Tags: palmer freeman luckey | nimble america | brendan eich

Tech Innovator Persecuted for Political Nonconformity

Tech Innovator Persecuted for Political Nonconformity

Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus VR Inc., left, plays the new video game 'Eagle Flight VR' during an Ubisoft news conference before the start of the E3 Gaming Conference on June 13, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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Thursday, 13 October 2016 10:06 AM Current | Bio | Archive

You would think that your political views wouldn’t affect your ability to invent and innovate, to create something new and potentially revolutionize the world. But increasingly, the liberal bias that pervades the celebrity-powered clime of Hollywood is migrating north to Silicon Valley. There’s plenty of innovation happening outside of Google, Facebook, Apple, and the rest of the blue chip tech companies based in and around San Jose, California, but that area is still the epicenter of a lot of innovation.

And increasingly, Silicon Valley is not just blue, but is pressuring those who might have different political views to march in lock-step with their liberal tech leaders or suffer the consequences.

Two years ago, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich learned this lesson the hard way when he was fired after it was revealed that he once donated a whopping $1,000 to an advocacy group that opposed gay marriage.

The latest victim of Silicon Valley political groupthink is a man who once adorned the cover of Time magazine: Palmer Freeman Luckey, a tech entrepreneur who is the founder of Oculus, a virtual reality startup that was acquired by Facebook. It turns out that in addition to VR, Palmer is passionate about politics, with a strong libertarian bent and a stated aversion to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He donated money to an organization called Nimble America, and that’s what’s caused all the upset.

The problem is that Nimble America isn’t libertarian; it supports Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. And whatever Luckey’s personal politics, and however much the foundation of American ideals is the freedom for each of us to have our own views and perspective, supporting Mr. Trump is the kiss of death in modern liberal Silicon Valley.

When the news of his support for Nimble America first came out, Luckey tried to shrug the issue off, posting the following on Facebook: "I contributed $10,000 to Nimble America because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards. I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well."

While a bit coy about his knowledge of what else Nimble America is involved in, the above admission was clearly insufficient for the drum-beating digital cognoscenti. One Reddit user named "speizer" explained the issue (as quoted in Business Insider): "At the end of the day, this isn’t about his supporting Trump. It’s about his way of doing so. He’s a public figure. This isn’t a situation you can just ignore or regard as having a minute amount of importance. He’s a VR visionary and people looked up to him."

The implication is that you can’t possibly be a visionary and not be a liberal Democrat.

Fortunately, there are a few voices of reason in this near-riot of condemnation, including Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, who said the following on his public Facebook account: "I want to respond to the recent press stories involving Palmer. I know that Palmer is deeply sorry for the impact this situation is having on the company, our partners and the industry. Everyone at Oculus is free to support the issues or causes that matter to them, whether or not we agree with those views. It is important to remember that Palmer acted independently in a personal capacity, and was in no way representing the company."

While others dog pile on the liberal bandwagon and condemn Palmer Freeman Luckey, it’s worth keeping in mind what James Green, co-founder of Carbon Games, said in his support: "This backlash is nonsense. I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it’s legal," said Green. "To take any other position is against American values."

And that’s a question that seems to show up too infrequently in today’s Silicon Valley: Do we expect everyone we work with, everyone we hire, every visionary to march in lockstep with the populist liberal agenda, or do we support basic American values of freedom of speech and freedom of political views, even when we don’t agree? If the experience of Palmer Luckey is any guide, the answer, unfortunately, is the former.

This article first appeared on Acculturated.com.

Dave Taylor is a long-time media commentator and writer, with a focus on consumer electronics and technology. He holds a Masters degree in Education and an MBA and has published over twenty books. A single father to two teens and a tween, he also moonlights as a film and media critic and calls Boulder, Colorado, home. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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You would think that your political views wouldn’t affect your ability to invent and innovate, to create something new and potentially revolutionize the world. But increasingly, the liberal bias that pervades the celebrity-powered clime of Hollywood is migrating north to Silicon Valley.
palmer freeman luckey, nimble america, brendan eich
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2016-06-13
Thursday, 13 October 2016 10:06 AM
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