site VDare, emailed his star writer Kevin DeAn­na to chas­tise him for free­lanc­ing for oth­er out­lets. Brimelow, who lat­er assert­ed that “His­pan­ics do spe­cial­ize in rape, par­tic­u­lar­ly of chil­dren,” also want­ed to know: Why hadn’t his writer kept him updat­ed on an upcom­ing meet­ing with Thiel?

    Inbox
    From: Kevin DeAn­na
    Sent: July 3, 2016 To: Peter Brimelow, Lydia Brimelow

    1. JT sent me some links and said you can write this up for us real quick. It took about two hours. Orig­i­nal­ly, it was just going to be on that teacher but then I found some stuff about BAMN.

    I didn’t look too much into what actu­al­ly hap­pened at the protest because I still don’t know what hap­pened and don’t think I’ll ever know. I just don’t believe what TWP is putting out (that the skin­heads weren’t armed.)

    My point is I didn’t plan this out and then write it. JT just said you can do this real quick and I said yes and then did it. But obvi­ous­ly first refusal from now on.

    2. Not sure why I’m get­ting in trou­ble for the Thiel thing. I told Lydia about it one day after Greg told me about it. And she’s the only per­son I’ve told as it is total­ly secret. I thought you’d be hap­py about that.

    I’ll blog more, let you know what I’m plan­ning on writ­ing with first refusal, and do a bet­ter job of talk­ing on the phone.

    Will write on the GOP stab in the back against Trump on Tues­day.

    Try­ing to fig­ure out who the cop is, no luck yet.

    Email recre­at­ed by Buz­zFeed News.

    “I am fed up with being sur­prised about e.g. this meet­ing with the Right Stuff, Ann Coul­ter, Thiel etc.,” Brimelow wrote, with his wife, Lydia Brimelow, copied on the mes­sage. “You are being paid in part to keep me abreast of Alt Right devel­op­ments and you’re not doing it.” The Right Stuff is a white nation­al­ist web­site and mes­sage board found­ed by the activist Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, which hosts pod­casts named Dai­ly Shoah and Fash the Nation — ref­er­ences to the Holo­caust and fas­cism, respec­tive­ly.

    DeAn­na, an influ­en­tial white nation­al­ist who pens pieces for VDare and has writ­ten many pieces for oth­er promi­nent pub­li­ca­tions in the move­ment like Amer­i­can Renais­sance and Counter-Cur­rents, under the pseu­do­nyms “James Kirk­patrick” and “Gre­go­ry Hood,” wrote back the next day defend­ing him­self.

    “Not sure why I’m get­ting in trou­ble for the Thiel thing,” he wrote, adding that he had told Lydia Brimelow about the event, which he had heard about from an indi­vid­ual named “Greg.” “And she’s the only per­son I’ve told as it is total­ly secret. I thought you’d be hap­py about that.”

    Coul­ter — a long­time friend of Thiel’s and con­ser­v­a­tive hard­lin­er — Peinovich, and Brimelow did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    On July 30, 2016, Thiel opened up his email to exchange pleas­antries with guests from his din­ner par­ty the pre­vi­ous night. As a renowned busi­ness leader, he was accus­tomed to host­ing salon-style meals that brought togeth­er exec­u­tives, intel­lec­tu­als, and just about any­one else he found inter­est­ing.

    The din­ner that Fri­day night was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Termed the “Right Wing Din­ner Squad, III” in an email sent by one attendee, the event fea­tured an indi­vid­ual that the bil­lion­aire, despite his flair for con­tro­ver­sy, has nev­er asso­ci­at­ed with pub­licly.

    That guest was DeAn­na.

    Inbox
    From: Peter Thiel
    Sent: July 30, 2016
    To: Kevin DeAn­na Sub­ject: Right Wing Din­ner Squad, III

    Kevin – real­ly enjoyed meet­ing you last night. I may be in DC towards the end of Sep­tem­ber, and let me know [if you] make it to SF any­time!

    —-Peter

    From: Bren­dan Kissam
    Sent: Sat­ur­day, July 30, 2016 11:52 AM
    To: Peter Thiel
    Sub­ject: Right Wing Din­ner Squad, III

    Howdy Peter and Kevin,

    I’d been look­ing for­ward to you guys get­ting to meet, and last night proved fan­tas­tic! I’m sure you two will have plen­ty strat­e­gy to bounce back and forth, and I look for­ward to hear­ing about it.

    -Bren­dan

    Email recre­at­ed by Buz­zFeed News.

    “Kevin — real­ly enjoyed meet­ing you last night,” Thiel wrote from an email address asso­ci­at­ed with his per­son­al invest­ment fund, Thiel Cap­i­tal. “I may be in DC towards the end of Sep­tem­ber, and let me know [if you] make it to SF any­time!”

    DeAn­na, though not a house­hold name, had by that time been involved in far-right pol­i­tics for close to 10 years, and had played a key role in chan­nel­ing white nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy into the emerg­ing alt-right. After grad­u­at­ing from the Col­lege of William and Mary in Vir­ginia, DeAn­na joined the con­ser­v­a­tive Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, and found­ed Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion in 2006.

    The group, designed to be a more rad­i­cal ver­sion of estab­lished con­ser­v­a­tive cam­pus groups, was a launch­ing pad for a new gen­er­a­tion of white pow­er activists. YWC boost­ed the pro­file of Richard Spencer, the white nation­al­ist leader, by invit­ing him to speak on two cam­pus­es in 2010 and 2011. In 2013, DeAn­na dubbed the cre­ation of an eth­nos­tate “the great dream of the White Repub­lic.”

    ...

    DeAn­na also served as a Trump evan­ge­list in his com­mu­ni­ty. He was among the voic­es on the fringe who exhort­ed their peers to get on board with Trump and work with­in the sys­tem instead of mar­gin­al­iz­ing them­selves out­side it. For Spencer’s web­site Radix Jour­nal, DeAn­na wrote in 2015 urg­ing sup­port for Trump, even though some in the move­ment were wary of con­ven­tion­al pol­i­tics.

    “Ulti­mate­ly, of course, this is a sideshow,” DeAn­na wrote. “Real change will occur by build­ing our own insti­tu­tions, mar­kets, and tribes, and foment­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­scious­ness among the for­got­ten men of our Hol­low Empire. But elec­toral pol­i­tics will affect us, even if we try our best to ignore it and remain inde­pen­dent of it.”

    DeAnna’s email with Thiel was prompt­ed by Bren­dan Kissam, a for­mer Tea Par­ty activist from Philadel­phia. Kissam met Thiel in 2010 when he vol­un­teered to help orga­nize a fundrais­er at Thiel’s New York City apart­ment for the gay Repub­li­can group GOProud. Accord­ing to a source who had spo­ken with Kissam, the activist and Thiel kept in touch after the fundrais­er; in Jan­u­ary 2011, a user iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as “Bren­dan Kissam” com­ment­ed on a crit­i­cal post about Thiel on LGBTQ web­site Queer­ty, defend­ing the article’s sub­ject and refer­ring to him as “Peter.” Kissam was quot­ed in a June 2016 Philadel­phia Inquir­er sto­ry about gay Repub­li­cans vot­ing for Trump, iden­ti­fied by the paper as a sup­port­er of the can­di­date.

    In 2018 and 2019, Kissam appeared in videos for VDare under the pseu­do­nym Wil­son Hewlett, two sources famil­iar said; pho­tographs and videos of Kissam iden­ti­fy­ing him under his own name appear to show the same per­son pre­sent­ed as Hewlett on VDare’s videos.

    ...

    On the morn­ing of July 30, 2016, Kissam wrote to Thiel and DeAn­na in the email with sub­ject line “Right Wing Din­ner Squad III”: “Howdy Peter and Kevin, I’d been look­ing for­ward to you guys get­ting to meet, and last night proved fan­tas­tic! I’m sure you two will [have] plen­ty strat­e­gy to bounce back and forth, and I look for­ward to hear­ing about it.”

    Thiel wrote to DeAn­na lat­er that day, and DeAn­na respond­ed the fol­low­ing day: “It was a real hon­or meet­ing you and thanks for host­ing all of us (and putting up with all of us stay­ing so late).” It is unclear who else DeAn­na was refer­ring to by men­tion­ing “all of us.”

    What Thiel and his guests dis­cussed at their July 2016 din­ner also remains a mys­tery. But Thiel’s din­ner coin­cid­ed with the apex of the alt-right movement’s influ­ence in main­stream polit­i­cal dis­course.

    That sum­mer, Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hillary Clin­ton gave an entire speech about the alt-right, ele­vat­ing the move­ment into a cen­tral issue in the last months of the cam­paign and link­ing them to her oppo­nent through Steve Ban­non, Trump’s then–campaign CEO and for­mer chair of Bre­it­bart News.

    Days ear­li­er, the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion to for­mal­ly nom­i­nate Trump in July had pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty for embold­ened white nation­al­ists to demon­strate their influ­ence, and they con­verged on Cleve­land. Spencer came to town, as did Brimelow and noto­ri­ous far-right troll Charles C. “Chuck” John­son, who was spot­ted in the con­ven­tion hall. John­son has stat­ed that he doesn’t believe that 6 mil­lion Jews were killed in the Holo­caust and claimed that the Nazi gas cham­bers were not real.

    “It’s amaz­ing,” Spencer said on the night of a “Gays for Trump” par­ty thrown near the Quick­en Loans Are­na the night before Thiel spoke. “We’ve tak­en over the right.”

    The party’s atten­dees report­ed­ly also includ­ed Thiel’s asso­ciate Jeff Giesea, a fel­low Stan­ford grad­u­ate and for­mer employ­ee at Thiel’s hedge fund Thiel Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment who was becom­ing increas­ing­ly con­nect­ed in far-right cir­cles. Giesea report­ed­ly gave $5,000 to Spencer’s orga­ni­za­tion and pub­lished a pseu­do­ny­mous guide to donat­ing to alt-right groups. (Giesea pre­vi­ous­ly told Huff­Post that he did not write the guide.)

    ...

    Thiel cement­ed his back­ing of Trump with a $1.25 mil­lion dona­tion in Octo­ber and a speech that month at Wash­ing­ton, DC’s Nation­al Press Club. In that talk, he defend­ed his choice to back the nom­i­nee even in spite of the recent release of the explo­sive Access Hol­ly­wood tape.

    “No mat­ter what hap­pens in this elec­tion, what Trump rep­re­sents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away,” he said.

    “Shad­ow Pres­i­dent”

    Although Thiel was denounced by large swaths of Sil­i­con Val­ley for his sup­port of Trump, he still found sym­pa­thet­ic ears in its exec­u­tive suites and board­rooms. At Face­book, employ­ees raised con­cerns that their board mem­ber was cam­paign­ing for an open­ly racist can­di­date who had glo­ri­fied grab­bing women’s gen­i­tals. In response, CEO Mark Zucker­berg post­ed a note to employ­ees the month before the elec­tion say­ing that “there are many rea­sons a per­son might sup­port Trump that do not involve racism, sex­ism, xeno­pho­bia, or accept­ing sex­u­al assault.”

    “We can’t cre­ate a cul­ture that says it cares about diver­si­ty and then excludes almost half the coun­try because they back a polit­i­cal can­di­date,” Zucker­berg wrote. Lat­er that month, how­ev­er, Face­book employ­ees raised more con­cerns about Thiel after news reports resur­faced com­ments on race and sex­u­al assault from a book he coau­thored in 1995.

    While Thiel went on to apol­o­gize for call­ing some rapes “seduc­tions that are lat­er regret­ted” — after pres­sure from Face­book Chief Oper­at­ing Offi­cer Sheryl Sand­berg, accord­ing to two sources — he remained on the board.

    “Mark is very loy­al to folks,” said one for­mer Face­book exec­u­tive. “Peter Thiel has made it clear that he’s invest­ed in the com­pa­ny from the begin­ning and he’s been on the board a very long time.”

    ...

    Trump’s sur­prise elec­toral vic­to­ry would make Thiel even more indis­pens­able to Face­book and Zucker­berg, giv­ing the social net­work a line into the White House. It also proved anoth­er notch in Thiel’s belt, boost­ing his con­trar­i­an cre­den­tials and ele­vat­ing him into the main­stream con­scious­ness.

    That Jan­u­ary, Thiel joined Trump’s exec­u­tive tran­si­tion team, help­ing to vet and appoint mem­bers for the incom­ing admin­is­tra­tion, while aid­ed by asso­ciates from Palan­tir and his fam­i­ly office Thiel Cap­i­tal. In that posi­tion — where he was dubbed the “shad­ow pres­i­dent” by his employ­ees — Thiel worked to place his own allies in posi­tions on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, the Depart­ment of Defense, and the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Pol­i­cy, where his for­mer chief of staff Michael Krat­sios now serves as US chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer.

    Anoth­er asso­ciate, Jim O’Neill, who served as man­ag­ing direc­tor at Thiel’s ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Mithril Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, was also a final can­di­date to run the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion despite hav­ing no med­ical degree. While O’Neill’s quest for the job ulti­mate­ly failed, Forbes report­ed that Chuck John­son had helped to arrange meet­ings for him with con­ser­v­a­tive influ­encers and polit­i­cal groups in an attempt to build inter­est in his nom­i­na­tion. John­son rec­om­mend­ed a dozen oth­er names to Thiel for oth­er gov­ern­ment posi­tions, accord­ing to Forbes, includ­ing Ajit Pai, the cur­rent chair of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

    “Chair­man Pai has no rela­tion­ship with Mr. John­son what­so­ev­er and is not aware that they have ever met or spo­ken,” FCC spokesper­son Bri­an Hart said in a state­ment to Buz­zFeed News.

    ...

    Thiel also met with gov­ern­ment bureau­crats, includ­ing those who had the poten­tial to ben­e­fit Palan­tir and Face­book.

    In Jan­u­ary 2017, he met with Fran­cis Collins, the direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, who was appoint­ed by Barack Oba­ma in 2009 and ulti­mate­ly con­tin­ued his role under Trump. Their con­ver­sa­tion, accord­ing to emails obtained by stu­dent researcher Andrew Grana­to and shared with Buz­zFeed News, showed they talked about ways to “lib­er­ate” young sci­en­tists from train­ing in post­doc pro­grams and phil­an­thropic-fund­ed research. They also dis­cussed Palan­tir, a com­pa­ny in which Thiel is the largest indi­vid­ual share­hold­er and serves as chair­man.

    “I am look­ing for­ward to learn­ing more about Palantir’s cur­rent areas of inter­est,” Collins wrote on Jan. 12 in an email thank­ing Thiel for the meet­ing. In Sep­tem­ber 2018, NIH signed a $7 mil­lion con­tract with the Thiel-chaired big data com­pa­ny, and recent­ly used its soft­ware to aid in its response to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Accord­ing to a recent­ly filed busi­ness prospec­tus, the major­i­ty of Palantir’s rev­enue for the first six months of this year came from gov­ern­ment con­tracts.

    ...

    By the inau­gu­ra­tion, Thiel’s stand­ing with the new admin­is­tra­tion was unde­ni­able. Weeks before he took office, Trump called Thiel a “very spe­cial guy” while grasp­ing his hand dur­ing a media op at Manhattan’s Trump Tow­er that also fea­tured exec­u­tives from Face­book, Ama­zon, Apple, and Google. They had all been sum­moned by the tran­si­tion team and Thiel, Trump’s link to the nation’s new cen­ter of indus­try.

    “He got just about the biggest applause at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion,” Trump said of Thiel. “He’s ahead of the curve, and I want to thank him.”

    Those weeks of polit­i­cal vic­to­ry for Thiel coin­cid­ed with a pub­lic reck­on­ing for the alt-right, which had sought to por­tray itself as a gen­tler, more main­stream-friend­ly iter­a­tion of white nation­al­ism. Richard Spencer was caught in Novem­ber shout­ing “Heil Trump” while oth­ers per­formed Nazi salutes at an event host­ed by Spencer’s think tank. The inci­dent caused a bit­ter row in alt-right cir­cles and drew unwant­ed atten­tion to the dark under­bel­ly of the move­ment.

    As the alt-right splin­tered at the start of Trump’s pres­i­den­cy, Thiel appeared at the Deplora­Ball, a par­ty at the Nation­al Press Club in Wash­ing­ton that was orga­nized by Giesea and right-wing blog­ger Mike Cer­novich. Timed with Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, the event, which banned Spencer, was seen as a com­ing-out par­ty for the nation­al­ist far right.

    Spencer’s ban­ish­ment and Thiel’s pres­ence indi­cat­ed a new main­stream tak­ing shape on the right. While the more rad­i­cal ele­ments of the move­ment became mar­gin­al­ized, the Deplora­Ball crowd was still able to attract a high pro­file Trump donor like Thiel.

    Thiel again met with peo­ple adja­cent to the white nation­al­ist fringe in the first year of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of the event. In 2017, he attend­ed a din­ner orga­nized by Giesea at a restau­rant in down­town Wash­ing­ton, DC, with a num­ber of fig­ures from right-wing cir­cles, among them Scott Greer, a now-for­mer Dai­ly Caller writer who wrote under a pseu­do­nym for Spencer’s Radix Jour­nal, and Dar­ren Beat­tie, a for­mer White House speech­writer who in 2016 spoke at the H.L. Menck­en Club, a con­fer­ence that has often pro­vid­ed a forum for white nation­al­ists.

    ...

    Face­book, Palan­tir, and the White House

    Through the first months of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, Thiel, who did not take any admin­is­tra­tion posi­tion, con­tin­ued to make him­self avail­able to the White House. He appeared at a June meet­ing for the new­ly formed Amer­i­can Tech­nol­o­gy Coun­cil that was attend­ed by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Ama­zon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadel­la, and Ora­cle co-CEO Safra Catz. That month, he was also approached for a role as chair of the President’s Intel­li­gence Advi­so­ry Board, an influ­en­tial over­sight posi­tion in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, but turned it down.

    The bridge Thiel built to cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, how­ev­er, was shat­tered by Trump’s defense of white nation­al­ists fol­low­ing the events in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in August 2017. After the pres­i­dent blamed vio­lence on “both sides” fol­low­ing the killing of a 32-year-old coun­ter­pro­test­er, tech giants includ­ing Apple, IBM, and Microsoft dis­tanced them­selves from the coun­cil, which was ulti­mate­ly dis­band­ed in embar­rass­ment by the admin­is­tra­tion.

    Mean­while, Thiel sought to extend his influ­ence in more tra­di­tion­al con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles. As Buz­zFeed News pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, he explored the pos­si­bil­i­ty of build­ing a media out­let in 2017 with Roger Ailes, the late, dis­graced god­fa­ther of Fox News, and, sep­a­rate­ly, with the bil­lion­aire Mer­cer Fam­i­ly, the for­mer patrons of Bre­it­bart News. And though that nev­er came to fruition, the man who bank­rupt­ed Gawk­er Media via a series of clan­des­tine­ly bankrolled law­suits con­tin­ued his inter­est in media.

    Face­book also ben­e­fit­ed from Thiel’s links to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. As the social net­work fought off unfound­ed alle­ga­tions of bias against con­ser­v­a­tives, Thiel became the ulti­mate buffer: a con­ser­v­a­tive bul­wark on the board who was trot­ted out to make amends every time right-wing per­son­al­i­ties com­plained about alleged cen­sor­ship. And while Thiel had sold off the bulk of Face­book shares and has want­ed to leave the board, accord­ing to two sources, he has remained, in part due to his loy­al­ty to Zucker­berg.

    That’s proved use­ful to both the White House and Face­book. Thiel accom­pa­nied Zucker­berg at a secret din­ner at the White House with Trump and Jared Kush­n­er last Octo­ber, one stop in their tour of Wash­ing­ton, DC, to stave off scruti­ny and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of antitrust reg­u­la­tion. Thiel was also one of the biggest inter­nal oppo­nents of fact-check­ing polit­i­cal ads on Face­book, accord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal, a con­tro­ver­sial pol­i­cy that has allowed politi­cians like Trump, one of Facebook’s largest cus­tomers, to present out­right false­hoods on the social net­work as long as they’re paid for.

    Palan­tir, Thiel’s main finan­cial hold­ing, has thrived dur­ing Trump’s three and a half years in office, with rev­enue grow­ing by 49% in the first six months of 2020 to more than $480 mil­lion com­pared to the same peri­od last year. Led by CEO Alex Karp, who once said “it would be hard to make up some­one I find less appeal­ing” than Trump, the big data com­pa­ny has signed con­tracts with fed­er­al agen­cies whose ranks were staffed with peo­ple vet­ted by Thiel and his asso­ciates dur­ing the tran­si­tion. In 2019, it won a Pen­ta­gon con­tract worth up to $800 mil­lion, while also pro­vid­ing soft­ware to US Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment. Those deals have bol­stered the firm’s bot­tom line as it heads toward going pub­lic at the end of 2020.

    Those close to Thiel said he believes this is the win­dow for the com­pa­ny, which has nev­er had an annu­al prof­it, to hit the mar­ket. A Biden pres­i­den­cy could change the company’s momen­tum, and with Trump in office, Palan­tir has become a for­mi­da­ble DC con­trac­tor, said two sources famil­iar with the billionaire’s think­ing.

    ...

    A Fray­ing Rela­tion­ship

    The past few years have also seen Thiel retreat from the hot­house of Sil­i­con Val­ley. Call­ing the region’s lib­er­al­ism too intol­er­ant, he loud­ly dis­as­so­ci­at­ed him­self from the nation’s tech cap­i­tal. He ced­ed some man­age­ment duties of his famed ven­ture cap­i­tal out­fit Founders Fund to a lieu­tenant and relo­cat­ed per­ma­nent­ly to his mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar home in the Hol­ly­wood Hills. (Palan­tir has also said it’s mov­ing from Palo Alto to Den­ver.)

    Thiel also start­ed a fam­i­ly. After mar­ry­ing long­time boyfriend Matt Danzeisen in an elab­o­rate cer­e­mo­ny in Aus­tria in 2017, the two had a baby daugh­ter, accord­ing to those close to the cou­ple.

    The changes in his life, how­ev­er, haven’t dis­tract­ed him from pol­i­tics. Peo­ple con­nect­ed to him still remain in posi­tions of pow­er, among them Krat­sios, who in July was appoint­ed to a Depart­ment of Defense job where he’ll over­see a $60 bil­lion Pen­ta­gon bud­get.

    Thiel’s ideas con­tin­ue to find their way into poli­cies. He pushed for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to ramp up its trade war with Chi­na and, accord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal, accom­pa­nied Zucker­berg to a White House din­ner with Trump and Jared Kush­n­er, where the Face­book CEO raised con­cerns about rival Tik­Tok. (Zucker­berg has since told employ­ees that he doesn’t think Tik­Tok came up as a dis­cus­sion top­ic at the meal.)

    Thiel’s line of think­ing that Amer­i­can com­pa­nies doing busi­ness in Chi­na amounts to pro­vid­ing tech­nol­o­gy to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty has also been par­rot­ed by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo. This Jan­u­ary, ahead of a speech at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty in which Pom­peo railed on Chi­na for its human rights abus­es, he met pri­vate­ly with Thiel, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the event.

    ...

    Yet Thiel has been notice­ably qui­et on Trump as the elec­tion approach­es, even as he has sup­port­ed oth­er can­di­dates. Thiel put close to a mil­lion dol­lars behind hard-right anti-immi­gra­tion advo­cate Kris Kobach in the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry for Kansas’s open Sen­ate seat, which he lost. Blake Mas­ters, the chief oper­at­ing offi­cer of the billionaire’s fam­i­ly office Thiel Cap­i­tal, also flirt­ed with the idea of run­ning to unseat Repub­li­can Sen. Martha McSal­ly, but ulti­mate­ly decid­ed against the move, accord­ing to the Ari­zona Repub­lic.

    ...

    Beyond the Kansas race, in which he gave $850,000 to a super PAC sup­port­ing Kobach, Thiel hasn’t pub­licly thrown his mon­ey behind any oth­er can­di­date this cycle — Trump includ­ed. Those close to Thiel say he is upset with how the admin­is­tra­tion han­dled the response to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and that his rela­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent is fray­ing.

    Two months before Elec­tion Day, Thiel still shows no signs of get­ting involved. Instead, he’s focus­ing on Palan­tir, which unveiled its S‑1 finan­cial state­ment — one of the first steps in going pub­lic — late last month. While Thiel has said very lit­tle about Palan­tir, the company’s CEO, Alex Karp, attacked Sil­i­con Valley’s “engi­neer­ing elite” and issued a vehe­ment defense of Palantir’s work with gov­ern­ment agen­cies in the doc­u­ment.

    “The engi­neer­ing elite of Sil­i­con Val­ley may know more than most about build­ing soft­ware. But they do not know more about how soci­ety should be orga­nized or what jus­tice requires,” Karp wrote in the busi­ness fil­ing. “Our com­pa­ny was found­ed in Sil­i­con Val­ley. But we seem to share few­er and few­er of the tech­nol­o­gy sector’s val­ues and com­mit­ments.”

    Thiel and his company’s dis­tanc­ing from the tech estab­lish­ment mir­rors his step back from the Trump cam­paign. And in the end, he nev­er did emerge as the bene­fac­tor the alt-right move­ment hoped-for.

    In an email from this April viewed by Buz­zFeed News, Greg John­son, the pub­lish­er of white nation­al­ist web­site Counter-Cur­rents and author of The White Nation­al­ist Man­i­festo, was still fum­ing over the “Heil­gate” inci­dent and blamed Richard Spencer and oth­ers for mak­ing the move­ment too tox­ic for big donors like Thiel. John­son, who said he nev­er met Thiel, didn’t deny the email’s accu­ra­cy to Buz­zFeed News, but said he was just speak­ing of Thiel in a gen­er­al sense of “seri­ous” peo­ple with “big mon­ey.”

    Spencer and his think tank Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute were “being eyed for larg­er dona­tions, but he blew it. A lot was pos­si­ble in 2016, before Hail­gate,” John­son wrote to oth­er alt-right lead­ers.

    “I don’t think Peter Thiel is going to become our George Soros after all this,” John­son con­tin­ued. “There is sim­ply no cal­cu­lat­ing the set­backs caused by these kooky and trea­so­nous peo­ple.” ?

    ———–

    “Peter Thiel Met With The Racist Fringe As He Went All In On Trump” by Rosie Gray and Ryan Mac; Buz­zFeed News; 09/11/2020

    “Buz­zFeed News can reveal that in at least one instance dur­ing the sum­mer of 2016, Thiel host­ed a din­ner with one of the most influ­en­tial and vocal white nation­al­ists in mod­ern-day Amer­i­ca — a man who has called for the cre­ation of a white eth­nos­tate and played a key role in an effort to main­stream white nation­al­ism as the “alt-right.” And then Thiel emailed the next day to say how much he’d enjoyed his com­pa­ny.

    It’s com­plete­ly clear is that Peter Thiel and Kevin DeAn­na share a lot in com­mon, ide­o­log­i­cal­ly speak­ing. What’s less clear is the extent to which Thiel is will­ing to open­ly espouse his beliefs. Back in 2016 the Alt Right had hopes that Thiel would become “our George Soros” and at the time it looked like that was going to hap­pen. Then Trump won and Thiel became one of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the US gov­ern­ment and a major ben­e­fi­cia­ry of gov­ern­ment con­tracts. But the Alt Right and Trump him­self proved to unable to suc­cess­ful­ly keep their Nazi sym­pa­thies con­tained and Thiel has alleged­ly soured on Trump and giv­en almost no mon­ey to Repub­li­cans at all this year, at least not pub­licly:

    ...
    Among those on the racist right, Thiel’s out­reach raised hopes that his finan­cial bet on Trump would extend into the ascen­dant alt-right move­ment, which despite its promi­nence was a col­lec­tion of small and often cash-strapped orga­ni­za­tions. One avowed white nation­al­ist pri­vate­ly spec­u­lat­ed that Thiel’s mon­ey and influ­ence could have made him “our George Soros.”

    Thiel’s wager on Trump paid off, at least at first, and the Repub­li­can candidate’s vic­to­ry ush­ered him into a new ech­e­lon of polit­i­cal pow­er. Thiel seed­ed allies through­out the new admin­is­tra­tion and won a direct line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the White House.

    Palan­tir, the data ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny he cofound­ed, is flush with gov­ern­ment con­tracts and rush­ing to go pub­lic ahead of the Novem­ber elec­tion. Face­book, where he is a board mem­ber, counts the Trump cam­paign as one of its largest polit­i­cal adver­tis­ers, and part­ly avoid­ed the ire that peers such as Google and Twit­ter have faced from the admin­is­tra­tion. The peo­ple Thiel helped ele­vate in gov­ern­ment now over­see bil­lion-dol­lar bud­gets and nation­al secu­ri­ty deci­sions.

    But while Thiel’s asso­ciates still remain in posi­tions of pow­er in the admin­is­tra­tion and he’s main­tained fleet­ing con­tact with Trump offi­cials, the Sil­i­con Val­ley mag­nate has dis­tanced him­self from the pres­i­dent and his 2020 cam­paign, accord­ing to sources who spoke with Buz­zFeed News. He has made no media appear­ances or penned any opin­ion pieces in sup­port of Trump, as he did in 2016. More telling­ly, he’s giv­en no mon­ey so far to the president’s effort to retain the White House.

    ...

    Beyond the Kansas race, in which he gave $850,000 to a super PAC sup­port­ing Kobach, Thiel hasn’t pub­licly thrown his mon­ey behind any oth­er can­di­date this cycle — Trump includ­ed. Those close to Thiel say he is upset with how the admin­is­tra­tion han­dled the response to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and that his rela­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent is fray­ing.

    Two months before Elec­tion Day, Thiel still shows no signs of get­ting involved. Instead, he’s focus­ing on Palan­tir, which unveiled its S‑1 finan­cial state­ment — one of the first steps in going pub­lic — late last month. While Thiel has said very lit­tle about Palan­tir, the company’s CEO, Alex Karp, attacked Sil­i­con Valley’s “engi­neer­ing elite” and issued a vehe­ment defense of Palantir’s work with gov­ern­ment agen­cies in the doc­u­ment.
    ...

    Note that Thiel’s dis­pute with Trump’s coro­n­avirus response was report­ed­ly less about the actu­al poli­cies and had more to do with Trump’s dis­as­trous dai­ly press brief­in­gs. Again, Thiel is dis­ap­point­ed in the qual­i­ty of the pro­pa­gan­da, not the qual­i­ty of poli­cies.

    So has Thiel tru­ly backed away from his polit­i­cal patron­age? Well, he clear­ly has­n’t soured on the Alt Right due to a dif­fer­ence in beliefs. As Cur­tis Yarvin — the fig­ure behind the “Dark Enlight­en­ment” con­cept — put it, “He’s ful­ly enlight­ened, just plays it very care­ful­ly”:

    ...
    “Ful­ly Enlight­ened”

    If Thiel had doubts, they didn’t pre­vent him from going ful­ly in on Trump and the move­ment for which the New York real estate mogul was a fig­ure­head. This includ­ed meet­ing with fig­ures in fringe and alt-right cir­cles whose influ­ence had grown dur­ing the elec­tion cycle.

    The peo­ple he met or had had plans with are unfa­mil­iar to the vast major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans, but they were for a time key fig­ures push­ing racist ide­ol­o­gy and white nation­al­ism toward a place of greater accept­abil­i­ty with­in the hard-right world of Trump­ism. This laun­der­ing of white nation­al­ist ideas into wider con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles was the alt-right’s rai­son d’être.

    A hand­ful of events Thiel attend­ed with some of the most influ­en­tial voic­es in the far-right and white nation­al­ist move­ments in 2016 and 2017 pro­vid­ed a venue for those con­nec­tions.

    ...

    “He’s ful­ly enlight­ened, just plays it very care­ful­ly,” Cur­tis Yarvin, bet­ter known as far-right blog­ger Men­cius Mold­bug, wrote about Thiel in an email to Yiannopoulous in late 2016, as Buz­zFeed News pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.

    Yarvin, a soft­ware devel­op­er who counts Thiel as an investor in his for­mer com­pa­ny Tlon, used his writ­ings to advance an anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic world­view that helped form the basis of the “Dark Enlight­en­ment” move­ment, which posits that democ­ra­cy has out­lived its use­ful­ness and that gov­ern­ments should instead be led by author­i­tar­i­an fig­ures.

    New­ly uncov­ered emails seen by Buz­zFeed News show white nation­al­ist lead­ers were chat­ter­ing about plans with Thiel in the sum­mer of 2016.

    ...

    On July 30, 2016, Thiel opened up his email to exchange pleas­antries with guests from his din­ner par­ty the pre­vi­ous night. As a renowned busi­ness leader, he was accus­tomed to host­ing salon-style meals that brought togeth­er exec­u­tives, intel­lec­tu­als, and just about any­one else he found inter­est­ing.

    The din­ner that Fri­day night was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Termed the “Right Wing Din­ner Squad, III” in an email sent by one attendee, the event fea­tured an indi­vid­ual that the bil­lion­aire, despite his flair for con­tro­ver­sy, has nev­er asso­ci­at­ed with pub­licly.

    That guest was DeAn­na.

    ...

    “Kevin — real­ly enjoyed meet­ing you last night,” Thiel wrote from an email address asso­ci­at­ed with his per­son­al invest­ment fund, Thiel Cap­i­tal. “I may be in DC towards the end of Sep­tem­ber, and let me know [if you] make it to SF any­time!”

    DeAn­na, though not a house­hold name, had by that time been involved in far-right pol­i­tics for close to 10 years, and had played a key role in chan­nel­ing white nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy into the emerg­ing alt-right. After grad­u­at­ing from the Col­lege of William and Mary in Vir­ginia, DeAn­na joined the con­ser­v­a­tive Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, and found­ed Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion in 2006.

    The group, designed to be a more rad­i­cal ver­sion of estab­lished con­ser­v­a­tive cam­pus groups, was a launch­ing pad for a new gen­er­a­tion of white pow­er activists. YWC boost­ed the pro­file of Richard Spencer, the white nation­al­ist leader, by invit­ing him to speak on two cam­pus­es in 2010 and 2011. In 2013, DeAn­na dubbed the cre­ation of an eth­nos­tate “the great dream of the White Repub­lic.”

    ...

    DeAn­na also served as a Trump evan­ge­list in his com­mu­ni­ty. He was among the voic­es on the fringe who exhort­ed their peers to get on board with Trump and work with­in the sys­tem instead of mar­gin­al­iz­ing them­selves out­side it. For Spencer’s web­site Radix Jour­nal, DeAn­na wrote in 2015 urg­ing sup­port for Trump, even though some in the move­ment were wary of con­ven­tion­al pol­i­tics.

    “Ulti­mate­ly, of course, this is a sideshow,” DeAn­na wrote. “Real change will occur by build­ing our own insti­tu­tions, mar­kets, and tribes, and foment­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­scious­ness among the for­got­ten men of our Hol­low Empire. But elec­toral pol­i­tics will affect us, even if we try our best to ignore it and remain inde­pen­dent of it.”

    ...

    On the morn­ing of July 30, 2016, Kissam wrote to Thiel and DeAn­na in the email with sub­ject line “Right Wing Din­ner Squad III”: “Howdy Peter and Kevin, I’d been look­ing for­ward to you guys get­ting to meet, and last night proved fan­tas­tic! I’m sure you two will [have] plen­ty strat­e­gy to bounce back and forth, and I look for­ward to hear­ing about it.”

    Thiel wrote to DeAn­na lat­er that day, and DeAn­na respond­ed the fol­low­ing day: “It was a real hon­or meet­ing you and thanks for host­ing all of us (and putting up with all of us stay­ing so late).” It is unclear who else DeAn­na was refer­ring to by men­tion­ing “all of us.”

    What Thiel and his guests dis­cussed at their July 2016 din­ner also remains a mys­tery. But Thiel’s din­ner coin­cid­ed with the apex of the alt-right movement’s influ­ence in main­stream polit­i­cal dis­course.
    ...

