Everyone agrees that venture capitalist Tom Perkins, co-founder of mega-firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, missed the mark slightly when he compared the Google bus controversy in San Francisco to the Holocaust.
"Missed the mark," is an intentional understatement, by the way, because the two struggles have absolutely nothing in common. Perkins penned an offensive letter to the editor in Saturday's Wall Street Journal arguing the fight over Google buses in San Francisco is the catalyst of a greater war on America's mega rich, and that war is akin to the Holocaust somehow. Here's Perkins:
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?
A few things we should consider here. First, no one is planning to attack Google buses that we know of. There haven't been any threats. Second, the most violent thing to happen to a Google bus is that one window broken during a protest. And, finally, you're wondering how San Francisco's number one celebrity could be Danielle Steel, the romance novelist, when plenty of tech people could claim that distinction. And the answer is that she's Perkins' ex-wife. The two were married for a year before divorcing in 1999. (Perkins is also a published romance author.)
Comparing opposition to the technological takeover of San Francisco by Silicon Valley brats to the Holocaust, one of the most horrific events in human history, is one of the most broken arguments we've ever encountered. This is Godwin's Law on a whole new level. Thankfully someone made this chart for the next Silicon Valley resident who thinks they're being unfairly maligned:
IS X LIKE THE HOLOCAUST? I made a handy flowchart! pic.twitter.com/eAf6PKVWvN— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) January 25, 2014
The backlash against Perkins' flawed logic was swift. "It'd be one thing if this were just another San Francisco wackjob on Medium—but this is a pioneering voice in the history of venture capital, in the very history of Silicon Valley," Sam Biddle wrote on Valleywag. "Boy, nothing to perk up a quiet, snowy Saturday morning like a warning from one of America’s wealthiest and most far-sighted venture capitalists that there is a genocide looming within our own borders," joked the New Republic's Alec MacGillis. Even TechCrunch got in on the fun.
The editorial was so disturbing the firm Perkins co-founded worked to distance itself from him late in the day:
Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree.— Kleiner Perkins (@kpcb) January 25, 2014
But Perkins did at least reinforce one thing:
Comparing WSJ edit page to Thought Catalog for rich dudes— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) January 25, 2014
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.