The billionaire tech investor in a speech painted a dark picture of America as he praised the GOP nominee as a ‘political outsider’ who would reverse US decline
Peter Thiel has defended his support of Donald Trump, dismissing concerns about the Republican nominee’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim campaign positions as the result of the media “taking Trump literally” but not “seriously”.
Thiel used a speech Monday at the National Press Club in Washington to praise the Republican candidate as a “political outsider” who would reverse America’s decline.
“It is not a lack of judgment that leads Americans to vote for Trump,” the PayPal co-founder and billionaire tech investor said, referencing the presidential candidate’s boast that he could sexually assault women without consequence. “We’re voting for Trump because we judge the leadership of our country to have failed.”
Thiel’s speech came in response to a firestorm of criticism in Silicon Valley over his pledge to donate $1.25m to the Trump campaign on 15 October. The timing of the donation, just days after numerous women made allegations of sexual assault or misconduct against Trump, prompted many within the tech industry to call for companies such as Facebook and Y Combinator to sever ties with the investor.
Thiel acknowledged the criticism in his speech, complaining that “louder voices have sent a message that they do not intend to tolerate the views of one half of the country” and pointing out that an op-ed in the Advocate said Thiel was “an example of a man who has sex with other men” but was “not a gay man” because of his politics.
“The lie behind the buzzword of diversity could not be made more clear,” he said. “If you don’t conform then you don’t count as diverse, no matter what your personal background.”
“Diversity” is a charged concept for Thiel. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, who has Thiel on his board of directors, defended his politics as an important part of his company’s diversity. In his 1995 book The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus, Thiel wrote: “Real diversity requires a diversity of ideas, not simply a bunch of like-minded activists who resemble the bar scene from Star Wars.”
In his speech, Thiel painted a dark picture of America, referencing the country’s “overpriced healthcare system”, student debt crisis and stagnant wages for American workers. He criticized free trade policies that he said had resulted in “the heartland [being] devastated” and lambasted the “wasting of trillions of dollars of taxpayer dollars on faraway wars”.
He categorized the country’s problems as a series of “bubbles” akin to the housing bubble or the dotcom bubble and criticized the “heedlessness” of the elite in ignoring them. Current “bubbles” threatening the country include the “trade bubble”, “war bubble”, “immigration bubble” and “globalization bubble”, he said.
“It shouldn’t be surprising to see people vote for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, who is the only outsider left,” he said, later adding that he would have liked to see Trump and Sanders face off in the general election “because I think both of them viscerally felt the decline”.
Throughout the speech, and during a later question-and-answer session, Thiel glossed over some of Trump’s most prominent and controversial statements.
Asked about Trump’s statements proposing the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and a ban on all Muslims entering the country, Thiel suggested that Trump supporters do not actually endorse those policies.
“I don’t support a religious test. I certainly don’t support the specific language that Trump has used in every instance,” he said. “But I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally.”
The billionaire went on to define how he believes the average Trump supporter interprets the candidate’s statements. “I think a lot of voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally, so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment their question is not, ‘Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or, you know, ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is we’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.”
During his speech at the Republican national convention, which Thiel attended as a keynote speaker, Trump was interrupted with chants of “Build a wall.”
Thiel also defended Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, saying that we know enough about the candidate’s business dealings. “We can debate how many zeros he has in his net worth, but he has a lot,” Thiel said.
The investor, who initiated a secret legal campaign against Gawker after the publication outed him as gay, asserted that “we have a less talented group of people” running for office today because of the media taking transparency in a “toxic” direction.
He also defended his secret funding of the lawsuit, brought by the wrestler Hulk Hogan, that bankrupted the now defunct media website Gawker. Thiel accused a former Gawker editor of being “an aspiring child pornographer” and called the entire publication a “singularly sociopathic bully”, and portrayed his backing of the lawsuit as an act of charity.
“If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” he said.
Source : https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/31/peter-thiel-defends-donald-trump-muslim-ban-mexico-wall