Project Include cuts off Y Combinator because Peter Thiel is a part-time investor there


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/17/project-include-cuts-off-y-com.html


#2

Setting aside the fact that Thiel is a menace all by his lonesome, I can see both sides of this. There is a dangerous precedent with firing or requiring the firing of someone based on their political affiliations, regardless of who and what party they support. But OTOH, taken to the logical conclusion, should you be able to fire a mid-level employee for, for example, giving money to the KKK if that person’s spouse could support them?

This is of course a little ironic since Trump has demanded his partners fire people who refused to lie for him. Which is not to compare the reasons, but to point out that employers are already pressured to fire employees by their partners. The question is, will this encourage that even more.

To reiterate, I think YC should terminate their association with Thiel for his own behavior, but I agree that it’s a double-edged sword to sever business associations on the basis of politics, not matter how objectively loathsome.


#3

My biggest question is, why now?

I mean, it’s been no secret for many years now that Thiel has some pretty abhorrent personal politics, well before all this Gawker and Trump carry-on. The only thing that’s changed is that now he’s a bit more of a household name outside of the valley, as well as inside. If they feel so strongly about it, why’d they even get involved with him in the first place?


#4

he says that Thiel has endorsed Trump, but has not explicitly endorsed Trump’s racist or sexist point of view – a narrow distinction.

Altman’s distinction is more narrow than he might like. Here’s Thiel dog-whistling the tune in a 2009 Cato essay:

Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.


#5

Maybe I missed something, but this is horrible. I live in a country (Malaysia) where criticism of the govt gets you put in jail without trial. Most commercial contracts involve some level of government collusion. Work visas, student visas, scholarships, housing loans, academic grants, etc are all granted based on one’s support of the government (and state religion). Be very careful when you fail to support individuals who fall on the wrong side of your political affiliations (I’m not supporting Theil, but that is a moot point). You may find that the very discrimination you accuse another of becomes common place when someone’s personal practices become the basis of their employability.

I am not eligible to conduct business in my country of residence. I could change this in 30 minutes if I changed my religion. Scary situation. Don’t agree with Theil, but for pete sake, protect his right to be a bigot (when they go low, we go lower?). Trump will loose the election and Theil’s boasts and aspirations will come to naught, but Project Include will still be an organization that is prejudiced against individuals of divergent political conscience: they’d fit in Malaysia great (maybe they can help keep our opposition politicians in jail and beat up our protesters - c’est la vie)

Full disclosure, I used to work for a company where Theil was a primary investor (although I have never met him, and know probably less than you do about him). If Thiel is so bad, find a specific breach of protocol / law / etc, don’t fire him based on political affiliation or ideology.


#6

Thiel is not an employee. He’s a (limited) partner. pg’s said, “when you’re starting a company, you can discriminate on any basis you want about who you start it with,” the idea that discrimination is totally cool is part of Y Combinator’s DNA to the point that they’d said it’s totally acceptable to refuse to hire women who’s pregnant. YC’s also refused to associate with companies that supported SOPA/PIPA.

Thiel was a fucking supervillain before this Trumpery. Palantir is basically a privatized NSA that works closely with US intelligence. The HBGary leaks shows that Thiel had full knowledge Palantir hired the company Themis to hack civilian’s computers to illegally collect intelligence which they covertly sent to the DoJ. The Senate started an investigation, but the GOP interfered and spiked the investigation with a recommendation the DoJ investigate the DoJ.

The Trumpery is worse since Thiel’s the largest single donor to Trump (and was also his delegate). Part of the threat of a Trump win is that this fucking supervillain who worked to destroy media companies he hated and was involved in privatized illegal domestic surveillance would be someone Trump would owe favors to. Hey, they could collaborate on destroying unfavored media orgs.

Thiel’s thoughts against women voting and thoughts about democracy being a bad idea would be very scary to mix with Trump.

The Thiel project where he wants to take the blood from young people to extract vital essences and make himself stronger like a vampire’s just the icing on the cake of supervillainy.

While I’d most like to see Thiel treated as a permanently toxic leper shunned by all, I really just want to see YC publicly disavow Thiel’s actions. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but YC deliberately misinterpreted that request over and over as a request to fire Thiel over a minor difference of political opinion and turned it to an attack on critics as illiberal bullying monsters.


#7

Theil is not being imprisoned, and he is not being rendered into a second-class citizen.

Other citizens are exercising their freedom of speech, and an organisation is exercising its freedom of association.

Freedom of political expression does not imply freedom from non-governmental social consequences. An important part of a functional civic society is the recognition that some political views are beyond the pale.

TLDR: arseholes get to be arseholes, the rest of us get to respond accordingly.


