The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power

Max Chafkin. Penguin Press, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-984878-53-3
A Big Tech billionaire has injected toxic Trumpism and other extreme ideals into America’s body politic, according to this cutting biography. Bloomberg journalist Chafkin (Design Crazy) depicts Peter Thiel, PayPal cofounder and Facebook financier, as an inconsistent “calculating operator” with an enormous political and social footprint. Many of his impulses inhabit the fringe, Chafkin notes, including his support for “seasteading” countries on ocean platforms and his interest in life-extending blood transfusions from young people. But Thiel is also a force in mainstream Republican politics; he was a big donor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and then won federal contracts for his data-mining company, Palantir, which helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement find immigration-law violators. Chafkin’s portrait of Thiel is punchy and caustic, asking, “Was Thiel a genius worthy of admiration and study, or a sociopathic nihilist?” (the author leans toward the latter). His zeal to unmask Thiel’s allegedly subversive influence is sometimes overwrought: he calls Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019 refusal to censor Trump’s campaign claims “exactly what Thiel, and Trump, wanted,” while downplaying the free-speech issues involved. Still, this is an engrossing look at one of Silicon Valley’s most eccentric and abrasive figures. Agent: Ethan Bassoff, Ross Yoon Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/29/2021
Release date: 09/21/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-9848-7854-0
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