American venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya doesn’t. He made this clear in a podcast.
Among other things, he said:
Nobody cares about it. Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay?…
Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line, okay?
These comments turned out not to be “okay.” The pushback was such that Palihapitiya later tried to walk his callousness back. After a day or two he said that his comments “came across as lacking empathy” and that “human rights matter, whether in China, or the United States, or elsewhere.” He still couldn’t bring himself to express empathy with the Uighurs.
We know that Palihapitiya has none. We know that his original comments reflect his true sentiments. He expressed them consistently in his own podcast even after a co-host expressed strong disagreement.
Palihapitiya spoke the truth about what he doesn’t care about. What about his view that nobody else cares about the Uighurs?
Here, I think Palihapitiya spoke the truth about what most of his friends and acquaintances in the woke world of venture capitalism believe. He may also have been expressing, albeit indirectly, another truth — that what people focus on when discussing human rights is strongly related to their ideology and, in some cases, their financial interests.
Would conservatives talk as much about the Uighurs if the oppression of that group wasn’t at the hands of a country we consider America’s most dangerous adversary in the world? I don’t think so. But that doesn’t mean conservatives don’t care about Uighurs.
I’m pro-cop and anti-criminal. That view informs my writing about crime and causes my focus to be on cases in which career criminals commit abominable crimes ( our under-incarceration problem).
But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about police brutality. There’s a distinction between caring and focusing.
Why did Palihapitiya admit to not caring about the Uighurs? I think in part because he wanted to sound edgy and in part because he wanted to call out people, mostly conservatives, who, in his view, are just pretending to care about China’s oppression of a Muslim group. He must view them as hypocrites.
There may also have been a financial angle. The NBA team he owns a piece of does a huge amount of business with China, and China might also be in a position to inflict harm on Palihapitiya’s own businesses — special purpose acquisition companies. My guess, though, is that personal finances played a secondary role, at best, in his comments about Uighurs.
I suspect Palihapitiya figured he could get away with his comments because he was confident that the woke world and, indeed many liberals, share his lack of concern about the Uighurs. He was probably right about the second part but wrong to infer that this would insulate him from criticism from the left.
The Golden State Warriors, the NBA team Palihapitiya has a minority stake in, pointedly distanced themselves from him. The team stated:
As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.
The Warriors stopped short, though, of expressing any empathy with the Uighurs.
The White House said it “rejects” Palihapitiya’s statement. It did so despite the fact that he’s a massive donor to Democrat campaigns, including Joe Biden’s. It promised to continue to hold China accountable. But Team Biden isn’t really holding China accountable to any appreciable degree for its war on the Uighurs.
In my view, the woke left, like Palihapitiya, doesn’t care about the Uighurs and the Biden administration cares little about them. Still, it’s a good sign that they feel the need to push back when someone speaks this truth.