#8

Maybe some important details were left out? Two organizations are breaking ties, and somebody is firing an employee? Is Thiel the employee? It sounds more like he’s the owner, I am baffled.


#9

I think you’re probably right. I certainly agree about Thiel’s villainy. But…

I still feel uncomfortable with excluding someone from business on the basis of politics, even when the person and the politics are as villainous as they can be. Maybe my vague misgivings are unfounded.


#10

Perhaps you can explain how losing your right to free commerce as a result of your political views does not render his liberties somewhat diminished next to those of Project Include.

I have not been to the United States in some 16 years (having been born and raised on the continent). Growing up there in the 90s/00s, our mantra was freedom of speech akin to Evelyn Hall’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”. I am absolutely shocked that you would so quickly strip this [vile] individual of a foundational right. A person that can so quickly disregard the rights of his ideological foes, may find he eventually has no right to assert those rights himself.

Freedom of association is the right of an individual to join or leave an organization of freewill, not the right of an organization to discriminate against its members. Project Include has not exercised this right, it has violated it. I am not 100% clear on the details of this story, but I understand that Project Include, denied Y Combinator the right to join or participate in their venture. Forcing individuals / organizations to leave an organization is exactly what freedom of association is meant to prevent.

“Freedom of political expression does not imply freedom from non-governmental social consequences.” Actually, it does, they are called human rights. :slight_smile:


#11

I do not think the Malaysian government and legal regime denying citizens the right to work for others is even remotely the same as one company refusing to do business with another because of who they do or don’t associate with. I’m not saying Project Include is necessarily right to disassociate over this, but it’s within their freedom to associate, or not, with whomever they choose. They’re a private company, not a government.


#12

In other words, Project Include excludes Peter Thiel.


#13

I would love to know how to turn off notifications for this thread. I can tell you do not know much about global politics, or you would hesitate to use the word “legal regime” when referring to the current Malaysian - or many South East Asian - government (if indeed that is what you are trying to say).

  • In one instance the government selects suitable members to conduct commerce based on their ideology and support of the Barsia National government.

  • In another an organisation deselects suitable members to conduct commerce based on their ideology and support of an aberrant political movement.

In both cases it is an issue of freedom of association (thanks wanderfound). In each case individuals have been denied their freedom of association because they have unpopular political affiliations. So Theil is a jerk, maybe Anwar Ibrahim is a jerk, who knows. How does that have anything to do with denying freedom of association. Again, I think few of us are clear on the nuances of what is actually happening here. But if you wish to say that Theil deserves to be barred from commerce because of his politics, you necessarily need to exclude what his beliefs are. Before we can decide whether this was a justified action, we need to decide whether it is EVER the right move to deny someone freedom of association (or any other freedom) based on their political affiliation.

Whether you think my examples are similar or dissimilar, the burden of proof remains with you. You need to illustrate the case in which denying someone rights based on ideology is the right course of action. Even if you ignore the similarities between our understanding of this event and pseudo-democratic process in Asia (and I would argue, in this case they are frighteningly close), the fact remains that a man was excluded from financial activity because of political statements. Obviously Theil is not in need of funds, but I often see people excluded from making a living in Asia because they are “Prisoners of Conscience”. Regardless of you perception of Theil (and mine is poor), there is little difference, in both cases an individual is relieved of his right to engage a financial system for his affiliations.

And I’ll say this yet again, but for a specific purpose, I worked for Theil (indirectly at a company he financed, although, again, I know almost nothing about him). And his money was good. He was an adequate silent partner (from what I can tell). And his politics, religion, sexuality, height, color of socks had nothing to do with that arrangement.


#14

Tracking button at the bottom of the thread. Click on that, select “Muted”. Easy as. :slight_smile:


#15

A Thiel and his money are soon parted.


#16

People and organizations can and do have the right to decide who they want to associate with. Like unfriending the guy you vaguely knew from high school who posts obnoxious right-wing crap on Facebook. Thiel is basically just a richer version of that guy and nobody should have to associate with him if they don’t want to.


#17

There is a fine line between principled action and grandstanding, and I think that project Include may have crossed that line. IMO only, of course…


#18

Imagine our reaction if some rightwing group were trying to do what these guys are doing. It’s an essential part of our civil society that, even if we find someone’s political principles abhorrent, and would never associate with them in our personal life, we treat them with professionalism when we work with them. Failure to do that is creating a, to lapse into HR-speak for a moment, “hostile work environment.” If we are going to try to hold other people to the principles of a civil society where people aren’t discriminated against for their political or religious views, we have to make an effort to do that, too.


#19

That is true. And it was also true in the past.

It’s already happened


#20

I’d guess it’s because it’s only been made public how odious his politics actually are, so they are seeking to avoid embarrassment. I don’t think they actually care…