    But even before Trump was sworn into office the Alt Right lead­er­ship was drop­ping the mask and act­ing like open Nazis in cel­e­bra­tion of their vic­to­ry. Thiel’s hopes of see­ing the Alt Right suc­cess­ful­ly sell them­selves to the pub­lic as some sort of nov­el new polit­i­cal move­ment — as opposed to just white­washed Nazis — was already being pissed away. And then Trump him­self turned his alliance with the Alt Right into a major lia­bil­i­ty with his “both sides” com­ments in Char­lottesville. Before the end of Trump’s first year in office Thiel’s dreams of a main­streamed far right were appar­ent­ly already being dashed:

    ...
    By the inau­gu­ra­tion, Thiel’s stand­ing with the new admin­is­tra­tion was unde­ni­able. Weeks before he took office, Trump called Thiel a “very spe­cial guy” while grasp­ing his hand dur­ing a media op at Manhattan’s Trump Tow­er that also fea­tured exec­u­tives from Face­book, Ama­zon, Apple, and Google. They had all been sum­moned by the tran­si­tion team and Thiel, Trump’s link to the nation’s new cen­ter of indus­try.

    “He got just about the biggest applause at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion,” Trump said of Thiel. “He’s ahead of the curve, and I want to thank him.”

    Those weeks of polit­i­cal vic­to­ry for Thiel coin­cid­ed with a pub­lic reck­on­ing for the alt-right, which had sought to por­tray itself as a gen­tler, more main­stream-friend­ly iter­a­tion of white nation­al­ism. Richard Spencer was caught in Novem­ber shout­ing “Heil Trump” while oth­ers per­formed Nazi salutes at an event host­ed by Spencer’s think tank. The inci­dent caused a bit­ter row in alt-right cir­cles and drew unwant­ed atten­tion to the dark under­bel­ly of the move­ment.

    As the alt-right splin­tered at the start of Trump’s pres­i­den­cy, Thiel appeared at the Deplora­Ball, a par­ty at the Nation­al Press Club in Wash­ing­ton that was orga­nized by Giesea and right-wing blog­ger Mike Cer­novich. Timed with Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, the event, which banned Spencer, was seen as a com­ing-out par­ty for the nation­al­ist far right.

    Spencer’s ban­ish­ment and Thiel’s pres­ence indi­cat­ed a new main­stream tak­ing shape on the right. While the more rad­i­cal ele­ments of the move­ment became mar­gin­al­ized, the Deplora­Ball crowd was still able to attract a high pro­file Trump donor like Thiel.

    Thiel again met with peo­ple adja­cent to the white nation­al­ist fringe in the first year of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of the event. In 2017, he attend­ed a din­ner orga­nized by Giesea at a restau­rant in down­town Wash­ing­ton, DC, with a num­ber of fig­ures from right-wing cir­cles, among them Scott Greer, a now-for­mer Dai­ly Caller writer who wrote under a pseu­do­nym for Spencer’s Radix Jour­nal, and Dar­ren Beat­tie, a for­mer White House speech­writer who in 2016 spoke at the H.L. Menck­en Club, a con­fer­ence that has often pro­vid­ed a forum for white nation­al­ists.

    ...

    Face­book, Palan­tir, and the White House

    Through the first months of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, Thiel, who did not take any admin­is­tra­tion posi­tion, con­tin­ued to make him­self avail­able to the White House. He appeared at a June meet­ing for the new­ly formed Amer­i­can Tech­nol­o­gy Coun­cil that was attend­ed by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Ama­zon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadel­la, and Ora­cle co-CEO Safra Catz. That month, he was also approached for a role as chair of the President’s Intel­li­gence Advi­so­ry Board, an influ­en­tial over­sight posi­tion in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, but turned it down.

    The bridge Thiel built to cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, how­ev­er, was shat­tered by Trump’s defense of white nation­al­ists fol­low­ing the events in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in August 2017. After the pres­i­dent blamed vio­lence on “both sides” fol­low­ing the killing of a 32-year-old coun­ter­pro­test­er, tech giants includ­ing Apple, IBM, and Microsoft dis­tanced them­selves from the coun­cil, which was ulti­mate­ly dis­band­ed in embar­rass­ment by the admin­is­tra­tion.
    ...

    And yet, as we’ve seen, Thiel’s per­son­al for­tunes explod­ed under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, with Palan­tir’s rev­enue grow­ing 49% in the first six months of 2020 alone. And as the arti­cle notes, a Biden vic­to­ry prob­a­bly won’t help Palan­tir’s prospects:

    ...
    Palan­tir, Thiel’s main finan­cial hold­ing, has thrived dur­ing Trump’s three and a half years in office, with rev­enue grow­ing by 49% in the first six months of 2020 to more than $480 mil­lion com­pared to the same peri­od last year. Led by CEO Alex Karp, who once said “it would be hard to make up some­one I find less appeal­ing” than Trump, the big data com­pa­ny has signed con­tracts with fed­er­al agen­cies whose ranks were staffed with peo­ple vet­ted by Thiel and his asso­ciates dur­ing the tran­si­tion. In 2019, it won a Pen­ta­gon con­tract worth up to $800 mil­lion, while also pro­vid­ing soft­ware to US Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment. Those deals have bol­stered the firm’s bot­tom line as it heads toward going pub­lic at the end of 2020.

    Those close to Thiel said he believes this is the win­dow for the com­pa­ny, which has nev­er had an annu­al prof­it, to hit the mar­ket. A Biden pres­i­den­cy could change the company’s momen­tum, and with Trump in office, Palan­tir has become a for­mi­da­ble DC con­trac­tor, said two sources famil­iar with the billionaire’s think­ing.
    ...

    So has Peter Thiel real­ly giv­en up on the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the Alt Right? That’s what those close to him are telling the press. But this is Amer­i­ca in 2020 where if you’re a bil­lion­aire who wants to giv­en mil­lions or bil­lions of dol­lars in secret cam­paign dona­tions you can do that with ease. And that’s why the ques­tion of whether or not Peter Thiel has tru­ly with­held his polit­i­cal dona­tions in 2020 dou­bles as a ques­tion of how many Nazis he’s secret­ly fund­ing. In par­tic­u­lar Nazis run­ning as Repub­li­cans.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 12, 2020, 4:09 pm
  9. There was an inter­est­ing fol­low up on the Brett Kavanaugh nom­i­na­tion deba­cle and the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion, or lack there­of, that took place in response to a num­ber of sex­u­al assault accu­sa­tions:

    For the past three years, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Shel­don White­house has con­tin­ued to pur­sue answers from the FBI over their han­dling of the near 4,500 tips sent to the FBI in rela­tion to Kavanaugh­’s per­son­al his­to­ry after the FBI cre­ate a “tip line”. We got some answers this week. The kind of answers we should have expect­ed. It sounds like the FBI’s “sup­ple­men­tal back­ground inves­ti­ga­tion” into Kavanaugh was con­duct­ed at the direc­tion of the Trump White House and that the most “rel­e­vant” of the tips were referred back to White House lawyers. In oth­er words, there was no FBI inves­ti­ga­tion of Brett Kavanaugh­’s back­ground:

    Slate

    We Now Know What the FBI Did With the 4,500 Kavanaugh Tips It Col­lect­ed in 2018

    By Dahlia Lith­wick
    July 22, 20216:08 PM

    Kavanaugh points a fin­ger toward the desk at which he’s seat­ed and speak­ing from in a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

    Sen. Shel­don White­house has spent near­ly three years attempt­ing to under­stand the nature of the FBI’s “sup­ple­men­tal inves­ti­ga­tion” of claims that emerged against Jus­tice Brett Kavanaugh dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings in the sum­mer of 2018. The senator’s attempts to get answers from either the Trump White House or the FBI were large­ly unsuc­cess­ful while Trump was still in office. But White­house kept trying—almost as soon as Mer­rick Gar­land was sworn in as attor­ney gen­er­al, White­house asked him to help facil­i­tate “prop­er over­sight” by the Sen­ate into ques­tions about how seri­ous the FBI sup­ple­men­tal inves­ti­ga­tion real­ly was.

    White­house asked Gar­land to explain why there was no mech­a­nism for wit­ness­es to report their accounts to the FBI, and why, after the FBI decid­ed to cre­ate a “tip line,” nobody was ever told how the tips were eval­u­at­ed. In his March let­ter to Gar­land, White­house described that tip line as “more like a garbage chute, with every­thing that came down the chute con­signed with­out review to the fig­u­ra­tive dump­ster.” White­house asked Gar­land to explain “how, why, and at whose behest” the FBI con­duct­ed a “fake” inves­ti­ga­tion that vio­lat­ed stan­dard pro­ce­dures. White­house also asked Gar­land to probe into the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in cred­it card debt that mys­te­ri­ous­ly van­ished from Kavanaugh’s life in 2016.

    And it seems he has final­ly got­ten at least some answers. On Wednes­day morn­ing, Whitehouse’s office released a June 30 let­ter from FBI Assis­tant Direc­tor Jill C. Tyson. The let­ter is a response to an even old­er request sent by White­house (and Sen. Chris Coons) ask­ing sim­i­lar ques­tions about the sup­ple­men­tal back­ground investigation—this one, sent to the FBI in August 2019. Among oth­er rev­e­la­tions, Tyson’s let­ter indi­cates that the FBI’s sup­ple­men­tal inves­ti­ga­tion hap­pened at the direc­tion of the White House, that the most “rel­e­vant” of the 4,500 tips the agency received were referred back to White House lawyers in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, and that in the days of the fol­low-up inves­ti­ga­tion, 10 peo­ple were inter­viewed (it doesn’t say this, but oth­er report­ing has con­firmed that nei­ther Chris­tine Blasey Ford nor Kavanaugh were among these 10 peo­ple). The let­ter clar­i­fies that this was a sup­ple­men­tal back­ground check, not a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion because that is what was sought by the White House counsel’s office.

    White­house and Coons, joined by five oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors, sent a fol­low-up let­ter to FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray, dat­ed Wednes­day, ask­ing for an expla­na­tion of how the tips were eval­u­at­ed, what fol­low-up occurred, and why the FBI failed to inter­view key wit­ness­es. As they put it, “If the FBI was not autho­rized to or did not fol­low up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is dif­fi­cult to under­stand the point of hav­ing a tip line at all.” In oth­er words: Why was this a sham inves­ti­ga­tion?

    White­house tweet­ed on Wednes­day that he believes that facts that were hid­den and sup­pressed at the time still need to be made pub­lic, espe­cial­ly in light of the cur­rent debate about reform­ing the judi­cial ethics rules that do not apply to the jus­tices. And he said that part of the rea­son that he has per­sist­ed in his inves­ti­ga­tion of the fake FBI inves­ti­ga­tion is because he made a promise to Chris­tine Blasey Ford at the hear­ings that he would not deny her the rig­or­ous inquiry that her life-alter­ing deci­sion to come for­ward should have received.

    ...

    But it still behooves me to point out that even though it’s not clear any­thing can be done to some­day see or eval­u­ate those 4,500 unex­am­ined tips sent to Don McGahn’s team (the same team that was tasked with con­firm­ing Kavanaugh to the bench) or about the 83 ethics com­plaints that were sent to the shred­der, one thing has changed: Brett Kavanaugh is now the reli­ably medi­answing” jus­tice on the most con­ser­v­a­tive Supreme Court in almost a cen­tu­ry—a court in which John Roberts may occa­sion­al­ly vote with the lib­er­al wing so it can lose by a 5–4 mar­gin. It is Kavanaugh that may well bring about the demise of abor­tion pro­tec­tions, robust vot­er pro­tec­tions, gun safe­ty laws, and a host of oth­er doc­tri­nal changes that have made the court more pro-busi­ness and more anti-work­er every year. So it isn’t just that Kavanaugh has life­time tenure at the high court because there was no mean­ing­ful inves­ti­ga­tion of whether he was qual­i­fied. It is also that due to his new swing-ish vote sta­tus, every lit­i­gant who appears before him, every Supreme Court advo­cate who wants to cur­ry favor, every low­er court judge in the land, and every oth­er sit­ting Supreme Court jus­tice must devote their days to efforts to praise and charm and win him over. Which means that the only way to win at the high court involves Wash­ing­ton absolv­ing him, every sin­gle day, of alle­ga­tions that were not even sur­faced, much less adju­di­cat­ed by any fact-find­ing enti­ty. And if that’s not absolute pow­er, I’m not real­ly sure what is.

    ————

    “We Now Know What the FBI Did With the 4,500 Kavanaugh Tips It Col­lect­ed in 2018” by Dahlia Lith­wick; Slate; 07/22/2021

    And it seems he has final­ly got­ten at least some answers. On Wednes­day morn­ing, Whitehouse’s office released a June 30 let­ter from FBI Assis­tant Direc­tor Jill C. Tyson. The let­ter is a response to an even old­er request sent by White­house (and Sen. Chris Coons) ask­ing sim­i­lar ques­tions about the sup­ple­men­tal back­ground investigation—this one, sent to the FBI in August 2019. Among oth­er rev­e­la­tions, Tyson’s let­ter indi­cates that the FBI’s sup­ple­men­tal inves­ti­ga­tion hap­pened at the direc­tion of the White House, that the most “rel­e­vant” of the 4,500 tips the agency received were referred back to White House lawyers in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, and that in the days of the fol­low-up inves­ti­ga­tion, 10 peo­ple were inter­viewed (it doesn’t say this, but oth­er report­ing has con­firmed that nei­ther Chris­tine Blasey Ford nor Kavanaugh were among these 10 peo­ple). The let­ter clar­i­fies that this was a sup­ple­men­tal back­ground check, not a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion because that is what was sought by the White House counsel’s office.”

    Who got to ulti­mate­ly receive the infor­ma­tion from these tips and make a deter­mi­na­tion about Kavanaugh­’s fit­ness to serve on the bench? Trump White House lawyers. Some might con­sid­er that a con­flict of inter­est. Espe­cial­ly since the ques­tions about Kavanaugh­’s fit­ness were lim­it­ed to accu­sa­tions of sex­u­al assault. They also involve ques­tions about what hap­pened to tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in cred­it card debt that mys­te­ri­ous­ly van­ished in 2016. The White House­’s lawyers were pre­sum­ably vet­ting any infor­ma­tion relat­ed to that too:

    ...
    White­house asked Gar­land to explain why there was no mech­a­nism for wit­ness­es to report their accounts to the FBI, and why, after the FBI decid­ed to cre­ate a “tip line,” nobody was ever told how the tips were eval­u­at­ed. In his March let­ter to Gar­land, White­house described that tip line as “more like a garbage chute, with every­thing that came down the chute con­signed with­out review to the fig­u­ra­tive dump­ster.” White­house asked Gar­land to explain “how, why, and at whose behest” the FBI con­duct­ed a “fake” inves­ti­ga­tion that vio­lat­ed stan­dard pro­ce­dures. White­house also asked Gar­land to probe into the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in cred­it card debt that mys­te­ri­ous­ly van­ished from Kavanaugh’s life in 2016.
    ...

    Who paid off that tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in cred­it card debt that mys­te­ri­ous­ly dis­ap­peared? We have no idea. We also have no idea if the FBI knows the answer to that ques­tion. But what we do know now is that if the FBI did obtain an answer to that ques­tion it would have exclu­sive­ly giv­en those answers to the Trump White House lawyers, who would be the peo­ple to deter­mine if that infor­ma­tion posed a prob­lem.

    It’s also impor­tant to keep in mind that it’s not just the case that the Trump team of White House lawyers were giv­en the pow­er to deter­mine how that ‘sup­ple­ment back­ground inves­ti­ga­tion’ infor­ma­tion end­ed up being used in mak­ing an assess­ment about whether or not Kavanaugh was fit for the bench. It’s also the case that this same group of peo­ple now has the pow­er to decide whether or not to ever release this infor­ma­tion in the future. In oth­er words, that team of Trump White House lawyers — and any­one else they shared this info with — will have very real black­mail pow­er over Kavanaugh. He’s pre­sum­ably going to be serv­ing on the bench for decades to come. If you’re a Supreme Court jus­tice you real­ly do have the option of chang­ing your mind and judi­cial phi­los­o­phy. But you’re prob­a­bly a lot less like­ly to do so when a team of lawyers from one of the most cor­rupt admin­is­tra­tions in his­to­ry knows the stuff that should have kept you off the bench. Espe­cial­ly if that’s part of the rea­son they put you there.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2021, 3:55 pm
  10. Fol­low­ing up on the fas­ci­nat­ing new biog­ra­phy of Peter Thiel depict­ing him as a para­noid pow­er mad, here’s a pair of arti­cles describ­ing the explo­sion of Thiel’s influ­ence inside the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the broad­er con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment in recent years:

    First, here’s a Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle from last month about Rum­ble, the new YouTube rival start­ed in 2013 that appears grew from 1 mil­lion to 30 mil­lion active users over the past year. The com­pa­ny said in May it had received a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment from JD Vance’s Narya Cap­i­tal and Peter Thiel. So Thiel is get­ting into the ‘Alt’ social media mar­ket. Keep in mind that Vance is run­ning in the GOP Sen­ate pri­ma­ry for a Vir­ginia Sen­ate seat and has been a recip­i­ent of a report­ed $10 mil­lion in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from Thiel this year.

    But Rum­ble isn’t focused exclu­sive­ly on con­ser­v­a­tive audi­ences. As part of an effort to show the plat­form can be friend­ly to non-con­ser­v­a­tives, Rum­ble signed deals with Glenn Green­wald and for­mer con­gress­woman Tul­si Gab­bard pay­ing them to pro­duce con­tent on the plat­form. How much are they being paid? We aren’t told oth­er than that it’s in the “mid-range six fig­ures”.

    And as we’ll see in the sec­ond except below in a New York­er arti­cle from back in May, it’s Peter Thiel who par­ty lumi­nar­ies and 2024 hope­fuls like Mike Pom­peo are turn­ing to in for­mu­lat­ing their own ideas of what the future holds and how to pre­pare for it. Thiel has become one of the top thought lead­ers for the Repub­li­can Par­ty and that influ­ence is only going as he throws more and more mon­ey around. That’s part of the sig­nif­i­cance of the sto­ry of Rum­ble. It’s the kind of sto­ry that hints at a lot more sim­i­lar sto­ries are on the way in com­ing years as the broad­er sto­ry of Thiel’s post-Trumpian cap­ture of the GOP plays out:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Rum­ble, a YouTube rival pop­u­lar with con­ser­v­a­tives, will pay cre­ators who ‘chal­lenge the sta­tus quo’

    The video site has explod­ed dur­ing the pan­dem­ic as a home for anti-vac­cine mis­in­for­ma­tion and con­ser­v­a­tive com­plaints about Big Tech cen­sor­ship

    By Drew Har­well
    August 12, 2021 at 7:00 a.m. EDT

    A fast-grow­ing YouTube rival pop­u­lar with con­ser­v­a­tive influ­encers has a new strat­e­gy to expand its online audi­ence: Pay­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to well-known media per­son­al­i­ties it says work to “chal­lenge the sta­tus quo.”

    The Toron­to-based upstart Rum­ble said Thurs­day that it has struck deals with for­mer U.S. con­gress­woman Tul­si Gab­bard, the jour­nal­ist fire­brand Glenn Green­wald and oth­ers who had com­mit­ted to post­ing their videos first to the site.

    Rum­ble has emerged over the last year as one of the most promi­nent video sites for right-wing view­ers and provo­ca­teurs, and it is seek­ing to bol­ster its image as a new online home for those who claim they’ve been cen­sored by Big Tech.

    The site bans racism and hate speech but has con­trast­ed itself with the Google-owned YouTube by refus­ing to remove “med­ical mis­in­for­ma­tion,” includ­ing those cast­ing doubt on vac­cines dur­ing a pan­dem­ic that is surg­ing in many states and has killed more than 4 mil­lion peo­ple around the world.

    Rum­ble has grown from 1 mil­lion active users last sum­mer to rough­ly 30 mil­lion, said the site’s chief exec­u­tive Chris Pavlovs­ki, a Cana­di­an tech entre­pre­neur who worked a brief intern­ship at Microsoft and found­ed a viral-joke web­site before launch­ing Rum­ble in 2013. And its traf­fic has explod­ed: Accord­ing to data shared with The Wash­ing­ton Post by the ana­lyt­ics firm Sim­i­lar­web, vis­its in the Unit­ed States to the site grew from about 200,000 in the last week of July 2020 to near­ly 19 mil­lion last week — a 9,000 per­cent increase.

    Rumble’s move high­lights how a grow­ing group of online influ­encers have amassed lucra­tive fol­low­ings while dis­cussing their alleged sup­pres­sion in books, videos, social media posts, pod­casts, newslet­ters, pro­mo­tion­al spon­sor­ships, speak­ing events and oth­er mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

    Gab­bard and Green­wald have expand­ed their fan bases in recent months by crit­i­ciz­ing what they call over­ly aggres­sive media cen­sor­ship in appear­ances on Fox News and Twit­ter, where each has more than 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers.

    Green­wald said in an inter­view he sees Rum­ble as a way “of lib­er­at­ing our­selves from the con­trol and oppres­sion of Big Tech monop­o­lies’ cen­sor­ship and tyran­ny.”

    “I’m not uncom­fort­able if peo­ple are on there say­ing things I dis­agree with. … This is a very recent phe­nom­e­non online: We expect our plat­forms to be cleansed of peo­ple we dis­like,” he said.

    “Unlike YouTube, Face­book and Twit­ter, which began wild­ly expand­ing how the rules are applied for broad­er soci­ety to remove so-called ‘dis­in­for­ma­tion,’ Rum­ble just stayed true to the orig­i­nal mis­sion,” he added. “You can’t go on there and say racist stuff, but they don’t mon­i­tor for what’s true or false. They real­ly believe in true debate.”

    Rum­ble, Green­wald said, reached out to him two months ago, offer­ing a deal to pro­duce high-qual­i­ty videos that would help show Rum­ble can be “a hos­pitable place for non-MAGA peo­ple,” a term for sup­port­ers of for­mer pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again” catch­phrase.

    The com­pa­ny declined to pro­vide finan­cial details but Green­wald said the top cre­ators’ year-long con­tracts will pay in the “midrange six fig­ures.”

    Green­wald said he is build­ing out a pro­fes­sion­al video stu­dio in his home in Rio de Janeiro, and that he intends to reg­u­lar­ly record and air hour-long videos and live ques­tion-and-answer ses­sions.

    On his Sub­stack newslet­ter last week, he allud­ed to the new Rum­ble deal in a YouTube video, describ­ing an “ample fund­ing pack­age” to pay for a “high­ly pro­fes­sion­al­ized form of video” in a space “where peo­ple can be tru­ly free and inde­pen­dent.” His videos, he said, would spot­light the “repres­sion and cen­sor­ship on the part of Big Tech monop­o­lies in con­junc­tion with the lib­er­al sec­tor of the cor­po­rate media and the estab­lish­ment wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.”

    The Rum­ble-fund­ed cre­ators will be free to post their videos else­where, includ­ing YouTube, after a two-hour Rum­ble-exclu­sive win­dow. They will also be able to make mon­ey through video adver­tise­ments and oth­er mon­e­ti­za­tion fea­tures Rum­ble is now build­ing, sim­i­lar to those found on YouTube and Twitch, includ­ing allow­ing view­ers to pay extra to make their live-chat com­ments big­ger.

    Rumble’s traf­fic has dra­mat­i­cal­ly out­paced oth­er social net­works pop­u­lar among con­ser­v­a­tive users. Between the last weeks of July in 2020 and 2021, web­site vis­its jumped near­ly 300 per­cent for MeWe, to near­ly 1.5 mil­lion vis­its, and 400 per­cent for Gab, with near­ly 3 mil­lion vis­its, the Sim­i­lar­web analy­sis shows. Par­ler, a site where many users post­ed videos of the Jan. 6 riots that have since been cit­ed in crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions, has seen its traf­fic cut in half, falling to rough­ly 200,000 vis­its.

    Rum­ble still draws only a tiny frac­tion of YouTube’s audi­ence, with desk­top and mobile vis­its that reached only about 1 per­cent of YouTube’s 1.5 bil­lion vis­its last week, the Sim­i­lar­web analy­sis shows. And unlike the main­stream sites, Rumble’s traf­fic fluc­tu­ates wild­ly from day-to-day, a hint that its pop­u­lar­i­ty is heav­i­ly depen­dent on trend­ing events.

    Rum­ble was launched in 2013 and for years served as a most­ly unre­mark­able col­lec­tion of cute videos about babies and house­hold pets.

    But as YouTube and oth­er sites began more aggres­sive­ly adding dis­claimers and delet­ing videos pro­mot­ing false claims about the pan­dem­ic, many cre­ators began urg­ing their fol­low­ers to save and re-upload the videos to back­up sites such as BitChute and Rum­ble, where they could be viewed and shared.

    Such copy­cat sites have got­ten a boost from con­ser­v­a­tive influ­encers’ argu­ments that their fol­low­ers must stick by them in the face of Big Tech “deplat­form­ing” and “shad­ow­bans,” said Renée DiRes­ta, a research man­ag­er at the Stan­ford Inter­net Obser­va­to­ry. But many of the sites, she added, have faced a plateau­ing of view­er inter­est as the niche sites’ nov­el­ty fades.

    “With every new con­ser­v­a­tive plat­form, there’s this spike and then there’s marked decline, because they can’t keep up that engage­ment, that activ­i­ty, that draw,” DiRes­ta said.

    “Part of that may be that these peo­ple are not actu­al­ly cen­sored on the main­stream plat­forms, so they keep post­ing there,” she added. “They still want to engage and argue and share things on those plat­forms with all of the exist­ing net­work effects, those rela­tion­ships, that cen­ter of grav­i­ty where they already are.”

    YouTube’s “med­ical mis­in­for­ma­tion” pol­i­cy since last May has banned videos about the coro­n­avirus that could pose a “seri­ous risk of egre­gious harm.” The site remains a pop­u­lar refuge for coro­n­avirus false­hoods, though the com­pa­ny said its mod­er­a­tors work to remove videos claim­ing, for instance, that the coro­n­avirus does not exist (it does) or that vac­cines con­tain track­ing devices (they don’t).

    Rum­ble has avoid­ed those debates by allow­ing such videos to remain on the site unmod­er­at­ed. Pavlovs­ki said the com­pa­ny employs 40 con­tent mod­er­a­tors to police the site — slight­ly more than one mod­er­a­tor for every mil­lion users.

    “We’re like your din­ner table. You can have a con­ver­sa­tion. You can have dis­agree­ments. And you can try to prove some­one wrong,” Pavlovs­ki said. “If it vio­lates our terms and con­di­tions, which ban anti­semitism, hate speech, defama­tion, etc., it will be removed. But we don’t move the goal posts and expand our terms and con­di­tions to be more than that. If you want to believe in UFOs, you’re free to believe in UFOs.”

    Search­ing for “vac­cine” on YouTube returns most­ly videos from news orga­ni­za­tions, doc­tors and fact-check­ing orga­ni­za­tions. The same search on Rum­ble returns videos false­ly sug­gest­ing it “caus­es the virus to be more dan­ger­ous” and has “poor dura­bil­i­ty.”

    Rum­ble lacks the more mod­ern trap­pings of new­er video sites such as Tik­Tok and Twitch, includ­ing algo­rith­mic rec­om­men­da­tions for what a user should watch next, which Pavlos­ki said pre­vents the site from ampli­fy­ing videos in an improp­er way.

    The site’s top videos on its “Bat­tle Leader­board” come almost entire­ly from big con­ser­v­a­tive influ­encers such as Dinesh D’Souza, Don­ald Trump Jr., Sean Han­ni­ty and Dan Bongi­no, who this week slammed Fox News for edit­ing out Trump’s false­hoods about a “fake elec­tion” in an inter­view the net­work post­ed to its YouTube account.

    Most promi­nent Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have Rum­ble accounts, includ­ing Flori­da Gov. Ron DeSan­tis and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who said this week that YouTube’s removal of a video in which he said most masks wouldn’t pre­vent coro­n­avirus spread was a “badge of hon­or.”

    Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Flori­da Repub­li­can now under inves­ti­ga­tion for pos­si­ble sex traf­fick­ing of a minor, said in a tweet this week that Rum­ble is his “new fav social media app” and “the best way” to watch his new video pod­cast.

    Rum­ble also has a ver­i­fied account for the for­mer pres­i­dent, who was removed from most major social net­works after the Jan. 6 riot. The account, with 500,000 sub­scribers, has been used sole­ly to repost Trump’s speech­es at ral­lies and appear­ances on Fox News.

    Rum­ble said Thurs­day that come­di­an Brid­get Pheta­sy, jour­nal­ist Zaid Jilani and oth­er “nation­al­ly rec­og­nized thought lead­ers” who believe “tech monop­o­lies should not dic­tate dis­course” would also join the site.

    The com­pa­ny said in May it had received a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment from Narya Cap­i­tal, a fund co-found­ed by “Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy” author J.D. Vance, and the bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Peter Thiel, an ear­ly investor in Face­book and a co-founder of the gov­ern­ment-con­tract­ing giant Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies.

    The com­pa­ny runs or leas­es all of its servers, which Pavlovs­ki said will help shield it from the rules of the cloud-com­put­ing giants that run much of the Web. Ama­zon Web Ser­vices stopped pro­vid­ing Web-host­ing ser­vices to Par­ler after the Capi­tol riot, cit­ing con­cerns that the site had not done enough to remove vio­lent threats.

    Rum­ble has also worked to align itself with broad­er con­cerns about Big Tech’s pow­er, includ­ing from antitrust reg­u­la­tors in Wash­ing­ton now scru­ti­niz­ing whether Sil­i­con Valley’s biggest names should be bro­ken up. The com­pa­ny sued Google ear­li­er this year, alleg­ing the search engine unfair­ly pro­mot­ed YouTube in its results. Google has said the ongo­ing law­suit is base­less.

    Rum­ble is joined by a grow­ing cadre of sim­i­lar sites, such as Get­tr, a “can­cel free” Twit­ter clone led by Trump’s for­mer spokesman Jason Miller. The com­pa­ny boasts “cut­ting-edge A.I. tech­nol­o­gy” it says helps mod­er­ate con­tent, but view­ers have not­ed that Get­tr has also been used to share uncen­sored pornog­ra­phy and Islam­ic State pro­pa­gan­da.

    Some researchers expect that Rumble’s lax rules for mod­er­at­ing con­tent will force it down the same path of pre­vi­ous “free speech” start-ups, fuel­ing an echo cham­ber that fur­ther entrench­es the most extreme cor­ners of its user base while also lim­it­ing its abil­i­ty to win main­stream view­ers.

    ...

    ———-

    “Rum­ble, a YouTube rival pop­u­lar with con­ser­v­a­tives, will pay cre­ators who ‘chal­lenge the sta­tus quo’” by Drew Har­well; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 08/12/2021

    “The com­pa­ny said in May it had received a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment from Narya Cap­i­tal, a fund co-found­ed by “Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy” author J.D. Vance, and the bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Peter Thiel, an ear­ly investor in Face­book and a co-founder of the gov­ern­ment-con­tract­ing giant Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies.”

    Rum­ble has poten­tial. At least that’s one inter­pre­ta­tion of the “sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment” made by Thiel and Vance. They’re invest­ing in a com­pa­ny they see as hav­ing poten­tial. Of course, when we’re talk­ing about a polit­i­cal­ly-charged social media plat­form, there are oth­er obvi­ous rea­sons for a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment that have noth­ing to do with future prof­its. Like sim­ply invest­ing in influ­enc­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    But as Glenn Green­wald and Tul­si Gab­bard also make clear with their paid pres­ences on the forum, Thiel and Vance aren’t just buy­ing influ­ence with con­ser­v­a­tives. The polit­i­cal ‘alt’-space occu­pied by Green­wald and Gab­bard — friend­ly fel­low trav­el­ers of the ‘Alt Right’ — is ripe for influ­ence ped­dling of this nature. A few “sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments” here and there and who knows how many peo­ple are going to end up on Thiel’s pay­roll:

    ...
    Gab­bard and Green­wald have expand­ed their fan bases in recent months by crit­i­ciz­ing what they call over­ly aggres­sive media cen­sor­ship in appear­ances on Fox News and Twit­ter, where each has more than 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers.

    Green­wald said in an inter­view he sees Rum­ble as a way “of lib­er­at­ing our­selves from the con­trol and oppres­sion of Big Tech monop­o­lies’ cen­sor­ship and tyran­ny.”

    “I’m not uncom­fort­able if peo­ple are on there say­ing things I dis­agree with. … This is a very recent phe­nom­e­non online: We expect our plat­forms to be cleansed of peo­ple we dis­like,” he said.

    “Unlike YouTube, Face­book and Twit­ter, which began wild­ly expand­ing how the rules are applied for broad­er soci­ety to remove so-called ‘dis­in­for­ma­tion,’ Rum­ble just stayed true to the orig­i­nal mis­sion,” he added. “You can’t go on there and say racist stuff, but they don’t mon­i­tor for what’s true or false. They real­ly believe in true debate.”

    Rum­ble, Green­wald said, reached out to him two months ago, offer­ing a deal to pro­duce high-qual­i­ty videos that would help show Rum­ble can be “a hos­pitable place for non-MAGA peo­ple,” a term for sup­port­ers of for­mer pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again” catch­phrase.

    The com­pa­ny declined to pro­vide finan­cial details but Green­wald said the top cre­ators’ year-long con­tracts will pay in the “midrange six fig­ures.”

    Green­wald said he is build­ing out a pro­fes­sion­al video stu­dio in his home in Rio de Janeiro, and that he intends to reg­u­lar­ly record and air hour-long videos and live ques­tion-and-answer ses­sions.

    On his Sub­stack newslet­ter last week, he allud­ed to the new Rum­ble deal in a YouTube video, describ­ing an “ample fund­ing pack­age” to pay for a “high­ly pro­fes­sion­al­ized form of video” in a space “where peo­ple can be tru­ly free and inde­pen­dent.” His videos, he said, would spot­light the “repres­sion and cen­sor­ship on the part of Big Tech monop­o­lies in con­junc­tion with the lib­er­al sec­tor of the cor­po­rate media and the estab­lish­ment wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.”

    ...

    The site’s top videos on its “Bat­tle Leader­board” come almost entire­ly from big con­ser­v­a­tive influ­encers such as Dinesh D’Souza, Don­ald Trump Jr., Sean Han­ni­ty and Dan Bongi­no, who this week slammed Fox News for edit­ing out Trump’s false­hoods about a “fake elec­tion” in an inter­view the net­work post­ed to its YouTube account.
    ...

    It was 2016 when we saw Thiel jump into the polit­i­cal realm in a big way. So just how influ­en­tial has Thiel grown inside the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment over the past 5 years? That brings us to the fol­low­ing New York­er piece from back in May about pre­cise­ly that kind of devel­op­ment: While Don­ald Trump may be the present-day incar­na­tion of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, it’s look­ing more and more like top Repub­li­can are look­ing to Peter Thiel to pro­vide the vision for the par­ty’s future. A future not entire­ly unlike its Trumpian present. Thiel has proven to be a mas­ter of the Trumpian tac­tic of chan­nel­ing his elit­ist anti-gov­ern­ment agen­da into a pop­ulist anti-gov­ern­ment shtick. But it’s not just Thiel’s vision for the future of the Repub­li­can Par­ty that has GOP lumi­nar­ies look­ing towards Thiel for guid­ance. It’s Thiel’s sense of impend­ing doom for civ­i­liza­tion — doom cre­at­ed by sti­fling Big Gov­ern­ment and social con­straints imposed on great vision­ar­ies like Thiel who only want to bring the world great things like fly­ing cars — that has cap­ti­vat­ed the par­ty and the move­ment. Thiel has become the GOP’s unof­fi­cial End Times prophet, and if that apoc­a­lypse is going to be avoid­ed, or embraced, they’re going to have to fol­low his lead:

    The New York­er

    The Rise of the Thielists

    Has the Repub­li­can Par­ty found its post-Trump ide­ol­o­gy?

    By Ben­jamin Wal­lace-Wells
    May 13, 2021

    Peter Thiel appeared at a Zoom event one evening this past April in a famil­iar pose: his face sat tense and almost twitchy, and yet his voice radi­at­ed author­i­ty and calm. Even by Thiel’s rar­efied stan­dards, his main inter­view­er that evening, in a con­ver­sa­tion host­ed by the Nixon Foun­da­tion, was impres­sive: Mike Pom­peo, Trump’s for­mer Sec­re­tary of State and a poten­tial Pres­i­den­tial con­tender, who was treat­ing the bil­lion­aire with def­er­ence while ask­ing him the broad­est of ques­tions about the future of the U.S. and Chi­na. “You spend a lot of time think­ing and writ­ing about the tech­nol­o­gy fight between the West and the ideas that the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty puts forward—whether that’s dis­in­for­ma­tion or the capac­i­ty to move dig­its around the world,” Pom­peo said to Thiel, before ask­ing the investor how the two pow­ers com­pared, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly. For any­one inter­est­ed in who will hold pow­er in the Repub­li­can Par­ty in the near future, the event made for a stark tableau of clout. Pompeo’s eyes nar­rowed atten­tive­ly as he lis­tened to Thiel; the Trump nation­al-secu­ri­ty advis­er, Robert O’Brien, who had also been invit­ed to ask ques­tions, was nod­ding appre­cia­tive­ly beneath a for­mi­da­ble white coif.

