A Love Letter to the Alt-Right’s Sugar Mama
SUMMARY: As we covered in our insurrection episode, it’s actually quite difficult to take down an Empire, particularly one as fortified as the United States. But that hasn’t stopped one family from trying. If you haven’t met them yet, it’s our pleasure to introduce you to the Mercer family. The patriarch Robert is a reclusive billionaire, we think, who uses his fortune to fund fun initiatives like rolling back Civil Rights legislation, climate change denial and alt-right white supremacist ideology. His willing co-conspirator is his middle child, Rebekah, who is the subject of this episode and recipient of our love letter. Join us as we unfuck the Mercer fortune and discuss chaos is their chief desire.
I invite you to join me in an experiment dear Unfuckers. Too often in today’s nasty cancel culture it seems like we’re cancelling the wrong people while other deserving figures get by unscathed. And while the subject of this episode, heiress and alt-right heroine Rebekah Mercer, is as deserving of cancellation as anyone who has used power and money for nefarious purposes, her aversion to the spotlight essentially renders her immune. It’s like she wears a zero fuck invisibility cloak so we’ll have to go about this a different way.
So here’s the experiment. We’re going to try and crowdsource some audio outreach. I know this is a bit indulgent but if we share it widely, maybe just maybe we can get her or her people to listen to our love letter and accept our offer of redemption.
If you’re not familiar with our protagonist, fear not. We’ll still deliver some helpful context along the way as we unfuck the alt-right piggy bank and tall drink of tomato juice Rebekah Mercer, middle daughter of uber-wealthy and super secretive conservative hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer.
LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE
I see you. We see you. As quiet as you and your family are, we know what you do. What remains a mystery my lanky ginger socialite, is why. Why do you do the things you do? To brush off your actions as the result of some sort of daddy issue seems reductive. I suppose we could chalk it up to middle child syndrome, especially given your sisters’ proclivities to super fucking cool hobbies. Older sister Jen, or “Jenji” is a passionate equestrian and little sister Heather Sue is a fucking professional poker player. I mean, come on.
But being the middle child without a cool hobby doesn’t really justify the hate in your heart. And if your siblings are normal and eminently hangoutwithable, then we can’t dismiss it as a simple daddy issue. No. Something else is going on...
Rebekah has a few superpowers. First off, she’s brilliant. A Stanford grad with a ferocious work ethic. Then there’s access, most certainly a superpower unto itself. She has access in the right circles and access to a monstrous amount of capital wielded through her family foundation.
The Mercers aren’t part of any group or cabal. They don’t pledge allegiance to party or policy. There is no grand tradition they’re trying to uphold or legacy they’re trying to maintain. It’s all rather new and this newness, the overwhelming speed with which they deploy data to twist reality, the total darkness in which they exist, is kind of terrifying.
Let’s start with some of her accomplishments and those of her father so you can fully appreciate the magnitude of their contributions to destroying society thus far.
Coming into 2016 the Mercers were actually the biggest money backers of Ted Cruz. The secret little weapon they possessed was a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that secretly gathered data on millions of Facebook users. And then, Trump surprised everyone by walking away with the GOP nomination and they dropped Cruz like a bad habit. And like that, Rebekah Mercer flew into the Trump campaign with money, data and people.
The money was sorely needed by Trump at the time, the data would prove to be massively useful in shoveling bullshit narratives in front of unsuspecting Facebook users and the people are now pretty well known. If Trump wanted the money and data he would have to take Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
A match made in hell.
Rebekah landed a spot on the Trump transition team and had a heavy hand in picking the cabinet. It should be noted that only Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson made it all four years and the rest of them either quit in disgust and wrote books about it, were fired by a tweet or indicted. Actually there’s a good chance Ben Carson is still asleep in a social services building somewhere.
Steve Bannon in particular was already suckling from the Mercer tit coming into 2016. The Mercers had bankrolled Bannon’s book and documentary project Clinton Cash, which was designed to ruin the Clinton’s on the eve of the election. Until then Bannon had also been in charge of Breitbart News, the alt-right news mouthpiece that regularly spewed anti-Semitic, racist and Islamophobic vitriol.
It was here he worked closely with Rebekah who was apparently involved down to microscopic story level detail as an editor of sorts. The money for Breitbart, unsurprisingly, also came from the Mercers.
