This week, the whole world is talking about the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The hot topics run the gamut: Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Melania Trump, although not necessarily not in that order. Far behind in the dust is Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and a board member of Facebook. However, Thiel's public status is about to blow up, because he has been tapped to deliver a speech on Thursday during the climactic final night of the RNC.
To ice the cake, Thiel was awarded an A-list position just one spot behind Ivanka Trump, who will introduce the main speaker of the entire four-day event. That would be her father and official Republican nominee for U.S. president, Donald Trump.
We'll leave the how for another article. But some clues about the content of Thiel's RNC speech might be found in the commencement speech he delivered last May at Hamilton College in New York state. Thiel also received an honorary decree on the occasion.
The tiny East Coast liberal arts college may seem like an odd choice of venue for a high-flying West Coast capitalist. Perhaps he was attracted by the idea of sharing an alma mater with the highly influential 20th century poet and notorious fascist sympathizer Ezra Pound.
Pound's anti-semitism is well documented in scores of radio addresses he wrote in support of Mussolini's Italy during World War II, many of which he delivered himself. They were intended to tamp down U.S. support for entering the war. The first one, for example, warns the U.S. against getting involved in an "Anglo-Jew empire." Written in a folksy tone, it includes nuggets like this:
"Well, is Vic Sassoon, that Jew pseudo-parsee, head of the Shanghai rackets, opium, brothels in probability and so forth, night life of Shanghai? IS he YOUR idea of David Copperfield and Mr. Pickwick?"
"And Mr. Streit? And of course there are MILLIONS behind it. Any one of 86 Jew millionaires can start a publishing firm and any one of the 4,000 hired troops in the British Embassy can print all the crap he likes."
In political circles, both men are widely known for sharing strong libertarian views. And Thiel was Paul's biggest financial backer during his 2012 presidential campaign.
Somewhat less widely known is a series of newsletters containing racist content written under Paul's name during the 1980s and 1990s. Here is a representative sample cited by The New Republic:
"An October 1990 edition of the Political Report ridicules black activists, led by Al Sharpton, for demonstrating at the Statue of Liberty in favor of renaming New York City after Martin Luther King. The newsletter suggests that 'Welfaria,' 'Zooville,' 'Rapetown,' Dirtburg,' and 'Lazyopolis' would be better alternatives — and says, 'Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house.'”
As cited by SPLC, Hoppe's writings support a rising criticism of libertarianism as a cloak for racism and nativism. In one passage, he advocates for a return to centuries-old border control practices:
“… to post signs regarding entrance requirements to the town, and once in town for entering specific pieces of property (no beggars or bums or homeless, but also no Moslems, Hindus, Jews, Catholics, etc.); to kick out those who do not fulfill these requirements as trespassers …”
More likely, the appeal will be limited to those who support Donald Trump for president, which seems to include a lot of people who believe that America is in the blackest depths of the deepest nadir in its history.
It's anybody's guess what kind of speech Thiel will deliver. But based on his Hamilton commencement speech, my money is on the nadir.
For the most part, the Hamilton speech is standard boilerplate inspirational fodder.
However, Thiel does demonstrate the same blinkered perspective on the state of the nation as any other RNC speaker has so far. In a somewhat less restrained echo of the over-the-top warnings expressed by Trump and his supporters, he argues that we are in a state of national malaise compared to the technological revolutions of the 1960s:
"... it is an open secret that the truth is closer to stagnation. Computers are getting faster, and smartphones are somewhat new. But jets are slower; trains are breaking down; houses are expensive; and incomes are flat. Today, the word 'technology' means 'information technology.' The so-called 'tech' industry builds computers and software ... "
For that matter, take any science profession today and you will find a beehive of activity comparable to any breakthrough period in history. The same goes for medical research, energy, robotics and any number of other fields.
If the trains don't run on time, it's not due to a lack of high-flying imagination. It's the result of simple, ordinary public policy that places personal profit above civic welfare.
Thiel might come up with some surprises for the RNC. But my best guess is that he'll hammer on the theme that the past eight years have been an unmitigated disaster for the U.S., and that only a strong man unfettered by constitutional norms can save us from certain doom.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.