    Most of us, these days, oper­ate down­stream from one bil­lion­aire or anoth­er, and the most inter­est­ing and desta­bi­liz­ing parts of the Repub­li­can Par­ty are oper­at­ing down­stream from Thiel, whose net worth Bloomberg recent­ly esti­mat­ed at more than six bil­lion dol­lars. Eric Wein­stein, who coined the term “intel­lec­tu­al dark Web,” is the man­ag­ing direc­tor at Thiel Cap­i­tal. (“Man of many hats,” Thiel said not long ago, when asked to describe Weinstein’s role with­in his empire.) In 2015 and 2016, Thiel made a crit­i­cal three-hun­dred-thou­sand-dol­lar dona­tion to the cam­paign of Josh Haw­ley, who was then run­ning for Mis­souri attor­ney gen­er­al; once in office, Haw­ley had to answer ques­tions about whether his announce­ment of an antitrust inves­ti­ga­tion into Google had any­thing to do with Thiel, an avowed oppo­nent of the search giant. This year, Thiel has giv­en ten mil­lion dol­lars to an out­side group fund­ing the Ohio Sen­ate cam­paign of J. D. Vance, the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who became famous as the author of the 2016 mem­oir “Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy,” and a voice on behalf of the parts of Amer­i­ca that glob­al­iza­tion had left behind. (He is now a reg­u­lar on Tuck­er Carlson’s Fox News show.) Thiel donat­ed ten mil­lion dol­lars to the Ari­zona U.S. Sen­ate cam­paign of his own aide, Blake Mas­ters, who co-authored one of his books and has most­ly worked for Thiel since he grad­u­at­ed from Stan­ford Law, a decade ago; he gave rough­ly two mil­lion dol­lars to the failed 2020 Sen­ate cam­paign of the hard-right anti-immi­gra­tionist Sen­ate can­di­date Kris Kobach. There is no obvi­ous par­ty line among the Thielists, but they tend to share a cou­ple of char­ac­ter­is­tics. They are inter­est­ed in cham­pi­oning out­ré ideas and caus­es, and they are mem­bers of an Amer­i­can élite who nev­er­the­less empha­size, in their pol­i­tics, how awful élites have been for ordi­nary Amer­i­cans.

    The Amer­i­can right just now is in a state of ner­vous inco­her­ence. Even the most basic ques­tions (for democ­ra­cy or against?) seem to trig­ger pan­icked, mul­ti­di­men­sion­al cal­cu­la­tions, with eyes always cast uncer­tain­ly at Mar-a-Lago. The temp­ta­tion is to say that some of this uncer­tain­ty is ide­o­log­i­cal in nature—that, a decade ago, the orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple of con­ser­vatism was lib­er­tar­i­an­ism (embod­ied by much of the Tea Par­ty). Trump ele­vat­ed a long-dor­mant nation­al­ism that briefly ener­gized the Par­ty, and, after his loss, politi­cians are left try­ing to sort out which mod­el still works. Thiel him­self came out of the lib­er­tar­i­an move­ment: he backed Ron Paul for Pres­i­dent twice, and he donat­ed lav­ish­ly to Paul’s cam­paigns. But, like Haw­ley, Vance, and Kobach, Thiel devel­oped a much more promi­nent role in ser­vice of Trump’s nation­al­ism, per­haps most of all in the address he gave, in 2016, to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion, in which he seemed bewil­dered by the fact that the aston­ish­ing pros­per­i­ty he saw every day in Sil­i­con Val­ley was not evi­dent in Sacra­men­to. “Wait, wasn’t Peter Thiel a lib­er­tar­i­an?” Rea­son mag­a­zine, the movement’s Bible, won­dered in 2020. Thiel and the Thielists are a through line from the Party’s recent past to its like­ly future; their per­sis­tence sug­gests that Trump’s nation­al­ism didn’t rep­re­sent as extreme a depar­ture from the Party’s pri­or lib­er­tar­i­an­ism as it appeared to.

    Before Peter Thiel was a bil­lion­aire, he had the bio­graph­i­cal points of a pret­ty con­ven­tion­al Gen X young Repub­li­can. He was born in 1967, in Frank­furt, to a Ger­man fam­i­ly that fol­lowed his chem­i­cal-engi­neer father to jobs around the globe before set­tling in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. As a teen-ager, Thiel was a math­e­mat­ics prodi­gy who says he was com­fort­able tak­ing con­trar­i­an posi­tions ear­ly, sup­port­ing Ronald Rea­gan and oppos­ing drug legal­iza­tion in mid­dle school. As an under­grad­u­ate, he found­ed the com­bat­ive, con­ser­v­a­tive Stan­ford Review, and, after law school and a stint as an appel­late clerk for a Rea­gan appointee, Thiel co-authored “The Diver­si­ty Myth,” in 1995, a book decry­ing mount­ing polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness on cam­pus. His career had scarce­ly begun—after a stint at a New York law firm, he’d found­ed a small tech-invest­ment com­pa­ny. But Thiel already had a ful­ly formed polit­i­cal iden­ti­ty, and his résumé wasn’t far from what you get from many Repub­li­can con­gres­sion­al can­di­dates.

    Sil­i­con Val­ley was boom­ing dur­ing the late nineties, and it did not take Thiel very long to have a huge hit, when he found­ed Pay­Pal with a half-dozen friends and acquain­tances. Thiel’s friends, George Pack­er wrote, in 2011, “are, for the most part, like him and one anoth­er: male, con­ser­v­a­tive, and super-smart in the fields of math and log­i­cal rea­son­ing.” Thiel report­ed­ly came out as gay to his friends in 2003 (he would be out­ed pub­licly by Gawk­er some years lat­er, and went on to spon­sor a law­suit against the com­pa­ny). Thiel co-found­ed the defense-and-intel­li­gence firm Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies, in 2004; that same year, he became Facebook’s first out­side investor. Thiel donat­ed to John McCain’s 2008 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign after sup­port­ing Ron Paul in the pri­ma­ry, but his Repub­li­can­ism received less atten­tion than the fan­ci­ful, long-arc lib­er­tar­i­an projects in which he invest­ed: the Seast­eading Insti­tute (which aimed to build polit­i­cal­ly autonomous cities on plat­forms in inter­na­tion­al waters), the Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute (which want­ed to insure that arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence was friend­ly to humans), and the Thiel Fel­low­ship (which sup­port­ed excep­tion­al­ly tal­ent­ed young peo­ple in cre­at­ing start­up com­pa­nies if they skipped, dropped out of, or took time off from col­lege).

    In 2012, Blake Mas­ters, then a Stan­ford Law stu­dent, took a course on star­tups that Thiel taught, and pub­lished the notes on his Tum­blr page, where they became a phe­nom­e­non. By 2014, Thiel and Mas­ters had pub­lished the notes as a book, “Zero to One,” offer­ing the­o­ries on star­tups and advice for founders. Review­ing it, Derek Thomp­son, of The Atlantic, said he thought it “might be the best busi­ness book I’ve read.” Thiel and Mas­ters empha­size the breadth of forces arrayed against any founder: “In a world of gigan­tic admin­is­tra­tive bureau­cra­cies both pub­lic and pri­vate, search­ing for a new path might seem like hop­ing for a mir­a­cle. Actu­al­ly, if Amer­i­can busi­ness is going to suc­ceed, we are going to need hun­dreds, or even thou­sands of mir­a­cles. This would be depress­ing but for one cru­cial fact: humans are dis­tin­guished from oth­er species by our abil­i­ty to work mir­a­cles. We call these mir­a­cles tech­nol­o­gy.”

    In between slight­ly bat­ty charts (one dis­tin­guish­es between the “def­i­nite opti­mism” of soci­eties like the U.S. in the nine­teen-fifties and six­ties and the “indef­i­nite pes­simism” of oth­ers, like present-day Europe), Thiel and Mas­ters offer a vision of the founder that is pat­terned after Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which imag­i­na­tive indi­vid­u­als are forced to fight through a soci­ety that is bureau­cra­tized and stul­ti­fy­ing in all its insti­tu­tion­al forms. They won­der why the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem com­pels peo­ple to strive for mediocre com­pe­tence in many things instead of try­ing to be unique­ly great at one thing, and bemoan the way large orga­ni­za­tions sti­fle ideas. In Wash­ing­ton, lib­er­tar­i­an­ism tends to take the form of a stark anti-gov­ern­ment posi­tion, usu­al­ly putting Repub­li­cans on the side of large busi­ness­es, which want to reduce their tax bur­den. But Thiel’s more ele­men­tal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism casts big busi­ness as an oppo­nent of progress. (The seem­ing para­dox of Haw­ley and oth­er mem­bers of an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly pro-busi­ness par­ty rou­tine­ly call­ing for the breakup of Google, Ama­zon, and Face­book on antitrust grounds may not be a para­dox at all—it may sim­ply be Thielist.) The deep­est qual­i­ty of Thiel and Masters’s book is its out­sized vision of what a hero­ic individual—a founder—can do. In a late chap­ter, they argue that suc­cess­ful founders tend to have the oppo­site qual­i­ties of those seen in the gen­er­al population—that they are, in some basic ways, different—and com­pare them to kings and fig­ures of ancient mythol­o­gy. In a sec­tion on Steve Jobs, Thiel and Mas­ters write:

    Apple’s val­ue cru­cial­ly depend­ed on the sin­gu­lar vision of a par­tic­u­lar per­son. This hints at the strange way in which the com­pa­nies that cre­ate new tech­nol­o­gy often resem­ble feu­dal monar­chies rather than orga­ni­za­tions that are sup­pos­ed­ly more “mod­ern.” A unique founder can make author­i­ta­tive deci­sions, inspire strong per­son­al loy­al­ty, and plan ahead for decades. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, imper­son­al bureau­cra­cies staffed by trained pro­fes­sion­als can last longer than any life­time, but they usu­al­ly act with short time hori­zons. The les­son for busi­ness is that we need founders. If any­thing, we should be more tol­er­ant of founders who seem strange or extreme; we need unusu­al indi­vid­u­als to lead com­pa­nies beyond mere incre­men­tal­ism.

    The height­ened vision of what a sin­gle leader can do, the ven­er­a­tion for more ancient and direct forms of lead­er­ship, the praise for author­i­ta­tive deci­sion-mak­ing and dis­dain for bureaucracies—it’s a short hop from here to the Don­ald Trump of “I alone can fix it.”

    Dur­ing Trump’s 2016 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Thiel appeared to be devel­op­ing some alliances with the far right: Buz­zFeed News lat­er report­ed that he had host­ed a din­ner that includ­ed a promi­nent white nation­al­ist, Kevin DeAn­na; that sto­ry also not­ed that Thiel had backed the start­up of a promi­nent far-right blog­ger named Cur­tis Yarvin, known online as Men­cius Mold­bug. But by the sum­mer of 2020 Thiel, like many oth­er Repub­li­can fun­ders, had tired of the Pres­i­dent. The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed that he was not back­ing Trump’s reëlec­tion cam­paign, which he found so chaot­ic that he pri­vate­ly termed it the “S.S. Min­now.”

    ...

    The Repub­li­can Par­ty, in this uncer­tain post-Trump phase, has often been described as under­go­ing a pop­ulist or nation­al­ist trans­for­ma­tion. But those terms sug­gest pol­i­cy cat­e­gories, and, as Nation­al Review’s Ramesh Pon­nu­ru put it recent­ly, “The Repub­li­can vot­ers them­selves have become post-pol­i­cy.” At the moment, con­ser­vatism seems to be expe­ri­enc­ing less of a pol­i­cy turn than a change in mood, one char­ac­ter­ized by anger and retrench­ment but per­haps espe­cial­ly by a bleak view of what is to come. (This may par­tic­u­lar­ly suit con­ser­v­a­tives at a moment when they find them­selves out of cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal pow­er.) Of all the con­ser­v­a­tive impuls­es, the one that seems the most for­eign right now is the pearly opti­mism of Mitt Rom­ney, on the Pres­i­den­tial trail in 2012, arriv­ing at a banal cam­paign event and declar­ing that the trees in Michi­gan were the right height.

    For a while, I thought that the right’s declin­ism might be a ver­sion of nostalgia—as well as a prod­uct of Repub­li­can vot­ers’ com­par­a­tive iso­la­tion from the most dynam­ic parts of the coun­try and the advanced age of many Fox News view­ers. But, as Trump’s Pres­i­den­cy recedes from view, the most dynam­ic young politi­cians in the Par­ty, fig­ures like Haw­ley and Vance, and some of its most influ­en­tial sup­port­ers, such as Thiel, still argue that glob­al­iza­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal change have not deliv­ered on their promis­es. This week, I went back and rewatched Pom­peo and O’Brien inter­view­ing Thiel, ask­ing him for details on the progress of cryp­tocur­ren­cy and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, here and in Chi­na. But I saw it a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly this time. They were try­ing to gauge the posi­tion of the man who taught con­ser­v­a­tives that the future could no longer be count­ed on.

    ———–

    “The Rise of the Thielists” by Ben­jamin Wal­lace-Wells; The New York­er; 05/13/2021

    “Most of us, these days, oper­ate down­stream from one bil­lion­aire or anoth­er, and the most inter­est­ing and desta­bi­liz­ing parts of the Repub­li­can Par­ty are oper­at­ing down­stream from Thiel, whose net worth Bloomberg recent­ly esti­mat­ed at more than six bil­lion dol­lars. Eric Wein­stein, who coined the term “intel­lec­tu­al dark Web,” is the man­ag­ing direc­tor at Thiel Cap­i­tal. (“Man of many hats,” Thiel said not long ago, when asked to describe Weinstein’s role with­in his empire.) In 2015 and 2016, Thiel made a crit­i­cal three-hun­dred-thou­sand-dol­lar dona­tion to the cam­paign of Josh Haw­ley, who was then run­ning for Mis­souri attor­ney gen­er­al; once in office, Haw­ley had to answer ques­tions about whether his announce­ment of an antitrust inves­ti­ga­tion into Google had any­thing to do with Thiel, an avowed oppo­nent of the search giant. This year, Thiel has giv­en ten mil­lion dol­lars to an out­side group fund­ing the Ohio Sen­ate cam­paign of J. D. Vance, the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who became famous as the author of the 2016 mem­oir “Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy,” and a voice on behalf of the parts of Amer­i­ca that glob­al­iza­tion had left behind. (He is now a reg­u­lar on Tuck­er Carlson’s Fox News show.) Thiel donat­ed ten mil­lion dol­lars to the Ari­zona U.S. Sen­ate cam­paign of his own aide, Blake Mas­ters, who co-authored one of his books and has most­ly worked for Thiel since he grad­u­at­ed from Stan­ford Law, a decade ago; he gave rough­ly two mil­lion dol­lars to the failed 2020 Sen­ate cam­paign of the hard-right anti-immi­gra­tionist Sen­ate can­di­date Kris Kobach. There is no obvi­ous par­ty line among the Thielists, but they tend to share a cou­ple of char­ac­ter­is­tics. They are inter­est­ed in cham­pi­oning out­ré ideas and caus­es, and they are mem­bers of an Amer­i­can élite who nev­er­the­less empha­size, in their pol­i­tics, how awful élites have been for ordi­nary Amer­i­cans.

    If you throw enough mon­ey around in pol­i­tics at some point you’re going to become the de fac­to leader. And right now, Peter Thiel is posi­tion­ing him­self to be that de fact leader. Sure, there are oth­er indi­vid­u­als like Charles Koch who still give more polit­i­cal­ly. But like Trump, Koch’s days are num­ber. We’re due for a chang­ing of the guard on the Amer­i­can Right and Peter Thiel appears to be the guy in posi­tion to become the next Charles Koch. The next per­son with the vision and cash the rest of the par­ty can fol­low:

    ...
    Peter Thiel appeared at a Zoom event one evening this past April in a famil­iar pose: his face sat tense and almost twitchy, and yet his voice radi­at­ed author­i­ty and calm. Even by Thiel’s rar­efied stan­dards, his main inter­view­er that evening, in a con­ver­sa­tion host­ed by the Nixon Foun­da­tion, was impres­sive: Mike Pom­peo, Trump’s for­mer Sec­re­tary of State and a poten­tial Pres­i­den­tial con­tender, who was treat­ing the bil­lion­aire with def­er­ence while ask­ing him the broad­est of ques­tions about the future of the U.S. and Chi­na. “You spend a lot of time think­ing and writ­ing about the tech­nol­o­gy fight between the West and the ideas that the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty puts forward—whether that’s dis­in­for­ma­tion or the capac­i­ty to move dig­its around the world,” Pom­peo said to Thiel, before ask­ing the investor how the two pow­ers com­pared, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly. For any­one inter­est­ed in who will hold pow­er in the Repub­li­can Par­ty in the near future, the event made for a stark tableau of clout. Pompeo’s eyes nar­rowed atten­tive­ly as he lis­tened to Thiel; the Trump nation­al-secu­ri­ty advis­er, Robert O’Brien, who had also been invit­ed to ask ques­tions, was nod­ding appre­cia­tive­ly beneath a for­mi­da­ble white coif.

    ...

    The Repub­li­can Par­ty, in this uncer­tain post-Trump phase, has often been described as under­go­ing a pop­ulist or nation­al­ist trans­for­ma­tion. But those terms sug­gest pol­i­cy cat­e­gories, and, as Nation­al Review’s Ramesh Pon­nu­ru put it recent­ly, “The Repub­li­can vot­ers them­selves have become post-pol­i­cy.” At the moment, con­ser­vatism seems to be expe­ri­enc­ing less of a pol­i­cy turn than a change in mood, one char­ac­ter­ized by anger and retrench­ment but per­haps espe­cial­ly by a bleak view of what is to come. (This may par­tic­u­lar­ly suit con­ser­v­a­tives at a moment when they find them­selves out of cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal pow­er.) Of all the con­ser­v­a­tive impuls­es, the one that seems the most for­eign right now is the pearly opti­mism of Mitt Rom­ney, on the Pres­i­den­tial trail in 2012, arriv­ing at a banal cam­paign event and declar­ing that the trees in Michi­gan were the right height.

    For a while, I thought that the right’s declin­ism might be a ver­sion of nostalgia—as well as a prod­uct of Repub­li­can vot­ers’ com­par­a­tive iso­la­tion from the most dynam­ic parts of the coun­try and the advanced age of many Fox News view­ers. But, as Trump’s Pres­i­den­cy recedes from view, the most dynam­ic young politi­cians in the Par­ty, fig­ures like Haw­ley and Vance, and some of its most influ­en­tial sup­port­ers, such as Thiel, still argue that glob­al­iza­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal change have not deliv­ered on their promis­es. This week, I went back and rewatched Pom­peo and O’Brien inter­view­ing Thiel, ask­ing him for details on the progress of cryp­tocur­ren­cy and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, here and in Chi­na. But I saw it a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly this time. They were try­ing to gauge the posi­tion of the man who taught con­ser­v­a­tives that the future could no longer be count­ed on.
    ...

    And what is that vision? A vision where the great­est imped­i­ment to human­i­ty are the checks on the pow­er and influ­ence of cap­i­tal­ist super­men like Peter Thiel. If only we could rec­og­nize them for the noble kings they tru­ly are, every­thing would be bet­ter. A fas­cist super­man vision of tomor­row, a most appro­pri­ate fol­low up to Trump:

    ...
    In between slight­ly bat­ty charts (one dis­tin­guish­es between the “def­i­nite opti­mism” of soci­eties like the U.S. in the nine­teen-fifties and six­ties and the “indef­i­nite pes­simism” of oth­ers, like present-day Europe), Thiel and Mas­ters offer a vision of the founder that is pat­terned after Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which imag­i­na­tive indi­vid­u­als are forced to fight through a soci­ety that is bureau­cra­tized and stul­ti­fy­ing in all its insti­tu­tion­al forms. They won­der why the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem com­pels peo­ple to strive for mediocre com­pe­tence in many things instead of try­ing to be unique­ly great at one thing, and bemoan the way large orga­ni­za­tions sti­fle ideas. In Wash­ing­ton, lib­er­tar­i­an­ism tends to take the form of a stark anti-gov­ern­ment posi­tion, usu­al­ly putting Repub­li­cans on the side of large busi­ness­es, which want to reduce their tax bur­den. But Thiel’s more ele­men­tal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism casts big busi­ness as an oppo­nent of progress. (The seem­ing para­dox of Haw­ley and oth­er mem­bers of an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly pro-busi­ness par­ty rou­tine­ly call­ing for the breakup of Google, Ama­zon, and Face­book on antitrust grounds may not be a para­dox at all—it may sim­ply be Thielist.) The deep­est qual­i­ty of Thiel and Masters’s book is its out­sized vision of what a hero­ic individual—a founder—can do. In a late chap­ter, they argue that suc­cess­ful founders tend to have the oppo­site qual­i­ties of those seen in the gen­er­al population—that they are, in some basic ways, different—and com­pare them to kings and fig­ures of ancient mythol­o­gy. In a sec­tion on Steve Jobs, Thiel and Mas­ters write:

    Apple’s val­ue cru­cial­ly depend­ed on the sin­gu­lar vision of a par­tic­u­lar per­son. This hints at the strange way in which the com­pa­nies that cre­ate new tech­nol­o­gy often resem­ble feu­dal monar­chies rather than orga­ni­za­tions that are sup­pos­ed­ly more “mod­ern.” A unique founder can make author­i­ta­tive deci­sions, inspire strong per­son­al loy­al­ty, and plan ahead for decades. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, imper­son­al bureau­cra­cies staffed by trained pro­fes­sion­als can last longer than any life­time, but they usu­al­ly act with short time hori­zons. The les­son for busi­ness is that we need founders. If any­thing, we should be more tol­er­ant of founders who seem strange or extreme; we need unusu­al indi­vid­u­als to lead com­pa­nies beyond mere incre­men­tal­ism.

    The height­ened vision of what a sin­gle leader can do, the ven­er­a­tion for more ancient and direct forms of lead­er­ship, the praise for author­i­ta­tive deci­sion-mak­ing and dis­dain for bureaucracies—it’s a short hop from here to the Don­ald Trump of “I alone can fix it.”
    ...

    Will any­one arise with a com­pet­ing vision for the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s future? It’s pos­si­ble, but right now it’s hard to see who is going to replace Thiel as the next lead­ing light for the GOP. He’s made the invest­ments and he has the fas­cist super­man tem­plate vision the par­ty clear­ly craves. If the Trump expe­ri­ence has taught us any­thing its the endur­ing appeal of the fas­cist super­man per­sona in pol­i­tics. That crap sells. And it’s all Thiel is ped­dling.

    At the same time, there’s a rather sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between the fas­cist super­man tem­plate of Don­ald Trump’s pol­i­tics and the fas­cist super­man tem­plate of Peter Thiel: Trump is fol­low­ing a Mus­soli­ni-style in-your-face fas­cist super­man tem­plate. He adores the crowds. Thiel, on the oth­er hand, has more the tem­pera­ment of Karl Rove. A behind-the-scenes oper­a­tor who wants to the pow­er, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly the pub­lic glo­ry. We’re deal­ing with very dif­fer­ent kinds of dark psy­cholo­gies in these two fig­ures. The rise of Trump has demon­strat­ed a robust appetite for the high-pro­file pub­lic fas­cist super­man per­sona. Trump effec­tive­ly cap­tured the par­ty with that per­sona in the mat­ter of a year. But that was large­ly because Trump cap­ture the hearts and minds of the GOP base. He was direct­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the mass­es.

    And while Thiel cer­tain­ly deploys sim­i­lar kinds of ‘pop­ulist’ rhetoric focused on rage against ‘lib­er­al elites’, there’s no indi­ca­tion that Thiel him­self can cap­ture the hearts of minds of the GOP base on the same scale as Trump. Thiel just does­n’t have Trump’s pow­ers with crowds and the pub­lic. What Thiel has cap­tured is the hearts and minds of par­ty elites like Mike Pom­peo.

    So per­son who is increas­ing­ly posi­tion to be the future leader of the GOP is like a weird blend of Trump, Rove, and Koch. He has the vision, mon­ey, and fas­cist super­man vision the par­ty loves. But he does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have the crown con­trol, which was the true secret to Trump’s cap­ture of the par­ty. He’s got a very real shot on cap­tur­ing the GOP, but it’s not secured. Some­one with the Trumpian abil­i­ty to cap­ture hearts and minds could steal it all away. That’s part of what makes the rise of Peter Thiel some­thing to watch: he’s the lead­ing can­di­date to lead the par­ty in the future, but he’s not a per­fect can­di­date and he real­ly, real­ly, real­ly hates com­pe­ti­tion. And for all his grow­ing influ­ence, he’s still got plen­ty of com­pe­ti­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 18, 2021, 4:14 pm
  11. Here’s anoth­er look at the seem­ing­ly ever-grow­ing influ­ence of Peter Thiel over the future of the Repub­li­can Par­ty:

    First, recall that fas­ci­nat­ing Sep­tem­ber 2020 Buz­zFeed piece describ­ing how Thiel appeared to sour on his open spon­sor­ship of the ‘Alt Right’ fol­low­ing Don­ald Trump’s vic­to­ry and the var­i­ous instances of Alt Right fig­ures engag­ing in open­ly racist antic. Thiel was appar­ent­ly upset they could­n’t suc­cess­ful­ly put a kinder, gen­tler face on white nation­al­ism. That appar­ent queasi­ness over overt­ly racist pub­lic rhetoric is part of what makes the fol­low­ing report from The Infor­mant last month about Ari­zona Repub­li­can Sen­ate can­di­date Blake Mas­ters so fas­ci­nat­ing.

    As we’ve seen, Mas­ters hap­pens to be chief oper­at­ing offi­cer for Thiel Cap­i­tal and pres­i­dent of the Thiel Foun­da­tion. Thiel and Mas­ters even co-wrote a book where they ele­vat­ed ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists to the role of super­man who real­ly are tru­ly dif­fer­ent and bet­ter than every­one else. And Thiel has already donat­ed $10 mil­lion to Mas­ter­s’s sen­ate cam­paign. The two are clear­ly extreme­ly close­ly aligned.

    So giv­en Thiel’s appar­ent hes­i­tan­cy over the open embrace of white nation­al­ism, it’s rather inter­est­ing to learn what type of can­di­date Mas­ters is turn­ing out to be. The kind of can­di­date who is clear­ly intent on out-‘dog-whistling’ the rest of the GOP pri­ma­ry pack. Yes, Mas­ters has even earned the praise of VDARE for his bold­ness in decry­ing Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry (CRT) as an “anti-white racism”. As an anony­mous VDARE author wrote, “As for CRT, pret­ty much every Repub­li­can denounces the racial tox­in, but very few call it anti-white,” the blog post said. “Mas­ters is dif­fer­ent.” Yes, the can­di­date most close­ly aligned with Peter Thiel has man­aged to dis­tin­guish him­self from the rest of the GOP by being the most “dif­fer­ent”. Dif­fer­ent by sound­ing the most like VDARE:

    The Infor­mant

    Sen­ate can­di­date Blake Mas­ters com­plains about ‘anti-white racism’
    Mas­ters made the com­ments weeks before launch­ing his U.S. Sen­ate cam­paign.

    Nick R. Mar­tin
    Aug 9, 2020

    Blake Mas­ters, the U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date and right-hand man of bil­lion­aire tech investor Peter Thiel, recent­ly took to the stage at a con­ser­v­a­tive ral­ly in Ari­zona and com­plained about what he described as “anti-white racism” in America’s schools.

    His com­ments came amid a rant about Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry, a bogey­man that con­ser­v­a­tives are increas­ing­ly using as a wedge issue in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elec­tions.

    “All it does is teach kids to iden­ti­fy in racial terms. Right? You are good or bad, depend­ing on what you look like,” Mas­ters told the audi­ence. “At this point it is straight up anti-white racism. I don’t think we’re allowed to say that. But let’s call it what it is. It is tox­ic, and it does not belong in our schools.”

    Mas­ters deliv­ered his com­ments to a most­ly white audi­ence on May 25 dur­ing an event in Phoenix called “America’s Come­back Tour.” The event was host­ed by far-right British politi­cian Nigel Farage and spon­sored by the con­ser­v­a­tive group Free­dom­Works.

    Last month, Mas­ters announced he’s run­ning for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for U.S. Sen­ate in Ari­zona, hop­ing to unseat Demo­c­rat Mark Kel­ly in 2022. His effort is being backed finan­cial­ly by Thiel, who gave $10 mil­lion to a super PAC set up to sup­port Mas­ters.

    The term Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry was unknown to most peo­ple out­side of grad­u­ate schools a year ago, but it has swept through con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics in recent months thanks to a coor­di­nat­ed (and appar­ent­ly fund­ed) effort, which some on the right have admit­ted is designed to put more Repub­li­cans in office in 2022.

    Many on the right claim Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry is a sweep­ing attempt to get white peo­ple to hate them­selves and that it has infil­trat­ed schools, cor­po­ra­tions and even the mil­i­tary. Amid the hys­te­ria, mul­ti­ple GOP-con­trolled states have already banned the the­o­ry from being taught in pub­lic schools. In many cas­es, it has become short­hand for any dis­cus­sion of racism in the U.S., includ­ing the his­to­ry of slav­ery and seg­re­ga­tion.

    In real­i­ty, the the­o­ry is still a some­what obscure attempt to explain why racial dis­par­i­ties exist in the U.S. despite there being laws on the books that ban racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

    Mas­ters played on con­ser­v­a­tive fears dur­ing the Phoenix event. The Stan­ford Law School grad­u­ate paint­ed a dark pic­ture of edu­ca­tion in Amer­i­ca.

    “Unfor­tu­nate­ly it all goes back to the schools,” he said. “Too much of school­ing in Amer­i­ca has become a machine to uproot com­mon sense and to replace it with some­thing much more sin­is­ter. You’ve heard of Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry, I assume, at this point, right? Con­ser­v­a­tives are up in arms about it. And right­ful­ly so. It sounds aca­d­e­m­ic. It sounds fan­cy. It’s not.”

    ...

    Com­plaints of “anti-white” or “reverse” racism were once rel­e­gat­ed to racist ral­lies and online mes­sage boards, but the com­ments from Mas­ters show that such lan­guage is increas­ing­ly becom­ing main­stream.

    Buz­zFeed News pub­lished an inves­ti­ga­tion last year look­ing at Thiel’s ties to far-right extrem­ists. Among oth­er things, the arti­cle showed he has dined with a white nation­al­ist who reg­u­lar­ly writes for the racist web­site VDARE and met with oth­ers involved in the white nation­al­ist move­ment.

    Mas­ters is the chief oper­at­ing offi­cer for Thiel Cap­i­tal and pres­i­dent of the Thiel Foun­da­tion.

    While his cam­paign is still rel­a­tive­ly new, the pol­i­cy posi­tions out­lined on Mas­ters’ web­site show he’s aligned with the far-right. One of the issues he has put front and cen­ter of his cam­paign is a promise to reduce not just ille­gal immi­gra­tion but legal immi­gra­tion as well.

    That posi­tion has already won Mas­ters favor with VDARE, which recent­ly pub­lished a blog post head­lined: “Ariz. GOP Sen­ate Can­di­date Blake Mas­ters Appears To Be Run­ning As An Immi­gra­tion Patri­ot.”

    The anony­mous writer of the blog post was fond of Mas­ters’ posi­tion on immi­gra­tion, but the writer also men­tioned what they saw as anoth­er plus for the U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date: his com­ments about “anti-white racism.”

    The writer not­ed how unusu­al it is to hear a Repub­li­can speak out in such terms.

    “As for CRT, pret­ty much every Repub­li­can denounces the racial tox­in, but very few call it anti-white,” the blog post said. “Mas­ters is dif­fer­ent.”

    ...

    —————

    “Sen­ate can­di­date Blake Mas­ters com­plains about ‘anti-white racism’ ” by Nick R. Mar­tin; The Infor­mant; 08/09/2020

    “Last month, Mas­ters announced he’s run­ning for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for U.S. Sen­ate in Ari­zona, hop­ing to unseat Demo­c­rat Mark Kel­ly in 2022. His effort is being backed finan­cial­ly by Thiel, who gave $10 mil­lion to a super PAC set up to sup­port Mas­ters.

    There’s going to be not dis­tanc­ing from Mas­ters for Thiel. If Mas­ters ends up implod­ing his cam­paign due to too many racist state­ments there’s no way Thiel can avoid the splat­ter. And yet this is 2021, when it does­n’t actu­al­ly appear to be pos­si­ble for GOP pri­ma­ry can­di­dates to embrace VDARE too open­ly, which is pre­sum­ably the rea­son Mas­ters is going to far right con­fer­ences and talk­ing about “anti-white racism”. He wants to win the pri­ma­ry and that’s how you win a GOP pri­ma­ry in 2021. By get­ting the VDARE endorse­ment:

    ...
    Buz­zFeed News pub­lished an inves­ti­ga­tion last year look­ing at Thiel’s ties to far-right extrem­ists. Among oth­er things, the arti­cle showed he has dined with a white nation­al­ist who reg­u­lar­ly writes for the racist web­site VDARE and met with oth­ers involved in the white nation­al­ist move­ment.

    ...

    While his cam­paign is still rel­a­tive­ly new, the pol­i­cy posi­tions out­lined on Mas­ters’ web­site show he’s aligned with the far-right. One of the issues he has put front and cen­ter of his cam­paign is a promise to reduce not just ille­gal immi­gra­tion but legal immi­gra­tion as well.

    That posi­tion has already won Mas­ters favor with VDARE, which recent­ly pub­lished a blog post head­lined: “Ariz. GOP Sen­ate Can­di­date Blake Mas­ters Appears To Be Run­ning As An Immi­gra­tion Patri­ot.”

    The anony­mous writer of the blog post was fond of Mas­ters’ posi­tion on immi­gra­tion, but the writer also men­tioned what they saw as anoth­er plus for the U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date: his com­ments about “anti-white racism.”

    The writer not­ed how unusu­al it is to hear a Repub­li­can speak out in such terms.

    “As for CRT, pret­ty much every Repub­li­can denounces the racial tox­in, but very few call it anti-white,” the blog post said. “Mas­ters is dif­fer­ent.”
    ...

    So has Peter Thiel had a change of heart on the polit­i­cal expe­di­en­cy of open white nation­al­ism? A lot has changed in the GOP between 2017 and 2021. It’s a much more overt­ly white nation­al­ist par­ty just four short years lat­er. White nation­al­ism wrapped in a blan­ket of nar­ra­tives about QAnon, stolen elec­tion, and Chi­na hate. And as we’ve seen, the embrace of the CRT is a strat­e­gy cur­rent­ly endorsed and pro­mot­ed by the Koch net­work of right-wing thank-tanks. The white nation­al­ist griev­ance pol­i­tics at the core of the “anti-white racism” CRT nar­ra­tive real­ly cap­tures the mood of the par­ty, even more now than in 2017. Trump’s defeat, and the stolen elec­tion nar­ra­tive around it, weird­ly solid­i­fied the VDARE world­view in the GOP. So whether or not Thiel would pre­fer that GOP open­ly embrace the pol­i­tics of white nation­al­ism, that’s what hap­pened any­way and he had bet­ter deal with it. And as we can see with the can­di­da­cy of Blake Mas­ters, deal­ing with it isn’t going to be a prob­lem for Thiel.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 20, 2021, 3:59 pm
  12. Here’s a pair of Peter Thiel-relat­ed sto­ries that point towards grow­ing influ­ence for the bil­lion­aire in Ger­many and Aus­tria:

    First, the for­mer right-wing chan­cel­lor of Aus­tria, Sebas­t­ian Kurz just made a pol­i­tics-to-tech career piv­ot. He’s now a “glob­al strate­gist” at Thiel Cap­i­tal.

