Trump is coming back, people. Trump, the bucking bronco in the china cabinet of American democracy, is coming back for seconds. Take a moment to prepare yourselves, mentally, for Trump 2024. Deep breaths. You thought Cambridge Analytica was diabolical? Yes, but take it from me, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
What is Trump’s platform, this time around? To make all the haters suffer and drive Silicon Valley out of business. It’s no secret that Silicon Valley hates Trump, and the animosity is mutual. Trump has explicitly said he wants to drive Big Tech out of business, and you can bet he has a list. So, if Trump gets a second term, Silicon Valley should expect a total war.
The MAGA Simulation of Silicon Valley
If he ever holds the reins of power again, Trump will throw everything he can at what he calls Big Tech, especially Facebook and Twitter, but also Youtube, Google, and others. Because Trump partially blames Facebook and Twitter for his 2020 loss, should he become president again, all of Silicon Valley can expect government interference and state-backed private-sector competition.
What will this all-out war between Trump and Silicon Valley look like in concrete terms? As an example, observe Trump’s war on the liberal media. The tactics: Constant public slander. Boosting conservative competitors. Dissemination of black propaganda. And lawfare with $100 million nuisance suits filed by GOP proxies. There’s little doubt that these tactics are having an impact. In an already shrinking industry, it’s a death by a thousand cuts.
As Trump plots his revenge, there is a Silicon Valley simulation under construction, with political operatives at the helms of brand-spanking-new tech companies, under the umbrella of Digital World Acquisition Corp. and Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG).
The goal of these “mission driven“ organizations is to supplant all the components of the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Never mind that the replicas aren’t as good as the components they replace, even when the source codes were lifted whole cloth. Although hyped within the right-wing media ecosystem, the Trump alternatives like Gettr and TRUTH Social, currently resemble clumsy yet well-capitalized startups.
TRUTH Social went live on Apple’s App Store on Sunday, February 20, but users trying to sign up were greeted with error messages, much like the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare website. The news media has a field day with every error message and bug on Gettr and TRUTH Social, which is gratifying to watch, but we all know that spiteful news coverage only makes Trump and his disciples more determined in their path.
Gettr is billed as a refuge for free thought, away from Big Tech and its censorship. With Trump spokesman Jason Miller as CEO, the platform offers conservatives a place to speak their minds, yet without leftists, there’s no one to yell at, which takes all the fun out of it.
Never mind the internal contradictions of so-called “free speech” platforms that don’t allow criticism of Trump or Gettr’s funder, Guo Wengui, rumored to be a Chinese spy. Because of the Trump brand, even these clunky websites will likely become cultural forces.
Trump’s Quiet Braintrust
Big Tech has something difficult to replicate, even with millions of fans: the Network Effect. Nevertheless, in 2024, Silicon Valley is gonna have to shell out campaign cash bigly. In 2016, 99% of Silicon Valley political donations went to Clinton, and in 2020, political donations from Silicon Valley exceeded the level of 2016 by 22%, from $163 million to $199 million. Spending in 2024 will probably dwarf the last two elections, and the mud-slinging will be even more vicious.
Trump-supporters in Silicon Valley generally keep a low profile to avoid social ostracism. Overt gestures in support of the former president, like say, hosting an event or giving 10K has put executives in hot water in the past. David Blumberg, an outspoken Trump-supporter in Silicon Valley, told Recode that “[Silicon Valley Trump-supporters] keep our heads down” because “people who go out publicly for Republicans and for Trump can get business banned or get blackballed.”
Therefore, Trump and his supporters have been mobilizing their new cultural weapons in secret while their paramilitary wing trains in the woods for a second insurrection.
On top of his $120 million war chest, Trump has a secret weapon, Peter Thiel, a billionaire entrepreneur and investor who recently retired from 17 years on Facebook’s board with the express intent to join Trump’s revanchist crusade.
Thiel is a figure like few others in American history, although he might compare to any one of a number of Russian oligarchs in Putin’s inner circle or, perhaps, a Director of Security in the Middle East or Eastern Europe. Thiel, a Stanford Law School alum, kept his advisory role in the Trump administration low-key so as to avert staff uproar at Facebook and Palantir, not to mention Y Combinator, which cut ties with Thiel in 2017.
Nevertheless, Thiel was an integral advisor and a generous financial backer to Trump from the start, even while Palantir, Thiel’s data-mining company, facilitated U.S. government agencies in the manhunt for terrorists, human and drug traffickers, and illegal immigrants.
