This article titled “As Peter Thiel ditches Silicon Valley for LA, locals tout ‘conservative renaissance'” was written by Olivia Solon in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Friday 16th February 2018 21.47 UTC
If the billionaire tech investor and noted libertarian Peter Thiel really does leave Silicon Valley for Los Angeles to escape what he views as an increasing intolerance for conservatives, the city’s growing community of conservatives will be there to welcome him.
Among LA’s right-leaning residents are the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, the political commentator Dave Rubin and the blogger Bill Whittle. There’s also the former members of the defunct Friends of Abe, a secretive group of Hollywood conservatives that fractured in 2016 over the candidacy of Donald Trump.
“Silicon Valley has long despised the American right and it’s beginning to flex its muscles against us,” said Michael Knowles, an LA-based podcaster for The Daily Wire, referring to a lawsuit filed by conservative media site PragerU against YouTube for allegedly “censoring” conservative videos.
“It’s a sign of the time that Peter Thiel is heading down here because there’s been a conservative renaissance in Los Angeles,” Knowles said.
PragerU’s chief marketing officer, Craig Strazzeri, added: “It’s both astounding and sad – but unfortunately not surprising – that there are parts of this country where you are socially and professionally shunned if you support the duly elected president of our country. That might be changing in Los Angeles.”
PragerU is one of a cluster of LA-based digital media organisations in the conservative movement that have, according to Knowles “a disproportionate amount of influence on the right”. This makes it the perfect place for Thiel to build his new right-leaning media business, first reported by BuzzFeed in January. The plan is to create a cable news network that would compete with Fox News and “foster discussion and community around conservative topics”, according to the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal, Thiel, who backed Trump’s presidential campaign but describes himself as a libertarian, will move into the home he already owns in Hollywood and shift Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation into new headquarters in the City of Angels.
Thiel’s decision to move to LA comes at a time when conservatives in the Bay Area are feeling increasingly squeezed by what they perceive to be liberal groupthink.
“Silicon Valley is a one-party state,” said Thiel at Stanford University last month. “That’s when you get in trouble politically in our society, when you’re all in one side.”
The firing of James Damore by Google in August last year amplified conservative fears that Silicon Valley companies had become ideological echo chambers intolerant to their viewpoints.
Thiel’s decision to support Trump was unpopular among many of his progressive peers in the technology industry, with some calling for him to be dumped from the Facebook board. Although the social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg disagreed, the Journal reports that Thiel – one of Facebook’s earliest investors – has discussed resigning.
“Silicon Valley has become less tolerant and that’s very troubling,” said Garrett Johnson, co-founder of conservative think tank Lincoln Network. “There’s a trend of monoculture and closed-mindedness.”
Others are far less troubled by Thiel’s departure.
“I will choose to take this as a positive indicator that the movement of folks who care about equity in the tech sector is gaining some traction,” said Catherine Bracy, the co-founder of TechEquity Collaborative.
Maciej Ceg?owski, a prominent San Francisco web developer and leader of the grass-roots activist group Tech Solidarity, agreed, but expressed surprise that “in his search for safety” Thiel wasn’t fleeing to his adoptive home of New Zealand.
“They were so eager to make him a citizen, and he’s already got a bunker there,” he said.
“Overall, I believe him leaving the Bay Area is a win. More young blood for the rest of us,” he added, in reference to Thiel’s alleged interest in injecting himself with young people’s blood.
For Joelle Emerson, the CEO of Paradigm, a company that helps tech companies diversity their workforces, Thiel’s departure highlights the broader issue of people “claiming they are being silenced based on their conservative views”.
“It’s really important to distinguish being silenced and being challenged,” she said. “Leaders in Silicon Valley who believe in building a diverse, equitable industry have not only a right, but an obligation to challenge others in positions of influence who undermine those goals.”
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