Thursday, April 6, 2017
Oh The Wonderful Openness Of Liberals!
Facebook Employee Fired for Producing Pro-Trump Memes
To those who haven’t been keeping up with technology, there’s a revolution going on in video gaming where new hardware that looks like goggles allows for a “virtual reality” (VR) playing experience. So pervasive is this technology predicted to be in the next decade that major tech companies have heavily invested in or acquired the firms that are working on it.
One such firm — some would arguably say until recently, the leading one — was Irvine, California’s Oculus, founded by entrepreneur Palmer Luckey along with five partners in 2012. Luckey produced a VR headset called the Rift and used a Kickstarter campaign to fund his firm, making headsets available to numerous developers.
The campaign quickly raised 10 times its original stated goal of $250,000. Two development kits were built and distributed to companies wishing to develop games and applications. An early fan of Oculus was id Software’s John Carmack, the man responsible for groundbreaking videogame Doom (among many others) in 1993. Carmack would go on to be hired as Oculus’ Chief Technology Officer in 2013.
In 2014, Facebook founder (and Democratic Party donor) Mark Zuckerberg made an agreement to acquire Oculus for $2.3 billion. Palmer Luckey, at the tender age of 21, made approximately $730 million with the sale and became a Facebook employee.
But now, just three years later, Luckey is being forced out of Facebook following the revelation that he funded a nonprofit group called Nimble America, which promoted then-Republican candidate Donald Trump in 2016.
Nimble produced memes, the ubiquitous images on social media overlaid with a joke or lines of text conveying a simple message. Nimble’s memes were decidedly pro-Trump and bashed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton mercilessly (one popular Nimble meme referred to her as “Too Big to Jail”).
Nimble called the meme promotion “s***posting” and claimed on its introductory page that “s***posting is powerful, and meme magic is real.” On the online forum Reddit, a Nimble America spokesperson claimed, “We conquered Reddit and drove narrative on social media, conquered the [mainstream media], now it’s time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans, whether they like it or not.”
Nimble’s memes were promoted on many social media channels and endorsed by conservative commentator Milo Yiannopolous, among others. Of his contribution to Nimble America at the time, Luckey wrote via a pseudonym, “I’m not going to keep throwing money after something if I don’t see any results. I think these guys are pretty legit. The sums of money are so small [Luckey ultimately contributed around $10,000], I don’t think they’re out to scam anybody. If they disappear with the money, I wouldn’t throw any more money at them.”
But followers of Nimble’s output refused to believe that the man funding the organization — which listed Luckey (via his pseudonym) as a vice president — was secretly a near-billionaire.
Luckey protested (again, via a pseudonym), “The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals. The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can’t fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.”
Luckey’s actions echoed those of another tech billionaire, Peter Thiel, who funded a secret campaign that successfully destroyed liberal gossip website Gawker.
Later, Luckey’s true identity was revealed, and Nimble’s memes were distributed much more widely, ultimately being published and discussed in media properties as disparate as Kotaku, Mashable, The Verge and New York magazine.
Currently in the midst of an unrelated controversy over labeling “fake news,” Facebook and Oculus declined to say that Luckey was fired. But Oculus did release a statement that read in part, “Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”
In a social media post, Luckey noted that “recent news stories about me do not accurately reflect my views… I’m deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.”
Last month, Facebook lost a $500 million jury trial arguing that it stole trade secrets from Zenimax, a VR company that at least one of Luckey’s Oculus partners worked at before joining him at the current Facebook subsidiary.
Since the Facebook acquisition, Oculus has had problems with executive turnover and product delays. There have been reports of management chaos and duplication of work as the company now faces significant competition from the likes of Google and Samsung.
Electronics retailer Best Buy has pulled the pricy Rift headset the company released last September from its stores citing weak demand, but Facebook argued the move was a “seasonal issue.”
With plenty of Facebook money still in his bank account, Luckey doesn’t have to worry too much about the future. But hopefully, he’s learned an important lesson about who you work for and the realities of the politics they finance.