Peter Thiel’s Palantir constantly enables, and benefits from, the most insidious elements of the US government, so they have to both fearmonger about terrorists, while claiming their behavior is stopping it, to justify themselves.
Disclaimer: I will be quoting from Karp’s appearance on the inside.pod podcast from January 2019 and subsequent articles written about it at the time. However, I think it still pertains to Palantir’s marketing and general worldview today.
As has been increasingly clear since September 11th, the designation of terrorist is not substantial. Of course, being labeled a terrorist carries the most damning political rejection possible, but it doesn’t actually say much beyond that. We can see this plainly and bold-facedly, with Bolivia’s fascist coup government calling Evo Morales a terrorist.
When Americans demand that white nationalist terrorists be labelled, in fact, terrorists, they are asking for The Powers That Be to rebuke white nationalist terrorism.
In other words, terrorist is purely a value judgment, and is largely divorced from the descriptive meaning it may have. However, the distant, descriptive meaning gives the word, as a value judgment, its punch.
The most disgusting part about this, is Palantir was expecting to go public in 2019, although that has now been delayed as late as 2023. That means that, on some level, Palantir uses the perceived threat of terrorism, real or imagined, to make their company seem more lucrative. It’s literally commodifying fear.
“‘I find out about a stopped terror attack in Europe about once a week, and not just the caricature that we all see in the media of radical Muslim attacks — also far-right people attacking Muslims,’ Karp said in an interview on “Inside.pod,” a podcast by Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer.
“He added: ‘I believe that if those terror attacks had happened, you’d have a very different political reality, and that is super motivational.'”
Frankly, I’m highly skeptical of this. The biggest reason why is they know conservatives won’t object to stopping “the caricature […] of radical Muslim attacks”. Conservatives like when power is concentrated in the hands of private capitalists, and they salivate at the idea of business owners stopping the scary brown people.
What makes me think this is disingenuous, is he went out of his way to call out “far-right” terrorists. Considering the context at the time — that Palantir was considering going public — they needed to win over the neoliberal democrats of Silicon Valley to buy in.
Silicon Valley democrats probably are totally cool with stopping the evil brown terrorists. But they also have the political sense to know that owning stock in a data analytics company that enforces the most oppressive, right-wing elements of the US government would be a bad look.
Business Insider continues:
“[Karp] added: ‘I believe that if those terror attacks had happened, you’d have a very different political reality, and that is super motivational.'”
The simple truth is, if anyone were to benefit from terror attacks happening, more than anyone, it would be Palantir.
All you have to do is step back and look at motive. Palantir’s motive is to generate profit for Peter Thiel. The way they generate profit is by selling data collected from us to the government. The way to make that data more valuable, and consequently generating more profit, is by making people believe we’re more at risk, and the data can be used to mitigate that risk.
Karp’s message is a thinly veiled threat: if not for us, you’d all be killed by terrorists by now.
I understand my cynicism about Palantir might seem unfounded. But, I came to those conclusions from a) knowing Peter Thiel’s ideology and worldview, but more importantly b) the ways Palantir has been in the news, especially the past few months.
From Slate, May 2019:
“A close read of recently released ICE documents reveals that Palantir has been far more involved with the detention and deportation functions than previously implied.”
“Once an unaccompanied minor is located by an ICE investigation agent, the document instructs the agent to log the ‘arrival in the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system.’ […] ICM is a system built by Palantir, funded initially by a $41 million contract with ICE in 2014. With the ICM system, immigration agents are provided access to intelligence from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies, in addition to information like a subject’s criminal record and work history.”
In November 2019, Reuters wrote about investors protesting Palantir:
“A group advocating ethical investing will ask backers of tech analytics company Palantir Technologies to push for changes to its business practices, a rare case of coordinated shareholder action against a privately held company.