Thiel’s fingerprints have been on every strategy and tactic Trump has wielded with regard to tech and Silicon Valley. The same could also be said of Trump’s war on the news media, which mimics Thiel’s fatal proxy attack on Gawker.
Keep your eye on Peter Thiel. He is one of Trump’s gurus and the architect of Trump’s budding media empire. His retirement from Facebook’s board marks a pivot into politics. Thiel is now using his wealth to sculpt the future incarnation of the Republican Party. Since Biden became president, Thiel has increased his political spending by 500%, shelling out $22 million, which put him in a league with Kenneth Griffin, CEO of Citadel, the two leading funders of the current GOP. Forbes recently wrote:
“To glean an understanding of Thiel these days, you really want to look at the parties he throws, the donors he beckons in and the candidates he funds. Having already once reshaped venture capital, Thiel intends next to forcibly do the same to Republican politics for years to come, picking out contenders he may be best described as two-thirds Trump, one-third Thiel.”
The scene at a recent fundraiser at Thiel’s $18 million Miami mansion paints a vivid picture. In front of a crowd of Trump loyalists including Donald Trump, Jr. and Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming Republican running against Liz Cheney, Thiel declared that his intention for the 2022 midterms is to unseat and replace the “traitorous 10” Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after January 6.
Thiel is all-in on the Big Lie about the 2020 election; as indicated by a telling comment by Blake Masters, a Thiel lieutenant, that “It’s really hard to know” if Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate. As such, Masters emphasized, “election integrity may be the top priority,” of Thiel’s platform. Wink wink.
Thiel and other far-right Republican leaders want to pull back on democracy in order to give back some freedom to those who feel theirs is now lacking. Thiel went so far as to argue in 2009, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” so perhaps, libertarianism enforced by an autocratic regime is the solution.
With any luck, Trump will be back using Big Tech as his mouthpiece in time for the 2024 campaign, with Peter Thiel, Roger Stone, and Stephen K. Bannon serving as consiglieres to the once and future president. If Trump remains de-platformed by Big Tech, his pyrite-plated social media simulation will carry his #MAGA forever campaign message. Having no suitable alternatives, his supporters will follow him like a modern-day Moses. Silicon Valley and Blue State America laugh off the threat of this new Trump media conglomerate at their peril.
The Field of Battle
If Trump wins 2024, by hook or by crook, Silicon Valley stands to lose in the fight with Trump. For Big Tech, there is an immense legal vulnerability with Section 230, which protects social media companies from liability for the content on their platforms. Trump understands this. That’s why he was obsessed with somehow striking that law from the books in 2020, tasking no less than three agencies with figuring out how.
During Trump’s first term, Trump’s advisors often dismissed his more bizarre ideas, like, say, putting alligators in the Rio Grande River, between Texas and Mexico, to deter illegal border crossings, as potential policies for “second term.” Ostensibly, they imagined that in his second term, Trump would be able to implement his will like an American version of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, insulated from the last vestiges of accountability.
Maybe, they’re correct. In a hypothetical second term, Congress will likely be Trumpified like never before, at least in the House, and through immense social pressure, Senate Republicans will be obliged to tow the MAGA line. Next time around, Trump will be twice shy of hiring RINOs and Democratic plants who previously thwarted his directives from inside the government.
After that, the Supreme Court will be the sole backstop against Trump’s inveterate criminality and corner-cutting, and we’ve already seen how eager the Court is to enforce Republican policy priorities. Without control of the congressional committees, Democrats would be powerless and Trump could game the justice system like he has for the past forty years.
That’s why, in 2024, Silicon Valley is gonna have to shell out campaign cash bigly. In 2016, 99% of Silicon Valley political donations went to Clinton, and in 2020, political donations from Silicon Valley exceeded the level of 2016 by 22%, from $163 million to $199 million. Spending in 2024 will probably dwarf the last two elections, and the mud-slinging will be even more vicious.
Even if Trump fails to capture the presidency in 2024, Silicon Valley will face withering competition for market share. If his presidential ambitions are dashed, Trump’s ready plan-B is to transition into MAGA media executive and GOP kingmaker, along with Thiel who has already tossed $20 million into 16 House and Senate races this cycle.
Steve Bannon told the Times, “I don’t think it’s just about flipping the Senate. I think Peter wants to change the direction of the country.”
It’s problematic to have so many cranky old men feeling conscience-driven to use all their passion, all their money, and even their own bodies as a battering ram to stop the direction of the country.
In America, this is why we can’t have nice things.
Author: Tim Tolka, writer, journalist, and BI researcher
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