A Silicon Valley titan is putting money behind an unofficial Donald Trump group dedicated to “shitposting” and circulating internet memes maligning Hillary Clinton.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey financially backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America, a self-described “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit” in support of the Republican nominee.
Luckey sold his virtual reality company Oculus to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, and Forbes estimates his current net worth to be $700 million. The 24-year-old told The Daily Beast that he had used the pseudonym “NimbleRichMan” on Reddit with a password given to him by the organization’s founders.
Nimble America says it’s dedicated to proving that “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real,” according to the company’s introductory statement, and has taken credit for a billboard its founders say was posted outside of Pittsburgh with a cartoonishly large image of Clinton’s face alongside the words “Too Big to Jail.”
So I have a confession to make. I don't only think about politics 24 hours a day.
And one of the things that really attracts my attention outside of the world of politics, are new technologies.
And virtual reality has been extremely interesting to me.
Because of that interest I have been following Palmer Luckey and his work on the Oculus Rift for years now.
And now those two interests are colliding in a very uncomfortable manner.
Courtesy of the Guardian:
“We know Hillary Clinton is corrupt, a warmonger, a freedom-stripper. Not the good kind you see dancing in bikinis on Independence Day, the bad kind that strips freedom from citizens and grants it to donors,” Luckey wrote on a Reddit thread introducing his initiative, using the pseudonym NimbleRichMan.
Luckey’s support for Trump may be unusual in a tech industry that has a tendency to support Democrats, but it is his embrace of the dark side of Trump’s internet army that is so alarming. We may be used to the incredibly wealthy supporting pro-business politicians by writing checks to the Republican party, but the full-on embrace of “shitposting” and the bigoted online harassment that so often comes with it is something else entirely.
Shitposting is not intended to add to an online discussion but to shut it down with, well, shit. It is the opposite of the ideals of good faith, open discussion made possible by the internet.
So yeah it's not just that Luckey supports a highly divisive candidate, who attracts support from some of the most hate filled people in the country, but that he also financially supports, and participates in shitposting, which is essentially the kind of uber trolling that most of us here have seen frequently.
And it is made worse by the fact that Luckey at first tried to minimize his participation in the group by going on Facebook and saying this:
I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views.
Here’s more background: 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. I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the "NimbleRichMan" posts, nor did I delete the account. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don’t have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.
Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I’m sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community.
Unfortunately for Luckey one of the Daily Beast reporters tweeted this e-mail exchange where Lucky admits that he is "NimbleRichMan" and that he did indeed write those posts on Reddit.
Ouch, that means Luckey has just been caught lying to his many, many supporters.One more email: Luckey clearly states in here that the NimbleRichMan account represents him. pic.twitter.com/RC4mXPFDkM— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) September 24, 2016
And that is not good because Luckey is the cherubic face of one of the hottest pieces of technology to come along in a decade or more, and there are literally billions and billions on the line.
What's more there are many competitors on the horizon, including Sony, who are more than likely going to take advantage of this news to pull consumers away from the Oculus Rift, which could cost investors, including Facebook, hundreds of millions of dollars in the long run.
If that happens this could be yet another case of an association with Donald Trump negatively impacting a company, and literally destroying a young man's career.
Though to be honest it is a little hard to feel too much sympathy for a guy in his twenties who made 2 billion on a device that he started building in his garage.