WSJ’s Lame Defense of Perkins’ Kristallnacht Letter

The Wall Street Journal editorial board attempted a really lame defense of Tom Perkins’ letter to them that claimed that progressives are the “descendants” of the Nazis who launched their murderous campaign on Kristallnacht. They chalk it up to lack of subtlety:

Five days on, the commentariat continues to drop anvils on Tom Perkins, who may have written the most-read letter to the editor in the history of The Wall Street Journal. The irony is that the vituperation is making our friend’s point about liberal intolerance—maybe better than he did.

“I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent,” wrote the legendary venture capitalist and a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mr. Perkins called it “a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”

That comparison was unfortunate, albeit provocative. It’s not always easy to be subtle in 186 words, as Mr. Perkins learned, though a useful rule of thumb is not to liken anything to Nazi Germany unless it happens to be the Stalinist Soviet Union. Amid the ongoing media furor and an ungallant rebuke from Kleiner Perkins, Mr. Perkins has apologized for the comparison, without repudiating his larger argument.

But he wasn’t limited to 186 words. It was a letter to the editor, he could have written as many words as he wanted. He chose the words he chose not because of space limitations but because that’s what he wanted to say. And now he is rightly being hammered for saying something offensive and moronic. And the idea that the criticism he has rightly garnered proves his point? Well that’s even more idiotic.

While claiming to be outraged at the Nazi reference, the critics seem more incensed that Mr. Perkins dared to question the politics of economic class warfare. The boys at Bloomberg View—we read them since no one else does—devoted an entire editorial to inequality and Mr. Perkins’s “unhinged Nazi rant.”

When did the Wall Street Journal become Breitbart? Oh yeah, when Rupert Murdoch bought it.

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  • colnago80

    In some fairness, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page was Breitbart long before Murdock bought it.

  • raven

    The WSJ has become Fox News in print. It’s not worth paying any attention to it any more. Other than for the gruesome entertainment value.

    Since Rupert bought it, it has gone way downhill.

  • Stacy

    Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?

    There’s some nifty little premises they just sorta casually dropped in there.

    – (Scare quotes) Progressive (scare quotes) radicalism is the descendant of Nazism.

    – Rage about extreme income inequality = hatred of the successful.

    – Comparing mean comments to Kristallnacht is provocative (as opposed to batshit crazy.)

  • Michael Heath

    Ed asserts:

    When did the Wall Street Journal become Breitbart? Oh yeah, when Rupert Murdoch bought it.

    Wildly wrong. The WSJ’s editorial section, including its own editorials, have consistently published Rush Limbaugh-like demagoguery since at least the mid-1980s. The straight news section, while home to countless finely reported articles, also avoids news and facts inconvenient to their editorial section and have done so for decades prior to the Murdoch purchase. E.g., climate change and economic results that falsify the talking points supportive of the weakest though most popular perspective on supply-side economics.

    I took a lot of econ at college in the mid-1980s, where my econ professors were typically insistent their students have a subscription to the WSJ. Taking econ classes and then comparing that to the news, analysis, and opinion contained within the WSJ provided much utility but also jaw-dropping amazement at how horrid the arguments were in the WSJ editorial section.

    On several occasions I presented certain opinion pieces by the WSJ editorial staff or a powerful influential person to my profs. I’d point out this is history and theory revea. This WSJ piece is dependent on apparently horrid, dishonest, ignorant, and just plain idiotic arguments. Was I missing something here? These profs reply would always be, “no you’re not missing anything. It’s important you understand the bullshit slung when it comes to economics”. Ironically, my profs were often consultants to Republican politicians.

  • hatred of the successful one percent

    Interesting that the wikipedia entry on Perkins doesn’t say anything about his parentage/upbringing. A frat-boy who went to MIT and got an MBA from Haaaaavard. Want to bet he came by his money the traditional way? (I.e.: was born with a silver spoon in his mouth) In my experience the staunchest defenders of the self-made rich are the ones who convince themselves that they didn’t inherit the god-code to life.

  • Randomfactor

    If they want a REAL historical comparison, try pre-Revolution France.

  • citpeks

    In one of his post op-ed interviews he defended himself by saying he has relatives who live in trailer parks, so. . ..

    I’d love for someone to track down those relatives and see what they have to say.

  • sh3baproject

    um how exactly are we gonna be able to kill off the rich people when they have the resources to kill us with little effort? at best we would be able to injure them,let alone kill them. we dont got a chance.

    and liberals are intolerant? last time i checked they ended slavery and brought help to the working class. your friend henry ford supported them(i dont remember what political position he was though i think he was conservative,correct me if im wrong)

  • Pierce R. Butler

    But he wasn’t limited to 186 words. It was a letter to the editor, he could have written as many words as he wanted.

    An awful lot of people seemed to have missed the memo that, inspired by haikus, limericks, and Twits, the art form of letters-to-Murdochian-editors must meet precise and arcane requirements of length and rhythm. (To prevent inundation by vast and colorful schools of literary cuttlefish, rhyming is severely discouraged.)

