“Russian-spy hookers” and other Silicon Valley xenophobic national security propaganda

Silicon Valley is entering into a new phase of development: coming back into the fold, to the regressive and paranoid national security apparatus that spawned it.

San Jose’s Mercury News asking the hard questions.

To follow up on my last post about Silicon Valley and the possibility of a xenophobic national security panic…

Silicon Valley is a full of immigrants and foreigners. They occupy every strata of the business. Some studies put the number of foreign-born tech workers to be way over 50 percent. The place simply wouldn’t run without them. With so many immigrants and such an internationalist no-borders ideology, it’s hard to imagine that a nativist and xenophobic panic would ever take hold in Silicon Valley. I’ve had people tell me that it simply isn’t possible here.

But it’s already happening — particularly towards Chinese and Chinese-American tech workers and academics.

It’s not just because of Trump’s War on China. There’s a growing paranoid bipartisan consensus that sees China as the biggest threat to America — a consensus that has sucked in a huge number of left-liberals and progressives. They’re totally onboard with the FBI — an agency that now considers China a “whole-of-society threat” and which has been aggressively sweeping innocent Chinese-Americans into its paranoid net.

The ease with which well-meaning people project our domestic political problems onto a foreign target — an “enemy” that our ruling elite helped create and build up by outsourcing much of America’s industrial and high tech manufacturing — is really disturbing. But this anti-Chinese xenophobic panic is only growing.

There’s something else, too.

Since the dot-com bubble, Silicon Valley had been at the forefront of pushing for a new (American-led) global world order — a borderless society with global platforms, global supply chains, and global capitalism. But that’s over. The mood’s changing. Ever since Trump won in 2016, the industry has gotten more nihilistic and militaristic and much more patriotic. It’s part of this new liberal belief that America is an embattled society being attacked through the Internet by hostile foreign forces. The Internet is central to America’s defense, or so the thinking goes. So there’s been a concerted push to integrate Silicon Valley much closer into America’s traditional political and security establishment structures. In short: Silicon Valley companies have fully matured into strategic National Security Sate Megacorps — closer to Lockheed and Raytheon than the spunky startups of the 2000s. And that’s not the kind of place you’d want unaccompanied foreigners just roaming the hallways.

From my conversations with friends and family in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t seem like there’s any real discernible backlash against Soviet immigrants just yet. But it doesn’t mean that America’s nativist security apparatus — happily aided by our embedded journalist and media class — isn’t trying to whip up some good ol’ racist propaganda about sneaky and dangerous asiatic thugs and seductresses operating in Silicon Valley. You know, just to keep the flame alive!

And why not? Stoking fear about Russian infiltration is only natural. After all, we’re in year four of a liberal xenophobic panic that puts “Russia” and “the Russians” at the heart of America’s political problems — a vast shadowy conspiracy in which the Internet and Silicon Valley play a central role.

Watch out for those dangerous Russians, says Vanity Fair!

With Russian spies, the agent told me, it’s much more sinister. “Sometimes, Russians can try and turn someone to make them work for them, but when that doesn’t work, they switch to physical threats, even offering ultimatums to family members still living back in Russia,” the agent told me.

Fear Russian-looking women, says Politico, channeling an anonymous “former official.”

Sex workers targeting executives at high-end bars and nightclubs such as the Rosewood Sand Hill, an ultra-luxury hotel located near many of Silicon Valley’s top financial firms — infamous for its raucous, hook-up oriented Thursday nights — the Redwood Room, a tony bar located in the Clift Hotel in downtown San Francisco, and other spots have been identified as potentially reporting back to Russian intel officers, said another former official. 

There’s a lot of gross racist propaganda being pumped out by our media. But my sense is that this xenophobic panic in Silicon Valley will only go into full overdrive — the kind with blacklists and arrests — only if tech workers start getting political in ways that our crusty ruling elite sees as a threat. And with the timid and privileged position of these workers today, it’s clear that this isn’t going to happen — not soon and maybe not ever.

—Yasha Levine

PS: Read the previous post: The Next Freakout: Foreign Spies in Surveillance Valley! — “The nativist panic is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”


Immigrants as a Weapon is a new investigative newsletter that looks at how America weaponizes nationalism and immigrant communities. Sign up to get subscriber-only stuff in your inbox!


Forgot to catch up on your reading?