“For a long time, our elites have been in the habit of denying difficult realities. That’s how bubbles form.” – Peter Thiel, venture capitalist and entrepreneur
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Completely out of the blue, 500 Startups founder Dave McClure threw a full on, expletive-laden temper tantrum on stage at the annual Web Summit conference in Lisbon, yesterday. I counted eight f-bombs among other colorful profanities during his minute and a half rant.
What had the Silicon Valley angel investor so upset? Donald Trump winning the election. When the moderator tried to reel him in and get him back on topic, that’s when McClure totally blew up, leaving the other onstage panelists sort of shell-shocked. Frankly, I’ve never seen anyone behave so childishly and unprofessionally. Ever.
On the other hand, it is a little hard to take a guy in a Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat t-shirt seriously.
Sadly, McClure is far from alone. All day long I’ve been watching one meltdown after another among tech elites from New York to San Francisco. Not only is it disappointing, it’s downright embarrassing to see respected leaders of the tech community devolve into something akin to an angry lynch mob because their candidate didn’t win.
Most of the Tweets I’ve seen are too vulgar to share, but here are a few I could get away with:
M.G. Siegler of GV, aka Google Ventures, didn’t just go after Trump, but also those who voted for him, writing, “I hate to break out hyperbole. But we’re f----ed. Not because of Trump necessarily. But the people who elected him …”
Outspoken blogger Anil Dash tweeted, “No matter what, we have to organize & stand up to Trump and fight for the marginalized. I am not afraid of that motherf---er.” Defiant, to the last.
Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus made the obligatory reference to none other than the Fuehrer himself: "Is this what it felt like when people first realized hitler could actually take power?" I guess somebody had to do it.
And before the polls closed on election day, Shervin Pishevar, executive chairman of Hyperloop One, tweeted and pinned this to his Twitter page, “If Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation.”
To me, they all sound like a bunch of whiny, self-important narcissists vying for attention in their own little virtual world. More important, they do appear to be genuinely terrified of a phenomenon they don’t understand. I’m not just talking about Trump and his policies, but the 59 million Americans who voted for him. They have no idea what’s happening or why. To them, it makes no sense at all. And therein lies the rub.
The problem is, the tech elite live inside an insulated bubble of their own making. As a result, they’re out of touch with the real world outside. Some of them recognize this, but instead of waking up from their utopian daydream to see what’s really going on, they use it as an excuse for their own myopia and astounding lack of compassion for half the nation.
As Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas told Recode, “We’re biased by the container we have created around ourselves,” he said. “We've created this world that obviously shielded us from really being intimate with what's going on elsewhere. This exposes reality. This is eye-opening data for everyone.”
Thomas isn’t the only one who gets it. While all the tech and media bigwigs were focused on trying to stop the Trump movement, they never stopped to look around and see “how much a big chunk of the country is hurting,” said Kik CEO Ted Livingston. Leave it to a Canadian to figure that out.
Now let’s try to reconcile that with the Valley’s popular meme of diversity and inclusion.
On the one hand, they broadly accuse Trump and his basket of deplorables of being racist, misogynist and xenophobic. Meanwhile, they rail against legitimate opposing viewpoints, simply because they disagree. The irony is, they’re just too narrow-minded to see the hypocrisy of their position.
In all fairness, the tech industry does have a few leaders who actually understand how democracy works and behave like grownups, as opposed to cursing and stomping around onstage in front of thousands of people who paid to hear about technology, like McClure.
After the dust settled Wednesday morning, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted, "Congratulations, President Trump. This is what makes America great---our democracy. Now it's time for us to come together as one country."
And although he spent months attacking Trump, his policies, even how he hugged his children at the RNC, Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban tweeted, “We all need to give President-Elect Trump a chance. Support the good. Lobby against what we disagree on,” followed by, “One Nation. Under God. Indivisible. With Liberty and Justice for All.”
Amen to that.