Peter Thiel explains his support for Donald Trump

Technically Incorrect: The famed VC insists the situation is so dire that we must overlook personal characteristics.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Thiel at an entrepreneurship and investment forum in Beijing last year.
Enlarge Image
Thiel at an entrepreneurship and investment forum in Beijing last year.

Peter Thiel, proud Donald Trump supporter.

Jose Image/Getty Images

You expect intellectual rigor from Silicon Valley.

Principally, because Silicon Valley insists that it employs all the brightest, best, youngest and most world-improving minds.

Some, therefore, were surprised when famed VC Peter Thiel proudly stood in support of Republican nominee Donald Trump and donated to his campaign.

Trump tends not to speak in intellectual tones. His is less the high concept and more the low blow.

Thiel's support of Trump was seen by many as a betrayal of Valley values, especially as the candidate has seemed to bathe in racist, sexist and other slightly distasteful notes.

Speaking to the New York Times on Friday, Thiel explained: "I did not appreciate quite how polarizing the election would be in Silicon Valley and elsewhere."

The Valley is a separate place from everywhere else, you see.

It's odd, though, that when a candidate suggests that Mexicans are criminals and rapists and that all Muslims should be banned from entering the US that Thiel didn't imagine this could be incendiary.

He, though, insists he sees only higher purposes here.

"We're at such a crucial point that you have to overlook personal characteristics," he told the Times.

Does this mean that those teetering on whether to vote for Hillary Clinton should overlook any accusations of corruption against her? It's just a personal characteristic, after all.

Overlooking -- or, as it's sometimes called, tolerance -- can be a very good thing.

Indeed, there are some in Silicon Valley who have overlooked Thiel's own personal characteristics. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, insists that Thiel's views about Trump are perfectly compatible with Facebook's belief in diversity. (Thiel sits on Facebook's board.)

Then again, those of slightly twitchy constitution might muse that being a touch narcissistic and reactive (I'm speaking of Trump, naturally) might lead a president to take rash, even nuclear decisions.

Doesn't that make personal characteristics at least slightly significant?

Let's look at the dark side, though. What if Clinton wins?

Thiel explained that this would be a time for pushing back against her "happy but misleading consensus."

I've often found happiness misleading, but what does "pushing back" mean?

"There will be an important role for me and others to somehow speak truth to power," he said.

I imagine that one or two people at Gawker thought they were doing that -- at least on occasion. And look what happened to them.

Thiel is to hold a question-and-answer period with the press on Monday. He will no doubt expand on his views.

He did tell the Times that he does believe there are limits to what can and should be thought and said.

"The line cannot or should not be at a point where you're excommunicating half the country. Some fringe views I hope we can tolerate. Some fringe views are beyond the pale," he explained.

Does this mean, though, that Mexicans and Muslims can be excommunicated because they don't represent half the country? Who decides which fringe views are tolerable and which aren't?

Whose correctness should we tolerate? The political correctness of the happy consensus? Trump's correctness?

Or does it all come down to "I'm right, you're wrong, just let me get on with it"? This is an argument heard more than once in the Valley.

That's the trouble with intellectual consistency. Not even the best and brightest can manage to keep it up.