A billionaire venture capitalist is redefining ignorance with a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal, in which he compares the rising public debate over wealth and income inequality to the Nazi “Kristallnacht,” invoking what is possibly the most inane and offensive right-wing holocaust references this year.
Tom Perkins, who in addition to a career of tech entrepreneurship and venture capital investment, presently sits on the board of directors for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, penned the brief letter to the Wall Street Journal likening the threat and persecution suffered by Jews under the Nazi regime to what he dubs “the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’”
Noting both the rise and popularity of the Occupy movement, as well as increasing media reporting on matters of public struggle and wealthy excess, Perkins expresses concern for the “rising tide of hatred” for America’s wealthiest and most “successful.” Leaping to defend novelist Danielle Steel from a recent criticism in the magazine The Chronicle, Perkins fails to otherwise articulate in any real way how public ire towards America’s true “takers” in a time when most are struggling harder than ever simply to survive is appropriately comparable to Nazi persecution of German and Austrian Jews in 1938.
And while some historical comparisons are apt -such as the French Revolution, where widespread public poverty, suffering and resentment over the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by the social and economic elite came to a head following a severe financial crisis, ultimately leading to a number of heads falling into a number of baskets,- the miserable failure of Perkins’ letter and thesis is best experienced in the choices of words themselves.
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?”
With an approximate net worth of $8 billion dollars, it is unlikely Perkins is remotely familiar with the struggles of the working class, let alone his city’s homeless or mentally ill, yet as those on the edges and even what used to be the middle continue being pushed out of civil society so that investment sharks like himself may enjoy more luxurious and “competitive” lifestyles, the angst he senses in the air should at least be understandable.
The letter, which was published Friday, was denounced Saturday afternoon by the venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins and Byers, in an effort to distance themselves from the statements of their one time founder, by way of twitter.
Later, a spokesperson for the firm reiterated this, saying simply that the tweet was the firm’s official response to Perkin’s comments. Though badly drawn comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany are common among those who are hostile to ideas such as social and economic justice, few have reached the level of crude absurdity as Perkins. But it is important to remember while considering such, that no amount of 1% rhetoric on the virtues of their wealth is likely to turn the tide of anger over inequality.
Additionally regarding to the inherent stupidity of the comparison, and the possible new standard it has set for the failed defense of such gross inequality, it is also important to remember that the year is still very, very young.
h/t: Wall Street Journal