Upset over rising American class tensions, Silicon Valley elder Tom Perkins seems to have riled them up even more. Perkins wrote a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal today that hinges on a totally inappropriate analogy: comparing wealthy Americans to persecuted Jews in Nazi Germany.
Perkins co-founded the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers 40 years ago, so while he is no longer an active VC, his name is still quite present in local conversations. He’s also famous for having owned one of the largest yachts in the world.
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?
(By the way, Steel is Perkins’s ex-wife.)
While Perkins did get a bit of love in the WSJ comments section, the media commentary and Twitter response has far much less forgiving.
Mark Morelli, Wall Street Journal commenter: “Good article. Unless we stop the class warfare and elect officials who do not divide the country into little fiefdoms we will get Nazi America soon.”
Jordan Weissman at the Atlantic: “This is the reductio ad absurdum of a rich-guy’s persecution complex. The Jews were a minority. The rich are a minority. Therefore, criticizing the rich is akin to committing genocide against the Jews. QED.”
Sam Biddle, Valleywag: “A rock through the window of a private Google shuttle, the precursor to the Holocaust—close enough. 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. And this is how he thinks.”
Hunter Walk, another venture capitalist, on Twitter: “You know, one could see this as Perkins’ greatest gift -> uniting the 1% & 99% in outrage against his oped. Let the healing begin.”
Update: Kleiner Perkins has responded via email and Twitter: “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.”