The Populist Interviews: Blake Masters on Justice in America, the Republican Party, Big Tech, Capitalism and the Regime
Blake Masters is an American venture capitalist and 2022 Republican candidate for the Senate in Arizona. In 2012, while studying at Stanford, he met Peter Thiel with whom he has worked and collaborated in Silicon Valley ever since. Together, they co-authored the 2014 bestseller Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. He is also the chief operating officer at Thiel Capital and the president of the Thiel Foundation.
Throughout his candidacy, which began in July 2021, Masters has been a very vocal proponent of America First policies, pro-family, in favor of finishing the wall, against globalization and the threats posed by Big Tech and China. A self-described “America First conservative,” Masters is often associated with other young Republican candidates such as Joe Kent and J.D. Vance (respectively running for Congress in Washington and the Senate in Ohio) for their connections with Thiel, but most importantly for their similarities and support of Trump’s vision and what has often been described as a new Republican “working-class realignment.”
Masters’ defense of Kyle Rittenhouse before and during the trial, as well his campaign commercials — beautifully shot in nature mostly featuring him talking straight and honestly to the cameras — have garnered millions of views online and attracted praise by various right-wing and dissident corners, which contributed to his rising popularity. At thirty-five years old, he’s one of the most appreciated and promising politicians on the American Right.
For our series of interviews featuring dissident thinkers and populist politicians, we decided to reach out to Masters for an exclusive interview. What follows is an edited-for-clarity transcript of a conversation between Masters and founding editor Mark Granza, recorded via Zoom on December 8, 2021.
— The Editors
“If we don’t do something now, the rule of law will soon be gone forever. Anyone who questions the left’s narrative is going to be hunted down. I truly believe that. That’s what we’re fighting against.”
— Blake Masters
Mark Granza: Mr. Masters, what important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Blake Masters: [Laughs] It’s always funny to get our own question asked against me. Well, I’d say that I’m actually optimistic about the future of our country. That’s not a sentiment most people share today. Especially on the Right, it’s increasingly common to feel pessimistic about America. You know, to be ‘blackpilled’, as they say online. And it’s understandable – I too see all the chaos and destruction this Regime is inflicting on our country and the American people. But I really do believe that we can get the pendulum to swing back our way, that we can win this fight and rebuild America. That’s why I’m running for office.
Mark Granza: You come from Stanford Law and venture capitalism in Silicon Valley. You are now running for the US Senate in Arizona. Tech-bros are higher status and make a lot more money than politicians. Why politics?
Blake Masters: It’d be easier for me to sit back and continue to make money. I love working with Peter [Thiel], I have it pretty good. So there’s certainly something crazy about giving that up and diving into the mad political world. But it seems pretty clear to me that the next few years are going to be crucial for our country, and that in order to have a good future, we need to take back power and wield it wisely. So I just think this is the most important thing I could be doing. Also, seeing Arizona, which has always been reliably Republican since I was a kid, losing both Senate seats to the Democrats in a span of just two or three years was especially jarring. When Mark Kelly was declared the winner in 2020, I said to myself, “No way, I can beat that guy. I can do a lot better.”
Mark Granza: You’ve said that “In America you should be able to raise a family on a single income.” Elon Musk recently tweeted that “Without more children civilization is going to crumble.” Does technology have any role in fixing these problems?
Blake Masters: Well, in theory, better technology makes workers more productive. And more productive workers can command higher wages, which ultimately should make it easier to raise a family on one income. The problem is that technological ‘progress’ in the last forty or fifty years has been mostly confined to the information technology sector, and this has actually only made it harder and harder for people to connect and raise families. Think of the kind of technology we have now: ubiquitous smartphones, Netflix, apps delivering bespoke marijuana products right to your door, etc; that’s not the kind of tech that encourages people to build relationships, because these technologies are designed to make people ‘escape’ rather than connect. Even dating apps, which are nominally about cultivating romance and connections between men and women, turn out to be pretty transactional and soulless. All of this enables a sad techno-culture that is basically hyper-individualistic and anti-family. I know a lot of CEOs and software designers in Silicon Valley who don’t even let their own kids near a smartphone. So no, I don’t think this kind of technology has much of a role in fixing these problems. Technology that actually made us more prosperous and productive? That’s a different story.
Mark Granza: Does politics have a role in fixing these problems?