“The Investor Alliance for Human Rights, which claims more than 150 institutional members representing $4 trillion in managed assets, faults Palantir for contracts with government agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
In November 2019, The Stanford Daily writes:
“Members of the campus activist group Students for the Liberation of All People (SLAP) lined up in front of Gates Computer Science Building Tuesday afternoon to protest Stanford’s involvement with Palantir, a Palo Alto-based data mining company criticized for its partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”
In September 2019, Alex Karp defended Palantir against these types of protests (although he was reacting to earlier, similar protests) in the Washington Post:
“What is worrisome is not their protests. What is worrisome is that some Silicon Valley companies are taking the power to decide these issues away from elected officials and judges and giving it to themselves — a deeply unrepresentative group of executives living in an elite bubble in a corner of the country. They weigh their beliefs along with their complex business interests, both domestically and globally, and then make decisions that impact the safety and security of our country. This is not the way consequential policy decisions should be made. I don’t believe I should have that authority.”
“If we want to preserve a democracy in which protests are part of our DNA, we need to make sure the decisions are made by elected representatives and judges, not by unelected engineers running global businesses in a precious corner of a Golden State.”
This is, simply, the most disingenuous horse shit possible. Karp responds to investors, protesting against their enabling of ICE and other oppressive institutions, by saying “You’re not my real dad! The US government is my real dad!”
In this situation, no one is even protesting the government policy (although more people should, obviously), they’re protesting Palantir profiting off of, and enabling, government policy.
Alex Karp’s defense is very Thielian, as he’s basically saying “companies should galvanize behind, and advance, the state’s policy position,” which illustrates the libertarian-fascist pipeline that Thiel and many other have followed. No longer is libertarianism about protecting private capitalist interests, it’s now about private capitalist interests collaborating with government interests.
And besides all of that, the idea that the US government is any more democratic than tech investors in Silicon Valley is laughable: they’re both very undemocratic, and they overlap heavily.
Not only that, but Palantir grows increasingly powerful, with an increasing amount of ominous bedfellows.
Energy Reporters writes in October 2019:
BP made a venture-capital investment in Palantir, the controversial CIA-linked data analytics group co-founded by the billionaire Peter Thiel.
The oil and gas major invested in the firm in 2014 after it started to work with the California-based venture on digitising its oil operations.
Palantir works with the US immigration authorities, the Pentagon and CIA to compile and provide intelligence to the government and large corporations.
BP you say?
Also, just in November 2019, Palantir continues to expand. Insurance Business Magazine writes:
“Palantir Technologies has formed a joint venture with Japan’s Sompo Holdings, which will initially focus on health and cybersecurity risks.”
Sompo is Japan’s second largest property insurance company, but also does some other things, like venture capital. The question is, what could this Palantir/Sompo partnership provide for the Japanese government, when it comes to “health and cybersecurity risks”? The only potential answers seem dubious at best.
And finally, Telegraph writes in November 2019, about how Palantir is continuing to work with the British government:
“Controversial Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel has secured his largest contract to date with the British government for his secretive data mining company Palantir, after building a team of hundreds in the capital.
“The Ministry of Defence has spent £26m on Palantir this year, marking the Silicon Valley company’s most valuable public deal with the British government to date, The Telegraph can reveal.”
What’s the take-away then?
Ultimately, my message is to take anything Palantir says seriously, but don’t believe them. They are not only a company that wants to maximize profits, as all privately-owned capitalist companies. They’re a private company that wants to hybridize private enterprises with the government, in order to maximize profits.
Remember, Peter Thiel is great friends with Curtis Yarvin. Curtis Yarvin is the father of the neoreactionary (NRx) movement. NRx’s main political goal is a type of government that is functionally a privately held company that has government duties.
I don’t want to open a whole can of worms about Thiel at the end of this post, but I recommend researching Yarvin and Thiel. If you want to read more about Peter Thiel, I’ve written about him several times, and will continue to do so.
As far as I’m concerned, if this blog has any editorial perspective, it’s to counter Peter Thiel, what he advocates for, and what he represents.