Billionaire hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer has decided to step down from his leadership of Renaissance Technologies due to widespread negative attention towards his political sponsorships. Mercer will give his daughters control over the family’s political funding, including their investment at Breitbart News, and return to focusing on the research behind his firm’s $50 billion electronic trading business.
In announcing the decision, Mercer attempted to distance himself from Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon and threw alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos under the proverbial bus. It’s too little, too late to save Mercer’s reputation, however, and they are hardly the only irresponsible cranks he has generously funded over the years.
Combating the impression that his support of white nationalists and racists makes him one, Mercer denies that “my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s.”
“I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him,” Mercer says. “However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.”
Whether Mercer agrees with 100% of Bannon’s views is irrelevant to the fact that he single-handedly rescued Breitbart News after the death of its founder in 2012, and that he continued to keep the website afloat as Bannon transformed it into “the platform for the alt-right.”
To be generous, perhaps Mercer was too busy playing high-stakes poker to read the racist comments under all those “black crime” stories and fabricated Lee Stranahan articles about “rapist refugees.” But if he ever disagreed with any of that, he never spoke aloud in protest, and he never used the power of his purse to get rabid haters like Julia Hahn fired.
Instead, Mercer wants everyone to know that he was just trying to support free thinking all that time.
“I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions, assume responsibility for their own actions, and spend the fruits of their own labor as they see fit,” Mercer opines in a fit of libertarian drivel. And: “Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity.”
Of course, Mercer’s nonconformist views are the subject of a wrongful termination lawsuit, giving us a window into how not-racist he really is:
a) The United States began to go in the wrong direction after the passage of the Civl Rights Act in the 1960s;
b) African Americans were doing fine in the late-1950s and early-1960s before the Civil Rights Act;
c) The Civil Rights Act “infantilized” African Americas by making them dependent on government and removing any incentive to work;
d) The only racist people remaining in the United States are black; and
e) White people have no racial animus toward African Americans anymore, and if there is any, is it not something that the government should be concerned with.
Those alleged views stand in sharp contrast to Mercer’s new opinion that “actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate.”
“I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him,” Mercer says.
Which is interesting, because it puts his breaking point with Milo some time after his “free speech week” debacle and at or before Joseph Bernstein’s eye-opening BuzzFeed exposé on the neo-Nazis and white nationalists that Milo recruited to ghost write for him at Breitbart. Coincidence?
It’s worth noting here that Bannon and Yiannopoulos are hardly the only right wing cranks to be blessed by the Mercer family’s generosity.
As Zachary Mider explained at Bloomberg almost two years ago, Mercer cash has supported Oregon Republican and crank pseudoscientist Art Robinson’s bizarre collection of human urine specimens, Arizona conspiracy nutter Jane Orient, and other examples of fringe goofballs with dangerously insane ideas.
Mercer is also the primary owner of Cambridge Analytica, the “big data” firm now under investigation for its alleged role in Russia’s 2016 election influence operations. He was the single largest donor to both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump’s super PACs during the campaign.
Like Bannon and Yiannopoulos and Robinson and Orient, they were “the signal of truth” Robert Mercer wanted to rescue “from the correlated noise of conformity.”
He can run from that legacy if he wants, but he cannot hide from the consequences.
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