We have no problem turning a blind eye to human rights atrocities, until the spotlight turns on us.
Over the past 24 hours all eyes have turned to Washington and Silicon Valley in the wake of the alleged brutal torture and murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The controversial journalist’s disappearance has been linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
It’s not as if Washington hasn’t known about Saudi atrocities for countless administrations. The same is of course true of Silicon Valley’s vaunted VCs and CEOs. Not to mention Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, whose $92 billion Vision Fund is backed by $45 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
The same Saudi fund owns about 5% of Elon Musk’s Tesla, pumped $3.5 billion into Uber and has a material stake in countless tech startups like Slack, WeWork and Magic Leap. Every big tech CEO from Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page to Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook has rolled out the red carpet for the Crown Prince and his oil money.
It’s ironic how Uber backer Benchmark and other investors threw cofounder and former CEO Travis Kalanick under the bus over his hard-driving culture that upset a former employee. You know, the one who wrote a blog post about her experiences at the ride hailing startup. Funny, I can’t seem to recall her name now.
Throughout that oh so seedy scandal nobody said a word about the Saudi money. But everyone in Silly Valley is talking about it now that the spotlight is on them.
I can already hear the defensive denials — one thing has nothing to do with the other, they’ll say. Au contraire, they have everything to do with each other. They’re all about human rights — women’s rights in particular.
Anyone who thinks human rights were violated working for Uber or any other tech company should spend a little time in the desert kingdom. Women and journalists may want to think twice, though.
Image credit @SaudiEmbassyUSA via Twitter