Contrarian that he is, noted libertarian Trump lover Peter Thiel has decided that the controversy surrounding his support for the Republican presidential candidate demands his response. And so, as Bloomberg reports, the billionaire yesterday announced through a spokesperson that he intends to give a speech in DC on October 31 addressing the matter.
The announcement comes at a time when prominent members of Silicon Valley are calling for businesses to cut ties with Thiel, noting that his financial backing of Trump amounts to "advocating hatred and violence." Not everyone sees it that way, with fellow billionaire Mark Zuckerberg writing that Thiel, who sits on Facebook's board, counts as "diversity" in that he supports Trump.
While ridiculed by many, this notion has found yet another powerful backer in the likes of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. When asked if Bezos would revoke a theoretical Thiel seat on the Amazon board, Bezos told Tech Crunch that the Trump delegate would be allowed to stay. "It’s way too divisive to say if you have an opinion, you can’t sit on my board," explained Bezos. "That makes no sense.”
That the "opinion" in this case — giving $1.25 million to a man who has bragged about sexual assault and been accused by numerous women of said assault — might itself be divisive didn't seem to sway Bezos. “Peter Thiel is a contrarian, first and foremost, and you just have to remember that contrarians are usually wrong. Conventional wisdom is usually right."
Still, just like the timing of his announced Trump donation — giving money to a candidate immediately prior to his widely expected defeat — the timing of this speech has raised eyebrows. New York Magazine postulated earlier this week that his donation could serve as a long-term investment in the so-called alt-right.
"Even if a Trump presidency never happens, his campaign has legitimized and bolstered the alt-right, the post-libertarian, anti-immigrant, 'race-realist' movement with which Thiel would seem to share a great deal of common ideological ground," observes the magazine. "Thiel likes to think in historical terms, and is fond of long-game bets."
For someone as rich as Thiel (he is reportedly worth $2.7 billion), the latest donation amounts to chump change and can easily be viewed as a publicity stunt aimed at garnering him recognition which could be leveraged for his own gain at some future point. Thiel is now, after all, a household name.
Which brings us back to his speech on the 31st. If Thiel wasn't born outside of the US, making a presidential run impossible, "Thiel 2020" might be on the lips of some of his trolliest supporters. As it is, we'll probably just be treated to another treatise on how "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."
There are 18 days until the election.
Previously: Zuckerberg Stands By Facebook Board Member Peter Thiel And Claims Support For Trump Counts As 'Diversity'
Stain Of Peter Thiel's Trump Advocacy Marks Y Combinator As Silicon Valley Backlash Grows