In a bizarre dispatch from one of Silicon Valley’s most fabled and outspoken characters, venture-capital legend Tom Perkins wrote a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal comparing recent activism against the San Francisco Bay Area’s tech elite to the early anti-Semitic actions of the Nazis.
In the letter published Saturday in the Journal’s weekend edition, Perkins suggested 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 co-founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers drew shocked reactions on the Internet for his sharp attack on what he called the Bay Area’s “progressive radicalism.”
In the letter, Perkins said:
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“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.’ ”
Kristallnacht, also called the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Nazi-controlled parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia in which paramilitary forces and civilians attacked stores owned by Jews, killed dozens of Jews and rounded up more than 30,000 others.
Perkins 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 the 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.”
In closing, Perkins uses 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 Saturday. 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.”