Tom Perkins amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune, as a founding member of pioneering Venture Capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. But opulent homes in Belvedere, San Francisco and East Sussex, and a Japanese "adventure yacht" named Dr. No aren't enough to keep away Perkins' fear of a coming hippy Hitler. Perkins penned a letter to the editor, published in Friday's Wall Street Journal, titled "Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?" in which the octogenarian calls our attention to:
...the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich." 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.
Here's what you need to know about Perkins, and his paranoid prophecy of an imminent genocide and/or increase in the marginal tax-rate:
1. Perkins Killed Someone By Racing a Yacht Into Them
In 1996, while engaged in a friendly neighborhood yacht race, Perkins accidentally plowed into a smaller boat, killing a French doctor. When the French had the audacity to charge Perkins with involuntary manslaughter, Perkins found himself trapped in a Kafka-esque realm of arbitrary persecution, writing in his memoirs:
I was arrested and tried in a foreign court in a language you don't understand, by judges indifferent - or worse - to justice, represented by an inappropriate lawyer with the negative outcome preordained.
Those judges' indifference resulted in an outrageous $10,000 fine. As if that frog doctor's life could be priced as high as a double order of the world's finest hamburger.
2. Perkins Wrote a Romance Novel Titled "Sex and the Single Zillionaire"
In 2006, Perkins wrote, what critic Julia Ioffe at The New Republic is calling a "novel," (airquotes are hers). Sex and the Single Zillionaire tells the story of Steven Hudson, a billionaire CEO who is "tall, slim and strong, with a movie star's chiseled looks." Steven is a widower, who is jolted out of his rarified melancholy by an invitation to star in the new reality show "Trophy Bride," where a "frothy mix of stunning models, actresses, and athletes" compete for access to his stunningly lucrative penis.
According to its Amazon description, "this debut novel has made waves in bedrooms and boardrooms all across the nation."
All the excerpts in Ioffe's review are worthy of perusal, but here's the steamiest passage, in which Steven and his son stumble upon two lesbians engaged in a dominatrix scenario:
She held a long, black whip in her right hand. It had a leather handle and numerous strands whirling in the air as she manipulated it over the prone girl on the bed. Heather's body was glistening with perspiration as she moaned in anticipation of the whiplash, which seemed always to be withheld. The wind, the rattle of the windows in the old building, made it hard to hear what the two were saying exactly, but Steven made out, "Hurt me, please, mistress."
Father and son watched in silence. The eroticism between the girls was transfixing...
A hardback copy can be had on Amazon for $.01.
3. He Was Once Married to Best-Selling Author Danielle Steel
In his letter, Perkins cites as evidence of the coming holocaust the "libelous and cruel attacks" in the San Fransisco Chronicle on the city's "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."
Alec Macgillis of The New Republic points out that, whatever else you want to say about Perkins, you can't deny he's one chivalrous ex-husband. Perkins was married to Steel for a brief period in the late nineties, and is still so deluded by his affections that he thinks Danielle Steel is widely regarded as the Bay Area's most famous human.
4. There Is Actually Significant Radical Political Action Happening In San Fran
While we can all agree Tom Perkins is a deluded, paranoid narcissist, his anxiety about the rabble is not without discernible cause. Aside from the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing Danielle Steel's hedges, the other sign of fulminating jacobins are the increasingly militant protests against Google and its busses.
The sources of grievance against the tech giant are several. The tech boom has made housing in San Francisco unaffordable for a larger and larger swatch of the population, the Bay Area's transport system's privatization is causing anxiety about increases in transit rates, and Ed Snowden's NSA leaks have revealed what protesters see as Google's complicity in unconstitutional surveillance programs.
The protests have targeted the Google Busses that the tech elite use to commute from San Francisco into Silicon Valley. Last week those protests started to get personal, and a little violent, The Guardian writes:
"Just before Christmas, a window was smashed on a Google bus in Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay. Last week, protesters doorstepped a Google engineer who they claimed was involved in working with the government to develop eavesdropping techniques and "war robots" for the military. "Anthony Levandowski is building an unconscionable world of surveillance, control and automation," they wrote on flyers left near his house. 'He is also your neighbour.'"
5. Hitler Actually Courted Germany's 1%
In his letter, Perkins likens Nazi Germany's war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
Aside from the mildly anti-semitic stereotyping implicit in the his construction (the implication that the Jews of Germany were all wealthy), the other problem with the claim is that Hitler actually got on pretty well with the 1% of Nazi Germany, and was admired by such American entrepreneurs as Henry Ford.
Politics USA has a write-up cataloguing the Furher's various meetings and dealings with the non-Jewish financial elites of his day. The piece notes that while some in the Nazi party took the "socialism" part of National Socialism seriously, Hitler, who's political career was funded in part by captains of industry, was not so concerned:
Thomas Friedrich relates that Straßer asked Hitler “what he would do with Krupp and similar companies in the event of his assuming power. Would everything remain unchanged in terms of ownership, profits and management?” “But of course,” Hitler is said to have replied. “Do you think I’m mad enough to destroy the economy?” Straßer was dismayed, writes Friedrich. “If Hitler was planning to retain the capitalist system, he could hardly speak of ‘socialism’…Hitler retorted that the term ‘socialism’ was intrinsically bad’ and repeated his view that companies could be nationalized only if they failed to act in the national interest.
The article concludes by likening Hitler's relationship to Germany's financial elite, to the modern GOP's relationship to the elites of the mainstream media:
"Hitler publicly condemned industrialists as Jewish interests just as the GOP publicly condemns the mainstream media as leftist tools, but secretly relied on them, just as the GOP relies on the mainstream media to spread conservative propaganda..."
Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers issued a statement on Perkins remarks, saying: "Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree."
Perkins stands by his comments, writing of the firm's statement to Bloomberg: "[O]ur philosophies and strategies have drifted so far apart that now my name means little on the door.
In the Nazi area it was racial demonization, now it is class demonization."
You can watch a CNBC segment about Perkins $130 million sailboa,t the Maltese Falcon here: