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Sunday, Sep 21, 2014

The Right Stuff

A politics blog by Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson's baseball card - if he had one - would report he throws left, writes right. In his columns and blog, "The Right Stuff," southpaw Jackson provides insight into the evolving human condition from a distinctly conservative point of view.

Lefty tech frat boys ambushed from the far left

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You have to love the scolding dished out by social utopian Vivek Wadhwa to the Silicon Valley Boys’ Club. Not that the geeks have it coming, necessarily — in a piece appearing on the Tribune’s op-ed page Monday, Wadhwa takes passionate issue with their tendency to associate only within the male-geek tribe, which, really, is nobody’s business — but because it is simply delicious to see this solidly lefty bloc getting hammered from the extreme left.

Wadhwa accuses the tech industry of a lengthy list of crimes, including elitism, insularity, sexism and frat-boy behavior. And he faults venture capitalists for boasting “they can recognize a successful entrepreneur, engineer or business executive when they see one,” because the “pattern always resembles Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or them: a nerdy male.”

But don’t these nerdy males all support the same liberal candidates, shovel millions to the same liberal causes, attend all the same liberal events? Maybe, but in the eyes of the purists, it’s not enough. As Wadhwa makes clear, those who would belong also must conform to ascribed behavioral and associative norms.

Never mind how presumptive, how dictatorial and how just plain wrong Wadhwa’s prescriptions are. Consider: “The public is investing billions of dollars in tech companies and expects professionalism, maturity and corporate social responsibility,” all code phrases for forcing tech bosses to adhere to strict quota systems in their board appointments and hiring practices when, in fact, what the public really wants when it socks money into a company is a decent return on its investment.

The same goes for venture capitalists. They put money where they believe it will do the most work. While Wadhwa complains this leaves certain groups — women, blacks, Latinos, older entrepreneurs — at a disadvantage, he overlooks the obvious: Returns on investment tend to be blind to color, gender and age; better ideas get funded, and venture capitalists who dismiss the next great innovation simply because it comes from an unconventional source will come to rue their narrow-mindedness.

At last, Wadhwa lectures Silicon Valley about “focus[ing] on solving big problems and giving back to the world,” which refutes the premise of his second paragraph, when he lauds how accessible technology has brought generations together while giving voice to the very subjugated groups — women and African-Americans — he claims tech insiders are holding back.

Wadhwa needs to read himself a little closer, or be a little less facile with his conclusions, or both. What Silicon Valley owes to the world it’s already giving.

That said, one hopes this experience has taught the frat boys something about the culture of the policies, politics and politicians they support with their cash, expertise and votes. Intolerance, long (and largely inaccurately) associated with conservatives, thrives on the left, where anything less than the full embrace of groupthink in practice and execution earns vitriolic rebuke.

Wadhwa’s denunciation is just the latest example, following closely on the heels of expulsionist rhetoric about certain doctrinaire conservatives (pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-traditional marriage) from New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But frequency and vigor should not be confused with wisdom.

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