Critics Blast Secret White House Meeting Between Zuckerberg, Trump And Peter Thiel
“Palantir is engaged in tracking of people and populations the Trump administration despises and when you put Palantir and Facebook together, you’ve got a data operation the Nazis would have adored.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg secretly dined in the White House with President Trump in October while he was in DC to testify before Congress, NBC first reported on Thursday. Critics condemned the private meeting, which included billionaire entrepreneur and Trump adviser Peter Thiel, not only on accusations of corruption, but because the three men wield enormous power to undermine American democracy.
Zuckerberg vs. Democracy
Critics point to the actions of the two tech billionaires as evidence of their intention and ability to easily subvert democratic processes. While in DC last month, Zuckerberg was grilled by Congress for refusing to remove blatantly false political ads from his massive communications apparatus. Facebook is a primary source of news for the US population.
Trump’s campaign is a major advertiser on Facebook, having spent millions warning of immigrant “invasions” and counter-narratives on the impeachment inquiry. The campaign has repeatedly posted ads that independent fact-checkers have determined false, but Facebook has allowed to remain.
In the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned Zuckerberg about his “ongoing dinner parties with far-right figures.” The executive claimed to frequently dine with people from all over the political spectrum, although the Intercept found that no prominent leftists have received an invitation from the tech mogul. Critics argue it is dangerous that a person who controls a social network with over 2 billion users has unchecked power to shape election coverage to serve his own self-interest.
Thiel’s Anti-Democracy Ideology
Thiel, a self-described libertarian whose CIA-backed data analysis company Palantir helps Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) track down migrants, wrote an essay in 2009 about his belief that “freedom and democracy are incompatible.” Thiel donated $1.25 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign, and Palantir has won more than $1.5 billion in government contracts, including assisting the NSA’s mass surveillance program.
In his essay 10 years ago, Thiel opined on the need for new technology to “make the world safe for capitalism:”
“We are in a deadly race between politics and technology. The future will be much better or much worse, but the question of the future remains very open indeed. We do not know exactly how close this race is, but I suspect that it may be very close, even down to the wire. Unlike the world of politics, in the world of technology the choices of individuals may still be paramount. The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”
Critics argue that Trump’s vocal admiration of dictators, his refusal to share his tax returns, his orders to his administration to ignore congressional subpoenas, his ongoing operation of a global business empire, his attacks on the press, his takeover of the courts, and his legal argument that “I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” represent his authoritarian aspirations.
Some view Thiel’s devotion to Trump as demonstrative of his commitment to capitalism over liberty. In this sense, Palantir serves as the technology Thiel warned would be necessary to “make the world safe for capitalism” and outrace the politics that could provide a check on his power.
Warren Vs. Big Tech
One representative of that political threat is Elizabeth Warren, someone for whom both tech titans have expressed disdain. “I’m most scared by Elizabeth Warren,” Thiel told Fox News in July. “I think she’s the one who’s actually talking about the economy, which is the only thing — the thing that I think matters by far the most.” In a leaked audio last month, Zuckerberg told employees he would “go to the mat and fight” if Warren is elected and hits his company with anti-trust action.
Unsurprisingly, Warren condemned the meeting:
“Amid antitrust scrutiny, Facebook is going on a charm offensive with Republican lawmakers. And now, Mark Zuckerberg and one of Facebook’s board members—a major Trump donor—had a secret dinner with Trump. This is corruption, plain and simple,” she tweeted.
“This is how the government keeps working for giant corporations and the wealthy and well-connected. It’s no wonder that companies like Facebook have been allowed to consolidate economic and political power without any real accountability.”
Entrepreneur Elizabeth McLaughlin also warned that the overlapping ambitions of the three billionaire dinner attendees could have disastrous consequences:
“Palantir is engaged in tracking of people and populations the Trump administration despises and when you put Palantir and Facebook together, you’ve got a data operation the Nazis would have adored,”tweeted McLaughlin.