Why is ultra-libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel (see also here) sitting on the First Things finance committee (along with George Weigel, Robert P. George, Frederic Clark, and William Burleigh)?I've said before that George Weigel is a sycophant.
Named one of the 10 Most Powerful Gays by Out magazine, Thiel is a transhumanist who supports technology to "save" human beings by turning them into robots. (See MercatorNet's op-ed on this.) His Thiel Foundation also supports utopian "seasteading" and human embryonic stem cell research. He has written that democracy and freedom are incompatible.
Could Thiel's involvement have anything to do with FT's recent shift away from articles that support marriage?
One more note about Thiel: He's created a group called Imitatio to promote the "mimetic theory" of Rene Girard. FT once published an article (by Servais Pinckaers, I think) critical of Girard, but it's gone whole hog on him during the past year--check its archives.
Here are some notes on Thiel and Girard from The Guardian:What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short", and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."
Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.
Thiel's philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel's intellectual soirees. What you don't hear about in Thiel's philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.
I am of the personal opinion that he is a spineless snake.
Now we find him sitting in a cozy relationship with one of the major underminers of Catholic Faith in the United States.
Several people have asked why I dislike George Weigel so much.
I heard him speak once in Peoria, Il, where he mentioned that pro-abort politicians got voted into office because Catholics voted them in. Thus, it was really the fault of Catholic laity that such politicians were so prominent. We were to blame. Mea culpa, mea culpa, etc. Everyone in the audience was ashamed of themselves.
Except I wasn't buying that crap.
During the Q & A, I publicly asked him how he could maintain that position, given that:
- the bishops had put pro-aborts on their own national review board following the sex abuse scandal (the board was only a year or so old at that point, and this was fresh then),
- the bishops had REFUSED to act in solidarity to refuse communion to pro-abort politicians (you couldn't receive on your knees in some diocese, but you could certainly receive if you supported killing babies - we have to show liturgical solidarity, after all),
- many bishops used public language that could easily be interpreted by Catholic laity to mean that we should have no qualms with voting for pro-abort politicians as long as they were "good on other issues."
Our spineless snake just kept repeating, "I cannot explain the actions of the bishops" until his friend, the priest who had brought him in for the talk (perhaps stung by the direction of that last question, given that George's thesis was precisely that it wasn't the fault of the bishops), suddenly stood up and said, "The time for questions is now closed."
Now, George knew damn well why the bishops acted the way they did.
The vast majority of them are freaking heretics.
But George didn't want to urinate in his rice bowl by saying it aloud.
So, he took the boot-licker's way out and punted.
He's a sycophant. The man has no spine, no guts.
You've got to remember that George was nothing but another ignorant journalist when he got tapped to write JP II's biography. He got in not because of his depth of theological knowledge, but because he happened to have the right friends and he hit it off with the Pope on a personal level, in much the same way Maciel did.
We've treated him like some kind of deeply insightful Catholic saint since then, but he's never really advanced beyond his ignorant journalist stage. He just has access to some bishops who give him inside scoops (much as Amy Welborn built her blog reputation on the inside scoops her ex-priest husband's contacts gave her), so he seems like a man who can be trusted.
For my money, there isn't any real evidence that George is more than a mouthpiece for bishops who want to get their opinions out but don't want their fingerprints on the essays. If he loses that access, he won't have any more grist for his books. Loss of income is a terrible thing, especially in this economy. Maybe that's why the man is on the finance board at FT.
As for Rene Girard, I don't know anything about him, but I did find these couple of gems:
And this rather interesting review of Girard.