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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,
Patrice Riemens on Tue, 6 May 2014 16:46:31 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,


Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two, section #3

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A Note and a Request for Comment: on 'libertarism'

As you will see I am using that world to give a name to the libertarian
ideology, but after a discussion with the authors it turns out to be a
neologism - in English. Or if you like, a gallicism/batavism - since both
French and Dutch language use the word 'libertarisme'. French, according
to Wikipedia, even with the luxury of both a left-wing ('libertaire') and
a right-wing ('libertarien') flavor - libertarisme in Dutch is solely
'anarcho-capitalist', apparently ;-) Now the Ippolita Collective folks
seem to prefer the word 'libertarianism', which I find a bit ... cluncky.
So I am not convinced - yet. What do _you_ think? (This is basically a
'Quick-and-Dirty translation, remenber?)
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Technological Darwinism from the Paypal Mafia to Facebook: the resistible
rise of anarcho-capitalism.

Following this disgression, a necessary one so as to give some economic
and political context to our argument, let's turn back to social networks,
and more specifically, to Facebook. It is no secret that Facebook belongs
to the libertarian galaxy in the US - it can even be said to belong to its
hard-core anarcho-capitalist wing. Big European newspapers covered this
issue already years ago [12].  This story holds, at first glance, little
relevance to the Facebook saga, but in fact it is of crucial import,
because it shows that the world's largest social network is actually part
of a much larger strategy, which, at the very last, is geared towards the
viral propagation of libertarism-inspired values and practices.

In the first part of this book, we have used Facebook as an example of a
social network whose modus operandi stands very far from the way we
perceive things. This does not mean that the other big social media
(Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.) come out scot-free in our analysis. What
holds true for Facebook also holds true for the others, despite the vast
differences in terms of targeted demographics, but also as regard to their
respective histories and their impact on society. In order to streamline
somewhat our analysis we are going to focus on Peter Thiel, the
zillionaire champion of anarcho-capitalism. Note that not all social media
are as closely linked to anarcho-capitalism as Facebook is, but just like
Facebook stands for the quintessence of on-line sociality, so is Peter
Thiel an iconic representative of the spirit of libertarism  within a
large number of capitalist (ad)ventures born in Silicon valley - and a key
figure to understand  the way it functions.

As (the very) first 'angel' investor in Facebook with a five lakhs US$
checkoff in 2004, Peter Thiel now holds 3% of Facebook's shares. Thiel 
made his name as celebrity /venture capitalist/ in the Bay Area - he
manages, among others the Clarion capital hedge fund (with a $ 3bn
portfolio) and  also the Founders Fund /venture fund. Born in Frankfurt am
Main (Germany) in the late sixties, he went to study at Stanford, the
well-known cradle of Californian ueber-capitalism. At 46, Peter Thiel is
amongst the 400 richest men on the planet [13]. He contributed generously
to ultra-right, libertarian Congressman Ron Paul's presidential campaign
fund when he stood up against George Bush in the republican primaries. He
is also member of the Bilderberg Group, officially a yearly conference
gathering of influential politicians, military people, industrialists and
bankers discussing the planet's problems. And he has also forcefully
expressed his political opinions on the Cato Institute's Cato Unbound blog
[14].

One of Tiel's pet projects is the framing of a radical critique of the
social and political set-up of the United States and, by extension and
pars pro toto, of the whole western value system, this since the United
States are the standard-bearers of freedom worldwide and, also the best
performers in the western world. Democracy, according to Thiel, cannot be
reconcillied with freedom, because nation-sates and other supposedly
democratic institutions choke individual liberties. On this particular
point, we actually could agree: libertarians, in the traditional,
socialist (left wing) meaning of the word [see note/RFC above - transl] ,
say exactly the same thing. Representative democracy in its current
dispensation is far removed from the idea of direct democracy, or better
still, of the free and autonomous management of the commonwealth. 
Corporate interests, together with and just like the structural
cross-overs between organised crime, institutions, and major financial and
economic groups have all too often reduced democracy to a risible ritual
on election day. Yet Thiel's approach is in other aspects clearly more
reactionary, not to say mysoginist:

"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."[15]

Peter Thiel is an extreme representant of free-for-all capitalism [16]. He
is situated beyond being merely against socialism: he is quite simply
anti-social. Together with numerous other eminent personalities around
him, he is staunchly supports technological darwinism, a new version of
social darwinism, this time framed in terms of eugenics and technology. 
According to that 'vision', the best technology shall free the most
deserving individuals, so as to outgrow the limitations of the human
species. And this with the ultimate objective to become a technological
superhuman, a /Uebermench/ set free from death.

The concept of well-defined, static identities, which are one of
Zuckerberg's mantras, recurrs in Thiel's biography also: he proclaims his
homosexuality and is a strong defender of right-wing gays, whom he
lavishly funded through the American Foundation for Equal Rights and
GOProud. He also maintains close relationships with selected politicians,
such as Meg Whitman, whom he also funded generously. Whitman, who
represents a particularly perverse brand of feminism, is a former CEO of
E-Bay (which bought PayPal), and a former republican candidate for the
California governorship in 2010. Now Thiel made his fortune through his
participating in the launch of what has become the world's most prevalent
electronic payment system. And Paypal was also Thiel's first 'global'
political project, since it is based on the core idea that central banks
should be deprived of their role as the custodians of currency. This would
sound like a brilliant attempt to set the world free - if it did not
result in all powers ending up in the hands of what Peter Thiel himself
has proudly dubbed 'The Paypal Mafia', with himself cast in the role of
godfather [17].

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[12] See for instance Tom Hodkinson "With friends like these", The
Guardian 14 & 16 February 2008:
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/jan/14/facebook
Back then Facebook had 'only' 59 million members ...
(note by translator: I just went thru the article (again): believe me,
it's a 'must read'!)
[13] Peter Thiel creeped up from #373 on Forbes' America's richest 400
List in 2010 to #314 in 2013 - and he ranks  #3 in Forbes' tech investors
'Midas List'. (http://www.forbes.com/profile/peter-thiel/)
[14] http://www.cato-unbound.org/
[15] Peter Thiel, "The Education of a Libertarian", Cato Unbound blog,
April 2009:
http://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian
[16] Peter Thiel himself provides the best entry to his social-economic
belief system in an article titled "The Optimistic Thought Experiment",
Stanford University, Hoover Institution:
http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/5646
[17] Thiel gladly profiles himself as "the Don of the Paypal Mafia". A
good account of the Paypal (Mafia) saga can be read in a 2007 issue of
/Fortune Magazine/:
http://money.cnn.com/2007/11/13/magazines/fortune/paypal_mafia.fortune/


-----------------------------
Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
(http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/)
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy


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