    Recall the pro­found role Kurz has played in main­stream­ing the Aus­tri­an far right. This is the same politi­cian who was con­sid­ered a ris­ing polit­i­cal star not long ago based in large part on his abil­i­ty to suc­cess­ful­ly ward off the rise of Aus­tri­a’s far right by suc­cess­ful­ly dilut­ing and co-opt­ing anti-immi­gra­tion sen­ti­ments. Kurz then formed a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the far right FPO as a junior part­ner in 2017, cre­at­ing seri­ous con­cerns with Aus­tri­a’s intel­li­gence part­ners over the prospect of Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers tak­ing over Aus­tri­a’s intel­li­gence agen­cies. But in the end, the coali­tion implod­ed fol­low­ing the ‘Ibiza affair’ scan­dal that dam­aged his FPO part­ners, forc­ing Kurz’s par­ty to form a new coali­tion with the Greens in 2019. Note that Kurz lit­er­al­ly called immi­gra­tion as great a threat as cli­mate change in 2020, so if it seemed like a coali­tion with the Greens was an odd fit that was a good guess. In the end, the Green coali­tion part­ners began call­ing for Kurz to resign back in Octo­ber fol­low­ing inves­ti­ga­tions into bribery and cor­rup­tion alle­ga­tions involv­ing Kurz’s rise with­in his own par­ty. Kurz end­ed up resign­ing days lat­er.

    That’s the con­text of Peter Thiel’s deci­sion to hire Kurz as a “glob­al strate­gist”: it’s a career move that just hap­pens to fol­low Kurz’s fall from grace as Aus­tri­a’s right-wing polit­i­cal star.

    The sec­ond Thiel-relat­ed sto­ry also includes a Kurz angle: it turns out Thiel was the unex­pect­ed recent recip­i­ent of a Ger­man award back on Octo­ber 7. The Frank Schirrma­ch­er prize, which hon­ors intel­lec­tu­als, artists and oth­ers for “out­stand­ing achieve­ments in under­stand­ing our cur­rent events.” The Frank Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion was estab­lished in Switzer­land in 2014 to main­tain his lega­cy as one of Ger­many’s lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als. Oh, and it turns out it was none oth­er than Sebas­t­ian Kurz who deliv­ered the lauda­to­ry speech dur­ing the award cer­e­mo­ny. He end­ed up resign­ing under a cloud of scan­dal days lat­er.

    But here’s per­haps the most chill­ing part of this sto­ry: when we look at the state­ment put out by the Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion explain­ing its selec­tion of Thiel, it states that by “dis­re­gard­ing pro­hi­bi­tions on think­ing, he pro­vides intel­lec­tu­al impuls­es and thus enrich­es the cur­rent socio-polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions in a wide vari­ety of fields.” That’s basi­cal­ly polite lan­guage for for describ­ing things like the ‘intel­lec­tu­al dark web’ and the ‘Dark Enlight­en­ment’. So the intel­lec­tu­al God Father of the ‘Alt Right’ was just giv­en one of Ger­man civ­il soci­ety’s high­est awards in cel­e­bra­tion of his cham­pi­oning of the Dark Enlight­en­ment, with Aus­tri­a’s scan­dal-plagued far right-friend­ly Chan­cel­lor deliv­er­ing the acco­lades. It’s hope­ful­ly not the lega­cy Schirrma­ch­er was hop­ing to uphold.

    Ok, first, here’s an arti­cle about Kurz’s new job as one of Thiel’s “glob­al strate­gist”. Who knows what exact­ly he’ll be strate­giz­ing about, but giv­en that the scan­dal that end­ed his polit­i­cal career involved bribery and media cor­rup­tion in order to secure pos­i­tive cov­er­age, Kurz would prob­a­bly be a pret­ty good choice for any jobs that involve a strat­e­gy of cre­at­ing man­u­fac­tured media cov­er­age:

    The Finan­cial Times

    Sebas­t­ian Kurz leaves pol­i­tics to join tech investor Peter Thiel
    For­mer Aus­tri­an chan­cel­lor takes up glob­al strate­gist role at Cal­i­for­nia-based invest­ment com­pa­ny

    Joe Miller in Frank­furt
    Decem­ber 30 2021

    Sebas­t­ian Kurz has piv­ot­ed from pol­i­tics to tech by tak­ing up a posi­tion at Peter Thiel’s Cal­i­for­nia-based invest­ment com­pa­ny after the for­mer Aus­tri­an leader quit in Octo­ber fol­low­ing alle­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion at the heart of his gov­ern­ment.

    The 35-year-old for­mer chan­cel­lor will become a “glob­al strate­gist” for the rightwing billionaire’s busi­ness, Thiel Cap­i­tal, said one per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    The invest­ment vehi­cle has backed a num­ber of diverse start-ups, includ­ing psy­che­delics devel­op­er Atai.

    Kurz, who was once the EU’s youngest elect­ed leader, closed the door on a pre­vi­ous­ly glit­ter­ing polit­i­cal career this month by quit­ting as head of the cen­tre-right Aus­tri­an People’s par­ty, and main­tain­ing he had become the vic­tim of a “witch hunt”.

    Although no for­mal charges have been brought, police had raid­ed min­istries across Vien­na as part of probes into whether Kurz and his allies had used state funds and made fake invoic­es to buy favourable media cov­er­age while he was for­eign min­is­ter between 2013 and 2017.

    Kurz, the for­mer torch­bear­er of Europe’s cen­tre-right, denies all wrong­do­ing.

    Thiel, who is of Ger­man ori­gin, is a big donor to US Repub­li­can can­di­dates’ cam­paigns. He first rose to promi­nence as chief of the pay­ments plat­form Pay­Pal, and went on to invest in Face­book, but moved to the wilder fringes of the tech world by his inter­est in rad­i­cal ideas such as cre­at­ing sov­er­eign ter­ri­to­ry on the high seas.

    ...

    Thiel and Kurz appear to have known each oth­er for years. The two were pic­tured togeth­er in a pho­to post­ed on Kurz’s Twit­ter account dur­ing the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence in 2017. The for­mer chan­cel­lor said the pair had dis­cussed “how #dig­i­tal­iza­tion changes our world”.

    ————

    “Sebas­t­ian Kurz leaves pol­i­tics to join tech investor Peter Thiel” by Joe Miller; The Finan­cial Times; 12/30/2021

    “The 35-year-old for­mer chan­cel­lor will become a “glob­al strate­gist” for the rightwing billionaire’s busi­ness, Thiel Cap­i­tal, said one per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter.”

    So does Sebas­t­ian Kurz actu­al­ly have any­thing to add to Thiel Cap­i­tal’s ‘glob­al strate­gies’? In oth­er words, is this a real invest­ment in Kurz’s human cap­i­tal as a pro­duc­tive financier? Or is this a polit­i­cal invest­ment? An invest­ment in Aus­tri­a’s polit­i­cal scene in the form of pro­vid­ing a gold­en para­chute for a pop­u­lar, if trou­bled, politi­cian? It all looks sleazy, but the par­tic­u­lar nature of the sleaze isn’t entire­ly clear.

    But as we can see with the fol­low­ing arti­cle about Thiel being award­ed the Frank Schirrma­ch­er prize, Thiel’s friend­ly rela­tions with Kurz isn’t a secret. Kurz was lit­er­al­ly days away from resign­ing under a cloud of scan­dal when he gave the speech laud­ing Thiel at the award cer­e­mo­ny:

    Deutsche Welle

    A cul­tur­al prize for tech bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel

    Peter Thiel, the co-founder of Pay­Pal, is receiv­ing an award typ­i­cal­ly giv­en to authors and artists. The hon­or for the Trump sup­port­er is met with crit­i­cism.

    Author Ste­fan Dege
    Date 07.10.2021

    The 2021 Frank Schirrma­ch­er prize is award­ed to the Ger­man-Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel, who gained his for­tune as the co-founder of Pay­Pal and oth­er tech ven­tures.

    The award cer­e­mo­ny is held on Octo­ber 7, at the Berlin offices of the Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung (FAZ).

    Frank Schirrma­ch­er was an author and co-edi­tor of the Ger­man dai­ly news­pa­per.

    Fol­low­ing his death in 2014, the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion was estab­lished in Switzer­land to main­tain his lega­cy as one of Ger­many’s lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als.

    The foun­da­tion hon­ors intel­lec­tu­als, artists and oth­ers for “out­stand­ing achieve­ments in under­stand­ing our cur­rent events.”

    Pre­vi­ous win­ners of the award include renowned authors such as France’s Michel Houelle­becq, Jonathan Franzen from the US or Daniel Kehlmann from Ger­many, as well as Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei.

    It was there­fore sur­pris­ing to see Peter Thiel join the ranks of these per­son­al­i­ties from the cul­tur­al realm.

    A look back at Frank Schirrma­cher’s work per­haps shows some links with the entre­pre­neur and phil­an­thropist.

    A new under­stand­ing of ‘cul­ture’ in news­pa­pers

    Frank Schirrma­ch­er, born in 1959, was the suc­ces­sor of lit­er­ary crit­ic Mar­cel Reich-Ran­ic­ki as the direc­tor of the arts sup­ple­ment of the FAZ news­pa­per.

    He lat­er became one of the five pub­lish­ers of the paper and opened up its feuil­leton sec­tion to a wide range of top­ics — from nat­ur­al sci­ences to the phi­los­o­phy of tech­nol­o­gy and med­ical research.

    Tra­di­tion­al­ly focus­ing on lit­er­ary and art crit­i­cism, the Ger­man con­cept of the feuil­leton was turned into a space for fea­tures, a forum for debates on eth­i­cal and polit­i­cal issues.

    An author of books on soci­ety

    Schirrma­ch­er also wrote sev­er­al books on con­tem­po­rary issues. His 2004 book, Das Methusalem-Kom­plott (The Methuse­lah Plot), dealt with the aging of soci­ety. In Min­i­mum (2006), he asserts that the fam­i­ly is dis­solv­ing in West­ern soci­ety.

    Pay­back from 2009 exam­ines the threats of the dig­i­tal age on soci­ety. In 2013 Schirrma­ch­er pub­lished Ego, his last book. It deals with the nature of inter­na­tion­al finan­cial mar­kets and the excess­es that are caus­ing eco­nom­ic crises.

    As a finan­cial investor involved in the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of the world, Peter Thiel there­fore in some way reflects the ideas pro­mot­ed by Schirrma­ch­er.

    Tech scene star

    As a part­ner in a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm in San Fran­cis­co and pres­i­dent of a hedge fund in New York, he is one of the stars of the tech scene in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

    Thiel, togeth­er with Max Levchin and Elon Musk (Tes­la), found­ed the online pay­ment ser­vice Pay­pal, which they sold in 2002 for $1.5 bil­lion (€1.3 bil­lion).

    He also found­ed and is still chair­man of the big data com­pa­ny Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies, one of the most impor­tant — and con­tro­ver­sial — soft­ware sup­pli­ers to US intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    Thiel was the first out­side investor in Mark Zucker­berg’s Face­book.
    In 2016, Forbes mag­a­zine esti­mat­ed Thiel’s pri­vate for­tune at $2.7 bil­lion.

    Chess and phil­an­thropy

    Thiel was born in Frank­furt, Ger­many on Octo­ber 11, 1967. When he was one year old, his par­ents emi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States. Thiel stud­ied phi­los­o­phy and law at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty in Cal­i­for­nia.

    He speaks Ger­man and trav­els reg­u­lar­ly to Ger­many — keep­ing an eye on Berlin’s start­up scene.

    As a phil­an­thropist, he sup­ports sev­er­al research projects and awards schol­ar­ships to stu­dents.

    Devel­op­ing visions for the future in one of his con­cerns.

    He hopes human­i­ty will one day over­come death. “Most of the dis­eases we have are linked to old age in one way or anoth­er, and con­verse­ly, aging itself can be seen as a kind of dis­ease.” Thiel said in an inter­view with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung news­pa­per in 2019. “Dis­eases can be cured. Is aging real­ly irre­versible, or do we just think it is? So why, sim­ply put, should­n’t we be able to be cured of death?”

    ...

    A Lib­er­tar­i­an Trump sup­port­er

    A self-described Lib­er­tar­i­an, Thiel was the tech scene’s most famous Trump sup­port­er.

    At the 2016 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion, where Thiel was a del­e­gate for Trump, he expressed his sup­port for the real estate mogul: “I build com­pa­nies and I’m sup­port­ing peo­ple who are build­ing new things, from social net­works to rock­et ships,” Thiel said in his con­ven­tion speech. “I’m not a politi­cian. But nei­ther is Don­ald Trump. He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild Amer­i­ca.”

    Back in 2008, he had sup­port­ed con­ser­v­a­tive hard­lin­er Ron Paul in his pres­i­den­tial bid; in 2012, he was Paul’s largest sin­gle donor and also gave mon­ey to the con­ser­v­a­tive pop­ulist Tea Par­ty move­ment.

    In a 2009 essay, Thiel declared that free­dom and democ­ra­cy had become “incom­pat­i­ble.”

    Out­rage on Twit­ter

    Now the con­tro­ver­sial investor is receiv­ing the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Prize.

    “By award­ing Thiel the prize, his com­pre­hen­sive work in ana­lyz­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties and risks of tech­no­log­i­cal progress will be hon­ored,” said the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion in a state­ment, adding that by “dis­re­gard­ing pro­hi­bi­tions on think­ing, he pro­vides intel­lec­tu­al impuls­es and thus enrich­es the cur­rent socio-polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions in a wide vari­ety of fields.”

    But when the foun­da­tion revealed the name of the prizewin­ner in August, many social media observers dis­ap­proved.

    “As some­one who knew Frank Schirrma­ch­er — and his views on Sil­i­con Val­ley — rather well, I’m quite appalled that a prize in his hon­or has been giv­en to Peter Thiel. What cos­mic injus­tice is that?” tweet­ed author and pub­lish­er Evge­ny Moro­zov.

    “Peter Thiel is a destruc­tive fig­ure of the present. This man has now been award­ed the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Prize endowed with 20,000 francs (€18,500 / $21,500),” point­ed out lit­er­ary researcher Johannes Franzen in anoth­er tweet.

    Anoth­er point of crit­i­cism was that Aus­tri­an Chan­cel­lor Sebas­t­ian Kurz, who is cur­rent­ly under inves­ti­ga­tion for media bribery, was cho­sen to deliv­er the lauda­to­ry speech.

    ————

    “A cul­tur­al prize for tech bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel” by Ste­fan Dege; Deutsche Welle; 07/10/2021

    “Anoth­er point of crit­i­cism was that Aus­tri­an Chan­cel­lor Sebas­t­ian Kurz, who is cur­rent­ly under inves­ti­ga­tion for media bribery, was cho­sen to deliv­er the lauda­to­ry speech.”

    Again, Kurz’s speech at this Octo­ber 7 cer­e­mo­ny was lit­er­al­ly days before Kurz resigned in scan­dal. A few months lat­er, Kurz is going to work for Thiel. It’s a small cor­rupt world.

    But note the tru­ly chill­ing descrip­tion giv­en by the Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion explain­ing the ratio­nale for award­ing Thiel this prize: by “dis­re­gard­ing pro­hi­bi­tions on think­ing, he pro­vides intel­lec­tu­al impuls­es and thus enrich­es the cur­rent socio-polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions in a wide vari­ety of fields.” In oth­er words, this award is a cel­e­bra­tion of Thiel’s embrace of the ‘Red Pill’ and ‘Alt Right’ world­views. The Foun­da­tion’s lan­guage was just a polite way of phras­ing that under­ly­ing Alt Right sen­ti­ment:

    ...
    Fol­low­ing his death in 2014, the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion was estab­lished in Switzer­land to main­tain his lega­cy as one of Ger­many’s lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als.

    The foun­da­tion hon­ors intel­lec­tu­als, artists and oth­ers for “out­stand­ing achieve­ments in under­stand­ing our cur­rent events.”

    ...

    “By award­ing Thiel the prize, his com­pre­hen­sive work in ana­lyz­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties and risks of tech­no­log­i­cal progress will be hon­ored,” said the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion in a state­ment, adding that by “dis­re­gard­ing pro­hi­bi­tions on think­ing, he pro­vides intel­lec­tu­al impuls­es and thus enrich­es the cur­rent socio-polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions in a wide vari­ety of fields.”

    But when the foun­da­tion revealed the name of the prizewin­ner in August, many social media observers dis­ap­proved.

    “As some­one who knew Frank Schirrma­ch­er — and his views on Sil­i­con Val­ley — rather well, I’m quite appalled that a prize in his hon­or has been giv­en to Peter Thiel. What cos­mic injus­tice is that?” tweet­ed author and pub­lish­er Evge­ny Moro­zov.

    “Peter Thiel is a destruc­tive fig­ure of the present. This man has now been award­ed the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Prize endowed with 20,000 francs (€18,500 / $21,500),” point­ed out lit­er­ary researcher Johannes Franzen in anoth­er tweet.
    ...

    Keep in mind that Frank Schirrma­ch­er died in 2014. It’s not as if the guy lived in a dif­fer­ent age. It should­n’t be that dif­fi­cult for those who knew him to assess whether or not he would have actu­al­ly approved of award­ing Thiel this prize. And those who knew him seem to be claim­ing he would be quite appalled. So why did the Frank Schirrma­ch­er Foun­da­tion award this prize to some­one who seems to be the antithe­sis of the civ­il soci­ety-build­ing lega­cy Schirrma­ch­er was try­ing to pre­serve? That’s one of the big ques­tions raised by this sto­ry. We’ve long watched Thiel accrue pow­er and influ­ence some­one with his char­ac­ter should have nev­er been allowed to achieve. And now he’s being giv­en civic awards cel­e­brat­ing that awful influ­ence. It’s a dark trend.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 3, 2022, 5:35 pm
  13. Now that Elon Musk’s pur­chase of Twit­ter has Alt Right fel­low trav­el­ers tweet­ing with glee, it’s worth not­ing a recent piece in Van­i­ty Fair about the grow­ing influ­ence of what is now being termed the New Right with­in the US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. Because as the arti­cle makes clear, the ‘New Right’ is basi­cal­ly just a rebrand­ing of the ‘Alt Right’. A rebrand­ing and fur­ther main­stream­ing of the Alt Right with­in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    As we’re going to see, it’s none of oth­er that Cur­tis ‘Men­cius Mold­bug’ Yarvin who is scene as the ide­o­log­i­cal god­fa­ther of this New Right. And Yarvin is still push­ing the memes around “The Cathe­dral”, which is basi­cal­ly a meme that attempts to define the entire­ty of the US polit­i­cal and media estab­lish­ment as a ‘lib­er­al’ con­struct dom­i­nat­ed by known left-wing gov­ern­ment bureau­crats, aca­d­e­mics, and Big Tech bil­lion­aires. Con­ser­v­a­tives have long had zero pow­er and are basi­cal­ly a sub­ju­gat­ed group under this world­view. It’s like a gen­er­al­ized ver­sion of the nar­ra­tives around Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry that have tak­en hold on the right.

    One of the pri­ma­ry gath­er­ings for this move­ment is the annu­al Nation­al Con­ser­vatism Con­fer­ence, attend­ed this year by two GOP sen­ate can­di­dates who have tak­en pains to asso­ciate them­selves with this strain of con­ser­vatism: JD Vance and Blake Mas­ters. As we’ve seen, both can­di­dates are very close to Peter Thiel and have receive heavy finan­cial back­ing from Thiel. As we’ll see, it turns out Mas­ters and Vance aren’t just close to Thiel. They’re also friends with Yarvin. And as is evi­dent in the fol­low­ing long Van­i­ty Fair piece, they’re appar­ent­ly more than hap­py to share with the world the fact that they are mem­bers of this New Right and friends with fig­ures like Yarvin.

    On one lev­el, it’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing Mas­ters and Vance are will­ing to be so open with the media about their close asso­ci­a­tion with fig­ures like Yarvin and this rebrand­ed Alt Right move­ment. Such asso­ci­a­tions are only going to be help­ful in the con­text of a com­pet­i­tive GOP pri­ma­ry. Recall how Mas­ters — the chief oper­at­ing offi­cer for Thiel Cap­i­tal and pres­i­dent of the Thiel Foun­da­tion — recent­ly won the praise of VDARE with his anti-immi­grant stances. Also recall how both Vance and Mas­ters have been aggres­sive­ly push­ing nar­ra­tives about stolen elec­tions (with Mark Zucker­berg’s help, LOL!). JD Vance just received Don­ald Trump’s endorse­ment in the GOP pri­ma­ry. Being New Right is kind of the ‘new cool’ on the right.

    And that’s real­ly the larg­er sto­ry here: we’re now at a point where what were clear­ly Alt Right ideas just a few years ago are being rebrand­ed as a kind of rebel­lious ‘anti-CRT’ con­ser­v­a­tive ‘new cool’ and this appears to the core of the PR thrust going on here. It’s the lat­est attempt to chan­nel white anx­i­ety and polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness fatigue and use that to effec­tive­ly main­stream Alt Right ideas as a patri­ot­ic rebel­lion against oppres­sive left-wing intel­lec­tu­al total­i­tar­i­an­ism. And this move­ment is being led by a group of wealthy con­ser­v­a­tives with Ivy League degrees, bankrolled by bil­lion­aires like Thiel, push­ing the idea that the cul­ture war com­plaints they’re fix­at­ed on is the class war in Amer­i­ca. That’s lit­er­al­ly the lan­guage JD Vance uses when he asserts that “cul­ture war is class war­fare”. One one lev­el, this is all high­ly pre­dictable and basi­cal­ly an exten­sion of the trends we’ve seen for years. But on anoth­er lev­el it’s hard not to be dis­turbed by the fact that this absurd­ly cyn­i­cal nar­ra­tive financed by some of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er peo­ple in the US is prob­a­bly going to be the dom­i­nant right-wing nar­ra­tive across the media-land­scape for years to come.

    Oh, and JD Vance also dis­closed that he feels a new Cae­sar-like fig­ure who assumed semi-dic­ta­to­r­i­al pow­ers will be nec­es­sary to purge the US estab­lish­ment of its lib­er­al infec­tion. Yep. Vance thinks the next GOP pres­i­dent needs to fire every left-wing in gov­ern­ment and replace them with “our peo­ple”, which sounds a lot like Steve Ban­non’s calls for the cre­ation of an army of bureau­crat­ic “shock troops” ready to man all posts in gov­ern­ment. And when the courts inter­vene on these mass fir­ings, Vance sug­gests this pres­i­dent should just ignore them and pro­ceed. Vance then pre­dict­ed Trump will run again in 2024. So it was basi­cal­ly a pre­emp­tive endorse­ment of Trump’s next insur­rec­tionary scheme. Don’t for­get, he’s been try­ing to get Trump’s endorse­ment which he only recent­ly got a cou­ple days ago. It’s a cru­cial part of the con­text of the ongo­ing main­stream­ing of the Alt Right: this main­stream­ing is now tak­ing place in the con­text of the GOP’s open embrace of insur­rec­tionary pol­i­tics, so ‘drop­ping the mask’ is implic­it­ly going to entail endors­ing the next insur­rec­tion:

    Van­i­ty Fair

    Inside the New Right, Where Peter Thiel Is Plac­ing His Biggest Bets
    They’re not MAGA. They’re not QAnon. Cur­tis Yarvin and the ris­ing right are craft­ing a dif­fer­ent strain of con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics.

    By James Pogue
    April 20, 2022

    It was Hal­loween in Orlan­do, and we had piled into a car to make a short trip from the Hilton to an after-par­ty down the road, to wind up the first night of the lat­est edi­tion of a gath­er­ing called the Nation­al Con­ser­vatism Con­fer­ence. For at least many of the young peo­ple, the actu­al busi­ness of con­fer­ence going seemed to be beside the point, a ges­ture at how we used to con­duct pol­i­tics back before life in Amer­i­ca spun out of con­trol. There were jokes, or maybe they were seri­ous ques­tions, about whether one of the guys tag­ging along with us was a fed. I sur­rep­ti­tious­ly made a few search­es of the name he’d giv­en me and was sur­prised when I couldn’t find a sin­gle plau­si­ble hit—though that could have been because he was a hyper-secret cryp­to type; there were some of those float­ing around. Not that any­one cared. These were peo­ple who were used to guard­ing their words.

    “Don’t fu ck me here,” a dark-haired woman named Aman­da Mil­ius said to me—as she some­what impe­ri­ous­ly dealt with a guy at the door who was skep­ti­cal about let­ting a reporter into the party—“and say we’re all in here sac­ri­fic­ing kids to Moloch. We’re just the last nor­mal peo­ple, hang­ing out at the end of the world.”

    I had met Mil­ius out­side the Hilton when I asked for a cig­a­rette, and she began to chap­er­one me around, telling peo­ple who eyed my press pass that I was there to pro­file her as an up-and-com­ing female direc­tor who, she said, had attract­ed more Ama­zon streams than any woman ever with her first doc­u­men­tary, a coun­ternar­ra­tive about Rus­si­a­gate. “Annie Lei­bovitz is still sched­ul­ing the pho­to shoot,” she kept say­ing. In this world, almost every word is lay­ered in so much irony that you can nev­er be sure what to take seri­ous­ly or not, per­haps a semi­con­scious defense mech­a­nism for peo­ple con­vinced that almost every­one is out to get them.

    “Oh, fu ck,” she said as we walked into a small ball­room where the par­ty was already under­way. The room was piti­ful­ly qui­et, lit in strip-club red, and the sparse crowd was almost entire­ly male, with a cash bar off in the cor­ner that seemed unable to pro­duce drinks fast enough to buoy the mood. “We have a thing we say,” she said. “ ‘This is what the peo­ple at The Wash­ing­ton Post think we’re doing.’ Well, this is exact­ly what the peo­ple at The Wash­ing­ton Post think we’re doing.”

    A port­ly guy run­ning for Con­gress in Geor­gia made his way to the front of the room to give a speech heavy on MAGA buzz­words and florid expres­sions of feal­ty to Don­ald Trump.

    “This is sad,” Mil­ius said. No one cheered or even seemed inter­est­ed. But this was not Trump­world, even if many of the peo­ple in the room saw Trump as a use­ful tool. And these par­ties aren’t always so lame. Nat­Con, as this con­fer­ence is known, has grown into a big-tent gath­er­ing for a whole range of peo­ple who want to push the Amer­i­can right in a more eco­nom­i­cal­ly pop­ulist, cul­tur­al­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, assertive­ly nation­al­ist direc­tion. It draws every­one from Israel hawks to fusty pale­o­con pro­fes­sors to main­stream fig­ures like Ted Cruz and Mar­co Rubio. But most of the media atten­tion that the con­fer­ence attracts focus­es on a cohort of rosy young blaz­er-wear­ing activists and writers—a crop of peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing the Amer­i­can right’s “rad­i­cal young intel­lec­tu­als,” as a head­line in The New Repub­lic would soon put it, or conservatism’s “ter­ri­fy­ing future,” as David Brooks called them in The Atlantic.

    But the peo­ple these pieces describe, who made up most of the par­ty­go­ers around me, were only the most but­toned-up seam of a much larg­er and stranger polit­i­cal fer­ment, bur­bling up main­ly with­in America’s young and well-edu­cat­ed elite, part of an intra-media class info-war. The pod­cast­ers, bro-ish anony­mous Twit­ter posters, online philoso­phers, artists, and amor­phous scen­esters in this world are var­i­ous­ly known as “dis­si­dents,” “neo-reac­tionar­ies,” “post-left­ists,” or the “het­ero­dox” fringe—though they’re all often grouped for con­ve­nience under the head­ing of America’s New Right. They have a wild­ly diverse set of polit­i­cal back­grounds, with influ­ences rang­ing from 17th-cen­tu­ry Jaco­bite roy­al­ists to Marx­ist cul­tur­al crit­ics to so-called reac­tionary fem­i­nists to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczyn­s­ki, whom they some­times refer to with semi-iron­ic affec­tion as Uncle Ted. Which is to say that this New Right is not a part of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment as most peo­ple in Amer­i­ca would under­stand it. It’s bet­ter described as a tan­gled set of frame­works for cri­tiquing the sys­tems of pow­er and pro­pa­gan­da that most peo­ple read­ing this prob­a­bly think of as “the way the world is.” And one point shapes all of it: It is a project to over­throw the thrust of progress, at least such as lib­er­als under­stand the word.

    This world­view, these world­views, run counter to the Amer­i­can nar­ra­tive of the last century—that eco­nom­ic growth and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion are inevitably lead­ing us toward a bet­ter future. It’s a posi­tion that has become qui­et­ly edgy and cool in new tech out­posts like Mia­mi and Austin, and in down­town Man­hat­tan, where New Right–ish pol­i­tics are in, and sig­ni­fiers like a demure cross neck­lace have become mark­ers of a trans­gres­sive chic. No one is lead­ing this move­ment, but it does have key fig­ures.

    One is Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire who helped fund Nat­Con and who had just giv­en the conference’s open­ing address. Thiel has also fund­ed things like the edgelordy and post-left–inflected New People’s Cin­e­ma film fes­ti­val, which end­ed its week­long run of par­ties and screen­ings in Man­hat­tan just a few days before Nat­Con began. He’s long been a big donor to Repub­li­can polit­i­cal can­di­dates, but in recent years Thiel has grown increas­ing­ly involved in the pol­i­tics of this younger and weird­er world—becoming some­thing like a nefar­i­ous god­fa­ther or a genial rich uncle, depend­ing on your per­spec­tive. Pod­cast­ers and art-world fig­ures now joke about their hope to get so-called Thiel­bucks. His most sig­nif­i­cant recent out­lays have been to two young Sen­ate can­di­dates who are deeply enmeshed in this scene and influ­enced by its intel­lec­tu­al cur­rents: Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy author J.D. Vance, run­ning for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in Ohio, and Blake Mas­ters in Ari­zona.

    Thiel has giv­en more than $10 mil­lion to super PACs sup­port­ing the men’s can­di­da­cies, and both are per­son­al­ly close to him. Vance is a for­mer employ­ee of Thiel’s Mithril Cap­i­tal, and Mas­ters, until recent­ly the COO of Thiel’s so-called “fam­i­ly office,” also ran the Thiel Foun­da­tion, which has become increas­ing­ly inter­twined with this New Right ecosys­tem. These three—Thiel, Vance, Masters—are all friends with Cur­tis Yarvin, a 48-year-old ex-pro­gram­mer and blog­ger who has done more than any­one to artic­u­late the world his­tor­i­cal cri­tique and pop­u­lar­ize the key terms of the New Right. You’ll often hear peo­ple in this world—again under many lay­ers of irony—call him things like Lord Yarvin, or Our Prophet.

    I was look­ing around the par­ty for Vance, who hadn’t arrived yet, when Mil­ius nudged me and point­ed to a table off to our left. “Why is it that when­ev­er I see Cur­tis, he’s sur­round­ed by a big table of incels?” she asked with appar­ent fond­ness. I spot­ted Yarvin, a slight, bespec­ta­cled man with long dark hair, drink­ing a glass of wine with a crowd that includ­ed Josh Ham­mer, the nation­al conservatism–minded young opin­ion edi­tor of Newsweek, and Michael Anton, a Machi­avel­li schol­ar and for­mer spokesman for Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council—and a promi­nent pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al­iz­er of the Trump move­ment. Oth­er lumi­nar­ies afoot for the con­fer­ence includ­ed Dig­ni­ty author Chris Arnade, who seemed slight­ly unsure about the whole Nat­Con thing, and Sohrab Ahmari, the for­mer opin­ion edi­tor of the New York Post, now a cofounder and edi­tor at the new mag­a­zine Com­pact, whose vision is, accord­ing to its mis­sion state­ment, “shaped by our desire for a strong social-demo­c­ra­t­ic state that defends community—local and nation­al, famil­ial and religious—against a lib­er­tine left and a lib­er­tar­i­an right.” It is a very of-the-moment project.

    Polit­i­cal reporters, at least the ones who have both­ered to write about Yarvin, have often dis­missed him as a kook with a read­er­ship made up most­ly of lone­ly inter­net weirdos, fas­cists, or both. But to ignore him is to under­es­ti­mate how Yarvin’s ideas, or at least ideas in con­ver­sa­tion with his, have become foun­da­tion­al to a whole polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al scene that goes much deep­er than any­thing you’d learn from the pan­els and speech­es at an event like Nat­Con. Or how those ideas are going to shape the future of the Amer­i­can right, whether or not Vance and Mas­ters win their Sen­ate pri­maries. I intro­duced myself, and soon Mil­ius and I were out­side smok­ing as Yarvin and I chat­ted about whether he’d be will­ing to talk to me on the record.

    Peo­ple often strug­gle with what to make of Thiel’s involve­ment in this ecosys­tem. Last year the jour­nal­ist Max Chafkin pub­lished a biog­ra­phy of Thiel, titled The Con­trar­i­an, in which he described Yarvin as the “house polit­i­cal philoso­pher” for a net­work often called the Thiel­verse. The book focus­es heav­i­ly on Thiel’s polit­i­cal maneu­ver­ings, describ­ing how he evolved from being a hyper-lib­er­tar­i­an to some­one who now makes com­mon cause with nation­al­ists and pop­ulists. And it explains how Thiel helped both Cruz and Josh Haw­ley on their paths to the Sen­ate. The Con­trar­i­an ends with a dark pic­ture of the bil­lion­aire try­ing to extend his polit­i­cal reach ever more overt­ly by fund­ing and shep­herd­ing the cam­paigns of Mas­ters and Vance. “Mas­ters and Vance are dif­fer­ent from Haw­ley and Cruz,” Chafkin writes; the for­mer two are “exten­sions” of Thiel.

    This is only part­ly true. It would be just as accu­rate to say that Thiel has been influ­enced by the intel­lec­tu­al cur­rents and polit­i­cal cri­tiques of the New Right that he’s now help­ing to sup­port. Many of these peo­ple are friend­ly with Thiel, or admire him, but are by no means behold­en to him. And many of them hold views that would seem to make Thiel, a tech oli­garch cur­rent­ly worth around $8 bil­lion who recent­ly resigned from the Meta—née Facebook—board of direc­tors, their nat­ur­al ene­my.

    This New Right is heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed by peo­ple with grad­u­ate degrees, so there’s a lot of debate about who is in it and whether or not it even exists. At one end are the Nat­Cons, post-lib­er­als, and tra­di­tion­al­ist fig­ures like Bene­dict Option author Rod Dreher, who envi­sion a con­ser­vatism rein­vig­o­rat­ed by an embrace of local­ist val­ues, reli­gious iden­ti­ty, and an active role for the state in pro­mot­ing every­thing from mar­riage to envi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion. But there’s also a high­ly online set of Sub­stack writ­ers, pod­cast­ers, and anony­mous Twit­ter posters—“our true intel­lec­tu­al elite,” as one pod­cast­er describes them. This group encom­pass­es every­one from rich cryp­to bros and tech exec­u­tives to back-to-the-lan­ders to dis­af­fect­ed mem­bers of the Amer­i­can intel­lec­tu­al class, like Up in the Air author Wal­ter Kirn, whose ful­mi­na­tions against group­think and tech­no-author­i­tar­i­an­ism have made him an unlike­ly cham­pi­on to the dis­si­dent right and het­ero­dox fringe. But they share a the basic world­view: that indi­vid­u­al­ist lib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy, increas­ing­ly bureau­crat­ic gov­ern­ments, and big tech are all com­bin­ing into a world that is at once tyran­ni­cal, chaot­ic, and devoid of the sys­tems of val­ue and moral­i­ty that give human life rich­ness and meaning—as Blake Mas­ters recent­ly put it, a “dystopi­an hell-world.”

    Kirn didn’t want to put a label on this move­ment, describ­ing it as a “frac­tious fam­i­ly of dis­senters” when I called him at his home in Montana—“a some­what new, loose coali­tion of peo­ple whose major con­cern is that we not end up in a top-down con­trolled state.” He told me he didn’t con­sid­er him­self right wing and found some of the anti­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic ideas he heard expressed in this sphere to be “per­son­al­ly chill­ing.” But he described it as a zone of exper­i­men­ta­tion and free expres­sion of a kind that was now closed off in America’s lib­er­al main­stream. “They seem to want a war,” he said. “The last thing I want is some kind of defin­i­tive ide­o­log­i­cal war which leaves out the het­ero­dox, com­pli­cat­ed, and almost naive­ly open spir­it of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.”

