This item has been updated.
If you thought being wildly out of touch was limited to the newest generation of tech entrepreneurs, one of Silicon Valley’s original dons would like to disabuse you of that notion.
Tom Perkins co-founded the iconic venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. He also thinks that critics of tech sector wealth and income inequality are comparable to Nazis. He writes this in a letter to the Wall Street Journal today:
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?
Kristallnacht, as a reminder, was a discriminatory rampage against Jews organized by the Nazi Party in Germany and Austria that killed 91 and sent tens of thousands to concentration camps. Meanwhile, the Occupy movement, criticisms of the Google bus, and calling Danielle Steel a snob are disparate economic critiques that haven’t killed anyone or, indeed, taken over a nation-state and committed horrific crimes against humanity. Whether or not you think income inequality is a problem, it takes particularly thin skin to mistake demands for slightly higher taxes for a state-sponsored murderous rampage.
This letter reveals an ugly side of the tech sector as its leading companies try to tamp down public relations challenges in San Francisco’s Bay Area and around the world. There are a lot of ways for the industry to deal with its critics, but calling them Nazis seems likely to only reinforce their negative take on Silicon Valley success.
Steel, the author who Perkins mentioned in his letter, was once his wife and convinced him to write a romance novel of his own. Maybe calling her names was what made him so mad.
Update: Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers responds to the letter on Twitter.