Peter Thiel’s Political Awakening

In our profile of Peter Thiel yesterday we didn’t get into the details of his political awakening, as it were, at Stanford, mostly for brevity’s sake. But it’s an interesting episode, and TPM Reader PN shares some reflections:

Just a few thoughts on Peter Thiel’s defense: I think Josh’s comments have been spot on.

On the Gawker site, the most popular—I don’t say best–defense appears to be that “outing” Thiel was beyond the pale—so the suit accomplishes belated justice (that’s dubious in itself). Setting aside whether an outing actually happened or what prevailing ethical/journalistic standards are, I think Thiel’s time at Stanford (overlapping mine) bears renewed scrutiny.

Keeping it brief: Thiel essentially got his public start by founding the Stanford Review. That publication quickly, if not at its inception, was devoted mainly to “anti-PC” arguments, defending in particular fellow reviewer Keith Rabois, another future PayPal zillionare who, as a Stanford Law student was involved in “screaming ‘Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS!’ and ‘Can’t wait until you die, faggot,’ in the direction of the resident fellow cottage of lecturer Dennis Matthies.”

According to a Stanford news release at the time: “first-year law student Keith Rabois … sent a letter to the Stanford Daily confirming the allegations.”

“Admittedly, the comments made were not very articulate, not very intellectual nor profound,” Rabois wrote, according to the news release. “The intention was for the speech to be outrageous enough to provoke a thought of ‘Wow, if he can say that, I guess I can say a little more than I thought.’ “

Both Thiel and Rabois were/are gay.

This wasn’t just a youthful indiscretion. … Thiel rode the incident to a book deal and publication in the Wall Street Journal. I assume his conservative bona fides, rooted here, played a serious role in his public profile and early business network? They also weren’t straightforwardly voicing some political/religious position: they were rather rancidly scapegoating other gay men as part of some closeted psychodynamic.

So Thiel’s high horse on speech about gay people runs rather contrary to his own actions (to the NYTimes: “Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully”?), which he has benefitted from—which he was only too happy to defend and promulgate on grounds of free speech/press. … Don’t know why Gawker hasn’t called him out on this particularly: Thiel’s philosophical (come on) position hasn’t really diverged; while he’s now posing as a champion for liberal sensibilities about his sexuality and privacy he’s still happy to take positions against political correctness, immigrants, women’s suffrage and undermine the press he used as an exemplar of his own protections.

Editor’s Note: One correction to make. Rabois was not a party to Thiel’s book deal, as the reader email initially said. It has been corrected to reflect that.

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