Blake Masters: Yes. The laissez-faire attitude that our government has with respect to Big Tech is incredibly harmful. The tech giants themselves deserve blame of course, but they’re also doing what you’d expect. Most individual actors are just responding to incentive structures. They’re like toddlers, always testing the boundaries to see where and when the parents will set a limit. Of course Zuckerberg is going to try to make his company more powerful; of course he’s going to try to use the platform to swing elections; of course he’s going to donate to left-wing political causes. He’s just responding to perverse incentives in the system. It’s up to the government to set the boundaries on these companies. We need leaders who are willing to use power to set the rules and say, “Facebook, you’re a big and successful company. Congratulations, you’re now a common carrier. You can still be a ‘private’ business and make a return for your shareholders, but you’re not going to engage in political discrimination, you’re not going to be able to swing elections, we’re not going to let members of your board spend $400 million to help administer elections.” It’s that simple.
Mark Granza: Should the West look at China’s campaign against “spiritual opium” — which purportedly aims to combat the negative influence of video games, pornography and social media among young people — when it comes to tackling Big Tech?
Blake Masters: Yes, and no. I do think there’s something interesting about a government taking action against threats posed by Big Tech. China’s efforts are drastic and authoritarian, to say the least, so they wouldn’t be appropriate here in the US. We’re just two different countries. But we need to figure out what our own version of what that fight looks like, and enforce it in a manner that is compatible with our culture. I think it’s fascinating, by the way, that China called this struggle a fight against “spiritual opium.” Specifically referencing the Opium War shows that they’re not just skeptical of tech, but they also associate this ‘disease’ with the West. So it’s a propagandistic attempt to turn their people against us at the same time.
Mark Granza: A decade ago most people would have considered ‘Woke Capitalism’ a contradiction, and probably laughed at the idea. Today, nobody questions its existence. Do you think there are there inherent characteristics within Capitalism that transform it into a progressive machine, or are corporations simply responding to the ideological demands of the political class?
Blake Masters: Capitalism works. It’s a really good system for generating wealth. The problem with capitalism is that can work too well in a sense, it can create the conditions for people to grow complacent, which ultimately, as Ross Douthat has written, contributes to the sort of decadence we’re experiencing today. Capitalism’s an incredible engine of material progress, but it’s not a self-contained moral system. It has its own incentives, but those incentives aren’t always necessarily correlated with a conception of the good. Companies under capitalism just respond to profit incentives. If you act on them you’ll generate a lot of wealth, but it won’t tell you what to do with that wealth, which is why a parasite like Wokeness can basically spread and take over. An example is offshoring. Maybe it’s good for GDP, but if you have too much of it, that’s clearly really bad for the country and most people living in it. It crushes the middle class by sending jobs overseas by the millions. But such are the incentives that the capital owners are responding to. So I think problems like Woke Capitalism, or ‘globalization’, are actually much older and bigger problems than people think. Because you can’t just be a capitalist country, because a country is not just an economy. You also need a conception of yourself as a nation, as a people, and as a culture. And that’s what America is increasingly lacking today.
Mark Granza: I’d like to move from here to the issue of Justice in America. You were a vocal supporter of Kyle Rittenhouse before and during the trial. What do you think the fact that Kyle (as opposed to someone like Gaige Grosskreutz) was the one being prosecuted says about the US justice system?
Blake Masters: I think we’re very close to a two-tier justice system, if we’re not there already. Look how differently loyalists and dissidents are punished today. The Kyle Rittenhouse case was simple. The ruling class hated that a young man defended himself with an AR-15 because it contradicts their official narrative. And so they did everything they could to punish Kyle. The FBI literally withheld high-resolution version of the footage from Kyle’s lawyers, because it basically clearly exonerated Kyle and they found that inconvenient. Now I think the jury’s decision to acquit Kyle of all charges showed that you can still get sort of a fair trial in America, that there’s hope. But again, that only happened because in this case, there happened to be extremely clear video evidence in his favor. If there weren’t, Kyle would be in jail for life. So this case is a wake-up call. It’s crazy that Rittenhouse, and not his attackers, was on trial at all. Contrast that to how the BLM and Antifa looters and rioters who committed violent mayhem during the summer of 2020 – nothing happened to them! And on the off-chance one of them did get arrested, then-Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris was there with her bail fund, just waiting to bail them out. Meanwhile, the January 6 protestors, many of whom were not violent at all, are treated like terrorists, with some being held without trial in solitary confinement and others getting sentenced to many years in prison. If we don’t do something now, the rule of law will soon be gone forever. Anyone who questions the left’s narrative is going to be hunted down. I truly believe that. That’s what we’re fighting against.
