In a bizarre dispatch from one of Silicon Valley’s more fabled and outspoken characters, venture-capital legend Tom Perkins has written a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal comparing recent activism against the Bay Area’s tech elite to the early anti-Semitic actions of the Nazis in Germany.
In the letter published Friday, Perkins suggests that the “outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the Peninsula high-tech companies which employ them’’ could be a precursor to the sort of violent attacks the Nazis waged against Jews on “Kristallnacht’’ in November 1938. The controversial co-founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers immediately drew reactions of shock throughout the blogosphere for his sharp attack on what he called “progressive radicalism’’ in the Bay Area.
In the letter, Perkins said:
“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’’’
He went on to trash the Occupy movement, along with the San Francisco Chronicle, which he accused of stoking the “demonization of the rich.’’
Referring to recent protests in the Bay Area against the Google buses that ferry commuters up and down Highway 101, Perkins said that same anger that some people feel toward Google employees has also carried over to “outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these ‘techno geeks’ can pay.’’
Then, in a strange twist, he comes to the defense of ex-wife author Danielle Steel, whom he refers to as “our number-one celebrity’’ and who he says has suffered “libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle,” alleging that “she is a ‘snob’ despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.’’
In closing, Perkins brings up the Nazi metaphor.
“This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking,’’ he writes. “Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?’’
Reaction against Perkins’ letter has been swift and mostly negative, particularly for his suggestion that Nazi fascism and anti-tech protests are somehow synonymous.
Neither Perkins nor representatives with the company he co-founded could be reached for comment. But on Twitter on Saturday, Kleiner Perkins said, “Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree.’’
And on The Verge blog, “ruddyD’’ wrote: “No matter how you feel, Perkins’ comparison is way, way, way out of proportion. With comparisons like that you diminish the actual horrors that came with and after the Kristallnächte.’’
Photo: Tom Perkins in his San Francisco office in 2006. (Associated Press archives)