    And the fer­ment is start­ing to get noticed. “I think that’s a real­ly good sign,” one of the hosts of the dis­si­dent-right pod­cast The Fed­post said recent­ly, dis­cussing how Tuck­er Carl­son had just quot­ed a tweet from one of their guests. “This is a kind of bur­geon­ing sect of thought,” he went on, “and it’s caus­ing peo­ple who are in posi­tions of larg­er influ­ence and rel­a­tive pow­er to actu­al­ly have to start look­ing into it.”

    Vance sits some­where in between these two tendencies—at 37, he’s a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who is young enough to be exposed to the dis­si­dent online cur­rents. But he’s also shaped by the most deeply tra­di­tion­al­ist think­ing of the Amer­i­can right. He is friends with Yarvin, whom he open­ly cites as a polit­i­cal influ­ence, and with Dreher, who was there when Vance was bap­tized into the Catholic Church in 2019. I’d been writ­ing about mili­tias and right-wing stir­rings in the rur­al West for years, but I didn’t real­ly under­stand how this alche­my worked until I first met him last July. I’d gone back to Ohio to see my uncle, who was dying of can­cer. Vance and I both grew up around Cincin­nati, immersed in a cul­ture of white rur­al migrants who had come from coal­fields and farm towns to look for work in the cities of the Mid­west. We had met as a kind of experiment—I was going to be in town any­way, and because my uncle was sick, I was think­ing a lot about the place and what it meant to me. On a whim, I asked an edi­tor at a con­ser­v­a­tive mag­a­zine if I could write some­thing from the per­spec­tive of a skep­ti­cal left­ist. Vance sug­gest­ed that we meet at a din­er where my dad had often tak­en me as a kid. He was bare­ly reg­is­ter­ing in the polls at the time.

    Vance believes that a well-edu­cat­ed and cul­tur­al­ly lib­er­al Amer­i­can elite has great­ly ben­e­fit­ed from glob­al­iza­tion, the finan­cial­iza­tion of our econ­o­my, and the grow­ing pow­er of big tech. This has led an Ivy League intel­lec­tu­al and man­age­ment class—a qua­si-aris­toc­ra­cy he calls “the regime”—to adopt a set of eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al inter­ests that direct­ly oppose those of peo­ple in places like Mid­dle­town, Ohio, where he grew up. In the Van­cian view, this class has no stake in what peo­ple on the New Right often call the “real economy”—the farm and fac­to­ry jobs that once sus­tained mid­dle-class life in Mid­dle Amer­i­ca. This is a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between New Right fig­ures like Vance and the Rea­gan­ite right-wingers of their par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion. To Vance—and he’s said this—culture war is class war­fare.

    Vance recent­ly told an inter­view­er, “I got­ta be hon­est with you, I don’t real­ly care what hap­pens to Ukraine,” a flick at the fact that he thinks the Amer­i­can-led glob­al order is as much about enrich­ing defense con­trac­tors and think-tank types as it is about defend­ing America’s inter­ests. “I do care about the fact that in my com­mu­ni­ty right now the lead­ing cause of death among 18- to 45-year-olds is Mex­i­can fen­tanyl.” His crit­i­cisms of big tech as “ene­mies of West­ern civ­i­liza­tion” often get lost in the run of Repub­li­can out­rage over Trump being kicked off Twit­ter and Face­book, though they go much deep­er than this. Vance believes that the regime has sold an illu­sive sto­ry that con­sumer gad­gets and social media are con­stant­ly mak­ing our lives bet­ter, even as wages stag­nate and tech­nol­o­gy feeds an epi­dem­ic of depres­sion.

    I wrote a piece that came across as crit­i­cal of him. It expressed my deep hope­less­ness about the future of Amer­i­ca. I fig­ured he’d want noth­ing more to do with me. But the morn­ing it was pub­lished he sent me a short, heart­felt email. He said that he’d been a bit “pained” to read in the piece that my par­ents dis­liked him but said he’d like to talk more. “I don’t see you as a mem­ber of the elite because I see you as inde­pen­dent of their ide­o­log­i­cal stric­tures and incen­tives,” he wrote. “But maybe I’m just say­ing that because I like you.”

    “Despair,” he signed off, “serves the regime.”

    Part of why peo­ple have trou­ble describ­ing this New Right is because it’s a bunch of peo­ple who believe that the sys­tem that orga­nizes our soci­ety and gov­ern­ment, which most of us think of as nor­mal, is actu­al­ly bizarre and insane. Which nat­u­ral­ly makes them look bizarre and insane to peo­ple who think this sys­tem is nor­mal. You’ll hear these peo­ple talk about our glob­al­ized con­sumerist soci­ety as “clown world.” You’ll often hear the world­view expressed by our media and intel­lec­tu­al class described as “the matrix” or the “Min­istry of Truth,” as Thiel described it in his open­ing keynote speech to Nat­Con. It can be con­fus­ing to turn on some­thing like the influ­en­tial under­ground pod­cast Good Ol Boyz and hear a fig­ure like Anton talk to two auto­di­dact South­ern gamers about the make­up of the regime, if only because most peo­ple read­ing this prob­a­bly don’t think of Amer­i­ca as the kind of place that has a regime at all. But that’s because, as many peo­ple in this world would argue, we’ve been so effec­tive­ly pro­pa­gan­dized that we can’t see how the sys­tem of pow­er around us real­ly works.

    This is not a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry like QAnon, which pre­sup­pos­es that there are sys­tems of pow­er at work that nor­mal peo­ple don’t see. This is an idea that the peo­ple who work in our sys­tems of pow­er are so obtuse that they can’t even see that they’re part of a con­spir­a­cy.

    “The fun­da­men­tal premise of lib­er­al­ism,” Yarvin told me, “is that there is this inex­orable march toward progress. I dis­agree with that premise.” He believes that this premise under­pins a mas­sive frame­work of pow­er. “My job,” as he puts it, “is to wake peo­ple up from the Tru­man Show.”

    ...

    Yarvin has a pret­ty con­de­scend­ing view of the main­stream media: “They’re just preda­tors,” he has said, who have to make a liv­ing attack­ing peo­ple like him. “They just need to eat.” He doesn’t usu­al­ly deal with main­stream mag­a­zines and wrote that he’d been “ambushed” at the last Nat­Con, in 2019, by a reporter for Harper’s—where I also write—who made him out to be a bit of a loon and pre­dict­ed that the Nat­Cons’ pop­ulist pro­gram would soon be “stripped of its parts” by the cor­po­rate-mind­ed Repub­li­can estab­lish­ment.

    But the winds are shift­ing. He told me about how he’d gone to read poet­ry in New York recent­ly, at the Thiel-fund­ed NPC fest. “A bunch of lit kids showed up,” he said, grin­ning. I had grown into adult­hood in the New York lit-kid world; even a few years ago, there was no ques­tion that any­thing like this could have hap­pened. But now Yarvin is a cult hero to many in the ultra­hip crowd that you’ll often hear referred to as the “down­town scene.” “I don’t even think antifa both­ered show­ing up,” Yarvin said. “What would they do? It was an art par­ty.”

    Yarvin had asked his new girl­friend, Lydia Lau­ren­son, a 37-year-old founder of a pro­gres­sive mag­a­zine, to vet me. The rad­i­cal right turn her life had tak­en cre­at­ed com­pli­ca­tions.

    “One of my house­mates was like—‘I don’t know if I want Cur­tis in our house,’ ” she told me. “And I’m like, ‘Okay, that makes sense. I under­stand why you’re say­ing that.’ ”

    Lau­ren­son had been a well-known blog­ger and activist in the BDSM scene back when Yarvin was the cen­tral ear­ly fig­ure in a world of “neo-reac­tionary” writ­ers, pub­lish­ing his poet­ry and polit­i­cal the­o­ry on the Blog­ger site under the name Men­cius Mold­bug.

    As Mold­bug, Yarvin wrote about race-based IQ dif­fer­ences, and in an ear­ly post, titled “Why I Am Not a White Nation­al­ist,” he defend­ed read­ing and link­ing to white nation­al­ist writ­ing. He told me he’d pur­sued those ear­ly writ­ings in a spir­it of “open inquiry,” though Yarvin also open­ly acknowl­edged in the post that some of his read­ers seemed to be white nation­al­ists. Some of Yarvin’s writ­ing from then is so rad­i­cal­ly right wing that it almost has to be read to be believed, like the time he cri­tiqued the attacks by the Nor­we­gian far-right ter­ror­ist Anders Behring Breivik—who killed 77 peo­ple, includ­ing dozens of chil­dren at a youth camp—not on the grounds that ter­ror­ism is wrong but because the killings wouldn’t do any­thing effec­tive to over­throw what Yarvin called Norway’s “com­mu­nist” gov­ern­ment. He argued that Nel­son Man­dela, once head of the mil­i­tary wing of the African Nation­al Con­gress, had endorsed ter­ror tac­tics and polit­i­cal mur­der against oppo­nents, and said any­one who claimed “St. Man­dela” was more inno­cent than Breivik might have “a moth­er you’d like to fu ck.”

    He’s tem­pered him­self in mid­dle age—he now says he has a rule nev­er to “say any­thing unnec­es­sar­i­ly con­tro­ver­sial, or go out of my way to be provoca­tive for no rea­son.” Many lib­er­als who hear him talk would prob­a­bly ques­tion how strict­ly he fol­lows this rule, but even in his Mold­bug days, most of his con­tro­ver­sial writ­ings were couched in thick­ets of irony and metaphor, a mode of speech that younger pod­cast­ers and Twit­ter per­son­al­i­ties on the high­ly online right have adopted—a way to avoid get­ting kicked off tech plat­forms or hav­ing their words quot­ed by lib­er­al jour­nal­ists.

    He con­sid­ers him­self a reac­tionary, not just a conservative—he thinks it is impos­si­ble for an Ivy League–educated per­son to real­ly be a con­ser­v­a­tive. He has con­sis­tent­ly argued that con­ser­v­a­tives waste their time and polit­i­cal ener­gy on fights over issues like gay mar­riage or crit­i­cal race the­o­ry, because lib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy holds sway in the impor­tant insti­tu­tions of pres­tige media and academia—an inter­twined nexus he calls “the Cathe­dral.” He devel­oped a the­o­ry to explain the fact that Amer­i­ca has lost its so-called state capac­i­ty, his expla­na­tion for why it so often seems that it is not actu­al­ly capa­ble of gov­ern­ing any­more: The pow­er of the exec­u­tive branch has slow­ly devolved to an oli­garchy of the edu­cat­ed who care more about com­pet­ing for sta­tus with­in the sys­tem than they do about America’s nation­al inter­est.

    No one directs this sys­tem, and hard­ly any­one who par­tic­i­pates in it believes that it’s a sys­tem at all. Some­one like me who has made a career of writ­ing about mili­tias and extrem­ist groups might go about my work think­ing that all I do is try to tell impor­tant sto­ries and hon­est­ly describe polit­i­cal upheaval. But with­in the Cathe­dral, the best way for me to get big assign­ments and win atten­tion is to iden­ti­fy and attack what seem like threats against the estab­lished order, which includes nation­al­ists, antigov­ern­ment types, or peo­ple who refuse to obey the opin­ions of the Cathedral’s experts on issues like vac­cine man­dates, in as alarm­ing a way as I pos­si­bly can. This cycle becomes self-rein­forc­ing and has been sent into hyper­drive by Twit­ter and Face­book, because the stuff that com­pels peo­ple to click on arti­cles or share clips of a pro­fes­sor tends to affirm their world­view, or fright­en them, or both at the same time. The more atten­tion you gain in the Cathe­dral sys­tem, the more you can influ­ence opin­ion and gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy. Jour­nal­ists and aca­d­e­mics and thinkers of any kind now live in a des­per­ate race for attention—and in Yarvin’s view, this is all real­ly a nev­er-end­ing bid for influ­ence, serv­ing the inter­ests of our oli­garchi­cal regime. So I may think I write for a liv­ing. But to Yarvin, what I actu­al­ly do is more like a weird com­bi­na­tion of intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing and pro­pa­gan­diz­ing. Which is why no one I was talk­ing to at Nat­Con real­ly thought it would be pos­si­ble for me to write a fair piece about them.

    You won’t hear peo­ple use the Cathe­dral term a lot in pub­lic, although right-wing Twit­ter lit up with delight when Yarvin sketched the con­cept on Tuck­er Carlson’s Fox Nation show last Sep­tem­ber. Peo­ple who’ve opened their eyes to this sys­tem of con­trol have tak­en the red pill, a term Yarvin start­ed using back in 2007, long before it got watered down to gen­er­al­ly mean sup­port­ing Trump. To tru­ly be red-pilled, you have to under­stand the work­ings of the Cathe­dral. And the way con­ser­v­a­tives can actu­al­ly win in Amer­i­ca, he has argued, is for a Cae­sar-like fig­ure to take pow­er back from this devolved oli­garchy and replace it with a monar­chi­cal regime run like a start-up. As ear­ly as 2012, he pro­posed the acronym RAGE—Retire All Gov­ern­ment Employees—as a short­hand for a first step in the over­throw of the Amer­i­can “regime.” What we need­ed, Yarvin thought, was a “nation­al CEO, [or] what’s called a dic­ta­tor.” Yarvin now shies away from the word dic­ta­tor and seems to be try­ing to pro­mote a friend­lier face of author­i­tar­i­an­ism as the solu­tion to our polit­i­cal war­fare: “If you’re going to have a monar­chy, it has to be a monar­chy of every­one,” he said.

    By the time TechCrunch pub­li­cized Yarvin’s iden­ti­ty, in 2013, he had become influ­en­tial in a small cir­cle of the dis­af­fect­ed elite. In 2014, The Baf­fler pub­lished a lengthy look at his influ­ence, titled “Mouth­breath­ing Machi­avel­lis Dream of a Sil­i­con Reich.” The piece warned that Yarvin’s ideas were spread­ing among promi­nent fig­ures like Thiel and Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan, for­mer­ly the CTO of Coin­base, and that it was pos­si­ble for an intel­lec­tu­al fringe to “seize key posi­tions of author­i­ty and pow­er” and “even­tu­al­ly bring large num­bers of peo­ple around,” just as the Koch broth­ers once had with their pro-busi­ness lib­er­tar­i­an­ism, a posi­tion that Thiel was quick­ly mov­ing away from.

    In 2017, Buz­zFeed News pub­lished an email exchange between Yarvin and Milo Yiannopoulis in which Yarvin said that he’d watched the 2016 elec­tion returns with Thiel. “He’s ful­ly enlight­ened,” Yarvin wrote. “Just plays it very care­ful­ly.” Mas­ters soon had an office in Trump Tow­er. He and Thiel worked, gen­er­al­ly with­out suc­cess, to install fig­ures like Srini­vasan, whom they pro­posed to head the FDA, and who him­self often talked about the “paper belt,” in an echo of Yarvin’s Cathe­dral con­cept, and made com­mon cause with fig­ures like Steve Ban­non, who want­ed to pick apart the admin­is­tra­tive state, an idea that at least had a hint of Yarvin’s RAGE pro­pos­al. Yarvin even­tu­al­ly stopped work­ing as a pro­gram­mer and left the Bay Area, mov­ing with his wife and two chil­dren to Neva­da. His wife died in April 2021, and he seems to have been dev­as­tat­ed, pub­lish­ing search­ing poems about her. But last Sep­tem­ber, a month before we spoke, he post­ed a dat­ing call, invit­ing women who were “rea­son­ably pret­ty and pret­ty smart,” as he put it, and “have read my work and like it,” and who thought that “the pur­pose of dat­ing is to get mar­ried and have kids,” to email him so they could set up a Zoom date.

    ...

    Peo­ple at the con­fer­ence seemed excit­ed about being in a place where they weren’t alone. I skipped most of the talks—which ranged from ses­sions about con­fronting the threat of Chi­na to the lib­er­al influ­ence on pop cul­ture to “Work­er Pow­er.” Haw­ley gave a keynote on the “assault on the mas­cu­line virtues,” and Cruz offered up a tra­di­tion­al stump speech, evok­ing Rea­gan and say­ing he thought con­ser­v­a­tives would soon pre­vail at the bal­lot box. “I’m pret­ty sure a lot of the 20-some­things rolled their eyes at that,” Yarvin said to me after­ward with a smirk. The 20-some­things had a big­ger vision.

    Up by the bar every night, hordes of young men, most­ly, would descend to drink and bear-hug and spot favorite pod­cast­ers and writ­ers. You could see Dave Rubin, and Jack Mur­phy, who hosts a pop­u­lar New Right–ish YouTube chan­nel and is try­ing to build a fra­ter­nal group of men who believe in “pos­i­tive mas­culin­i­ty” that he calls the Lim­i­nal Order. Pret­ty much every­one had the same trimmed beard and haircut—sides buzzed short, the top longer and combed with a bit of gel to one side.

    I didn’t see a sin­gle Black per­son under the age of 50, though there were atten­dees of South Asian and Mid­dle East­ern descent. In March, the jour­nal­ist Jeff Sharlet (a Van­i­ty Fair con­tribut­ing edi­tor who cov­ers the Amer­i­can right) tweet­ed that the “intel­lec­tu­al New Right is a white suprema­cist project designed to cul­ti­vate non-white sup­port,” and he linked it to resur­gent nation­al­ist and author­i­tar­i­an pol­i­tics around the world: “It’s part of a glob­al fas­cist move­ment not lim­it­ed to the anti-black­ness of the U.S. & Europe.” Yet many on the New Right seem increas­ing­ly unfazed by accu­sa­tions that they’re white nation­al­ists or racists. Mas­ters in par­tic­u­lar seems will­ing to goad com­men­ta­tors, believ­ing that the ensu­ing argu­ments will redound to his polit­i­cal advan­tage: “Good luck [hit­ting] me with that,” Mas­ters told the pod­cast­er Alex Kaschuta recent­ly, argu­ing that accu­sa­tions of racism had become a polit­i­cal blud­geon used to keep con­ser­v­a­tive ideas out­side the polit­i­cal main­stream. “Good luck crit­i­ciz­ing me for say­ing crit­i­cal race the­o­ry is anti-white.” But for all the chat­ter of loom­ing dystopia, no one I spoke to raised one of the most dystopi­an aspects of Amer­i­can life: our vast appa­ra­tus of pris­ons and polic­ing. Most peo­ple seemed more caught up in fight­ing what they per­ceived as the cant and group­think among oth­er mem­bers of the polit­i­cal media class, or the hypocrisy of rich white lib­er­als who put up Black Lives Mat­ter signs in front of mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar homes, than they were with the raw expe­ri­ence that has giv­en shape to America’s cur­rent racial pol­i­tics.

    ...

    On the last after­noon of Nat­Con, a few hours before he was set to give the keynote address, Vance showed up. He spot­ted me drink­ing a beer at the bar and came over to say hel­lo. “I still have no idea what I’m going to say,” he said, though he didn’t seem wor­ried.

    I wan­dered down to the ball­room to wait and end­ed up sit­ting with the U.S. cor­re­spon­dent for the Ger­man news­magazine Der Spiegel. I knew that some of the reporters there might have been under the impres­sion that this was all most­ly just tweedy MAGA pageantry. He had a more com­plex view, hav­ing just spo­ken to Yarvin, and asked me to explain his phi­los­o­phy. I found myself at a loss. I said that there were these things called the regime and the Cathe­dral and that Yarvin was “sort of a monar­chist.”

    “A monar­chist?”he asked. He seemed tak­en aback to learn that what this hero fig­ure of the New Right dreamed of was a king.

    Vance showed up, wear­ing a suit and bright red tie, look­ing relaxed for a per­son who was about to give a speech to hun­dreds of peo­ple who viewed him as pos­si­bly a last great hope in sav­ing the Amer­i­can nation from glob­al cor­po­ratist sub­ju­ga­tion. He’d shot up in the polls and at that moment was sec­ond in his pri­ma­ry, helped by reg­u­lar invi­ta­tions from Carl­son.

    I asked how he was feel­ing about the speech. He looked imp­ish. “I think I’ve got a good top­ic,” he said. “I’m going to talk about col­lege.”

    What he meant was that he was about to give a gen­uine­ly thun­der­ous speech, titled “The Uni­ver­si­ties Are the Ene­my.” Peo­ple imme­di­ate­ly point­ed out that it was a vari­a­tion on some­thing that Richard Nixon said to Hen­ry Kissinger on White House tapes back in 1972. Vance denounced elite col­leges as ene­mies of the Amer­i­can peo­ple; he has long pro­posed cut­ting off their fed­er­al fund­ing and seiz­ing their endow­ments. The speech was lat­er linked in alarmed op-eds to “anti-intel­lec­tu­al” move­ments that had attacked insti­tu­tions of learn­ing. But that doesn’t quite reck­on with what an apoc­a­lyp­tic mes­sage he was offer­ing. Because Vance and this New Right cohort, who are most­ly so, so high­ly edu­cat­ed and well-read that their big prob­lem often seems to be that they’re just too nerdy to be an effec­tive force in mass pol­i­tics, are not anti-intel­lec­tu­al. Vance is an intel­lec­tu­al him­self, even if he’s not cur­rent­ly play­ing one on TV. But he thinks that our uni­ver­si­ties are full of peo­ple who have a struc­tur­al, self-serv­ing, and finan­cial inter­est in col­or­ing Amer­i­can cul­ture as racist and evil. And he is ready to go to extra­or­di­nary lengths to fight them.

    Yarvin and Lau­ren­son bound­ed out of the crowd as the cheers were still ring­ing. They were gig­gling, seem­ing to have had some wine. “Nixon—Nixon!”Lau­ren­son said, still laugh­ing. I couldn’t tell if she was delight­ed or hor­ri­fied.

    A cou­ple of hours lat­er I found Vance stand­ing up by the bar, sur­round­ed by a cir­cle of young and iden­ti­cal-look­ing fan­boys. I went over. He asked what I’d thought of the speech, and he sug­gest­ed we find some­where to talk.

    He asked me to turn my recorder off so we could speak can­did­ly. I agreed, with regret, because the con­ver­sa­tion revealed some­one who I think will be huge­ly influ­en­tial in our pol­i­tics in the com­ing years, even if he los­es his Sen­ate pri­ma­ry, as both of us thought was pos­si­ble.

    It also revealed some­one who is in a dark place, with a view that we are at an omi­nous turn­ing point in America’s his­to­ry. He didn’t want to describe this to me on the record. But I can show it any­way, because he already says it pub­licly, and you can hear it too.

    That night, I went up to my hotel room and lis­tened to a pod­cast inter­view Vance had con­duct­ed with Jack Mur­phy, the big, beard­ed head of the Lim­i­nal Order men’s group. Mur­phy asked how it was that Vance pro­posed to rip out America’s lead­er­ship class.

    Vance described two pos­si­bil­i­ties that many on the New Right imagine—that our sys­tem will either fall apart nat­u­ral­ly, or that a great leader will assume semi-dic­ta­to­r­i­al pow­ers.

    “So there’s this guy Cur­tis Yarvin, who has writ­ten about some of these things,” Vance said. Mur­phy chor­tled know­ing­ly. “So one [option] is to basi­cal­ly accept that this entire thing is going to fall in on itself,” Vance went on. “And so the task of con­ser­v­a­tives right now is to pre­serve as much as can be pre­served,” wait­ing for the “inevitable col­lapse” of the cur­rent order.

    He said he thought this was pes­simistic. “I tend to think that we should seize the insti­tu­tions of the left,” he said. “And turn them against the left. We need like a de-Baathi­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, a de-woke-ifi­ca­tion pro­gram.”

    “I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” he said. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giv­ing him one piece of advice: Fire every sin­gle midlev­el bureau­crat, every civ­il ser­vant in the admin­is­tra­tive state, replace them with our peo­ple.”

    “And when the courts stop you,” he went on, “stand before the coun­try, and say—” he quot­ed Andrew Jack­son, giv­ing a chal­lenge to the entire con­sti­tu­tion­al order—“the chief jus­tice has made his rul­ing. Now let him enforce it.”

    This is a descrip­tion, essen­tial­ly, of a coup.

    “We are in a late repub­li­can peri­od,” Vance said lat­er, evok­ing the com­mon New Right view of Amer­i­ca as Rome await­ing its Cae­sar. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pret­ty wild, and pret­ty far out there, and go in direc­tions that a lot of con­ser­v­a­tives right now are uncom­fort­able with.”

    “Indeed,” Mur­phy said. “Among some of my cir­cle, the phrase ‘extra-con­sti­tu­tion­al’ has come up quite a bit.”

    I’d asked Vance to tell me, on the record, what he’d like lib­er­al Amer­i­cans who thought that what he was propos­ing was a fas­cist takeover of Amer­i­ca to under­stand.

    He spoke earnest­ly. “I think the cul­tur­al world you oper­ate in is incred­i­bly biased,” he said—against his move­ment and “the lead­ers of it, like me in par­tic­u­lar.” He encour­aged me to resist this ten­den­cy, which he thought was the prod­uct of a media machine lead­ing us toward a soul­less dystopia that none of us want to live in. “That impulse,” he said, “is fun­da­men­tal­ly in ser­vice of some­thing that is far worse than any­thing, in your wildest night­mares, than what you see here.”

    He gave me an implor­ing look, as though to sug­gest that he was more on the side of the kind of peo­ple who read Van­i­ty Fair than most of you real­ize.

    If what he was doing worked, he said, “it will mean that my son grows up in a world where his masculinity—his sup­port of his fam­i­ly and his com­mu­ni­ty, his love of his community—is more impor­tant than whether it works for fu cking McK­in­sey.”

    At that, we called it, and the crowd of young men who want­ed to talk to him imme­di­ate­ly descend­ed on the couch­es. Peo­ple kept bring­ing drinks, and there was a lot of shit talk, and it went on late. I remem­ber think­ing at one point how strange it was that in our mid-30s Vance and I were sig­nif­i­cant­ly old­er than almost every­one there, all of whom thought they were orga­niz­ing a strug­gle to change the course of human his­to­ry, and all of whom were now going to get slop­py drunk.

    ...

    ———–

    “Inside the New Right, Where Peter Thiel Is Plac­ing His Biggest Bets” by James Pogue; Van­i­ty Fair; 04/20/2022

    “Polit­i­cal reporters, at least the ones who have both­ered to write about Yarvin, have often dis­missed him as a kook with a read­er­ship made up most­ly of lone­ly inter­net weirdos, fas­cists, or both. But to ignore him is to under­es­ti­mate how Yarvin’s ideas, or at least ideas in con­ver­sa­tion with his, have become foun­da­tion­al to a whole polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al scene that goes much deep­er than any­thing you’d learn from the pan­els and speech­es at an event like Nat­Con. Or how those ideas are going to shape the future of the Amer­i­can right, whether or not Vance and Mas­ters win their Sen­ate pri­maries. I intro­duced myself, and soon Mil­ius and I were out­side smok­ing as Yarvin and I chat­ted about whether he’d be will­ing to talk to me on the record.”

    It’s sad but true. You can’t real­ly under­stand the con­tem­po­rary con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment in the US with­out appre­ci­at­ing the grow­ing influ­ence of Cur­tis Yarvin. Influ­ence that has been grow­ing for well over a decade. The man who was once the god­fa­ther of the “Dark Enlight­en­ment”, which mor­phed into the ‘Alt Right’ by 2015, has moved on to more main­stream sta­tus. It’s no longer Alt Right. Men­cius Mold­bug’s con­cepts of “The Cathe­dral” — the term for the col­lage of bureau­cra­cies of acad­e­mia and the media influ­enc­ing Amer­i­can life — are now main­stream with con­ser­v­a­tives. That’s the New Right: the suc­cess­ful main­stream­ing of Alt Right ideas. Cur­tis Yarv­in’s ideas, in par­tic­u­lar:

    ...
    “This is sad,” Mil­ius said. No one cheered or even seemed inter­est­ed. But this was not Trump­world, even if many of the peo­ple in the room saw Trump as a use­ful tool. And these par­ties aren’t always so lame. Nat­Con, as this con­fer­ence is known, has grown into a big-tent gath­er­ing for a whole range of peo­ple who want to push the Amer­i­can right in a more eco­nom­i­cal­ly pop­ulist, cul­tur­al­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, assertive­ly nation­al­ist direc­tion. It draws every­one from Israel hawks to fusty pale­o­con pro­fes­sors to main­stream fig­ures like Ted Cruz and Mar­co Rubio. But most of the media atten­tion that the con­fer­ence attracts focus­es on a cohort of rosy young blaz­er-wear­ing activists and writers—a crop of peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing the Amer­i­can right’s “rad­i­cal young intel­lec­tu­als,” as a head­line in The New Repub­lic would soon put it, or conservatism’s “ter­ri­fy­ing future,” as David Brooks called them in The Atlantic.

    But the peo­ple these pieces describe, who made up most of the par­ty­go­ers around me, were only the most but­toned-up seam of a much larg­er and stranger polit­i­cal fer­ment, bur­bling up main­ly with­in America’s young and well-edu­cat­ed elite, part of an intra-media class info-war. The pod­cast­ers, bro-ish anony­mous Twit­ter posters, online philoso­phers, artists, and amor­phous scen­esters in this world are var­i­ous­ly known as “dis­si­dents,” “neo-reac­tionar­ies,” “post-left­ists,” or the “het­ero­dox” fringe—though they’re all often grouped for con­ve­nience under the head­ing of America’s New Right. They have a wild­ly diverse set of polit­i­cal back­grounds, with influ­ences rang­ing from 17th-cen­tu­ry Jaco­bite roy­al­ists to Marx­ist cul­tur­al crit­ics to so-called reac­tionary fem­i­nists to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczyn­s­ki, whom they some­times refer to with semi-iron­ic affec­tion as Uncle Ted. Which is to say that this New Right is not a part of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment as most peo­ple in Amer­i­ca would under­stand it. It’s bet­ter described as a tan­gled set of frame­works for cri­tiquing the sys­tems of pow­er and pro­pa­gan­da that most peo­ple read­ing this prob­a­bly think of as “the way the world is.” And one point shapes all of it: It is a project to over­throw the thrust of progress, at least such as lib­er­als under­stand the word.

    ...

    As Mold­bug, Yarvin wrote about race-based IQ dif­fer­ences, and in an ear­ly post, titled “Why I Am Not a White Nation­al­ist,” he defend­ed read­ing and link­ing to white nation­al­ist writ­ing. He told me he’d pur­sued those ear­ly writ­ings in a spir­it of “open inquiry,” though Yarvin also open­ly acknowl­edged in the post that some of his read­ers seemed to be white nation­al­ists. Some of Yarvin’s writ­ing from then is so rad­i­cal­ly right wing that it almost has to be read to be believed, like the time he cri­tiqued the attacks by the Nor­we­gian far-right ter­ror­ist Anders Behring Breivik—who killed 77 peo­ple, includ­ing dozens of chil­dren at a youth camp—not on the grounds that ter­ror­ism is wrong but because the killings wouldn’t do any­thing effec­tive to over­throw what Yarvin called Norway’s “com­mu­nist” gov­ern­ment. He argued that Nel­son Man­dela, once head of the mil­i­tary wing of the African Nation­al Con­gress, had endorsed ter­ror tac­tics and polit­i­cal mur­der against oppo­nents, and said any­one who claimed “St. Man­dela” was more inno­cent than Breivik might have “a moth­er you’d like to fu ck.”

    He’s tem­pered him­self in mid­dle age—he now says he has a rule nev­er to “say any­thing unnec­es­sar­i­ly con­tro­ver­sial, or go out of my way to be provoca­tive for no rea­son.” Many lib­er­als who hear him talk would prob­a­bly ques­tion how strict­ly he fol­lows this rule, but even in his Mold­bug days, most of his con­tro­ver­sial writ­ings were couched in thick­ets of irony and metaphor, a mode of speech that younger pod­cast­ers and Twit­ter per­son­al­i­ties on the high­ly online right have adopted—a way to avoid get­ting kicked off tech plat­forms or hav­ing their words quot­ed by lib­er­al jour­nal­ists.

    He con­sid­ers him­self a reac­tionary, not just a conservative—he thinks it is impos­si­ble for an Ivy League–educated per­son to real­ly be a con­ser­v­a­tive. He has con­sis­tent­ly argued that con­ser­v­a­tives waste their time and polit­i­cal ener­gy on fights over issues like gay mar­riage or crit­i­cal race the­o­ry, because lib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy holds sway in the impor­tant insti­tu­tions of pres­tige media and academia—an inter­twined nexus he calls “the Cathe­dral.” He devel­oped a the­o­ry to explain the fact that Amer­i­ca has lost its so-called state capac­i­ty, his expla­na­tion for why it so often seems that it is not actu­al­ly capa­ble of gov­ern­ing any­more: The pow­er of the exec­u­tive branch has slow­ly devolved to an oli­garchy of the edu­cat­ed who care more about com­pet­ing for sta­tus with­in the sys­tem than they do about America’s nation­al inter­est.

    No one directs this sys­tem, and hard­ly any­one who par­tic­i­pates in it believes that it’s a sys­tem at all. Some­one like me who has made a career of writ­ing about mili­tias and extrem­ist groups might go about my work think­ing that all I do is try to tell impor­tant sto­ries and hon­est­ly describe polit­i­cal upheaval. But with­in the Cathe­dral, the best way for me to get big assign­ments and win atten­tion is to iden­ti­fy and attack what seem like threats against the estab­lished order, which includes nation­al­ists, antigov­ern­ment types, or peo­ple who refuse to obey the opin­ions of the Cathedral’s experts on issues like vac­cine man­dates, in as alarm­ing a way as I pos­si­bly can. This cycle becomes self-rein­forc­ing and has been sent into hyper­drive by Twit­ter and Face­book, because the stuff that com­pels peo­ple to click on arti­cles or share clips of a pro­fes­sor tends to affirm their world­view, or fright­en them, or both at the same time. The more atten­tion you gain in the Cathe­dral sys­tem, the more you can influ­ence opin­ion and gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy. Jour­nal­ists and aca­d­e­mics and thinkers of any kind now live in a des­per­ate race for attention—and in Yarvin’s view, this is all real­ly a nev­er-end­ing bid for influ­ence, serv­ing the inter­ests of our oli­garchi­cal regime. So I may think I write for a liv­ing. But to Yarvin, what I actu­al­ly do is more like a weird com­bi­na­tion of intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing and pro­pa­gan­diz­ing. Which is why no one I was talk­ing to at Nat­Con real­ly thought it would be pos­si­ble for me to write a fair piece about them.
    ...

    And it’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize the lev­els of decep­tion and mis­di­rec­tion embed­ded in these ideas. As JD Vance put it him­self, “cul­ture war is class war­fare”. It’s lit­er­al­ly a group of wealthy Ivy League edu­cat­ed con­ser­v­a­tives push­ing a nar­ra­tive about lib­er­al aca­d­e­mics wag­ing a class war against aver­age Amer­i­cans. As JD Vance put it, “cul­ture war is class war­fare.” A wealthy hedge fund mil­lion­aire telling vot­ers that some vague indi­rect influ­ence by aca­d­e­mics rep­re­sents the class war that’s been waged in the US for the last four decades. It’s that gross­ly cyn­i­cal:

    ...
    Thiel has giv­en more than $10 mil­lion to super PACs sup­port­ing the men’s can­di­da­cies, and both are per­son­al­ly close to him. Vance is a for­mer employ­ee of Thiel’s Mithril Cap­i­tal, and Mas­ters, until recent­ly the COO of Thiel’s so-called “fam­i­ly office,” also ran the Thiel Foun­da­tion, which has become increas­ing­ly inter­twined with this New Right ecosys­tem. These three—Thiel, Vance, Masters—are all friends with Cur­tis Yarvin, a 48-year-old ex-pro­gram­mer and blog­ger who has done more than any­one to artic­u­late the world his­tor­i­cal cri­tique and pop­u­lar­ize the key terms of the New Right. You’ll often hear peo­ple in this world—again under many lay­ers of irony—call him things like Lord Yarvin, or Our Prophet.

