Thiel sat on President Trump’s executive transition team; Thiel’s data analytics firm, Palantir, makes multiple purchases lucrative government contracts. Behind the scenes, Chafkin says, Thiel was pushing for a “Republican crackdown on tech companies” and their nemesis, particularly at Google. (Google’s size and reach are, in Chafkin’s words, “a threat to nearly every company in Thiel’s portfolio.”) You might think that this deployment of government power would go against liberal Thiel’s belief, but you’d be surprised. Seems, while reading “The Contrarian,” whether the big government that conservatives bullied before Trump became president was actually a projection of a scale they would happily do if given the chance – Trumpism wish fulfillment. In form of. In Chafkin’s Summary: “Board the Trump Train, or Travel by the FTC”
As it happens, Thiel was bullied as a child—a skinny, socially awkward, chess-playing guy who kept himself safe by being completely “disgusting.” He was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1968 as an infant. His father’s job at an engineering firm also meant an emigration to apartheid South Africa, where the younger Thiel attended an elite, all-white prep school. He went to Stanford and started the Stanford Review, a conservative newspaper that stayed to attend law school. An unsatisfactory stint as a corporate lawyer came to an end when he failed to get the Supreme Court clerkship he desperately wanted. “I was devastated,” Thiel would later recall, adding that it was a “quarter-life crisis.”
“The Contrarian” perfectly sums up Thiel’s professional trajectory, depicting him stumbling into the tech industry not out of any particular passion, but because it presents an opportunity to get rich. Thiel, contrary to the imagination of the American entrepreneur who risks it all for his dream, was always hedging his bets – even, at one point, proposing that PayPal be the only one with its limited cash. Will turn the reserves into its own hedge fund so that it can take the guesswork out of it. Pennies.
Chafkin portrayed Thiel’s support for Trump on the 2016 campaign trail in similar terms. Chances are, any establishment would have been fine for Republican Thiel’s business interests, and Thiel had already infuriated Silicon Valley with criticisms of women’s suffrage and immigration. But if Trump won, Thiel was to be rewarded by a president who clearly prized displays of loyalty above all else. Not to mention that Thiel — by any material measure a master of the universe — clung to Trump’s idea of the elite club that wouldn’t have him as a member. As one of Thiel’s investors put it, “he wanted to see Rome burn.”