Silicon Valley's CEOs are just like CEOs everywhere: banal financial engineers, not superheroes and supervillains

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump sits with PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook, Oracle CEO Safra Catz and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk during a meeting with technology leaders at Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 14, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton – RTX2V2DE

The financialization of everything is just as real in the boardrooms of technology as it is everywhere else; though the deferential press likes to paint the tech-sector leaders as geniuses, superheroes (Elon Musk as Iron Man), and super-villains (Peter Thiel as Lex Luthor), the reality is that they're basically run-of-the-mill financial engineers, whose major creation is stock bubbles, not "revolutions."

Emmet Rensin's furious denunciation of the cult of tech leadership is a beautiful piece of writing -- phrases like "They are simply robber barons, JP Morgans and Andrew Mellons in mediocre T-shirts" are gems. However, as that phrase tells us, these cults of personality are nothing new: JP Morgan and Andrew Mellon were similarly exalted.

There is something special about tech, though: its elite workforce. Tech companies employ relatively few people (that is, the number of tech workers is small relative to the number of people affected by their work) -- though this is true of modern finance (itself a "tech industry"), it was not true of Morgan, Mellon, and the robber barons of the industrial revolution, who commanded vast armies of employees.

The other difference is that, paradoxically, there is a huge labor shortage in the tech industry. That means that employers bid for top employees on wages and on intangibles, like Don't Be Evil. Whether or not the banal financial engineers in the C-suite ever believed these mottos, they knew that violating them came with a cost in the form of employees walking out the door and into a rival firm.

The rigged contracts and wage suppression, the racism and surveillance collusion (soon to be playing voluntary footsie with Donald Trump’s NSA, with further chicanery to follow), all these sins of Silicon Valley have come about and been overcome before in the short history of American capitalism. They require only the same weapons as before. Organization and agitation. Strikes and labor laws. The ordinary practice of radical politics. Some of these efforts have begun already, with militant organizing and unionization drives beginning to organize Silicon Valley laborers against their exploiters. But these movements require national and popular support, support that cannot begin until the pretense and terror of world-conquering wizards is abandoned and the truth is laid bare: These are only rich assholes, the same as they ever were. All that superman bullshit is just the cheap propaganda of the powerful, propaganda so thoroughly saturated in the American mind that its own inventors might believe it.

VALLEY OF THE DOLTS [Emmett Rensin/The Outline]

(via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump sits with PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook, Oracle CEO Safra Catz and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk during a meeting with technology leaders at Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 14, 2016.)

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