    I was look­ing around the par­ty for Vance, who hadn’t arrived yet, when Mil­ius nudged me and point­ed to a table off to our left. “Why is it that when­ev­er I see Cur­tis, he’s sur­round­ed by a big table of incels?” she asked with appar­ent fond­ness. I spot­ted Yarvin, a slight, bespec­ta­cled man with long dark hair, drink­ing a glass of wine with a crowd that includ­ed Josh Ham­mer, the nation­al conservatism–minded young opin­ion edi­tor of Newsweek, and Michael Anton, a Machi­avel­li schol­ar and for­mer spokesman for Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council—and a promi­nent pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al­iz­er of the Trump move­ment. Oth­er lumi­nar­ies afoot for the con­fer­ence includ­ed Dig­ni­ty author Chris Arnade, who seemed slight­ly unsure about the whole Nat­Con thing, and Sohrab Ahmari, the for­mer opin­ion edi­tor of the New York Post, now a cofounder and edi­tor at the new mag­a­zine Com­pact, whose vision is, accord­ing to its mis­sion state­ment, “shaped by our desire for a strong social-demo­c­ra­t­ic state that defends community—local and nation­al, famil­ial and religious—against a lib­er­tine left and a lib­er­tar­i­an right.” It is a very of-the-moment project.

    ...

    This New Right is heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed by peo­ple with grad­u­ate degrees, so there’s a lot of debate about who is in it and whether or not it even exists. At one end are the Nat­Cons, post-lib­er­als, and tra­di­tion­al­ist fig­ures like Bene­dict Option author Rod Dreher, who envi­sion a con­ser­vatism rein­vig­o­rat­ed by an embrace of local­ist val­ues, reli­gious iden­ti­ty, and an active role for the state in pro­mot­ing every­thing from mar­riage to envi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion. But there’s also a high­ly online set of Sub­stack writ­ers, pod­cast­ers, and anony­mous Twit­ter posters—“our true intel­lec­tu­al elite,” as one pod­cast­er describes them. This group encom­pass­es every­one from rich cryp­to bros and tech exec­u­tives to back-to-the-lan­ders to dis­af­fect­ed mem­bers of the Amer­i­can intel­lec­tu­al class, like Up in the Air author Wal­ter Kirn, whose ful­mi­na­tions against group­think and tech­no-author­i­tar­i­an­ism have made him an unlike­ly cham­pi­on to the dis­si­dent right and het­ero­dox fringe. But they share a the basic world­view: that indi­vid­u­al­ist lib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy, increas­ing­ly bureau­crat­ic gov­ern­ments, and big tech are all com­bin­ing into a world that is at once tyran­ni­cal, chaot­ic, and devoid of the sys­tems of val­ue and moral­i­ty that give human life rich­ness and meaning—as Blake Mas­ters recent­ly put it, a “dystopi­an hell-world.”

    ...

    Vance believes that a well-edu­cat­ed and cul­tur­al­ly lib­er­al Amer­i­can elite has great­ly ben­e­fit­ed from glob­al­iza­tion, the finan­cial­iza­tion of our econ­o­my, and the grow­ing pow­er of big tech. This has led an Ivy League intel­lec­tu­al and man­age­ment class—a qua­si-aris­toc­ra­cy he calls “the regime”—to adopt a set of eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al inter­ests that direct­ly oppose those of peo­ple in places like Mid­dle­town, Ohio, where he grew up. In the Van­cian view, this class has no stake in what peo­ple on the New Right often call the “real economy”—the farm and fac­to­ry jobs that once sus­tained mid­dle-class life in Mid­dle Amer­i­ca. This is a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between New Right fig­ures like Vance and the Rea­gan­ite right-wingers of their par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion. To Vance—and he’s said this—culture war is class war­fare.
    ...

    But per­haps the most chill­ing part of this report was the overt warn­ing we got at the end from JD Vance about what Vance feels is going to be required to ‘save’ the US: a nation­al renew­al brought about by a con­ser­v­a­tive pres­i­dent assum­ing dic­ta­to­r­i­al pow­ers and over­rul­ing the courts in a push to purge the US gov­ern­ment of any­one who does­n’t share this New Right world­view:

    ...
    Kirn didn’t want to put a label on this move­ment, describ­ing it as a “frac­tious fam­i­ly of dis­senters” when I called him at his home in Montana—“a some­what new, loose coali­tion of peo­ple whose major con­cern is that we not end up in a top-down con­trolled state.” He told me he didn’t con­sid­er him­self right wing and found some of the anti­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic ideas he heard expressed in this sphere to be “per­son­al­ly chill­ing.” But he described it as a zone of exper­i­men­ta­tion and free expres­sion of a kind that was now closed off in America’s lib­er­al main­stream. “They seem to want a war,” he said. “The last thing I want is some kind of defin­i­tive ide­o­log­i­cal war which leaves out the het­ero­dox, com­pli­cat­ed, and almost naive­ly open spir­it of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.”

    And the fer­ment is start­ing to get noticed. “I think that’s a real­ly good sign,” one of the hosts of the dis­si­dent-right pod­cast The Fed­post said recent­ly, dis­cussing how Tuck­er Carl­son had just quot­ed a tweet from one of their guests. “This is a kind of bur­geon­ing sect of thought,” he went on, “and it’s caus­ing peo­ple who are in posi­tions of larg­er influ­ence and rel­a­tive pow­er to actu­al­ly have to start look­ing into it.”

    Vance sits some­where in between these two ten­den­cies—at 37, he’s a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who is young enough to be exposed to the dis­si­dent online cur­rents. But he’s also shaped by the most deeply tra­di­tion­al­ist think­ing of the Amer­i­can right. He is friends with Yarvin, whom he open­ly cites as a polit­i­cal influ­ence, and with Dreher, who was there when Vance was bap­tized into the Catholic Church in 2019. I’d been writ­ing about mili­tias and right-wing stir­rings in the rur­al West for years, but I didn’t real­ly under­stand how this alche­my worked until I first met him last July. I’d gone back to Ohio to see my uncle, who was dying of can­cer. Vance and I both grew up around Cincin­nati, immersed in a cul­ture of white rur­al migrants who had come from coal­fields and farm towns to look for work in the cities of the Mid­west. We had met as a kind of experiment—I was going to be in town any­way, and because my uncle was sick, I was think­ing a lot about the place and what it meant to me. On a whim, I asked an edi­tor at a con­ser­v­a­tive mag­a­zine if I could write some­thing from the per­spec­tive of a skep­ti­cal left­ist. Vance sug­gest­ed that we meet at a din­er where my dad had often tak­en me as a kid. He was bare­ly reg­is­ter­ing in the polls at the time.

    ...

    On the last after­noon of Nat­Con, a few hours before he was set to give the keynote address, Vance showed up. He spot­ted me drink­ing a beer at the bar and came over to say hel­lo. “I still have no idea what I’m going to say,” he said, though he didn’t seem wor­ried.

    ...

    I asked how he was feel­ing about the speech. He looked imp­ish. “I think I’ve got a good top­ic,” he said. “I’m going to talk about col­lege.”

    What he meant was that he was about to give a gen­uine­ly thun­der­ous speech, titled “The Uni­ver­si­ties Are the Ene­my.” Peo­ple imme­di­ate­ly point­ed out that it was a vari­a­tion on some­thing that Richard Nixon said to Hen­ry Kissinger on White House tapes back in 1972. Vance denounced elite col­leges as ene­mies of the Amer­i­can peo­ple; he has long pro­posed cut­ting off their fed­er­al fund­ing and seiz­ing their endow­ments. The speech was lat­er linked in alarmed op-eds to “anti-intel­lec­tu­al” move­ments that had attacked insti­tu­tions of learn­ing. But that doesn’t quite reck­on with what an apoc­a­lyp­tic mes­sage he was offer­ing. Because Vance and this New Right cohort, who are most­ly so, so high­ly edu­cat­ed and well-read that their big prob­lem often seems to be that they’re just too nerdy to be an effec­tive force in mass pol­i­tics, are not anti-intel­lec­tu­al. Vance is an intel­lec­tu­al him­self, even if he’s not cur­rent­ly play­ing one on TV. But he thinks that our uni­ver­si­ties are full of peo­ple who have a struc­tur­al, self-serv­ing, and finan­cial inter­est in col­or­ing Amer­i­can cul­ture as racist and evil. And he is ready to go to extra­or­di­nary lengths to fight them.

    ...

    A cou­ple of hours lat­er I found Vance stand­ing up by the bar, sur­round­ed by a cir­cle of young and iden­ti­cal-look­ing fan­boys. I went over. He asked what I’d thought of the speech, and he sug­gest­ed we find some­where to talk.

    He asked me to turn my recorder off so we could speak can­did­ly. I agreed, with regret, because the con­ver­sa­tion revealed some­one who I think will be huge­ly influ­en­tial in our pol­i­tics in the com­ing years, even if he los­es his Sen­ate pri­ma­ry, as both of us thought was pos­si­ble.

    It also revealed some­one who is in a dark place, with a view that we are at an omi­nous turn­ing point in America’s his­to­ry. He didn’t want to describe this to me on the record. But I can show it any­way, because he already says it pub­licly, and you can hear it too.

    That night, I went up to my hotel room and lis­tened to a pod­cast inter­view Vance had con­duct­ed with Jack Mur­phy, the big, beard­ed head of the Lim­i­nal Order men’s group. Mur­phy asked how it was that Vance pro­posed to rip out America’s lead­er­ship class.

    Vance described two pos­si­bil­i­ties that many on the New Right imagine—that our sys­tem will either fall apart nat­u­ral­ly, or that a great leader will assume semi-dic­ta­to­r­i­al pow­ers.

    “So there’s this guy Cur­tis Yarvin, who has writ­ten about some of these things,” Vance said. Mur­phy chor­tled know­ing­ly. “So one [option] is to basi­cal­ly accept that this entire thing is going to fall in on itself,” Vance went on. “And so the task of con­ser­v­a­tives right now is to pre­serve as much as can be pre­served,” wait­ing for the “inevitable col­lapse” of the cur­rent order.

    He said he thought this was pes­simistic. “I tend to think that we should seize the insti­tu­tions of the left,” he said. “And turn them against the left. We need like a de-Baathi­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, a de-woke-ifi­ca­tion pro­gram.”

    “I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” he said. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giv­ing him one piece of advice: Fire every sin­gle midlev­el bureau­crat, every civ­il ser­vant in the admin­is­tra­tive state, replace them with our peo­ple.”

    “And when the courts stop you,” he went on, “stand before the coun­try, and say—” he quot­ed Andrew Jack­son, giv­ing a chal­lenge to the entire con­sti­tu­tion­al order—“the chief jus­tice has made his rul­ing. Now let him enforce it.”

    This is a descrip­tion, essen­tial­ly, of a coup.

    “We are in a late repub­li­can peri­od,” Vance said lat­er, evok­ing the com­mon New Right view of Amer­i­ca as Rome await­ing its Cae­sar. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pret­ty wild, and pret­ty far out there, and go in direc­tions that a lot of con­ser­v­a­tives right now are uncom­fort­able with.”

    “Indeed,” Mur­phy said. “Among some of my cir­cle, the phrase ‘extra-con­sti­tu­tion­al’ has come up quite a bit.”

    I’d asked Vance to tell me, on the record, what he’d like lib­er­al Amer­i­cans who thought that what he was propos­ing was a fas­cist takeover of Amer­i­ca to under­stand.

    He spoke earnest­ly. “I think the cul­tur­al world you oper­ate in is incred­i­bly biased,” he said—against his move­ment and “the lead­ers of it, like me in par­tic­u­lar.” He encour­aged me to resist this ten­den­cy, which he thought was the prod­uct of a media machine lead­ing us toward a soul­less dystopia that none of us want to live in. “That impulse,” he said, “is fun­da­men­tal­ly in ser­vice of some­thing that is far worse than any­thing, in your wildest night­mares, than what you see here.”

    He gave me an implor­ing look, as though to sug­gest that he was more on the side of the kind of peo­ple who read Van­i­ty Fair than most of you real­ize.
    ...

    Is Trump going to be elect­ed God King in 2024 on a man­date of purg­ing the gov­ern­ment of all lib­er­als and installing an army of New Right reac­tionar­ies? We’ll see. Steve Ban­non is pre­sum­ably going to be build­ing on his army of bureau­crat­ic ‘shock troops’ either way. But regard­less of which future Repub­li­can pres­i­dent ends up lead­ing that army, it’s pret­ty clear at this point that it’s the ide­ol­o­gy of Men­cius Mold­bug they’re going to be fol­low­ing. Which isn’t real­ly an ide­ol­o­gy as much as it’s an elab­o­rate ruse. The kind of elab­o­rate ruse that’s so stu­pid it’s bound to work. At least until they regain pow­er and the pub­lic inevitably real­izes they elect­ed a bunch of lunatics. Which brings us back to the open­ly insur­rec­tionary fer­vor of this move­ment. It points towards the one key dif­fer­ence between the past and cur­rent phas­es of the main­stream­ing of ‘Alt Right’ ideas: It used to be rather tricky for reac­tionary con­ser­v­a­tives to run on a ‘democ­ra­cy is too bro­ken to work’ plat­form. Now it’s basi­cal­ly a require­ment for win­ning your pri­ma­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 26, 2022, 4:54 pm
  14. It’s time for cred­it where cred­it is due: You have to hand it to Peter Thiel. The lead­ing fas­cist in con­tem­po­rary US pol­i­tics has some­how man­aged to avoid any direct asso­ci­a­tion with the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. With the first round of con­gres­sion­al tele­vised hear­ings on the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion now com­plete, Thiel’s name has remained large­ly divorced from the entire Jan 6 sto­ry, despite his deep involve­ment in financ­ing and back­ing exact­ly the kinds of politi­cians who backed and foment­ed the insur­rec­tion. And yet it’s hard to imag­ine Thiel was­n’t entire­ly on board with the insur­rec­tion agen­da and hold­ing onto pow­er at any cost.

    So giv­en that the US’s lead­ing fas­cist has large­ly avoid­ed pub­lic scruti­ny in these Jan 6 inves­ti­ga­tion, here’s a recent piece on Thiel by John Ganz that reminds us of a few key facts we should keep in mind about Thiel’s brand of fas­cism that real­ly need to be kept in mind as the GOP tran­si­tions into a pro-insur­rec­tion par­ty: Thiel’s lib­er­tar­i­an-brand­ed style of fas­cism uses ‘Free­dom!’ as its ral­ly­ing cry. Free­dom for cap­i­tal­ists, specif­i­cal­ly. Hence Thiel’s noto­ri­ous 2009 essay where he called democ­ra­cy and cap­i­tal­ism incom­pat­i­ble. True free­dom — for a spe­cif­ic group — comes at the cost of author­i­tar­i­an­ism for every­one else. Free­dom for capitalists/warlords. That’s Thiel’s pol­i­tics. The kind of pol­i­tics that is high­ly sym­pa­thet­ic to nar­ra­tives about Democ­rats being a bunch of free­dom-hat­ing Marx­ists.

    But there’s anoth­er aspect to the kind of fas­cist pol­i­tics Thiel advo­cates and it’s been a fea­ture of fas­cism since it’s incep­tion: the idea that the fas­cist state is just at tem­po­rary emer­gency mea­sure required to save the cap­i­tal­ists from the threat of rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marx­ists. It’s just tem­po­rary emer­gency author­i­tar­i­an­ism that will only be need­ed to deal with the com­mu­nist threat until that threat is extin­guished. That’s the promise. A tem­po­rary emer­gency bru­tal crack­down on per­ceived polit­i­cal ene­mies who rep­re­sent an exis­ten­tial threat to the estab­lished order. Which sure sounds a lot like a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for Jan 6 and futures insur­rec­tions.

    Final­ly, Ganz points out a fas­ci­nat­ing per­son­al fun fact about Thiel’s fas­cist pedi­gree: the South African ura­ni­um mine Thiel’s father helped man­age dur­ing child­hood Thiel’s was part of South Africa’s clan­des­tine nuclear weapons pro­gram. It’s the kind of fam­i­ly fun fact that sug­gest the Thiel fam­i­ly was far more deeply con­nect­ed to inter­na­tion­al white suprema­cist net­works that cur­rent appre­ci­at­ed.

    That’s all part of the con­text of Thiel’s com­plete avoid­ance of any direct asso­ci­a­tion with the Jan 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion: the insur­rec­tion was basi­cal­ly a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the ‘exis­ten­tial emer­gency’ fas­cist pol­i­tics Thiel has long embraced, pos­si­bly all the way back to his child­hood:

    Unpop­u­lar Front

    The Enig­ma of Peter Thiel
    There Is No Enig­ma — He’s a Fas­cist

    John Ganz
    Jul 23, 2022

    Peter Thiel is a fas­cist. There’s real­ly no bet­ter word for what he is. For some rea­son, peo­ple have a lot of trou­ble grasp­ing this or just com­ing out and say­ing it.

    In his biog­ra­phy of Thiel, The Con­trar­i­an: Peter Thiel and Sil­i­con Valley’s Pur­suit of Pow­er, Max Chafkin writes, “The Thiel ide­ol­o­gy is com­pli­cat­ed and, in parts, self-con­tra­dic­to­ry, and will take many of the pages that fol­low to explore, but it com­bines an obses­sion with tech­no­log­i­cal progress with nation­al­ist politics—a pol­i­tics that at times has seem­ing­ly flirt­ed with white suprema­cy.” Let’s see, we’ve go some futur­ism, nation­al­ism, maybe a lit­tle bit of racism here and there…hmm, what does that all add up to? What a mys­tery this guy is!

    In a recent piece for the Wash­ing­ton Post about Thiel’s sup­port for pop­ulist can­di­dates like Greg Sar­gent writes:

    At first glance, it’s hard to dis­cern why Thiel is heav­i­ly invest­ing in them. Thiel is some­times described as a rad­i­cal lib­er­tar­i­an, while Mas­ters and Vance rep­re­sent a form of con­ser­v­a­tive pop­ulism that is sup­pos­ed­ly hos­tile to lib­er­tar­i­an­ism and envi­sions the robust use of state pow­er to fight lib­er­al cul­tur­al ene­mies wher­ev­er nec­es­sary.

    Where to begin? First of all, yes, Thiel’s lib­er­tar­i­an­ism is about freedom—freedom for him and peo­ple like him, the entre­pre­neur­ial elite of the cap­i­tal­ist class. He’s open­ly anti­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic. In an essay for the Cato Insti­tute, Thiel once wrote, “I no longer believe that free­dom and democ­ra­cy are com­pat­i­ble…” Why? Because if you empow­er the demos, they will even­tu­al­ly vote for restric­tions on the pow­er of cap­i­tal­ists. and there­fore, restric­tions on their “free­dom.” He con­tin­ues, “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.” In that 2009 essay, Thiel imag­ines a kind of futur­ist pro­gram of utopi­an projects “beyond pol­i­tics” in cyber­space or “seast­eading,” but it’s clear now he’s returned to believ­ing in pol­i­tics, or at least an anti-polit­i­cal form of pol­i­tics.

    The brand of rad­i­cal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism favored by Thiel and his crony Cur­tis Yarvin has long looked to crack­pot author­i­tar­i­an solu­tions that would enable unal­loyed cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion. In the ’90s, Mur­ray Roth­bard, who took his pri­ma­ry polit­i­cal inspi­ra­tion from the Amer­i­ca First move­ment, con­ceived of a “Right-Wing Pop­ulist” strat­e­gy that envi­sioned a Trump-like fig­ure who could “short-cir­cuit” the polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment and smash the rem­nants of the New Deal order. He also made com­mon cause on occa­sion with holo­caust deniers. Hans-Her­mann Hoppe, Rothbard’s pro­tege, has advo­cat­ed monar­chism and “covenant com­mu­ni­ties” orga­nized on essen­tial­ly total­i­tar­i­an basis. His book Democ­ra­cy: The God That Failed divides human­i­ty into pro­duc­ers and sub­hu­man, par­a­sitic “pests.”

    But being anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic is one thing, but how could the lib­er­tar­i­an, the defend­er of indi­vid­ual free­dom, the believ­er in the mar­ket ever real­ly be a fas­cist, an ide­ol­o­gy that cel­e­brates the col­lec­tive mass­es and the state? I think part of the prob­lem is that there is still a very car­toon­ish notion of what actu­al­ly-exist­ing fas­cism looked like.

    It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that fas­cism, espe­cial­ly in its orig­i­nal incar­na­tion in Italy, was nev­er a ful­ly coher­ent ide­ol­o­gy. Like the sym­bol of the fasces itself, it was a bun­dle of things bound togeth­er, a syn­cret­ic and cob­bled-togeth­er sys­tem of pol­i­tics that encom­passed sev­er­al ide­o­log­i­cal ten­den­cies. As the Madon­na song goes, it brought togeth­er the bour­geoisie and the rebel. Mussolini’s par­ty began with avant-garde futur­ists and rad­i­cal syn­di­cal­ists in the cities, but with­in a cou­ple years attract­ed the most con­ser­v­a­tive sec­tions of the bour­geoisie in the coun­try­side. The his­to­ri­an Alexan­der de Grand calls this intrin­sic frag­men­ta­tion hid­ing behind con­sen­sus “hyphen­at­ed fas­cism”: so, you had con­ser­v­a­tive-fas­cism, nation­al­ist-fas­cism, tech­no­crat­ic-fas­cism, syn­di­cal­ist-fas­cism, Catholic-fas­cism etc. Not all fas­cists ticked every box: some were more inter­est­ed in the idea of squads of thugs beat­ing up social­ists, some more in the idea of labor inte­gra­tion with indus­try, some more in a tech­no­crat­ic pro­gram of revi­tal­iz­ing nation­al infra­struc­ture. These ten­den­cies and fac­tions viewed each oth­er as rivals for the over­all direc­tion of the fas­cist ide­al. But each saw in the fas­cist move­ment and state the pos­si­bil­i­ty of real­iz­ing their own pro­gram. This was made pos­si­ble because of the exces­sive­ly abstract terms of fas­cist pro­nounce­ments and the tac­ti­cal flex­i­bil­i­ty and mer­cu­r­ial nature of fas­cist lead­ers. The focus was put on being opposed to com­mon ene­mies like lib­er­al­ism and Marx­ism while at the same time “restor­ing nation­al great­ness.” Every­body had their own idea about what that looked like. But all would glad­ly replace tire­some and frus­trat­ing regime of demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion with the rule of com­pe­ten­ze, or, what the soci­ol­o­gist of fas­cism Dylan Riley calls the “a tech­no­crat­ic rejec­tion of pol­i­tics as such.”

    Much of the indus­tri­al­ist class might have pre­ferred to stick with the lais­sez-faire lib­er­al­ism of the 19th cen­tu­ry and their own indus­tri­al asso­ci­a­tions, but they acknowl­edged times had changed, that they need­ed fas­cist tech­niques of mass con­trol, and so “reluc­tant­ly” made their accom­mo­da­tion with the fas­cist regime, look­ing for­ward to the promise of labor peace and the busi­ness pos­si­bil­i­ties cre­at­ed by the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex. It was the most prag­mat­ic option and they found fascism’s elit­ism, the pro­mo­tion of the idea that were spe­cial groups born to rule, to con­tain some flat­ter­ing notions that jibed with their own self-con­cep­tion. While some cap­i­tal­ists embraced fas­cism instru­men­tal­ly, as pre­vent­ing the worse fate of social­ist rev­o­lu­tion and deal­ing with pesky strikes, many began to iden­ti­fy with the move­ment more close­ly, albeit often with a low pub­lic pro­file, and helped to fund fas­cist par­ties. In France, one, the cham­pagne mag­nate Pierre Tait­tinger, even attempt­ed to start his own.

    Lud­wig von Mis­es, the Aus­tri­an econ­o­mist and god­fa­ther of the type of rad­i­cal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism pro­fessed by Thiel, wrote in 1927, “It can­not be denied that Fas­cism and sim­i­lar move­ments aim­ing at the estab­lish­ment of dic­ta­tor­ships are full of the best inten­tions and that their inter­ven­tion has, for the moment, saved Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion. The mer­it that Fas­cism has there­by won for itself will live on eter­nal­ly in his­to­ry. But though its pol­i­cy has brought sal­va­tion for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise con­tin­ued suc­cess. Fas­cism was an emer­gency makeshift. To view it as some­thing more would be a fatal error.

    It would be easy to beat up on von Mis­es, but he’s just per­form­ing his ide­o­log­i­cal role as spokesman of the cap­i­tal­ist class: this ratio­nal­iza­tion of a “lim­it­ed” fas­cism as a sort of “cus­to­di­al dic­ta­tor­ship” that would fix things up for cap­i­tal­ism and “civilization’s” sake was vir­tu­al­ly a com­mon­place among the inter­war bour­geoisie. In fact, this was basi­cal­ly what the rul­ing class in Italy thought they were acced­ing to when they helped bring the fas­cists to pow­er. And, while Mussolini’s regime still retained some con­sti­tu­tion­al trap­pings and moved toward con­ser­v­a­tive nor­mal­iza­tion, that still seemed like a plau­si­ble-enough out­come. It’s worth not­ing that it’s this sort of “emer­gency-fas­cism” that pre­dom­i­nates in the think­ing of Michael Anton and Cur­tis Yarvin, both Thiel cronies. (Thiel helped Anton, the author of the “Flight 93 Elec­tion” essay, get a job on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.)

    Bor­row­ing his own ter­mi­nol­o­gy of going “back to the future” or doing “retro-futur­ism,” Thiel is a throw­back to the era of the fas­cist indus­tri­al­ist. Some, like Fritz Thyssen, came to regret their asso­ci­a­tion with the regimes they helped bring to pow­er and had to flee, but oth­ers stuck around and took advan­tage of lucra­tive gov­ern­ment con­tracts and slave labor.

    But Thiel’s pol­i­tics par­tic­i­pates in fas­cism among sev­er­al oth­er hyphen­at­ed axes, as well. Look­ing at his biog­ra­phy, on con­sis­tent strand that he has a deeply elit­ist world­view and he’s obsessed with fan­tasies of pow­er and con­trol. This shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing when you take into con­sid­er­a­tion at his child­hood. Born to con­ser­v­a­tive par­ents in West Ger­many, Thiel spent his child­hood in Namib­ia, then under admin­is­tra­tion by apartheid South Africa. His father was in charge of engi­neers in a ura­ni­um mine, where a black work­force from the “home­lands” were lord­ed over by white mangers like the Thiels. Chafkin describes the work­ing con­di­tions of the mine:

    White man­agers, like the Thiels, had access to a brand-new med­ical and den­tal cen­ter in Swakop­mund and mem­ber­ship in the com­pa­ny coun­try club. Black labor­ers, includ­ing some with fam­i­lies, lived in a dorm in a work-camp near the mine and did not have access to the med­ical facil­i­ties pro­vid­ed to whites. Walk­ing off the job was a crim­i­nal offense, and work­ers who failed to car­ry their ID card into the mine were rou­tine­ly thrown in jail for the day.

    Ura­ni­um min­ing is, by nature, risky. A report pub­lished after the end of apartheid by the Namib­ia Sup­port Com­mit­tee, a pro-inde­pen­dence group, described con­di­tions at the mine in grim terms, includ­ing an account of a con­tract labor­er on the con­struc­tion project—the project Klaus’s com­pa­ny was help­ing to oversee—who said work­ers had not been told they were build­ing a ura­ni­um mine and were thus unaware of the risks of radi­a­tion. The only clue had been that white employ­ees would hand out wages from behind glass, seem­ing­ly try­ing to avoid con­t­a­m­i­na­tion them­selves. The report men­tioned work­ers “dying like flies,” in 1976, while the mine was under con­struc­tion.

    I once called Thiel’s ide­ol­o­gy baasskapp, an Afrikaans word mean­ing “boss-hood,” with­out ful­ly real­iz­ing his inti­mate con­nec­tion with apartheid. I think this expe­ri­ence still forms the core of his entire world­view, that of a petit-bour­geois or pro­fes­sion­al-man­age­r­i­al adjunct to this par­tic­u­lar­ly raw and bru­tal form of colo­nial­ism and cap­i­tal­ist exploita­tion: there are high­ly-com­pe­tent, tech­ni­cal man­agers with a crys­talline vision, the engi­neers, and then there is a bio­log­i­cal­ly-infe­ri­or, racial under­class of labor that has to be kept in line. There is a nation­al­ist and nation­al secu­ri­ty dimen­sion here, too: this ura­ni­um mine was part of South Africa’s clan­des­tine attempt to devel­op a nuclear weapons pro­gram, to ensure its sov­er­eign­ty in a sea of increas­ing­ly unfriend­ly nations. Thiel might be him­self now a high indus­tri­al­ist but he still retains much of the world­view of an “organ­ic intel­lec­tu­al” to bor­row Gramsci’s term, an inter­me­di­ary man­ag­er, in the apartheid sys­tem.

    You can see hints of the kind of nasty, direct elit­ism when Thiel talks about him­self as belong to a “high IQ” group and dis­dain­ing the herd, but usu­al­ly it is mys­ti­fied and laun­dered through fan­ta­sy, lit­er­al­ly so, as his con­cep­tions are high­ly informed by Dun­geons & Drag­ons and J.R.R. Tolkien that he absorbed as a child. But telling­ly he iden­ti­fies with the “bad guys” in these worlds. He named his com­pa­ny Palan­tir, after a very dark piece of mag­ic from Tolkien’s nov­els:

    Thiel called the project Palan­tir, after the myth­i­cal Elvish “see­ing stone” in Lord of the Rings that allows char­ac­ters to observe far­away events or to look into the future. It was a curi­ous choice: While Tolkien’s palan­tiri are pow­er­ful, they’re not unam­bigu­ous­ly vir­tu­ous. In the books, the stones are chiefly used by Sauron, the Satan­ic char­ac­ter who aspires to sub­ju­gate Mid­dle Earth, to spy, com­mu­ni­cate with con­spir­a­tors, or manip­u­late oth­er char­ac­ters who don’t real­ize that the stones are dan­ger­ous to han­dle.

    And else­where, Thiel has just open­ly said he prefers Sauron’s side, “Gandalf’s the crazy per­son who wants to start a war…Mordor is this tech­no­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion based on rea­son and sci­ence. Out­side of Mor­dor, it’s all sort of mys­ti­cal and envi­ron­men­tal and noth­ing works.” (It’s almost absurd how much pains he takes to say “I’m into evil!” and no one pays atten­tion.) You can also see these fan­tasies of supe­ri­or­i­ty play out in his crony Yarvin’s imag­i­na­tion: he recent­ly wrote an essay call­ing him­self a “dark elf,” part of some race of cul­tur­al­ly-advanced beings or what­ev­er.

    These dwee­bish fan­tasies of pow­er and dom­i­na­tion might appear espe­cial­ly pathet­ic to us, but they are not real­ly dif­fer­ent in kind from the ones that ani­mat­ed the orig­i­nal fas­cists. See for exam­ple Nicholas-Goodrick Clarke’s excel­lent The Occult Roots of Nazism, his his­to­ry of the odd world of fan­ta­sists and cranks who cre­at­ed the “dream-world” of Nazism, fan­tasies that con­tained “elit­ism and puri­ty, a sense of mis­sion in the face of con­spir­a­cy, and mil­lenar­i­an vision of a felic­i­tous nation­al future.” (At this point, one might pro­pose anoth­er “hyphen­at­ed fas­cism:” dork-fas­cism or nerd-fas­cism or dweeb-fas­cism, as you like.)

    Palan­tir, this com­pa­ny, is a sur­veil­lance plat­form deeply involved with the nation­al secu­ri­ty state. Thiel may now back iso­la­tion­ist can­di­dates, but in his busi­ness deal­ings he’s a part­ner of the nation­al secu­ri­ty state and was once an enthu­si­as­tic backer of its wars, par­tic­u­lar­ly when they appeared to be against the “civ­i­liza­tion­al threat” of Islam. He also fan­ta­sized about a kind of glob­al net­work of impe­r­i­al con­trol oper­at­ed from with­in the secret police appa­ra­tus:

    Thiel…also argued that the Unit­ed States should try to use extra­ju­di­cial and extrale­gal methods—finding, as he put it, “a polit­i­cal frame­work that oper­ates out­side the checks and bal­ances of rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy as described in high school textbooks”—to deal with ter­ror­ism. “Instead of the Unit­ed Nations,” he wrote, “we should con­sid­er Ech­e­lon, the secret coor­di­na­tion of the world’s intel­li­gence ser­vices, as the deci­sive path to a tru­ly glob­al pax Amer­i­cana.”

    The ref­er­ence was to a Cold War-era intel­li­gence net­work in which the Unit­ed States—with Aus­tralia, Cana­da, New Zealand, and the U.K.—used satel­lites to spy on Sovi­et com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but it also called to mind the Patri­ot Act, the anti-ter­ror­ism law hasti­ly passed by Con­gress and signed into law by Bush after 9/11. Among oth­er things, the law allowed gov­ern­ment agen­cies to amass enor­mous troves of data—phone and elec­tron­ic records from sus­pect­ed ter­ror­ists and, as it would turn out, U.S. cit­i­zens.

    Under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, Palan­tir would receive mas­sive con­tracts and he would try to weasel his way onto the president’s Intel­li­gence Advi­so­ry Board.

    If this all doesn’t sound fas­cist enough for you, con­sid­er his net­work of polit­i­cal and social con­nec­tions. In the White House, he was allied with Steve Bannon’s ultra-right pop­ulist wing. In 2016, he addressed the Prop­er­ty and Free­dom Soci­ety, a group found­ed by the econ­o­mist Hans-Her­mann Hoppe, that brings togeth­er rad­i­cal lib­er­tar­i­ans and white nation­al­ists. His asso­ciate and for­mer employ­ee Jeff Giesea is a fun­der and orga­niz­er of alt-right caus­es, so much so he is pur­port­ed­ly the author of “How to Fund the Alt-Right.” In Chafkin’s biog­ra­phy there are dozens of points of con­tact with the far right from din­ners with VDARE con­trib­u­tors to a meet­ing with Milo Yiannopoulis. Then, of course, is his pri­ma­ry court philoso­pher Cur­tis Yarvin, who I’ve dis­cussed many oth­er times. Let’s look at his polit­i­cal vision once again:

    Cur­tis Yarvin, the neo-reac­tionary intel­lec­tu­al and Thiel’s long­time friend….He pub­lished an essay that claimed that vot­ers in “urban com­mu­ni­ties” had, through some mix of manip­u­la­tion by orga­niz­ers and actu­al vot­er fraud, stolen the elec­tion for Biden, or “Chi­na Joe,” as he called the pres­i­dent-elect, refer­ring to Biden’s sup­posed def­er­ence to Bei­jing. Then Yarvin sug­gest­ed that Repub­li­cans exe­cute what he called a “very legal coup” to “steal the elec­tion back” by get­ting Repub­li­can-con­trolled state leg­is­la­tures to inval­i­date the vote, and then hav­ing Trump claim emer­gency pow­ers, ignor­ing any inter­fer­ence from Con­gress or the judi­cia­ry and using the Nation­al Guard to enforce his orders. After that, Yarvin argued, Trump could “liq­ui­date the pow­er­ful, pres­ti­gious, and/or wealthy insti­tu­tions of the old regime, inside and out­side the for­mal gov­ern­ment,” which, he said, would be fol­lowed by the achieve­ment of “a sin­gu­lar vision of utopia.”

    If that’s not the prod­uct of a fas­cist imag­i­na­tion, I don’t know what pos­si­bly could be.

    So, let’s sum up. Peter Thiel believes he belongs to an elite group, often under­stood in implic­it­ly or explic­it­ly racial terms, that is enti­tled to set aside demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance in favor of pur­su­ing a pro­gram of tech­no­log­i­cal progress and nation­al restora­tion. He believes the polit­i­cal means to accom­plish this is through a charis­mat­ic leader with manip­u­la­tive, pop­ulist appeals to past nation­al glo­ry and against par­a­sitic immi­grants and cul­tur­al­ly deca­dent lib­er­al­ism. For him, even the most mil­que­toast, reformist lib­er­al­ism is “tan­ta­mount to com­mu­nism.” He’s obsessed with roman­ti­cized fan­tasies of absolute pow­er, dom­i­na­tion, and con­trol. He dreams of wield­ing the the nation­al secu­ri­ty state against ene­mies both for­eign and domes­tic. He envi­sioned a kind of impe­ri­al­ist world-state con­trolled not through delib­er­a­tive bod­ies like the U.N. but direct­ly by the intel­li­gence and secret police bureaus. He com­bines the ide­ol­o­gy of white col­lar, petit-bour­geois inter­me­di­ary class with its emphases direct man­age­ment tech­niques and close­ly-held own­er­ship with the grandiose, world-span­ning designs of an indus­tri­al titan.There’s real­ly no con­tra­dic­tion with­in Peter Thiel’s pol­i­tics, they are quite con­sis­tent. He’s just real­ized, more clear­ly than his oppo­nents often, that there’s ulti­mate­ly a con­tra­dic­tion between the rule of cap­i­tal and democ­ra­cy, and the way to deal with this con­tra­dic­tion, as far as he’s con­cerned, is to do away with democ­ra­cy.

