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Palmer Luckey Has Money to Burn

Predicting the next move for tech’s newest über-villain

Getty Images
Getty Images

Palmer Luckey’s press tour as a quirky boy-genius gamer is over. Thursday night, The Daily Beast outed the 24-year-old inventor and founder of Oculus as a covert supporter of Nimble America, a self-described “non-profit” whose strategy is to support Donald Trump by flooding the internet with anti-Hillary Clinton memes and “shitposts.” (Conservative memes! They’re a thing now!). Luckey, whose estimated net worth is around $700 million, admitted to bankrolling the group’s efforts, including — according to its organizers — a billboard outside of Pittsburgh that features an enlarged photo of Clinton behind bars with the words “Too Big to Jail.”

“It’s something that no campaign is going to run,” Luckey told The Daily Beast about the project. (He apparently does not have a publicist.) “I’ve got plenty of money. Money is not my issue. I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time.”

OK, we get it, Luckey. You’re very young. You have a very silly, very white name. You were homeschooled. You grew up in a family whose values included being good at sailboating. You wear flip-flops to work. You have, according to Wired, “tousled” hair. You are accustomed to building friendships via message boards. You have a sister named Ginger. If things were different, and you didn’t have the money to fund a community of trolls who want to elect Trump, maybe you’d be like any other Long Beach college dropout, spending your student loans on novelty shot glasses at Urban Outfitters.

But that’s not how life turned out for you. You had to get super into The Matrix. You had to spend thousands of dollars amassing what you claim to be the largest private collection of virtual-reality headsets in the world. You had to invent your own superior virtual-reality headset. You had to form a company around it. You had to sell it to Facebook for $2 billion. You had to agree to that Forbes “30 Under 30” cover shoot. You had to agree to that embarrassing behind-the-scenes video for the Forbes “30 under 30” cover shoot. And now here we are.

So, what’s your plan?

I’m not really talking about career stuff. If Peter Thiel’s continued success in Silicon Valley has taught us anything, major companies will tolerate much worse behavior as long as they think you will make them money. (Remember when Sheryl Sandberg said it wasn’t Facebook’s problem that Thiel was destroying Gawker because he wasn’t using the company’s resources to do it? That’s great for you.) It’s clear you have a good brain, so you will be able to keep your Facebook job in Irvine and, you know, keep being a high-paid genius.

In terms of image, however, you must do something. As of now, you just look like a silly rich kid who still spends his free time on Reddit and may or may not have the emotional intelligence of a 16-year-old. At this moment, you can go down two paths: Either deliberately fade into obscurity and solidify yourself as a mysterious, wealthy inventor who has questionable political values but prefers to lay low — or go full Martin Shkreli. Replace your beloved 2001 Honda Insight with something obscene and techy, like a carbon-fiber black McLaren P1. (You can go around saying stuff like: “Did you know they sold these unpainted to show off that the entire body is made of carbon fiber?”) Don’t just fave your Gamergate girlfriend’s tweets mocking “social justice warriors,” retweet them! Purchase a cultural artifact of high importance to the world — maybe, like, the next Frank Ocean single, or the recipe for Cheetos — and destroy it on a Twitch livestream just for kicks. Invest in a startup that is vaguely threatening to our democracy, maybe a company with an algorithm that can pinpoint the exact time prominent Democrats will come down with a minor sickness.

The possibilities are endless, Luckey. But no matter what you choose, there is one thing that you must absolutely do: Hire a publicist. Now.