Article Thumbnail

What Would It Take to Boycott Peter Thiel?

How far you’d have to go to disconnect from the pro-Trump billionaire’s tech empire

The business practices of our next commander-in-chief have made it pretty simple to stage an economic protest against his policies — he puts his name on anything that’s associated with him. If it says Trump, just walk away.

But what if you wanted to express your profound distaste for our future president’s politics by boycotting the operations of his wealthy supporters? The list of businessmen and billionaires who endorsed the Donald is long, but most are just your standard profit-seeking Republicans, many of whom had endorsed less certifiably batty candidates before he became the official GOP guy.

Peter Thiel, however, has been with Trump since day one. The German-born Silicon Valley billionaire donated $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign, was one of the headliners at the RNC back in July, and is now being rewarded for his loyalty with a spot on the Trump transition team.

Colleagues have described Thiel’s support of Trump as being consistent with his love of “disruption” and “creative destruction,” but the two also share a love of litigation and a questionable commitment to democracy. Thiel famously funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker—which bankrupted the media company earlier this year—out of a personal desire to destroy the online publication nine years after one of its sub-blogs revealed that Thiel was gay, setting what some have called a dangerous precedent for freedom of the press. And in one of his clearest statements of political belief, Thiel has written that he “no longer believe[s] that freedom and democracy are compatible” and that women’s suffrage turned the idea of “capitalist democracy” into “an oxymoron.”

Boycotting and divesting from Thiel’s web of profit and influence might take some doing, given how far it extends. And it’s not like his standard of living will take a hit — but it would still send the message that Thiel and Trump’s politics are nasty, and people are paying attention. And given his whole logical Libertarian schtick, the sheer economic irrationality of it might piss him off more than anything.

So what would it take to actually disconnect from the Thieloverse?

You’d have to stop using Facebook.

Thiel was an early investor in the company, and currently serves on its board. Mark Zuckerberg has publicly defended Thiel’s position on the board while being on Team Trump, saying “we can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate.”

You’d also have to stop using Airbnb, Spotify, Zocdoc, Lyft, Oscar, Stripe, Leafly and, if you happen to be planning any rocket trips, SpaceX.

These are just the most prominent consumer-facing companies that are listed in the portfolio of Founders Fund, the VC fund that Thiel created in 2005 and still runs along with three other partners.

You can find a more complete picture of their portfolio here, in case you also want to avoid the more business-facing companies that Thiel’s fund has invested in. Many of these companies, in the interest of understanding how they can improve their customer retention, ask why you’re leaving them when try to shut down your account — that obnoxious pop-up would be the perfect place to let them know that you’re out because Thiel’s all in for Trump.

Unlike Facebook, which one could argue might be useful as an organizational tool for anti-Trump political activity, pretty much none of these companies do anything essential, and most have competitors free of Thielian influence. Don’t want to use AirBNB? There’s always Couchsurfing or normal hotels. Wanna quit Spotify? Try Apple Music, Tidal, actually buying and downloading music, or just humming to yourself. Want to get to space without SpaceX? You’re on your own, and who even are you.

You would have to refuse transfusions of young people blood from Ambrosia (and refuse to donate your sweet, life-giving youth blood if you’re under 25).

Thiel is backing a company called Ambrosia that’s researching how juicing up with the blood of people under 25 (who, it should be noted, overwhelmingly voted against Trump) can reverse the negative effects of aging. This is actually a pretty cool idea — blood is a renewable resource, after all — but the last thing we need right now is four more years of old-people politics.

The Many Rich Men Who Have Tried to Live Forever

You’d have to avoid companies coming out of Y Combinator.

Y Combinator has helped launch some of the digital world’s most influential brands (including Reddit and Dropbox). Last March, Thiel joined the increasingly powerful Silicon Valley startup incubator as a “part-time partner,” in time to mentor, guide, and get first dibs on investing in newer startups that nobody’s heard of yet (but could very well get huge) like Meadow, a weed-ordering app, Petcube, an “interactive pet camera app,” and Boom Technology, a company that’s trying to reinvent commercial supersonic air travel — you can check out a whole list of YC’s newer grads here.

You’d have to take up the fight against the broader surveillance state.

If you thought Thiel couldn’t get any spookier than funding actual vampire research, think again! He cofounded Palantir, the company that’s become the data analysis IT guy of the American military and civilian intelligence community (and yes, it’s named after the “seeing stones” from Tolkien). Palantir got off the ground in 2004 with venture funding from In-Q-Tel, the VC arm of the CIA, and has since picked up the NSA, FBI, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Special Operations Command as clients.

Less shady clients include the CDC, government fraud investigators and financial companies (okay, maybe they’re shady), and the company has helped government agencies fight against international cyberattacks.

But even if they do some good work, Palantir is currently being sued by the Department of Labor for systematically discriminating against ethnically Asian job applicants. Seems like they’ve been trying to MAGA for a while.

Palantir isn’t the kind of company that a normal citizen can decide to boycott, but you can at least make their job a little harder by following some basic privacy and data security guidelines.

If you’re truly dedicated to this cause, you’d also have to stop using Paypal (and Venmo).

Thiel’s rise to Silicon Valley mega-riches began with PayPal — the online payment service that also owns Venmo. He’s not involved with the company anymore in any official capacity, so boycotting these services would be little more than symbolic. Given the long list of companies that Thiel is actively investing in or leading, you might as well focus on those first.