EDITOR’S NOTE: This Daily Poster report is being co-published with Newsweek.
This report was written by Walker Bragman.
In all the recriminations over the GameStop trading boomlet last month, billionaire venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya emerged as a conquering hero — on Twitter and in elite media, he was depicted as the rare swashbuckling, tech-age investor mustering the integrity to side with those righteously demanding justice for rapacious short sellers and hedge fund vultures. The mythmaking and the euphoric enthusiasm ultimately crescendoed with him floating the idea of a run for governor of America’s largest state.
A shrewd businessman, Palihapitiya was making an opportunity out of American politics’ age-old dream of an enlightened capitalist-turned-populist parachuting in to bridge the partisan divide and rescue the country.
But for all his tough-talking soundbites and his pop culture cred as a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, Palihapitiya is not a typical man of the people — beneath the public image is a characteristic tech-industry oligarch promoting anti-government ideology, just repackaged and updated for the social media age.
Whether or not he ends up running for public office — he’s said he’s “not ready” to run for governor — Palihapitiya represents a counter to the resurgent progressive wing of the Democratic Party: a corporate-friendly Third Way centrist, with a sprinkle of social justice rhetoric but also an intense devotion to libertarian free-market triumphalism all wrapped in popular memes.
From Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, the archetype is increasingly familiar in politics and in the online game of thinkfluence — but Palihapitiya has struck the most populist pose of all.
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