Peter Thiel was always a controversial figure in tech, known as an acerbic doctrinaire libertarian who'd publicly declared that "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible," a situation he blamed in part on "the extension of the franchise to women," — but people still took his money and sought his help in part because he was viewed as a mostly harmless crank and in part because he had a titanic amount of money and connections to throw at organizations that legitimized him by affiliating themselves with him.
But the past two years have seen a gradual bifurcation of public opinion into those who side with a kind of Immortan Joe economics in which the super rich get to live by rules they invent for themselves while everyone else grovels at the feet of their hollow mountains, hoping for scraps; and those who believe that this future must be averted at all costs — and Thiel, who backs secession from government by seaborne colonies of the ultrarich, and believes that death can be cheated by the infusion of cash, is easy to put in the Immortan Joe camp.
And that was before we learned that he had secretly funded a lawsuit to destroy Gawker in retaliation for its coverage of him, before he became a California Trump delegate, before he was floated as a Trump Supreme Court nominee, before he teamed up with alt-right basket-cases to create mass surveillance tech, before the public really grasped just how totalitarian his surveillance company Palantir was.
As the public divided itself into "people who accept Immortan Joe Trumpism as part of the normal political future" and "people who felt like the world was coming to an end," being associated with Thiel grew more and more fraught. Thiel's willingness to side with Trump was a wake-up call, a reminder that Thiel wasn't kidding when he said that democracy couldn't co-exist with the "freedom" (as he described his specific brand of weaponized, infantile, thin-skinned, vengeful, petty selfishness dressed up as "principled libertarianism").
Being in bed with Thiel got steadily less acceptable — and the reputational costs for being involved with him mounted. There were the calls for Facebook to fire Thiel off the board (which continue to mount); there was Project Include severing ties with Y Combinator over Thiel's involvement, the criticisms of the ACLU for getting involved in Y Combinator despite Thiel's ties to the organization; and any venture Thiel was involved with took on a sinister cast that is hard to shake.
Now, finally, Y Combinator has announced that Peter Thiel no longer has any ties to the organization. The company says that Thiel was eased out when they ended their "part time partner" program, eliminating the role that Thiel had so controversially filled.
Y Combinator continues to insist that being affiliated with someone like Thiel is normal for the course of business, and that this was just a routine shift. But even if the organization is unwilling to denounce Thiel for his admitted deeds, affiliations with totalitarians, personal profit from oppression, and stated views on the incompatibility of women's votes and democracy itself with "freedom," they will nevertheless benefit from being severed from Thiel and all he represents.
We are at a political crossroads in which the seemingly incidental, regrettable connections between the things we've done all along — racism, sexism, rape, child molestation and literal Naziism — are revealed to be at the core, not the periphery. The thin veneer of respectability that papered over the choice between barbarism and decency has been ripped away, and we have to choose sides. On the one side, Trumpism, greed, selfishness, plutocracy, censorship, surveillance, inequality, abuse, racism, genocide, brutality. On the other side — everyone else.
Which side are you on?
Thiel's departure from Y Combinator was not previously announced. It comes long after Y Combinator president Sam Altman defended Thiel's role at the accelerator, following criticism of Thiel's support of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. A source close to Y Combinator said that the company ended its part-time partners program, which Thiel was a part of, some time last year. While some other part-time partners moved over to a program called "experts," which provides advice to Y Combinator entrepreneurs, Thiel did not join.
Altman declined to comment. A spokesperson for Thiel also declined to comment.
Y Combinator Cuts Ties With Peter Thiel After Ending Part-Time Partner Program