    What else do you real­ly need to know? The man is a fas­cist, whether he ful­ly admits to him­self or not. He’s prob­a­bly the most clear­ly fas­cist promi­nent fig­ure in the U.S. today, includ­ing Trump. I sus­pect that he’s actu­al­ly ful­ly self-con­scious about it, but knows that it would be polit­i­cal­ly counter-pro­duc­tive to come out as such and he prob­a­bly views his ideas as some new, updat­ed “Fas­cism 2.0.” In any case, we should not deceive our­selves or beat about the bush any longer.

    ...

    ———–

    “The Enig­ma of Peter Thiel” by John Ganz; Unpop­u­lar Front; 07/23/2022

    Where to begin? First of all, yes, Thiel’s lib­er­tar­i­an­ism is about freedom—freedom for him and peo­ple like him, the entre­pre­neur­ial elite of the cap­i­tal­ist class. He’s open­ly anti­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic. In an essay for the Cato Insti­tute, Thiel once wrote, “I no longer believe that free­dom and democ­ra­cy are com­pat­i­ble…” Why? Because if you empow­er the demos, they will even­tu­al­ly vote for restric­tions on the pow­er of cap­i­tal­ists. and there­fore, restric­tions on their “free­dom.” He con­tin­ues, “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.” In that 2009 essay, Thiel imag­ines a kind of futur­ist pro­gram of utopi­an projects “beyond pol­i­tics” in cyber­space or “seast­eading,” but it’s clear now he’s returned to believ­ing in pol­i­tics, or at least an anti-polit­i­cal form of pol­i­tics.

    Peter Thiel isn’t lack­ing in mys­tery. But his pol­i­tics isn’t one of those mys­ter­ies. He’s a lib­er­tar­i­an fas­cist.

    But how can some­one simul­ta­ne­ous­ly adopt a polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy that exalts free­dom while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly man­i­fest­ing the author­i­tar­i­an pol­i­tics of fas­cism? Again, it’s not mys­tery. Lib­er­tar­i­an­ism and fas­cism are entire­ly com­pat­i­ble, just as procla­ma­tions of the pri­ma­cy of ‘free­dom’ are in no way opposed to author­i­tar­i­an pol­i­tics. It’s the whole ‘free­doms vs rights’ con­trast that the US polit­i­cal cul­ture rou­tine­ly ignores: unre­strict­ed free­dom includes the free­dom to dom­i­nate, enslave and kill if desired. That’s why any log­i­cal calls for unhin­dered free­doms should always spec­i­fy the par­tic­u­lar group that is going to receive these unre­strict­ed free­doms, because only a sub­set of a pop­u­la­tion can tru­ly be grant­ed unre­strict­ed free­dom. Every­one else is effec­tive­ly a serf. The only way to share free­doms across a pop­u­la­tion is by bal­anc­ing those free­doms with rights. Rights that get in the way of unal­loyed cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion and there­fore need to be done away with under the ban­ner of ‘Free­dom!’.

    And as the piece points out, there’s a cou­ple oth­er aspect to the irra­tional nature of fas­cist ide­ol­o­gy that can’t be ignored when assess­ing the polit­i­cal ambi­tions of some­one like Thiel: Fas­cism has nev­er been a coher­ent ide­ol­o­gy. As the fasces sym­bol itself rep­re­sents, fas­cist ide­olo­gies tend to be a kind ‘bun­dle-think’ cob­bled-togeth­er to achieve the desired goals of the move­ment. It’s not sup­posed to make sense because it’s not intend­ed to make ratio­nal appeals. Fas­cist thought is designed to rouse the mass­es into action against the move­men­t’s ene­mies and whip up a sense of emer­gency. A sense of emer­gency that is absolute­ly cen­tral to the fas­cist move­ment, where extreme actions can be ‘tem­porar­i­ly’ tak­en to ‘save’ the nation.

    That’s all part of the con­text of the new pro-insur­rec­tion MAGA Repub­li­can Par­ty: Jan­u­ary 6 was fas­cist ’emer­gency response’ to a per­ceived ‘exis­ten­tial threat to the nation’. It’s why Peter Thiel’s fas­cist pol­i­tics are far big­ger than Thiel: Jan 6 was a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Thiel’s fas­cist pol­i­tics. The fas­cist pol­i­tics of ’emer­gency rule’ are clear­ly wide­ly held with­in the con­tem­po­rary con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment:

    ...
    The brand of rad­i­cal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism favored by Thiel and his crony Cur­tis Yarvin has long looked to crack­pot author­i­tar­i­an solu­tions that would enable unal­loyed cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion. In the ’90s, Mur­ray Roth­bard, who took his pri­ma­ry polit­i­cal inspi­ra­tion from the Amer­i­ca First move­ment, con­ceived of a “Right-Wing Pop­ulist” strat­e­gy that envi­sioned a Trump-like fig­ure who could “short-cir­cuit” the polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment and smash the rem­nants of the New Deal order. He also made com­mon cause on occa­sion with holo­caust deniers. Hans-Her­mann Hoppe, Rothbard’s pro­tege, has advo­cat­ed monar­chism and “covenant com­mu­ni­ties” orga­nized on essen­tial­ly total­i­tar­i­an basis. His book Democ­ra­cy: The God That Failed divides human­i­ty into pro­duc­ers and sub­hu­man, par­a­sitic “pests.”

    But being anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic is one thing, but how could the lib­er­tar­i­an, the defend­er of indi­vid­ual free­dom, the believ­er in the mar­ket ever real­ly be a fas­cist, an ide­ol­o­gy that cel­e­brates the col­lec­tive mass­es and the state? I think part of the prob­lem is that there is still a very car­toon­ish notion of what actu­al­ly-exist­ing fas­cism looked like.

    It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that fas­cism, espe­cial­ly in its orig­i­nal incar­na­tion in Italy, was nev­er a ful­ly coher­ent ide­ol­o­gy. Like the sym­bol of the fasces itself, it was a bun­dle of things bound togeth­er, a syn­cret­ic and cob­bled-togeth­er sys­tem of pol­i­tics that encom­passed sev­er­al ide­o­log­i­cal ten­den­cies. As the Madon­na song goes, it brought togeth­er the bour­geoisie and the rebel. Mussolini’s par­ty began with avant-garde futur­ists and rad­i­cal syn­di­cal­ists in the cities, but with­in a cou­ple years attract­ed the most con­ser­v­a­tive sec­tions of the bour­geoisie in the coun­try­side. The his­to­ri­an Alexan­der de Grand calls this intrin­sic frag­men­ta­tion hid­ing behind con­sen­sus “hyphen­at­ed fas­cism”: so, you had con­ser­v­a­tive-fas­cism, nation­al­ist-fas­cism, tech­no­crat­ic-fas­cism, syn­di­cal­ist-fas­cism, Catholic-fas­cism etc. Not all fas­cists ticked every box: some were more inter­est­ed in the idea of squads of thugs beat­ing up social­ists, some more in the idea of labor inte­gra­tion with indus­try, some more in a tech­no­crat­ic pro­gram of revi­tal­iz­ing nation­al infra­struc­ture. These ten­den­cies and fac­tions viewed each oth­er as rivals for the over­all direc­tion of the fas­cist ide­al. But each saw in the fas­cist move­ment and state the pos­si­bil­i­ty of real­iz­ing their own pro­gram. This was made pos­si­ble because of the exces­sive­ly abstract terms of fas­cist pro­nounce­ments and the tac­ti­cal flex­i­bil­i­ty and mer­cu­r­ial nature of fas­cist lead­ers. The focus was put on being opposed to com­mon ene­mies like lib­er­al­ism and Marx­ism while at the same time “restor­ing nation­al great­ness.” Every­body had their own idea about what that looked like. But all would glad­ly replace tire­some and frus­trat­ing regime of demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion with the rule of com­pe­ten­ze, or, what the soci­ol­o­gist of fas­cism Dylan Riley calls the “a tech­no­crat­ic rejec­tion of pol­i­tics as such.”

    ...

    Lud­wig von Mis­es, the Aus­tri­an econ­o­mist and god­fa­ther of the type of rad­i­cal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism pro­fessed by Thiel, wrote in 1927, “It can­not be denied that Fas­cism and sim­i­lar move­ments aim­ing at the estab­lish­ment of dic­ta­tor­ships are full of the best inten­tions and that their inter­ven­tion has, for the moment, saved Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion. The mer­it that Fas­cism has there­by won for itself will live on eter­nal­ly in his­to­ry. But though its pol­i­cy has brought sal­va­tion for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise con­tin­ued suc­cess. Fas­cism was an emer­gency makeshift. To view it as some­thing more would be a fatal error.

    It would be easy to beat up on von Mis­es, but he’s just per­form­ing his ide­o­log­i­cal role as spokesman of the cap­i­tal­ist class: this ratio­nal­iza­tion of a “lim­it­ed” fas­cism as a sort of “cus­to­di­al dic­ta­tor­ship” that would fix things up for cap­i­tal­ism and “civilization’s” sake was vir­tu­al­ly a com­mon­place among the inter­war bour­geoisie. In fact, this was basi­cal­ly what the rul­ing class in Italy thought they were acced­ing to when they helped bring the fas­cists to pow­er. And, while Mussolini’s regime still retained some con­sti­tu­tion­al trap­pings and moved toward con­ser­v­a­tive nor­mal­iza­tion, that still seemed like a plau­si­ble-enough out­come. It’s worth not­ing that it’s this sort of “emer­gency-fas­cism” that pre­dom­i­nates in the think­ing of Michael Anton and Cur­tis Yarvin, both Thiel cronies. (Thiel helped Anton, the author of the “Flight 93 Elec­tion” essay, get a job on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.)

    ...

    So, let’s sum up. Peter Thiel believes he belongs to an elite group, often under­stood in implic­it­ly or explic­it­ly racial terms, that is enti­tled to set aside demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance in favor of pur­su­ing a pro­gram of tech­no­log­i­cal progress and nation­al restora­tion. He believes the polit­i­cal means to accom­plish this is through a charis­mat­ic leader with manip­u­la­tive, pop­ulist appeals to past nation­al glo­ry and against par­a­sitic immi­grants and cul­tur­al­ly deca­dent lib­er­al­ism. For him, even the most mil­que­toast, reformist lib­er­al­ism is “tan­ta­mount to com­mu­nism.” He’s obsessed with roman­ti­cized fan­tasies of absolute pow­er, dom­i­na­tion, and con­trol. He dreams of wield­ing the the nation­al secu­ri­ty state against ene­mies both for­eign and domes­tic. He envi­sioned a kind of impe­ri­al­ist world-state con­trolled not through delib­er­a­tive bod­ies like the U.N. but direct­ly by the intel­li­gence and secret police bureaus. He com­bines the ide­ol­o­gy of white col­lar, petit-bour­geois inter­me­di­ary class with its emphases direct man­age­ment tech­niques and close­ly-held own­er­ship with the grandiose, world-span­ning designs of an indus­tri­al titan.There’s real­ly no con­tra­dic­tion with­in Peter Thiel’s pol­i­tics, they are quite con­sis­tent. He’s just real­ized, more clear­ly than his oppo­nents often, that there’s ulti­mate­ly a con­tra­dic­tion between the rule of cap­i­tal and democ­ra­cy, and the way to deal with this con­tra­dic­tion, as far as he’s con­cerned, is to do away with democ­ra­cy.

    What else do you real­ly need to know? The man is a fas­cist, whether he ful­ly admits to him­self or not. He’s prob­a­bly the most clear­ly fas­cist promi­nent fig­ure in the U.S. today, includ­ing Trump. I sus­pect that he’s actu­al­ly ful­ly self-con­scious about it, but knows that it would be polit­i­cal­ly counter-pro­duc­tive to come out as such and he prob­a­bly views his ideas as some new, updat­ed “Fas­cism 2.0.” In any case, we should not deceive our­selves or beat about the bush any longer.
    ...

    And then get to this fas­ci­nat­ing fun fact about Thiel’s fam­i­ly back­ground: the South African ura­ni­um mine his father helped lead was part of South Africa’s clan­des­tine nuclear weapons pro­gram. It’s quite a fam­i­ly pedi­gree in terms of inter­na­tion­al fas­cist pol­i­tics:

    ...
    But Thiel’s pol­i­tics par­tic­i­pates in fas­cism among sev­er­al oth­er hyphen­at­ed axes, as well. Look­ing at his biog­ra­phy, on con­sis­tent strand that he has a deeply elit­ist world­view and he’s obsessed with fan­tasies of pow­er and con­trol. This shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing when you take into con­sid­er­a­tion at his child­hood. Born to con­ser­v­a­tive par­ents in West Ger­many, Thiel spent his child­hood in Namib­ia, then under admin­is­tra­tion by apartheid South Africa. His father was in charge of engi­neers in a ura­ni­um mine, where a black work­force from the “home­lands” were lord­ed over by white mangers like the Thiels. Chafkin describes the work­ing con­di­tions of the mine:

    White man­agers, like the Thiels, had access to a brand-new med­ical and den­tal cen­ter in Swakop­mund and mem­ber­ship in the com­pa­ny coun­try club. Black labor­ers, includ­ing some with fam­i­lies, lived in a dorm in a work-camp near the mine and did not have access to the med­ical facil­i­ties pro­vid­ed to whites. Walk­ing off the job was a crim­i­nal offense, and work­ers who failed to car­ry their ID card into the mine were rou­tine­ly thrown in jail for the day.

    Ura­ni­um min­ing is, by nature, risky. A report pub­lished after the end of apartheid by the Namib­ia Sup­port Com­mit­tee, a pro-inde­pen­dence group, described con­di­tions at the mine in grim terms, includ­ing an account of a con­tract labor­er on the con­struc­tion project—the project Klaus’s com­pa­ny was help­ing to oversee—who said work­ers had not been told they were build­ing a ura­ni­um mine and were thus unaware of the risks of radi­a­tion. The only clue had been that white employ­ees would hand out wages from behind glass, seem­ing­ly try­ing to avoid con­t­a­m­i­na­tion them­selves. The report men­tioned work­ers “dying like flies,” in 1976, while the mine was under con­struc­tion.

    I once called Thiel’s ide­ol­o­gy baasskapp, an Afrikaans word mean­ing “boss-hood,” with­out ful­ly real­iz­ing his inti­mate con­nec­tion with apartheid. think this expe­ri­ence still forms the core of his entire world­view, that of a petit-bour­geois or pro­fes­sion­al-man­age­r­i­al adjunct to this par­tic­u­lar­ly raw and bru­tal form of colo­nial­ism and cap­i­tal­ist exploita­tion: there are high­ly-com­pe­tent, tech­ni­cal man­agers with a crys­talline vision, the engi­neers, and then there is a bio­log­i­cal­ly-infe­ri­or, racial under­class of labor that has to be kept in line. There is a nation­al­ist and nation­al secu­ri­ty dimen­sion here, too: this ura­ni­um mine was part of South Africa’s clan­des­tine attempt to devel­op a nuclear weapons pro­gram, to ensure its sov­er­eign­ty in a sea of increas­ing­ly unfriend­ly nations. Thiel might be him­self now a high indus­tri­al­ist but he still retains much of the world­view of an “organ­ic intel­lec­tu­al” to bor­row Gramsci’s term, an inter­me­di­ary man­ag­er, in the apartheid sys­tem.
    ...

    And don’t for­get the con­nec­tions laid out in Mar­tin Bor­man: Nazi in Exile between the Bor­mann group and a joint nuclear weapons devel­op­ment pro­gram between South African, West Ger­many, and Argenti­na fol­low­ing the post-war dis­cov­ery of ura­ni­um in Argenti­na. So when we learn that Thiel’s dad was one of the lead engi­neers in what amount­ed to a clan­des­tine South Africa nuclear wapons pro­gram, we have to ask: Was Peter Thiel basi­cal­ly raised to be a kind of next-gen­er­a­tion Bor­mann Group fas­cist?

    We’ll like­ly nev­er real­ly be able to answer that ques­tion with cer­tain­ty giv­en the lack of com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion on his child­hood. That part of his back­ground is a mys­tery. Just as it’s kind of a mys­tery as to how he man­aged to avoid any direct con­nec­tion with a plot to over­turn the elec­tion that he undoubt­ed­ly deeply sup­port­ed. But the fact that he’s lived a life that would be con­sis­tent with that of some­one raised to be an elite fas­cist oper­a­tive is not one of Peter Thiel’s fas­cist mys­ter­ies. At least not for those with eyes to see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 25, 2022, 2:53 pm
  15. With all of the ques­tions about whether or not Don­ald Trump still rep­re­sents the future of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, here’s a pair of arti­cles that asks a relat­ed ques­tion: so who is going to replace the Koch Net­work of mega-donors? Don’t for­get that David Koch died in 2019 and his old­er broth­er Charles isn’t get­ting any younger. So what hap­pens to the con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donor infra­struc­ture and major Koch-cre­at­ed enti­ties like DonorsTrust when Charles final­ly joins David? Well, as the NY Times report­ed back in April, we at least par­tial­ly have answer that ques­tion: new dark mon­ey enti­ties are going to step in to fill that space.

    One of these new enti­ties is the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil formed by CPAC orga­niz­er Matt Schlapp. Recall how Schlapp recent­ly had to dis­miss out­cry over CPAC’s deci­sion to invite Vik­tor Orban to next week’s CPAC con­fer­ence in Dal­las fol­low­ing Orban’s denounce­ment of inter­ra­cial mar­riage. Accord­ing to Schlapp, donors approached him after the 2020 elec­tion “express­ing frus­tra­tion with the more nor­mal routes for fund­ing polit­i­cal oper­a­tions.” It’s a rather omi­nous ratio­nale for a new dark mon­ey group giv­en that this was all in the wake of the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion and giv­en all of the remain­ing ques­tions about the scale of the plot and how it was financed. So we should­n’t be sur­prised to learn that one of the fig­ures invit­ed to speak at a Chest­nut Street Coun­cil event in Feb­ru­ary of this year was none oth­er than Car­o­line Wren, a fig­ure who played a key role in facil­i­tat­ing the financ­ing of the ‘Stop the Steal’ Jan 6 ral­ly. Recall how Wren was a deputy to Don­ald Trump Jr.’s girl­friend, Kim­ber­ly Guil­foyle, at Trump Vic­to­ry, a joint pres­i­den­tial fundrais­ing com­mit­tee dur­ing the 2020 cam­paign. Wren was, in turn, hired by Pub­lix heiress Julie Jenk­ins Fan­cel­li to orga­nize the Stop the Steal ral­ly with $300,000 of Fan­cel­li’s mon­ey. Fan­cel­li’s financ­ing of the ral­ly was report­ed­ly facil­i­tat­ed by Alex Jones. Also recall the last-minute tur­moil inside in the Stop the Steal ral­ly orga­niz­ing when Wren and Guil­foyle attempt­ed to get Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexan­der put on the speak­ers list. When Jones and Alexan­der left the ral­ly ear­ly (to begin the march to the “Wild Protest”), it was Wren who escort­ed them away as they pre­pared to lead the march on the Capi­tol. So one of the key financiers for the insur­rec­tion plot was invit­ed to speak at a new dark mon­ey group formed, in part, out of desire for addi­tion­al routes for ‘fund­ing polit­i­cal oper­a­tions’. Yikes.

    And then we get to the oth­er new dark mon­ey enti­ty recent­ly cre­at­ed with the gener­ic goal of ‘build­ing a con­ser­v­a­tive ecosys­tem’: The Rock­bridge net­work, financed by Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mer­cer. The founder of Rock­bridge, Chris Buskirk, is a rel­a­tive­ly con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dit who even has a NY Times op-ed col­umn. Buskirk also found­ed a con­ser­v­a­tive media out­let, Amer­i­can Great­ness, and is a self-pro­claimed super-fan of Roger Ailes. As we’re going to see in the Media Mat­ters report on Amer­i­can Great­ness, it’s the kind of out­let Ailes would prob­a­bly have approved of, where far right memes and racist tropes are deliv­ered with a ‘main­stream’ pati­na. Memes that includes all sorts of elec­tion denial­ism pushed by senior edi­tor Julie Kel­ly. Oth­er Amer­i­can Great­ness con­trib­u­tors include the two cen­tral orga­niz­ers of the plot to over­turn the elec­tion 2020: Cle­ta Mitchell and John East­man.

    And that’s a glimpse at how the con­ser­v­a­tives mega-donors have respond­ed to the 2020 elec­tion results and sub­se­quent inves­ti­ga­tion into the insur­rec­tion plot: new insur­rec­tion-friend­ly dark mon­ey enti­ties are being cre­at­ed by the net­work of con­ser­v­a­tive king-mak­ers poised to replace Koch net­work:

    The New York Times

    Dis­sat­is­fied With Their Par­ty, Wealthy Repub­li­can Donors Form Secret Coali­tions

    Eager to off­set a Demo­c­ra­t­ic advan­tage among so-called dark mon­ey groups, wealthy pro-Trump con­ser­v­a­tives like Peter Thiel are involved in efforts to wield greater influ­ence out­side the tra­di­tion­al par­ty machin­ery.

    By Ken­neth P. Vogel, Shane Gold­mach­er and Ryan Mac
    April 6, 2022

    A new coali­tion of wealthy con­ser­v­a­tive bene­fac­tors that says it aims to “dis­rupt but advance the Repub­li­can agen­da” gath­ered this week for a pri­vate sum­mit in South Flori­da that includ­ed closed-door address­es from for­mer Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump and an allied Sen­ate can­di­date at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, accord­ing to doc­u­ments and inter­views.

    The coali­tion, called the Rock­bridge Net­work, includes some of Mr. Trump’s biggest donors, such as Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mer­cer, and has laid out an ambi­tious goal — to reshape the Amer­i­can right by spend­ing more than $30 mil­lion on con­ser­v­a­tive media, legal, pol­i­cy and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion projects, among oth­er ini­tia­tives.

    The emer­gence of Rock­bridge, the exis­tence of which has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, comes amid esca­lat­ing jock­ey­ing among con­ser­v­a­tive megadonors to shape the 2022 midterms and the future of the Repub­li­can Par­ty from out­side the for­mal par­ty machin­ery, and often with lit­tle dis­clo­sure.

    In Feb­ru­ary, anoth­er pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed coali­tion of donors, the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil, orga­nized by the Trump-allied lob­by­ist Matt Schlapp, held a meet­ing to hear a pitch for new mod­els for fund­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    If those upstart coali­tions gain momen­tum, they will like­ly have to vie for influ­ence among con­ser­v­a­tives with exist­ing donor net­works that have been skep­ti­cal of or agnos­tic toward Mr. Trump.

    One that was cre­at­ed by the bil­lion­aire indus­tri­al­ists Charles G. and David H. Koch spent more than $250 mil­lion in 2020. Anoth­er, spear­head­ed by the New York hedge fund bil­lion­aire Paul Singer, host­ed top Repub­li­can politi­cians in Feb­ru­ary.

    The surge in secre­tive fund-rais­ing does not end there — a num­ber of non­prof­it groups with vary­ing degrees of alle­giance to Mr. Trump are also vying to become lead­ing dis­trib­u­tors of donor funds to the right.

    Tak­en togeth­er, the jock­ey­ing high­lights frus­tra­tion on the right with the polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture that sur­rounds the Repub­li­can Par­ty, and, in some cas­es, with its politi­cians, as well as dis­agree­ments about its direc­tion as Mr. Trump teas­es anoth­er pres­i­den­tial run.

    The efforts to har­ness the for­tunes of the party’s rich­est activists could help it cap­i­tal­ize on a favor­able elec­toral land­scape head­ed into this year’s midterm elec­tions, and — poten­tial­ly — the 2024 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Con­verse­ly, the party’s prospects could be dimmed if the mon­eyed class invests in com­pet­ing can­di­dates, groups and tac­tics.

    The will­ing­ness of donors to orga­nize on their own under­scores the migra­tion of pow­er and mon­ey away from the offi­cial organs of the respec­tive par­ties, which are required to dis­close their donors, to out­side groups that often have few dis­clo­sure require­ments. It also reflects a con­cern among some influ­en­tial Repub­li­cans that the polit­i­cal right faces a dis­ad­van­tage when it comes to non­prof­it groups that sup­port the can­di­dates and caus­es of each par­ty.

    An analy­sis by The New York Times found that 15 of the most polit­i­cal­ly active non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions that gen­er­al­ly align with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty spent more than $1.5 bil­lion in 2020 in funds for which the donors’ iden­ti­ties are not dis­closed. That com­pared to rough­ly $900 mil­lion in so-called dark mon­ey spent by a com­pa­ra­ble sam­ple of 15 groups aligned with Repub­li­cans.

    The effort to close that gap — and to make gains in polit­i­cal con­sult­ing and tech­nol­o­gy that under­girds the right’s polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture — has been a major sub­ject of dis­cus­sion among these coali­tions.

    “We need to show our side is orga­nized and has the nec­es­sary insti­tu­tion­al know-how and finan­cial sup­port, in order to have any shot at win­ning future elec­tions,” reads a brochure for the Rock­bridge Net­work.

    The brochure, which cir­cu­lat­ed in Repub­li­can finance cir­cles this year, calls Rock­bridge “a kind of polit­i­cal ven­ture cap­i­tal firm” that will “lever­age our investors’ cap­i­tal with the right polit­i­cal exper­tise” to “replace the cur­rent Repub­li­can ecosys­tem of think tanks, media orga­ni­za­tions and activist groups that have con­tributed to the Party’s decline with bet­ter action-ori­ent­ed, more effec­tive peo­ple and insti­tu­tions that are focused on win­ning.”

    Among the ini­tia­tives cit­ed in the Rock­bridge brochure are media-relat­ed func­tions — includ­ing pub­lic rela­tions, mes­sag­ing, polling, “influ­encer pro­grams” and inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism — with a com­bined bud­get of $8 mil­lion.

    A “law­fare and strate­gic lit­i­ga­tion” effort with a pro­ject­ed cost of $3.75 mil­lion is intend­ed to use the courts “to hold bad actors, includ­ing the media, account­able.” A “tran­si­tion project,” with an esti­mat­ed price tag of $3 mil­lion, is intend­ed to assem­ble pol­i­cy experts and plans to cre­ate a “gov­ern­ment-in-wait­ing” to “staff the next Repub­li­can admin­is­tra­tion.”

    A “red state project” is intend­ed to mim­ic a mod­el pio­neered by the left in which strate­gists coor­di­nate the efforts of an array of move­ment groups to com­ple­ment one anoth­er and avoid over­lap. It is esti­mat­ed to cost $6 mil­lion to $8 mil­lion per state, and is ini­tial­ly focused on the swing states of Ari­zona, Neva­da and Michi­gan.

    A per­son famil­iar with Rock­bridge described those projects, and their fund-rais­ing goals, as aspi­ra­tional, and said the coali­tion had so far focused on allo­cat­ing donor funds to pre-exist­ing groups to accom­plish its goals, rather than cre­at­ing new ones.

    The per­son said that the coali­tion had test­ed some of its plans, includ­ing a vot­er reg­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tive, last year in Ari­zona, which is iden­ti­fied in the brochure as a case study.

    Ari­zona was the site of Rockbridge’s first sum­mit, which was held last year. It fea­tured a speech by Mr. Thiel, the bil­lion­aire tech investor. He and Ms. Mer­cer, the daugh­ter of the hedge fund mag­nate Robert Mer­cer, were among Mr. Trump’s biggest donors in 2016, and worked close­ly togeth­er on his pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion team.

    Since then, Mr. Thiel has emerged as a key king­mak­er, sup­port­ing 16 Sen­ate and House can­di­dates, some of whom have also been backed by Ms. Mer­cer. Many of their can­di­dates have embraced the lie that Mr. Trump won the 2020 elec­tion.

    One, Blake Mas­ters, a for­mer employ­ee of Mr. Thiel’s who is run­ning for Sen­ate in Ari­zona, spoke at the Rock­bridge din­ner recep­tion at Mar-a-Lago on Tues­day night before Mr. Trump, and con­ceiv­ably could ben­e­fit from Rockbridge’s efforts.

    Mr. Thiel donat­ed $10 mil­lion each to super PACs sup­port­ing Mr. Mas­ters and J.D. Vance, an Ohio Sen­ate can­di­date.

    It was not clear whether Mr. Thiel or Ms. Mer­cer attend­ed the Rock­bridge gath­er­ing this week, which includ­ed ses­sions at anoth­er hotel in addi­tion to the din­ner recep­tion at Mar-a-Lago Tues­day night. The Mar-a-Lago din­ner occurred just before anoth­er event there that drew Trump loy­al­ists — the pre­miere of a movie crit­i­cal of Mark Zucker­berg, the chief exec­u­tive of Face­book par­ent com­pa­ny Meta, for pro­vid­ing grants in 2020 to elec­tion admin­is­tra­tors strug­gling to cov­er the costs of hold­ing an elec­tion amid a pan­dem­ic. Mr. Thiel has been a board mem­ber at Meta, but is leav­ing that posi­tion to focus on try­ing to influ­ence the midterm elec­tions. His involve­ment in Rock­bridge sug­gests he could be branch­ing into dark-mon­ey non­prof­it spend­ing.

    Rock­bridge was found­ed by Christo­pher Buskirk, who is the edi­tor and pub­lish­er of the pro-Trump jour­nal Amer­i­can Great­ness and has advised a super PAC sup­port­ing Mr. Mas­ters.

    A spokesman for Mr. Thiel declined to com­ment. Efforts to reach Ms. Mer­cer were not suc­cess­ful.

    Mr. Schlapp, who helped expand the Koch broth­ers’ polit­i­cal oper­a­tion more than 15 years ago, said he cre­at­ed the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil because donors approached him after the 2020 elec­tion “express­ing frus­tra­tion with the more nor­mal routes for fund­ing polit­i­cal oper­a­tions.”

    “We decid­ed that it made sense to work with these donors to find bet­ter invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

    He sug­gest­ed that the group would sup­port legal bat­tles over vot­ing rules.

    At a Chest­nut Street Coun­cil meet­ing in Feb­ru­ary, donors heard a pre­sen­ta­tion from the vet­er­an Repub­li­can fund-rais­er Car­o­line Wren.

    Ms. Wren, who helped raise mon­ey for many Trump polit­i­cal ini­tia­tives, includ­ing the ral­ly that pre­ced­ed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capi­tol, said the right should try to repli­cate the left’s sys­tem of donor alliances and non­prof­it fund­ing hubs to incu­bate new groups and increase coop­er­a­tion between exist­ing ones, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the pre­sen­ta­tion.

    While new fund­ing hubs have emerged on the right in recent years, none have matched the sophis­ti­ca­tion or spend­ing lev­els of those on the left.

    The Con­ser­v­a­tive Part­ner­ship Insti­tute, has sought to become “the hub of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.” It claimed in its 2021 annu­al report to have played a role in the cre­ation of sev­er­al new con­ser­v­a­tive non­prof­its, includ­ing Amer­i­ca First Legal, which is led by for­mer Trump aide Stephen Miller; the Cen­ter for Renew­ing Amer­i­ca, led by anoth­er Trump alum­nus, Russ Vought; and the Amer­i­can Cor­ner­stone Insti­tute, led by Ben Car­son, the for­mer sec­re­tary of hous­ing and urban devel­op­ment.

    The group also hous­es the Elec­tion Integri­ty Net­work, which is led by Cle­ta Mitchell, the con­ser­v­a­tive lawyer who was on the hour­long call with Geor­gia offi­cials and Mr. Trump when the then-pres­i­dent pres­sured them to “find” enough votes to flip the result.

    The Con­ser­v­a­tive Part­ner­ship Insti­tute received a $1 mil­lion infu­sion from Mr. Trump’s PAC last sum­mer and held a donor retreat at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s pri­vate club, last spring.

    Such groups have far few­er dis­clo­sure require­ments than cam­paigns and polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees. Fund­ing hubs like the Con­ser­v­a­tive Part­ner­ship Insti­tute and anoth­er non­prof­it net­work shaped by the judi­cial activist Leonard A. Leo are required to dis­close their grants to oth­er groups, but not the donors who sup­plied the cash, while donor coali­tions like the Rock­bridge Net­work and Chest­nut Street Coun­cil will like­ly not be required to dis­close either.

    The will­ing­ness of Mr. Trump and oth­er offi­cials and prospec­tive pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to engage with these coali­tions is a tes­ta­ment to their increas­ing cen­tral­i­ty in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

    Recent pri­vate gath­er­ings host­ed in Col­orado and Palm Beach, Fla., by Mr. Singer’s coali­tion, the Amer­i­can Oppor­tu­ni­ty Alliance, drew appear­ances by for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis of Flori­da, for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Nik­ki Haley, a for­mer Unit­ed Nations ambas­sador.

    ...

    ———–

    “Dis­sat­is­fied With Their Par­ty, Wealthy Repub­li­can Donors Form Secret Coali­tions” by Ken­neth P. Vogel, Shane Gold­mach­er and Ryan Mac; The New York Times; 04/06/2022

    The coali­tion, called the Rock­bridge Net­work, includes some of Mr. Trump’s biggest donors, such as Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mer­cer, and has laid out an ambi­tious goal — to reshape the Amer­i­can right by spend­ing more than $30 mil­lion on con­ser­v­a­tive media, legal, pol­i­cy and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion projects, among oth­er ini­tia­tives.”

    A whole new ‘coali­tion’ formed by Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mer­cer focused on shap­ing elec­tions. If that kind of news does­n’t send a chill down your spine you’d have to be an inver­te­brate. Or a fas­cist. And the Rock­bridge Net­work is just one of a num­ber of new con­ser­v­a­tive dark mon­ey orga­ni­za­tions that’s sud­den­ly popped up in the post-2020 envi­ron­ment. There’s also the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil, orga­nized by Matt Schlapp. Recall how Schlapp, who is also an orga­niz­er for CPAC, recent­ly had to dis­miss out­cry over CPAC’s deci­sion to invite Vik­tor Orban to next week’s CPAC con­fer­ence in Dal­las fol­low­ing Orban’s denounce­ment of inter­ra­cial mar­riage. Keep in mind that David Koch died in 2019 and Charles Koch only has so much time left to spend trash­ing the Earth before he leaves it. In oth­er words, the clock is tick­ing for the Koch mega-donor net­work. That’s part of the con­text of these new dark mon­ey enti­ties: it’s hap­pen­ing not long before we can expect a major vac­u­um on the right’s mega-donor infra­struc­ture fol­low­ing the inevitable death of Charles Koch. He’s going to kick it any year now, and when he does groups like the Rock­bridge Net­work and the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil will be ready to fill that void. That’s part of what makes this report so omi­nous: it’s a reminder that the influ­ence of fig­ures like Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mer­cer are only going to be grow­ing inside the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment in com­ing decades:

    ...
    The emer­gence of Rock­bridge, the exis­tence of which has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, comes amid esca­lat­ing jock­ey­ing among con­ser­v­a­tive megadonors to shape the 2022 midterms and the future of the Repub­li­can Par­ty from out­side the for­mal par­ty machin­ery, and often with lit­tle dis­clo­sure.

    In Feb­ru­ary, anoth­er pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed coali­tion of donors, the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil, orga­nized by the Trump-allied lob­by­ist Matt Schlapp, held a meet­ing to hear a pitch for new mod­els for fund­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    If those upstart coali­tions gain momen­tum, they will like­ly have to vie for influ­ence among con­ser­v­a­tives with exist­ing donor net­works that have been skep­ti­cal of or agnos­tic toward Mr. Trump.

    One that was cre­at­ed by the bil­lion­aire indus­tri­al­ists Charles G. and David H. Koch spent more than $250 mil­lion in 2020. Anoth­er, spear­head­ed by the New York hedge fund bil­lion­aire Paul Singer, host­ed top Repub­li­can politi­cians in Feb­ru­ary.

