Thiel, Trump and the death of shame
In the past 24 hours, Media Twitter has been abuzz with four stories:
- Donald Trump has officially secured the Republican nomination
- Peter Thiel has been secretly funding lawsuits against Gawker
- A judge has upheld the judgement in the Hogan vs Gawker trial (Gawker is planning an appeal)
- Gawker is reportedly up for sale
The common thread on all of these is Peter Thiel (who, I remain ashamed to say, is a Pando investor via Founders Fund). Thiel isn’t responsible for Trump but he is a Trump delegate and has reportedly joined the candidate’s finance committee. Certainly all of the Gawker stories are a direct result of lawsuits funded by Thiel.
The separate and connected stories of Donald Trump and Peter Thiel will continue to run and run, but once the dust settles the world will likely look for a lesson in all of this.
For now, the lesson appears to be this: In America, if you have billions of dollars and don’t care if half the world despises you, you can achieve just about anything. You can be anti women, anti immigrant, anti press... shit, you could probably shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue... and still get elected President and destroy any media organization that gets in your way.
Tale as old as time, right?
It used to be that shame was a major check and balance against political or business dickishness. Countless politicians have been forced out of public life for remarks that pale next to Trump’s. Time was a business leader like Thiel caught secretly funding a lawsuit against critics would be forced to issue a grovelling apology. Not any more.
Shame is dead as a check or a balance in public life. You can blame its demise on all kinds of factors: Reality TV, millennial oversharing, shame fatigue caused by endless Twitter outrage. The result is the same.
If we think Steve Jobs created a generation of assholes in Silicon Valley, wait til Generation Trump-Thiel comes of age. We’re all totally fucked.