Back in 2016, gay billionaire Peter Thiel was one of the few deep-pocket donors willing to invest in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Now Thiel is stepping down from the board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, so that he can devote his time to promoting the fortunes of Trump-like candidates in this year’s midterm elections.
Thiel has been a backer of Facebook since 2005 and a confidante of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In a statement, Zuckerberg said that “Peter is truly an original thinker who you can bring your hardest problems and get unique suggestions.”
Thiel seems to have concluded that he has a better chance of reshaping the world in his vision through politics than through social media. He has endorsed four Senate candidates and a dozen House candidates, including three who are challenging incumbents who voted to impeach Trump for the January 6 insurrection.
Among them is Thiel’s protege, Blake Masters. Masters, who is president of the Thiel Foundation and co-author of a book with Thiel, is running for the GOP nomination for Senate in Arizona. Masters certainly strikes all the right Trump notes, albeit slightly muted. He has said that election integrity “may be the top priority” of his campaign and “it’s really hard to know” if Joe Biden was really elected president.
Thiel’s participation in politics is not a positive development. He holds unusual views about democracy at a time when it’s in a fragile state. He doesn’t believe that freedom and democracy are “compatible.”
Of course, Thiel’s foray into this year’s midterms continues his tradition of supporting some of the most loathsome politicians around. In 2020, he gave nearly $1 million to Kris Kobach, the anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant Kansan who ultimately lost his primary race. Kobach said that HRC promotes “homosexual pedophilia.”
Thiel also played a role in launching Ted Cruz’s career, investing in his first Senate campaign at a time when it looked like a long shot. Cruz has gone on to distinguish himself as the most hated Senator on both sides of the aisle.
Then there’s the role that Thiel may have played behind the scenes in ensuring that Facebook slow-walked any effort to moderate the fringe beliefs that fueled the radical activities leading up to and including the insurrection. Thiel has long resisted any attempt to halt conspiracy theories on Facebook, saying that he would “take QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories any day over a Ministry of Truth.”
Unfortunately, real conservatives are in short supply in Silicon Valley, and Zuckerberg seems to think that Thiel’s eccentric views are representative of the conservative viewpoint instead of just Thiel’s own.
With his billions of dollars from founding PayPal and his stake in Meta, Thiel has plenty of money to do lots of damage.
As for leaving Meta—maybe that’s not such a bad move for Thiel. The company lost about a quarter of its market value recently and is facing tough questions about its future. Thiel knows the right time to get in on a good thing. Maybe he also knows when it’s a good time to get out.