Mark Granza: In his latest, former National Security official Michael Anton writes, “[America] is no longer a republic, much less a democracy, but rather a kind of hybrid corporate-administrative oligarchy.” Do you agree?
Blake Masters: I think it’s descriptively right. Unfortunately, that’s our trajectory. I don’t disagree with Anton there. My only twist would be that, as I’ve said, I’m more optimistic about the state of our country than most. I don’t think it’s too late to turn things around, which is why I’m running for the Senate seat. Or it’s at least an open question. Can we organize? Can we learn from the left and get boots on our ground, play offense for once, and actually take back our cities and states and institutions? I think the answer is yes. The left today moves so far and so fast that even people who aren’t particularly ideological and who barely pay attention are starting to realize what’s going on. They see what’s happening in countries like Australia, where state security services are enforcing at-home quarantines, where they are building mandatory quarantine camps to house people in. Every basic freedom is on the chopping block. I think the 2nd Amendment and ubiquitous civilian gun ownership is the biggest thing stopping us from becoming Australia. I think we still have the chance to resist the craziness and take our country back.
Mark Granza: You said that the left has no moderation today. In the same essay, Anton concludes by noting that the people in power today are bent on destruction despite destruction itself is evidently against their self-interest, and questions at this point what their real motives are. What do you think this Regime’s ultimate goal is?
Blake Masters: I think if you intentionally wanted to destroy this country, you’d govern the same way Joe Biden is governing, you’d propose the same policies all these crazy Blue City Mayors are enacting, which are basically turning their towns into war zones. But you know, it’s hard to know what their ultimate goal is. The left is made of different groups. There’s the progressive elite class at the top, who are probably more self-interested and cynical than ideological. I think their goal is to create a society where connected, powerful people (themselves and their friends) are managing things, and where the middle class is hollowed out and suppressed, so there is less competition for power. Then you have the true believers, the atheists for whom secular progressivism has taken the place of religion. These people have the communist zeal, they believe in ‘equity’. If you’re adrift at sea on a lifeboat, and you become one-hundred percent convinced no one should be in a lifeboat unless everyone’s on a lifeboat, then you set your own boat on fire, even though it’s quite literally suicide to do so. These people don’t care if their policy solutions work – they are too preoccupied with their own righteousness. You know, there is always this question of whether the Antichrist is a person, or whether it’s an idea, or more of a system. Progressives today are not just motivated by their hatred of their fellow Americans who disagree with them; they’re motivated by their hatred for America itself, and the very idea of a sovereign nation. If it takes root and becomes universal, the globalist ideology ultimately leads to the One World State, call it ‘Global Communism’. So in my view that ideology is a pretty good candidate for the Antichrist. But again, it’s hard to even know exactly how many of the footsoldiers have this end goal in mind, even remotely. It’s not always rational.
Mark Granza: Politicians always make promises, but often fail to deliver once in office, even on campaign issues. Some people blame hypocrisy for this, but it seems more likely that there are structural problems preventing them from actually getting things done. What do you think is missing in the Republican Party today?
Blake Masters: Current Republican politicians — and I’ve met many who are great people — don’t really understand what we’re up against. They’re still fighting the fights of twenty-five years ago. I went to school with people like AOC, with the sorts of lawyers who are now actually running Biden’s Administration. The younger left is different, more Machiavellian, more ruthless, just obsessed with wielding power and wiping out the opposition. The things we were raised to respect — the rule of law, stable families, our faith, having a functional, self-respecting country — the modern left sees as intrinsically evil. They want to destroy everything that’s good. And to take them on, we have to be honest about this ideological menace and be willing to get creative to curb their power. So fundamentally it’s a problem of awareness and it’s a problem of will. Paul Ryan Republicanism is just progressivism driving the speed limit.
Mark Granza: One last question, Mr. Masters. Over the last two years alone, American citizens have lost their jobs, seen their cities burn, been imprisoned, blamed for the Regime’s own failures, and even killed. A lot of Americans as a consequence are losing hope in the country and the system’s capacity to fix itself, let alone their problems. As Sam Finlay puts it: “People can no longer bring themselves to love and serve a country that has dispensed with the pretense of loving and serving them.” If you could look in the eyes one of these people who feels cheated and betrayed by the political class, what would you tell them?
Blake Masters: We can’t give up. If we retreat or hide away, the country really is over. My children, and yours, will grow up in a place we don’t recognize. I guess I would issue this as a challenge, because it’s too easy to throw up our hands and say everything is terrible. I understand that people feel purposeless, displaced, and persecuted. But now is the time to rise to the challenge, get involved, and build something that can last.