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<nettime> After the Californian Ideology: [ was Phillips/Beyer/Coleman:
Felix Stalder on Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:47:10 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> After the Californian Ideology: [ was Phillips/Beyer/Coleman: "false

On 2017-04-21 11:19, Florian Cramer wrote:

> The bigger question lurking behind this is a critical analysis of
> (cyber-) libertarianism, which was at the root of Nettime. The
> question is whether the "Californian ideology" has, twenty years
> after its first description, mutated into several branches including
> neoliberalism, neo-eschatology, neo-reaction and neo-fascism, in
> some cases (the ones Gabriella emphasizes) also neo-leftism - but
> very often involving hybrids of all of them.

I think this is dead on. The Californian Ideology can be understood
retrospectively a mixture of left-wing (diversity, empowerment,
openness etc) and right-wing (markets, competition, winner-takes-all
etc) neo-liberalism that was, at the time of Barbrook/Cameron's
writing (1995), rather unusual in Europe.

But techno-culture, particularly the dominant narratives coming out of
Silicon Valley, has really changed profoundly in the last 10 years.
The Californian Ideology is dead. One could say Stuart Brand is out,
and Pieter Thiel is in, if you want to personalize it.

Below is an interview by Don Hazen (alternet) with Jonathan Taplin,
whose book “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and
Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy” just came out.


DH: Peter Thiel is the chief villain of your book. He is a very
powerful Silicon Valley radical libertarian, who started PayPal, is on
the board of Facebook, and is a mentor and funder of what is sometimes
called the PayPal mafia—many who have gone on to start other big
successes like LinkedIn. Some of what he says is pretty scary, like:
“I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”
What’s the path forward for Peter Thiel? Is his influence growing?

JT: His influence since I wrote the book has grown immensely, because
he’s Jared Kushner’s best friend and he’s inside the White House
and Donald Trump is holding his hand. He has extraordinary power
in the White House in terms of determining technology policy. In
fact, there’s even some rumors that Trump’s second Supreme Court
appointment would be Peter Thiel.

DH: Oh my god, I didn’t hear that. Kushner has always been a
moderate Democrat. How does he become so simpatico with somebody like
Thiel, who is so right wing?

JT: Here’s the deal. These people in Silicon Valley have been able
to put a Svengali move on the Democrats just as much as they put on
the Republicans. Obama was under the spell of Google more than anybody
I know about. Eric Schmidt [executive chairman of Alphabet] visited
the White House by a factor of five more than any other CEO, and
that’s just the official stuff that was written down at the White
House gate.

DH: You mention the fact that Sean Parker, Larry Page and I think
Thiel all went to the secret meeting of Republicans too, so they’ve
got all the bases covered at Google?

JT: They don’t have any political affiliation whatsoever. They may
pretend that they’re liberals, but they’re perfectly happy to be
conservatives. In fact, one of the stories I tell in the book is that
when the conservatives and Fox News and Rush Limbaugh were pounding on
Facebook that their trending topics thing was being slanted against
conservative media because the kids who were running it, who were the
curators, were too liberal, Zuckerberg said, “Okay, well, I’m
getting rid of the kids.” He fired them all and he just let the
algorithm determine what got into trending topics.

Which was exactly what Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica wanted,
because then they could play the algorithm with their armies of bots
that they deployed, and completely push anything up trending topics
that they wanted to.

DH: Further on in the book, you give Zuckerberg a bit of an optimistic
pass in terms of hoping or thinking that he really cares about the
four billion people who are not on the internet. He’s not at the
same level as Page and Thiel and Parker?

JT: I don’t know. I probably would say that Bill Gates’ wife,
Melinda, had more to do with him changing his life than anything.
My sense is that Zuckerberg’s wife [Priscilla Chan] is a deeply
committed humanist. She was a teacher, and I think like any of these
guys, there’s probably a little bit of a battle for his soul. The
very fact that she convinced him to give away 99 percent of their
Facebook stock to a charity, even though it’s kind of a weird
charity organization that he controls, is something.

It’s certainly not what Larry Page or Peter Thiel are doing.
They’re giving money to organizations so they can live to 150 years

DH: We’re going to save that part until the end, because going to
Mars and living forever is a whole final question about what makes
these guys tick. Before we get there, let’s go backwards to Ayn
Rand. When we were in college, these were crackpot theories, and we
always thought they were books that kids read in high school or maybe
as sophomores in college, and then we all grew up. Peter Thiel, who is
apparently one of the smartest guys in the world, seems to worship the
Ayn Rand narrative. What is that about?

JT: You know, it mystifies me so much. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have
both cited Ayn Rand as major influences on their life. My guess is it
appeals to a certain kind of man who believes that he is better than
most people, and he’s not appreciated.

If you look at those Ayn Rand heroes, they always thought that the
average citizen was a total dunce, and that democracy wasn’t a good
idea, and that really things had to be run by men of iron will who
had no sense of responsibility for other people, just for themselves.
They were the kind of people [who would ask], the line that she used
is, “Who will stop me?” It’s that kind of pushing, that “I’m
going to just forge ahead,” and it’s the will of the power. Like
all that stuff we studied about Nietzsche in Princeton probably.

DH: Thiel also said he was for Trump because he would discipline the
unthinking demos, the democratic public that constrains capitalism.
That’s pretty scary as well. Do we think Trump understands that?

JT: Well, look, I think that they believe capitalism works best when
there’s no rules, and they tend to think that the people who want
to try and make rules for capitalism don’t understand it, and so
they’re going to just screw it up. What Trump is doing right now is
trying to get rid of every regulation, whether it’s environmental or
internet privacy or anything you can imagine. He just wants to get rid
of all these regulations, because he wants Verizon or Google or Exxon
or Koch Industries to be able to just do whatever they want to do and
not worry about regulation.

Of course, I think that’s what leads to things like the financial
crisis in 2008, when the banks had no regulation and they just went

DH: Speaking of deregulation, you write about a New York Times article
on a World Bank report that says internet innovation stands to widen
inequality, and even hasten the hollowing out of the middle class. How
does this happen?

JT: Well, first place, tech delivers extraordinary monetary returns to
a very small group of people. The biggest tech company is employing
20,000-30,000 people, compared to, say, an auto company or General
Electric that employs hundreds of thousands. That’s the first thing.

Secondly, it delivers returns to the highest level of those executives
of those companies on such a level that Zuckerberg is worth $58.6
billion (fifth richest person in the world), that Bezos is worth $80
billion. In other words, if you’re at the top, your wealth is so
great that it inevitably leads to inequality, because what tech does
also obviously is eliminate a lot of working-class jobs. The better
Elon Musk gets at making his cars, the fewer people he has to hire. He
lets the robots do it.



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