Not long ago, in our very same galaxy, the high-tech elite seemed somewhat like the Jedis of the modern era. Sure, they were making gobs of money, but they were also “changing the world” for the better.
Even demonstrators against capitalism revered them; when Steve Jobs died in 2011, the protesters at Occupied Wall Street mourned his passing.
Increasingly, Americans no longer regard our tech oligarchs as modern folk heroes; today companies including Google, Apple and Facebook are suffering huge drops in their reputations among the public.
The tech oligarchs make a big show of their social “wokeness.” They play up on gender issues, despite a wicked record of sexual harassment at companies like Google and across the “bro culture” of the male-dominated valley.
Worse still are issues of class. The Bay Area, as CityLab put it, has devolved into “a region of segregated innovation” where the rich wax, the middle class declines and the poor suffer increasingly unshakeable poverty. Over the past decades wages for African Americans and Latinos in Silicon Valley have fallen during the boom while much of the work, up to 40 percent, has gone to temporary immigrant workers, the modern-day equivalent of indentured servants.
Of course, the oligarchs rely on immigrants to work as low-wage janitors, dog walkers and restaurant workers essential to their high-amenity economy. Not surprisingly they have been among the fiercest critics of President Trump’s immigration policies. This fits into their image, cultivated, for example, by Jeff Bezos mouthpiece The Washington Post, as principled defenders of democracy and human rights against the would-be dictator in the White House.
Yet these pronouncements obscure remarkable hypocrisy. Time, owned by oligarch Marc Benioff, rejected its own readers’ poll, which favored making the Hong Kong protesters “person of the year,” and instead gave the honor to Greta Thunberg. This will bolster the Salesforce.com founder’s green bona fides but also protects the company’s growing presence in China. It seems there’s no conflict between advocating wokeness in America while supporting repression in China. If tech-rich Taiwan, which just voted strongly against pro-mainland candidates, ever thought it could look to Silicon Valley for support, they should look again.
Then there’s the assistance with Chinese spying, and their effort to create some sort of similar surveillance apparatus here at home.
Flashback: Silicon Valley has gone from liberating to creepy. Next stop, government regulation. “Silicon Valley seemed to have gone from the hammer-wielding woman in that famous ‘1984’ Apple commercial, to the Big Brother figure up on the screen in that famous ‘1984’ Apple commercial.”
Plus: “Digital Maoism.”