    The surge in secre­tive fund-rais­ing does not end there — a num­ber of non­prof­it groups with vary­ing degrees of alle­giance to Mr. Trump are also vying to become lead­ing dis­trib­u­tors of donor funds to the right.
    ...

    And as we should expect, these new dark mon­ey orga­ni­za­tions appear to be very insur­rec­tion-friend­ly. For exam­ple, the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil includ­ed a pre­sen­ta­tion from Car­o­line Wren, a key fig­ure in the events lead­ing up to Jan­u­ary 6. Recall how Wren was a deputy to Don­ald Trump Jr.’s girl­friend, Kim­ber­ly Guil­foyle, at Trump Vic­to­ry, a joint pres­i­den­tial fundrais­ing com­mit­tee dur­ing the 2020 cam­paign. Wren was, in turn, hired by Pub­lix heiress Julie Jenk­ins Fan­cel­li to orga­nize the Stop the Steal ral­ly with $300,000 of Fan­cel­li’s mon­ey. Fan­cel­li’s financ­ing of the ral­ly was report­ed­ly facil­i­tat­ed by Alex Jones. Also recall the last-minute tur­moil inside in the Stop the Steal ral­ly orga­niz­ing when Wren and Guil­foyle attempt­ed to get Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexan­der put on the speak­ers list. When Jones and Alexan­der left the ral­ly ear­ly (to begin the march to the “Wild Protest”), it was Wren who escort­ed them away as they pre­pared to lead the march on the Capi­tol. So Wren was oper­at­ing at the nexus of where the Trump White House was direct­ly coor­di­nat­ing with fig­ures like Alex Jones and Ali Alexan­der and financ­ing the broad­er ‘Stop the Steal’ orga­niz­ing in the weeks lead­ing up to the insur­rec­tion. And that’s the per­son who was invit­ed to speak at the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil:

    ...
    Mr. Schlapp, who helped expand the Koch broth­ers’ polit­i­cal oper­a­tion more than 15 years ago, said he cre­at­ed the Chest­nut Street Coun­cil because donors approached him after the 2020 elec­tion “express­ing frus­tra­tion with the more nor­mal routes for fund­ing polit­i­cal oper­a­tions.”

    “We decid­ed that it made sense to work with these donors to find bet­ter invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

    He sug­gest­ed that the group would sup­port legal bat­tles over vot­ing rules.

    At a Chest­nut Street Coun­cil meet­ing in Feb­ru­ary, donors heard a pre­sen­ta­tion from the vet­er­an Repub­li­can fund-rais­er Car­o­line Wren.

    Ms. Wren, who helped raise mon­ey for many Trump polit­i­cal ini­tia­tives, includ­ing the ral­ly that pre­ced­ed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capi­tol, said the right should try to repli­cate the left’s sys­tem of donor alliances and non­prof­it fund­ing hubs to incu­bate new groups and increase coop­er­a­tion between exist­ing ones, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the pre­sen­ta­tion.
    ...

    And then there’s the Rock­bridge Net­work­s’s sup­port for elec­tion denial­ism: Rock­bridge was tech­ni­cal­ly found­ed by Christo­pher Buskirk, edi­tor and pub­lish­er of Amer­i­can Great­ness:

    ...
    Rock­bridge was found­ed by Christo­pher Buskirk, who is the edi­tor and pub­lish­er of the pro-Trump jour­nal Amer­i­can Great­ness and has advised a super PAC sup­port­ing Mr. Mas­ters.

    A spokesman for Mr. Thiel declined to com­ment. Efforts to reach Ms. Mer­cer were not suc­cess­ful.
    ...

    And we we’re going to see in the fol­low­ing Media Mat­ters report, Buskirk’s Amer­i­can Great­ness out­let is more or less what we should expect from some­one close­ly affil­i­at­ed with Thiel. As we’ll see, Amer­i­can Great­ness fol­lows in the foot­steps of Buskirk’s idol: Roger Ailes. Yep, Ailes is his hero. Which actu­al­ly tracks with the kind of con­tent of Amer­i­can Great­ness pumps out, where far right fic­tions are served up to audi­ences with a ‘main­stream’ pati­na. And that includes all of the fic­tions about a stolen 2020 elec­tion that are rou­tine­ly pro­mot­ed by senior edi­tor Julie Kel­ly.
    Elec­tion denial­ism and lots and lots of thin­ly veiled racist tropes. That’s the kind of con­tent Rock­bridge Net­work founder Chris Buskirk pro­duces. The kind of ‘main­stream’ con­ser­v­a­tive out­let the ghost of Roger Ailes would undoubt­ed­ly approve of:

    Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca

    Chris Buskirk is sup­posed to be the respectable face of a new Peter Thiel-backed far-right media net­work. His web­site tells anoth­er sto­ry.

    Buskirk is the edi­tor and pub­lish­er of Amer­i­can Great­ness, a far-right, nation­al­ist web­site that hosts Jan­u­ary 6 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. Now he has a multi­bil­lion­aire who doesn’t believe in democ­ra­cy back­ing him.

    Writ­ten by John Kne­fel
    Research con­tri­bu­tions from Justin Horowitz
    Pub­lished 06/09/22 11:11 AM EDT

    When The New York Times dis­closed the exis­tence of a new mul­ti­pronged right-wing project, the Rock­bridge Net­work, backed by multi­bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel in April, the paper named only one per­son with an offi­cial posi­tion in the new orga­ni­za­tion: its founder, Chris Buskirk. Lit­tle is known about the new ven­ture, and Buskirk him­self remains rel­a­tive­ly obscure, although he main­tains con­sid­er­able access to main­stream media out­lets.

    In report­ing on the new orga­ni­za­tion, the Times didn’t men­tion that the web­site Buskirk edits and pub­lish­es, the far-right and nation­al­ist out­let Amer­i­can Great­ness, is home to an array of Jan­u­ary 6 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, sup­ple­ment­ed with defens­es of mil­i­tary coups and a com­bi­na­tion of thin­ly cod­ed and occa­sion­al­ly overt racism. In gen­er­al, Amer­i­can Great­ness aims to stay just bare­ly inside the main­stream dis­course, typ­i­cal­ly avoid­ing the kind of open white nation­al­ism that can rel­e­gate an out­let to being reject­ed by lega­cy right-wing media.

    Giv­en the near-total secre­cy around Rock­bridge, it’s dif­fi­cult to know what its exact plans are, but the Times report­ed that the group is plan­ning to spend “more than $30 mil­lion on con­ser­v­a­tive media, legal, pol­i­cy and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion projects, among oth­er ini­tia­tives.” It’s not hard to deter­mine what kinds of can­di­dates it’ll back — both Thiel and Buskirk are sup­port­ers of far-right Sen­ate can­di­dates J.D. Vance and Blake Mas­ters. As for its media ambi­tions, the group bud­get­ed $8 mil­lion in 2021 towards the goal of cre­at­ing a “new con­ser­v­a­tive ecosys­tem.” It’s not clear who got that mon­ey, but Thiel is rumored to have fund­ed the efforts of a cadre of right-wing nation­al­ist media fig­ures. Whether that was through his foun­da­tion or Buskirk and Rock­bridge is unclear. Regard­less, Buskirk is an admir­er of the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and the best win­dow into the types of projects the orga­ni­za­tion is like­ly to sup­port — or is already sup­port­ing behind the scenes — is prob­a­bly his site, Amer­i­can Great­ness.

    As the House com­mit­tee inves­ti­gat­ing the Jan­u­ary 6, 2021, riot pre­pares to present to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, start­ing this week, facts and evi­dence about the events of that day and those lead­ing up to it, the need to exam­ine the role Buskirk’s web­site has played in spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about the attempt­ed coup is espe­cial­ly urgent – par­tic­u­lar­ly since Buskirk’s mon­ey-man, Thiel, wrote in 2009, “I no longer believe that free­dom and democ­ra­cy are com­pat­i­ble.” Thiel also has close ties with fig­ures who open­ly opine about their anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic ide­olo­gies, and it’s worth con­sid­er­ing that one of Thiel’s main inter­ests in Buskirk may be his site’s attacks on the legit­i­ma­cy of the 2020 elec­tion.

    Buskirk him­self serves two audi­ences. As pub­lish­er of Amer­i­can Great­ness, he’s the ring­mas­ter of a mot­ley col­lec­tion of fire­brands and trolls look­ing to find how far they can push the con­cept of “nation­al­ism” before it cross­es into some­thing more open­ly ugly. In his own writ­ing and pub­lic speak­ing, he’s not a provo­ca­teur but a kind of human Botox that smooths out the rough edges of the far-right, pre­sent­ing its palat­able if slight­ly anes­thetized face. “‘Build the wall’ … — that’s like a short­hand ver­sion of say­ing ‘let’s have a more sen­si­ble immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy,’” he implau­si­bly sug­gest­ed in an inter­view with Char­lie Kirk in 2020.

    Unlike many of the writ­ers he pub­lish­es, he presents as a fair­ly main­stream fig­ure. He is a con­tribut­ing writer to the Times op-ed page, though he hasn’t pub­lished a piece there in over a year. He has writ­ten for The Wash­ing­ton Post and has appeared numer­ous times on PBS and NPR. In 2019, he spoke on a pan­el at the Aspen Ideas Fes­ti­val, crit­i­ciz­ing main­stream out­lets for writ­ing pro­files of the white nation­al­ist Richard Spencer. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to give oxy­gen to that sort of thing,” Buskirk said. It’s a fair point, if a bit mis­lead­ing, because his site has also pro­vid­ed a plat­form to Spencer. More gen­er­al­ly, Amer­i­can Great­ness has giv­en oxy­gen to a host of far-right, anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic ideas.

    Buskirk in his own words

    Buskirk sees him­self as a cham­pi­on of the work­ing man as a house­hold provider, albeit one cal­ci­fied by Fordist-era nos­tal­gia. And while he will reg­u­lar­ly rail against “elites,” he has no prob­lem with bil­lion­aires like Thiel as such. “The prob­lem isn’t that rich peo­ple are get­ting rich­er. It’s that almost every­one else is, at best, run­ning to stand still,” Buskirk wrote in Decem­ber 2020.

    Because Buskirk is com­mit­ted to pre­serv­ing cap­i­tal­ism while adopt­ing an anti-elit­ist pose, his analy­sis is often super­fi­cial. He has railed against “glob­al­ism,” which he argues “wants two things above all oth­ers: con­sumers and cheap labor.” There is, of course, an eco­nom­ic mode of pro­duc­tion and accom­pa­ny­ing ide­ol­o­gy that demands cheap labor and the con­stant flow of com­modi­ties; it is called cap­i­tal­ism.

    Buskirk’s anti-“globalism” and facile pro-work­er affect is a com­mon strain among reac­tionary nation­al­ists across the world, alliances Buskirk and com­pa­ny hope to deep­en. Toward that end, he dined with far-right Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro in 2019, and he has referred to Italy’s far-right politi­cian Mat­teo Salvi­ni as a “charis­mat­ic” can­di­date with “pow­er­ful ideas.” Salvi­ni is vir­u­lent­ly anti-migrant and often makes bare­ly hid­den allu­sions to fas­cist tropes or ideas. The neo-fas­cist group Forza Nuo­va sup­port­ed Salvi­ni as well.

    When Buskirk approach­es the right’s more extreme ideas, it’s often with a degree of plau­si­ble deni­a­bil­i­ty, care­ful­ly cal­i­brat­ing his mes­sage to sat­is­fy read­ers of his site with­out los­ing access to main­stream out­lets like NPR or PBS. He recent­ly retweet­ed an endorse­ment of “Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism,” which one schol­ar of the far-right has described as a way to “cool down the idea of fas­cism with­out los­ing the fas­cism.” Sim­i­lar­ly, in 2018 he quot­ed a piece he’d pub­lished push­ing a toned-down ver­sion of the racist “great replace­ment” the­o­ry.

    His belief in the the­o­ry is to be expect­ed, giv­en his admi­ra­tion of Fox News’ Tuck­er Carl­son, the per­son most respon­si­ble for main­stream­ing it. Carl­son “is the most artic­u­late spokesman for a set of prin­ci­ples and pri­or­i­ties that are impor­tant to mid­dle Amer­i­ca, but anath­e­ma to the bipar­ti­san rul­ing class,” Buskirk wrote in 2019.

    ...

    As for Buskirk’s ambi­tions with the Rock­bridge media project, his praise of Roger Ailes may pro­vide clues. “It wasn’t until Ailes built Fox News into a pow­er­house that broke the monop­oly of Left-lib­er­al lega­cy media on tele­vi­sion news that he became pub­lic ene­my num­ber one,” Buskirk wrote. “It’s a role he seems to have rel­ished.”

    “Ailes was ener­getic, ambi­tious, unortho­dox, cre­ative, bril­liant, charm­ing, dis­arm­ing, and a bunch of oth­er things that made all kinds of dif­fer­ent peo­ple yell, at crit­i­cal moments, ‘Get Ailes!’” Buskirk gushed. “I didn’t know him, but I wish I had.”

    Amer­i­can Great­ness and the Jan­u­ary 6 attempt­ed coup

    Amer­i­can Great­ness, and specif­i­cal­ly senior writer Julie Kel­ly, is one of the key sources of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and mis­in­for­ma­tion about the Jan­u­ary 6 insur­rec­tion. Kel­ly is a reg­u­lar guest on right-wing media out­lets, includ­ing appear­ing at least 17 times on Fox News to dis­cuss the riot and its after­math. Her pur­port­ed inves­ti­ga­tions have pro­pelled much of the man­u­fac­tured con­fu­sion about that day.

    Kel­ly has referred to Jan­u­ary 6 as an “inside job,” sug­gest­ed it was a false flag, and pushed a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that the FBI plant­ed pipe bombs at the offices of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee the day before the riot.

    In July 2021, Kel­ly tweet­ed that Wash­ing­ton, D.C., police offi­cer Michael Fanone – who was tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress about the Jan­u­ary 6 attack at the time – was a cri­sis actor. She said that pros­e­cu­tion of the insur­rec­tion­ists is an attempt to “silence polit­i­cal dis­sent,” and said it is “encour­ag­ing” that Repub­li­can vot­ers “do not think that Joe Biden was fair­ly elect­ed in 2020.” Stop the Steal orga­niz­er Ali Alexan­der praised Kel­ly, along with Tuck­er Carl­son, as “patri­ots that are doing great work out there.”

    Buskirk is a con­sis­tent cham­pi­on of Kel­ly, call­ing her “indis­pens­able,” and although he typ­i­cal­ly stays away from out­right elec­tion denial, he walks up to the line. One day after the 2020 elec­tion, Buskirk tweet­ed in sup­port of a “pro­tect the vote” ral­ly in Mari­co­pa Coun­ty, Ari­zona, one of the states Trump’s allies tar­get­ed in their effort to change the elec­tion results. In a recent inter­view on Amer­i­ca First with Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, he said a ridicu­lous new Dinesh D’Souza film about the elec­tion was “very, very well-researched” and “the evi­dence it presents, I think, is con­clu­sive.” His site took a sim­i­lar line, run­ning a piece with the head­line “2000 Mules Doc­u­men­tary Pro­vides Com­pelling Evi­dence That 2020 Elec­tion Was Stolen.” The Wash­ing­ton Post, on the oth­er hand, cap­tured the real­i­ty of the film: “‘2000 Mules’ offers the least con­vinc­ing elec­tion-fraud the­o­ry yet.”

    Beyond Kel­ly, Amer­i­can Great­ness reg­u­lar­ly runs pieces that down­play Jan­u­ary 6 and has accused lib­er­als of being the real coup-plot­ters. Imme­di­ate­ly after the elec­tion, the site pub­lished a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry-addled piece alleg­ing vot­ing irreg­u­lar­i­ty with Domin­ion Vot­ing Sys­tems, which was com­plete­ly unsub­stan­ti­at­ed at the time and remains so today. (Domin­ion sued Trump-affil­i­at­ed lawyers Rudy Giu­liani and Sid­ney Pow­ell for mak­ing sim­i­lar claims.)

    John East­man, whom the New York Times recent­ly described as “the archi­tect of a strat­e­gy to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion,” has writ­ten for Amer­i­can Great­ness, includ­ing about his own role in attempt­ing to keep Trump in pow­er. In a piece head­lined “Try­ing to Pre­vent Ille­gal Con­duct From Decid­ing an Elec­tion Is Not Endors­ing a ‘Coup,’” East­man repeat­ed the lie that there was sig­nif­i­cant ille­gal vot­ing in 2020. He also argued that a legal memo he wrote, out­lin­ing var­i­ous oth­er ways the elec­toral vote could be cer­ti­fied in Trump’s favor, was sim­ply advice on how to defend the legit­i­ma­cy of the elec­tion. “The memo out­lined ways to ensure elec­tion integri­ty in the face of sig­nif­i­cant and demon­stra­ble vio­la­tions of state elec­tion law,” East­man wrote in his own defense.

    Far from how he por­trays him­self in his Amer­i­can Great­ness blog, East­man appears to have been inti­mate­ly and proac­tive­ly involved in over­turn­ing the elec­tion results, work­ing behind the scenes to get a Penn­syl­va­nia leg­is­la­tor to “strip Mr. Biden of his win in that state by apply­ing a math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion to accept­ing the valid­i­ty of mail bal­lots, which were most heav­i­ly used by Democ­rats dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.”

    In real­i­ty, there was nev­er any evi­dence of vot­er fraud that could change the out­come of the elec­tion. In March, a fed­er­al judge con­clud­ed that Trump and East­man prob­a­bly com­mit­ted felonies in their pur­suit of over­turn­ing the elec­tion, which he referred to as “a coup in search of a legal the­o­ry.” Accord­ing to Judge David Carter’s find­ings, East­man par­tic­i­pat­ed in two meet­ings in the imme­di­ate run-up to Jan­u­ary 6 “explic­it­ly tied to per­suad­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Pence to dis­rupt the joint ses­sion of Con­gress.”

    Oth­ers with direct ties to Trump’s effort to over­turn the elec­tion have also writ­ten for the site. Amer­i­can Great­ness has pub­lished Cle­ta Mitchell, a lawyer who was recent­ly sub­poe­naed by the House Jan­u­ary 6 com­mit­tee because, the com­mit­tee said, she “pro­mot­ed false claims of elec­tion fraud to mem­bers of Con­gress.” She was on a phone call when Trump tried to pres­sure Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er to “‘find’ enough votes to reverse his loss there,” accord­ing to the New York Times.

    There’s also no short­age of hyper­bole and exag­ger­a­tion in Amer­i­can Great­ness pieces regard­ing the after­math of the insur­rec­tion and sub­se­quent pros­e­cu­tions. “Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tives are, right now, on a course for being every bit as ostra­cized and alien­at­ed from broad­er soci­ety as Jews were in the years lead­ing up to Nazi Ger­many,” wrote Eric Lendrum. He added that Jan­u­ary 6 defen­dants were being abused by prison guards because of “their race and polit­i­cal beliefs.” Two defen­dants were, in Lendrum’s telling, “forced to under­go polit­i­cal indoc­tri­na­tion from judges and pros­e­cu­tors” when they “were ordered by the courts to declare that Joe Biden was legit­i­mate­ly elect­ed, despite over­whelm­ing evi­dence to the con­trary.”

    And when Amer­i­can Great­ness isn’t whip­ping up con­spir­a­to­r­i­al fren­zies or allow­ing coup-plot­ters to rewrite their own nar­ra­tive, it just does straight revi­sion­ism. “The immense and jus­ti­fied out­rage of Pres­i­dent Trump and his 75 mil­lion fol­low­ers nev­er led to vio­lence or ille­gal­i­ty and the gath­er­ing in Wash­ing­ton on Jan­u­ary 6 demon­strat­ed sol­i­dar­i­ty with the out­go­ing pres­i­dent,” wrote Con­rad Black, in March 2021.

    Amer­i­can Great­ness’ big­otry

    Amer­i­can Great­ness gen­er­al­ly eschews open racism in favor of bare­ly cod­ed dog whis­tles, but not always. One of the site’s most overt­ly racist pieces was a poem called Cuck Ele­gy. The anony­mous poem was pub­lished after “Nev­er Trump” con­ser­v­a­tive David French con­front­ed Buskirk about harass­ment he’d received from Kel­ly regard­ing com­ments French’s wife had made about Jus­tice Brett Kavanaugh. Sep­a­rate­ly from Kel­ly, French had been sub­ject­ed to racist harass­ment from alt-right trolls regard­ing his Black adopt­ed daugh­ter, sug­gest­ing that the child was the prod­uct of French’s wife sleep­ing with Black men. Kel­ly was not impli­cat­ed in that harass­ment, but she had allud­ed to it in a tweet to French. Short­ly after French con­front­ed Buskirk about Kelly’s harass­ment, Amer­i­can Great­ness pub­lished Cuck Ele­gy and includ­ed a pho­to of French with the post. The piece has since been removed from the site, but a tweet from the offi­cial Amer­i­can Great­ness account pro­mot­ing it is still up.

    Far more com­mon on the site are famil­iar com­plaints against wok­e­ness and claims that anti-racism efforts are the real racism. The head­line of one piece referred to June­teenth as “George Floyd’s Crit­i­cal Race Hol­i­day.” The sub­head­ing elab­o­rat­ed that the deci­sion to make the day a fed­er­al hol­i­day is an “enor­mous win for the racism indus­tri­al com­plex.” The piece called the hol­i­day an act of “reify­ing unjus­ti­fied con­tem­po­rary black griev­ance” and sug­gest­ed it “could at least be com­bined with Mar­tin Luther King Day.” Anoth­er argued that anti-racism is sim­ply “thin­ly veiled anti-white hate.”

    Apoc­a­lyp­tic visions of armed Black peo­ple are com­mon on the site as well. “The African Amer­i­can mil­i­tants who were allowed by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic big-city may­ors to ran­sack urban Amer­i­ca all sum­mer and were reward­ed for their mur­der, van­dal­ism, and loot­ing with the defama­tion and defund­ing of the nation’s urban police forces, are agi­tat­ing and threat­en­ing with redou­bled vig­or,” wrote Con­rad Black, in March 2021. He added, “Many of the great anti-Trump news­rooms are being over­run by bel­liger­ent white-hat­ing minori­ties.”

    Anoth­er recur­ring theme is writ­ers lament­ing a per­ceived defi­cien­cy in Black cul­ture. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Amer­i­can blacks were made to think that because of land­mark leg­is­la­tion [of the civ­il rights era], their major socio-eco­nom­ic prob­lems could be solved through direct polit­i­cal action—a dis­as­trous mis­con­cep­tion,” wrote Paul Got­tfried. “There could be no sub­sti­tute for com­mu­nal coop­er­a­tion, hard work, and the main­te­nance of the fam­i­ly bonds that exist­ed in the black soci­ety that I observed as a child.” He added that the Vot­ing Rights Act has result­ed in “a rad­i­cal­ized black elec­torate that has empow­ered the racial­ly divi­sive, anti­white Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus.” Anoth­er piece enu­mer­at­ed the “patholo­gies of inner-city black cul­ture,” includ­ing: “father­less­ness, crime, nihilis­tic alien­ation, and the exal­ta­tion of thug­gery.”

    Vari­a­tions on white pride abound as well. A post writ­ten by Jere­my Carl argued that Democ­rats have “attacked, on a relent­less and increas­ing­ly hys­ter­i­cal basis, white Amer­i­cans, who as the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty pop­u­la­tion, were the pri­ma­ry devel­op­ers of America’s cul­tur­al, intel­lec­tu­al, and polit­i­cal her­itage.” Carl went on to echo sen­ti­ment from the white suprema­cist move­ment of the 1980s and 1990s, which called for the cre­ation of a white eth­nos­tate in the Amer­i­can West and Pacif­ic North­west. “We must begin to relo­cate phys­i­cal­ly to wel­com­ing local geo­gra­phies and rebuild our capac­i­ty for inde­pen­dent action by cre­at­ing par­al­lel insti­tu­tions to the exist­ing cor­rupt­ed ones,” he argued. Anoth­er piece, drip­ping with resent­ment, argued that the “media and elite-dri­ven” mes­sage is “white Amer­i­ca will always be guilty and white Amer­i­ca can nev­er put the past behind it.”

    The site is often vir­u­lent­ly anti-trans as well. A recent post about a fas­cist attack on a drag show in Dal­las used the big­ot­ed term “trans­ves­tite” to refer to a drag queen. Buskirk him­self called the drag per­form­ers “evil peo­ple” who were “com­ing after kids,” argu­ing “there is almost noth­ing that can be done that is over the line to stop this.” Sean Ross Callaghan used the delib­er­ate­ly offen­sive term “tran­sex­u­als” in a post in 2021. Anoth­er dis­cussed “the evil of children’s trans­gen­derism,” and yet anoth­er focused on “the insan­i­ty of trans­gen­derism.”

    These are the argu­ments that Buskirk is hap­py to feed with oxy­gen. He has the back­ing of Thiel and oth­er mul­ti­mil­lion­aires and at least some access to main­stream plat­forms. Right now, Amer­i­can Great­ness bare­ly punch­es at its weight, much less above, but it would be a mis­take to under­es­ti­mate the effect the Rock­bridge Net­work could have on the coun­try.

    ————

    “Chris Buskirk is sup­posed to be the respectable face of a new Peter Thiel-backed far-right media net­work. His web­site tells anoth­er sto­ry.” by John Kne­fel; Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca; 06/09/2022

    “In report­ing on the new orga­ni­za­tion, the Times didn’t men­tion that the web­site Buskirk edits and pub­lish­es, the far-right and nation­al­ist out­let Amer­i­can Great­ness, is home to an array of Jan­u­ary 6 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, sup­ple­ment­ed with defens­es of mil­i­tary coups and a com­bi­na­tion of thin­ly cod­ed and occa­sion­al­ly overt racism. In gen­er­al, Amer­i­can Great­ness aims to stay just bare­ly inside the main­stream dis­course, typ­i­cal­ly avoid­ing the kind of open white nation­al­ism that can rel­e­gate an out­let to being reject­ed by lega­cy right-wing media. ”

    Amer­i­can Great­ness isn’t just a ped­dler of the kind of clas­sic racist tropes that have long ani­mat­ed the right-wing media. It’s a pro­mot­er of the 2020 stolen elec­tion Big Lie, with senior writer Julie Kel­ly rou­tine­ly push­ing the worst kinds of ‘stolen elec­tion’ memes. Amer­i­can Great­ness is just a MAGA garbage pro­pa­gan­da out­let. And yet, as we saw, Buskirk is a rel­a­tive­ly main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive who even has his own NY Times col­umn. Plus, he’s appar­ent­ly a big fan of Roger Ailes. That appears to the big sto­ry here: the guy tapped by Thiel and Mer­cer to lead their new dark mon­ey donor net­work is a ‘main­stream’ con­ser­v­a­tive who is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly run­ning an out­let that push­es the worst kinds of far right pro­pa­gan­da. Roger Ailes is indeed an appro­pri­ate role mod­el for this sit­u­a­tion:

    ...
    Giv­en the near-total secre­cy around Rock­bridge, it’s dif­fi­cult to know what its exact plans are, but the Times report­ed that the group is plan­ning to spend “more than $30 mil­lion on con­ser­v­a­tive media, legal, pol­i­cy and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion projects, among oth­er ini­tia­tives.” It’s not hard to deter­mine what kinds of can­di­dates it’ll back — both Thiel and Buskirk are sup­port­ers of far-right Sen­ate can­di­dates J.D. Vance and Blake Mas­ters. As for its media ambi­tions, the group bud­get­ed $8 mil­lion in 2021 towards the goal of cre­at­ing a “new con­ser­v­a­tive ecosys­tem.” It’s not clear who got that mon­ey, but Thiel is rumored to have fund­ed the efforts of a cadre of right-wing nation­al­ist media fig­ures. Whether that was through his foun­da­tion or Buskirk and Rock­bridge is unclear. Regard­less, Buskirk is an admir­er of the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and the best win­dow into the types of projects the orga­ni­za­tion is like­ly to sup­port — or is already sup­port­ing behind the scenes — is prob­a­bly his site, Amer­i­can Great­ness.

    As the House com­mit­tee inves­ti­gat­ing the Jan­u­ary 6, 2021, riot pre­pares to present to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, start­ing this week, facts and evi­dence about the events of that day and those lead­ing up to it, the need to exam­ine the role Buskirk’s web­site has played in spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about the attempt­ed coup is espe­cial­ly urgent – par­tic­u­lar­ly since Buskirk’s mon­ey-man, Thiel, wrote in 2009, “I no longer believe that free­dom and democ­ra­cy are com­pat­i­ble.” Thiel also has close ties with fig­ures who open­ly opine about their anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic ide­olo­gies, and it’s worth con­sid­er­ing that one of Thiel’s main inter­ests in Buskirk may be his site’s attacks on the legit­i­ma­cy of the 2020 elec­tion.

    Buskirk him­self serves two audi­ences. As pub­lish­er of Amer­i­can Great­ness, he’s the ring­mas­ter of a mot­ley col­lec­tion of fire­brands and trolls look­ing to find how far they can push the con­cept of “nation­al­ism” before it cross­es into some­thing more open­ly ugly. In his own writ­ing and pub­lic speak­ing, he’s not a provo­ca­teur but a kind of human Botox that smooths out the rough edges of the far-right, pre­sent­ing its palat­able if slight­ly anes­thetized face. “‘Build the wall’ … — that’s like a short­hand ver­sion of say­ing ‘let’s have a more sen­si­ble immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy,’” he implau­si­bly sug­gest­ed in an inter­view with Char­lie Kirk in 2020.

    Unlike many of the writ­ers he pub­lish­es, he presents as a fair­ly main­stream fig­ure. He is a con­tribut­ing writer to the Times op-ed page, though he hasn’t pub­lished a piece there in over a year. He has writ­ten for The Wash­ing­ton Post and has appeared numer­ous times on PBS and NPR. In 2019, he spoke on a pan­el at the Aspen Ideas Fes­ti­val, crit­i­ciz­ing main­stream out­lets for writ­ing pro­files of the white nation­al­ist Richard Spencer. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to give oxy­gen to that sort of thing,” Buskirk said. It’s a fair point, if a bit mis­lead­ing, because his site has also pro­vid­ed a plat­form to Spencer. More gen­er­al­ly, Amer­i­can Great­ness has giv­en oxy­gen to a host of far-right, anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic ideas.

    ...

    As for Buskirk’s ambi­tions with the Rock­bridge media project, his praise of Roger Ailes may pro­vide clues. “It wasn’t until Ailes built Fox News into a pow­er­house that broke the monop­oly of Left-lib­er­al lega­cy media on tele­vi­sion news that he became pub­lic ene­my num­ber one,” Buskirk wrote. “It’s a role he seems to have rel­ished.”

    ...

    Amer­i­can Great­ness, and specif­i­cal­ly senior writer Julie Kel­ly, is one of the key sources of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and mis­in­for­ma­tion about the Jan­u­ary 6 insur­rec­tion. Kel­ly is a reg­u­lar guest on right-wing media out­lets, includ­ing appear­ing at least 17 times on Fox News to dis­cuss the riot and its after­math. Her pur­port­ed inves­ti­ga­tions have pro­pelled much of the man­u­fac­tured con­fu­sion about that day.

    Kel­ly has referred to Jan­u­ary 6 as an “inside job,” sug­gest­ed it was a false flag, and pushed a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that the FBI plant­ed pipe bombs at the offices of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee the day before the riot.

    In July 2021, Kel­ly tweet­ed that Wash­ing­ton, D.C., police offi­cer Michael Fanone – who was tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress about the Jan­u­ary 6 attack at the time – was a cri­sis actor. She said that pros­e­cu­tion of the insur­rec­tion­ists is an attempt to “silence polit­i­cal dis­sent,” and said it is “encour­ag­ing” that Repub­li­can vot­ers “do not think that Joe Biden was fair­ly elect­ed in 2020.” Stop the Steal orga­niz­er Ali Alexan­der praised Kel­ly, along with Tuck­er Carl­son, as “patri­ots that are doing great work out there.”

    Buskirk is a con­sis­tent cham­pi­on of Kel­ly, call­ing her “indis­pens­able,” and although he typ­i­cal­ly stays away from out­right elec­tion denial, he walks up to the line. One day after the 2020 elec­tion, Buskirk tweet­ed in sup­port of a “pro­tect the vote” ral­ly in Mari­co­pa Coun­ty, Ari­zona, one of the states Trump’s allies tar­get­ed in their effort to change the elec­tion results. In a recent inter­view on Amer­i­ca First with Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, he said a ridicu­lous new Dinesh D’Souza film about the elec­tion was “very, very well-researched” and “the evi­dence it presents, I think, is con­clu­sive.” His site took a sim­i­lar line, run­ning a piece with the head­line “2000 Mules Doc­u­men­tary Pro­vides Com­pelling Evi­dence That 2020 Elec­tion Was Stolen.” The Wash­ing­ton Post, on the oth­er hand, cap­tured the real­i­ty of the film: “‘2000 Mules’ offers the least con­vinc­ing elec­tion-fraud the­o­ry yet.”
    ...

    And note some of the fig­ures direct­ly ties to the insur­rec­tion plot: CNP mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell and con­ser­v­a­tive lawyer John East­man, who start­ed work­ing with Mitchell on the plot in the days fol­low­ing the 2020 elec­tion. Buskirk is clear­ly ful­ly on board with the ‘stolen elec­tion’ agen­da:

    ...
    Beyond Kel­ly, Amer­i­can Great­ness reg­u­lar­ly runs pieces that down­play Jan­u­ary 6 and has accused lib­er­als of being the real coup-plot­ters. Imme­di­ate­ly after the elec­tion, the site pub­lished a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry-addled piece alleg­ing vot­ing irreg­u­lar­i­ty with Domin­ion Vot­ing Sys­tems, which was com­plete­ly unsub­stan­ti­at­ed at the time and remains so today. (Domin­ion sued Trump-affil­i­at­ed lawyers Rudy Giu­liani and Sid­ney Pow­ell for mak­ing sim­i­lar claims.)

    John East­man, whom the New York Times recent­ly described as “the archi­tect of a strat­e­gy to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion,” has writ­ten for Amer­i­can Great­ness, includ­ing about his own role in attempt­ing to keep Trump in pow­er. In a piece head­lined “Try­ing to Pre­vent Ille­gal Con­duct From Decid­ing an Elec­tion Is Not Endors­ing a ‘Coup,’” East­man repeat­ed the lie that there was sig­nif­i­cant ille­gal vot­ing in 2020. He also argued that a legal memo he wrote, out­lin­ing var­i­ous oth­er ways the elec­toral vote could be cer­ti­fied in Trump’s favor, was sim­ply advice on how to defend the legit­i­ma­cy of the elec­tion. “The memo out­lined ways to ensure elec­tion integri­ty in the face of sig­nif­i­cant and demon­stra­ble vio­la­tions of state elec­tion law,” East­man wrote in his own defense.

    ...

    Oth­ers with direct ties to Trump’s effort to over­turn the elec­tion have also writ­ten for the site. Amer­i­can Great­ness has pub­lished Cle­ta Mitchell, a lawyer who was recent­ly sub­poe­naed by the House Jan­u­ary 6 com­mit­tee because, the com­mit­tee said, she “pro­mot­ed false claims of elec­tion fraud to mem­bers of Con­gress.” She was on a phone call when Trump tried to pres­sure Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er to “‘find’ enough votes to reverse his loss there,” accord­ing to the New York Times.
    ...

    It’s hard to send a stronger sig­nal of sup­port for future insur­rec­tions than to give fig­ures like East­man and Mitchell an out­let to defend their actions. And that’s just what Amer­i­can Great­ness has done repeat­ed­ly. It’s a big clue about the kinds of elec­tion activ­i­ties that the Rock­bridge Net­work is going to be focused on. And that’s per­haps the big sto­ry here: after a gen­er­a­tion of polit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion by a Koch-fund­ed con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment that was will to spend what­ev­er it takes to win elec­tions, we’ve now moved on to the next gen­er­a­tion of right-wing mega-donor groups where win­ning elec­tions isn’t actu­al­ly the top pri­or­i­ty any­more. Stay­ing in pow­er is still a top pri­or­i­ty for oli­garchs like Thiel and Mer­cer, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly through win­ning elec­tions. That’s old school.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 29, 2022, 2:49 pm

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