  • a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I wouldn’t train a puppy on the Wall Street Urinal.

  • Extremely relavent.

    In a series of startling studies, psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley have found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” Ongoing research is trying to find out what it is about wealth — or lack of it — that makes people behave they way they do.

  • cptdoom

    The problem with Perkins’ letter was not that it questioned “the politics of economic class warfare.” The problem was that it was a self-serving piece of trash from someone complaining because progressives want to go back to the tax rates of the 1990s.

  • felidae

    Iffn I remembers kerrectly, one of the basic ideas of Nazism was an alliance with and mutual support between the government and big business, a concept that should appeal to the solons at the WSJ

  • marcus

    Wont somebodie pleez thinks of teh billionairz? 🙁

  • hunter

    citpeks @7: So he’s worth millions and still allows his relatives to live in trailer parks? I think that tells us all we need to know.

  • had3

    By relatives, he meant fellow members of the human race. Eh, who am I kidding, he wouldn’t mean that!

  • Every once in a while when I’m driving and see some guy standing by the side of the road, looking (without a clue as to what he’s looking AT) under the hood of his $60K+ auto) or standing on the verge while a wrecker pulls his Allwheel or 4wheel drive SUV/luxury sedan out of a snowbank, I think to myself:

    “Purchasing power, it don’t equal intelligence.”

    Perkin’s is a 1%er? Why didn’t he have one of his people type the letter?

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ democommie : Because money – even so many squillions of bucks – can’t buy everything? Can’t really buy (metaphorical) hearts and minds and thoughts.

    Perhaps he tried and nobody could write one sincere enough or sum up exactly what he wanted?

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!


    um how exactly are we gonna be able to kill off the rich people when they have the resources to kill us with little effort?

    Sheer weight of numbers and denial of services and refusal to play along to their games. Maybe.

    However rich you are, you need the same basic necessities as the rest of us – food, drink and shelter.

    If enough people really tried and worked, even the richest if the 1% could be denied those and hounded and have their personal safety and personal space and life removed. They are physical beings and as such vulnerable – and they too will die one day with or without revolution. They too bleed and worry and grieve and are fallible like us all. Just, y’know, a fuck of a lot wealthier and more powerful. But mortal and human all the same.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    PS. Also they need us. As consumers as servants as whatever else.

    No one lies as an island – John Donne.

    No one can do everything and live well without some society around them.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Money and political influence only have power because we decide they do.

    Take the wealthiest billionaire and put him beside a pile of all his money,all his gold – out in the Sahara or the Arctic or even a European forest full of wolves. Leave him (or more rarely her) there with nothing else. Nobody to help them, no resources but their own sweat and the cash and gold beside them.

    In the Sahara the richest of humans will sweat and dehydrate and die of thirst under a blazing sun. It won’t take too long, a few days at most assuming no lucky rain or nearby oasis.

    In the Arctic the cold will kill and the money and gold will break through the sea ice and sink or blow away on the blizzard. Or a polar bear will easily chase down and kill for a bite size snack, a modern Crassus or Queen of Sheba or Koch brother.

    In a European forest, the rain will fall; the mushrooms he won’t know which to eat and the wolves with not be bribed to spare his life with paper, electronic funds nor coin.

    Wealthy men are wealthy because we accept the token system that says they are.

    Humans are pack animals and our strength is our minds and our teamwork.

    Alone without teamwork, our minds and our single unaided efforts can do little of any real note. it takes two to do the bare biological minimum of reproducing genes.

    Together as a collective we can send spacecraft to land on the Moon and depart our solar system having seen every major world. Combined we change the atmosphere of our planet and drive creatures far fiercer and stronger and better armed than us – individually anyhow* – into extinction or allow them to live at our whim.

    We can wipe out smallpox, transform whole landscapes and make an inland sea turn to desert by half-design, half stupid lack of vision. We can irradiate and unleash a power brighter than our Sun upon millions killing them and turning others into shadows and vapour and ash and leave their skin dripping off and melded with their clothes in the hundred thousands plus. We can make water toxic or clean, make a desert of forest or vice versa. We can life daily full of wondrous joy or worst misery for those we choose or choose not to consider and aid and share with.

    We are so powerful, so dangerous , so fucked up, so full of ambiguous potential.

    But that, all of that, is only*only* *only because we work as multiples of more than one, because we co-operate in teams and tribes and nations and united globe spanning efforts.

    A human individual alone has no wealth, no power and no hope.

    But a Queen is a Queen because we call her that and the wealthiest billionaire is wealthy only because we agree he is and agree that money has real physical meaning and that the token representing it has such power it makes us do its bidding.

    There is a real sense in which the whole power of the wealthiest and most aristocratic is just an illusion, we all collectively, allow them to retain. And as such we could strip that from them. With enough collective decision to say no.

    Not that I’m saying that will happen anytime soon – at least this era.


    * No beasts has The Bomb – but no one human ever made The Bomb on their own. No human has the claws and teeth of the jaguar or hyena nor the teeth and bulk muscle power and toughness of hide of the hippo.