In the world of startups and technology, controversy tends to center around company valuations, intellectual property and the merits of cloud computing or Big Data. Occasionally politics do intrude into the rarified world of Silicon Valley, but even these arguments tend to be intriguing rather than shocking.
That all changed on Saturday, however, as the Wall Street Journal published one of the most strangest letters to the editor ever seen in a major publication. In a bizarre piece entitled “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming,” leading venture capital Tom Perkins – founder of the eponymous VC firm Kleiner Perkins – opined that he envisions a Kristallnacht coming for America’s rich:
Regarding your editorial “Censors on Campus” (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?
I think this letter speaks for itself in its unique nuttiness, but let me provide some additional context here. Tom Perkins is no ordinary venture capitalist. Perkins is personally worth $8 billion dollars, and Kleiner Perkins is also one of the oldest, largest and most respected VC firms in Silicon Valley. It is no exaggeration to say that Perkins personally played a key role in in catalyzing the modern American venture capital industry. In sum, this is not a guy who went off his meds and now rants at the world on street corners.
There is certainly a strain of thought within US Conservative Republican circles that the rich – or the “one percent” as they are frequently referred to – are under assault by government and anti-business left wing activists. Tom Perkins subscribes to this theory, and while I personally think it’s so much claptrap, it is (unfortunately) within the mainstream of current American Conservative thought.
Just to be clear though, in the Perkins’ world view liberal progressives in the US are the new Nazis, while the wealthy one percent are the Jews threatened by an impending modern Kristallnacht. What equivalent to Kristallnacht might be inflicted on America’s one percent Perkins does not say; perhaps he envisions burning mansions or wealthy industrialists forced to wear cloth dollar signs pinned to their clothes?
To date, however, the only “attack” suffered by the wealthy is that income above $400,000 is now taxed at 39% rather than 35% – hardly a sign of an impending genocide. I do not believe it is healthy for Jews to obsess about the Holocaust nor be defined by it, but for one of the wealthiest and well known technology executives in the country to compare minor American political squabbles to an event which was a precursor to the Holocaust is beyond the pale.