A good rule to follow when hoping to be taken seriously is not to equate the deliberate killing of specific groups of people based on their race, religion or political affiliation with anything other than the deliberate killing of specific groups of people based on their race, religion or political affiliation. For the most part, people follow this guideline without even having to think about it, but every now and then, emotionally charged issues come up and cause them to stray. For billionaires, there is no more emotionally-charged issue than that of their money. Back in 2010, Blackstone chief Stephen Schwarzman told board members of a non-profit that “the struggle with the [Obama] administration over increasing taxes on private equity” was “like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” In the lead up to the 2012 election, hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman remarked to the New Yorker: “…the largest and greatest country in the free world took a forty-seven year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world. Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied.” The outcry that followed those references to the Third Reich ensured two years without a persecuted job-creator reaching for a Hitlerian metaphor.* This, apparently, was time enough for the lesson to be unlearned by one Tom Perkins.
As you’ve likely heard by now, late Friday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal printed a letter to the editor written by Perkins entitled “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?” Perkins was identified as “A founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,” a biographical detail that subsequently forced the venture capital firm to essentially disavow its relationship with one of the guys on its letterhead, tweeting:
There aren’t many major corporations that wouldn’t squirm a little bit to have namesakes throwing Kristallnacht around in letters to the editor. Unfortunately for KPC&B, the 184 words that followed made the headline seem reasonable. Let’s take a look. Read more »