It has been suggested by a handful of people close to you and courageous enough to speak out, my love, that you have no social or political endgame. That chaos and volatility are the only outcomes you desire. To most this may be perceived as pure evil. But I believe there to be more going on. What we perceive as evil, a state of perpetual chaos, may not at all appear to be so in your brilliant mind.
Chaos theory is, unto itself, a familiar paradox to your family. A state in mathematics where even the most seemingly random behaviors are actually part of a highly sophisticated system of governed variables. This is, after all, how you came about your fortune. If not for your father’s ability to determine patterns within chaos, his fortune would have never been achieved.
The known paradox among the billionaire class such as the villainous Koch family is the effort to tear down the establishment, when it was within - and because of - the so-called establishment they amassed their fortunes. This is not the case for the Mercers. They are not multigenerational elites who inherited their wealth, not in the case of Bob at least. Bob did just fine in his career at IBM prior to being wooed by famed hedge fund billionaire Jim Simons to join his firm Renaissance Technologies.
The quick backstory on Renaissance is that Simons, a mathematician and entrepreneur, basically figured out a way to beat the system using algorithms and computing power long before Wall Street figured out how to do it. The key is that they really don’t rely on fundamentals. They rely on signals and patterns of trading. Their algorithms are so sophisticated and lightning fast they they read and predict patterns, spot anomalies and move massive sums in and out of trading so fucking fast that you’d barely know they held a position. The algorithms predict, the money moves, and like that, they’re gone.
Simons had figured out how to do this in the commodities and fixed income markets but equities were more complicated and behaved differently. That’s why he reached out to Bob Mercer who was known to be a fucking genius and brought him to Renaissance from IBM.
It only took Mercer two years to create an algorithm that times anomalies in the equities markets. P&L’s, Earnings per share, cash on hand, none of it mattered. Fundamentals flew out the window. It wasn’t about building anything, value investing or growth investing. Just gaming the system and making money from money.
To give you some insight into how good they really are, their core fund called The Medallion Fund has annualized returns of 39% since it was established in 1982. The most amazing part is how it performs when the rest of the world falls to shit. In 2000 it was up 98%, in 2008 it was up 82% and in 2020 it was up 76%. If you’re wondering why everyone doesn’t invest in it, well, that’s the world of hedge funds. Not everyone can and Medallion in particular has been a closed fund for years.
Not bad for a couple of math geeks from Long Island.
Billionaires of yesteryear tend to hold some deep connection to the established ways of the world. Even those who climbed to the top through questionable ethical means tend to devote enormous sums of money into maintaining institutions in academia, the sciences and the arts.
(When Rebekah Mercer was appointed to the board of the Museum of Natural History an internal revolt ensued over her funding anti-climate change groups and quiet insistence that the museum curtail some of this messaging in its displays.)
Funding such institutions is also what makes normal billionaires somewhat problematic. Not only do they tend to divert funds into maintaining the financial loopholes that allow them to amass incredible wealth they also help prop up institutions in a way that stifles progress and equity. They’re the biggest proponents of the status quo because the status quo tends to be really fucking awesome for them.
Then there is the new class of billionaires, the ones who came to power through financial market manipulation and rely on the most powerful aspect of the markets: volatility.
As one former Renaissance Technologies employee said in a rare interview speaking out against Bob Mercer, “The ultra-wealthy of today differ from the ultra-wealthy in past eras in that they have, a lot of them, no stake in the infrastructure of society.” In fact he goes on to say, their wealth does not depend on the health and stability of the country. In fact, they get rich on volatility and instability.
It takes time for a heart to harden. It would seem that you have been exposed to your father’s dim and insidious view of the world since birth. But your capacity to wield influence in service of our collective destruction is rather new. Think of your years at Stanford, your time in private industry. As mother to your four children. You’ve lived a rich life outside of the chaos you’ve sown and there are gifts all around you to nurture and cherish. Your financial station in life is assured my darling Rebekah. But most of us do not share this certainty. And we need your help.
Eventually Bob was asked to leave the hedge fund he helped build. Bannon wound up on the outs with Rebekah after it was revealed that he was the primary leaker in the Trump White House. The White House itself began to fall apart and the Mercers eventually even cut ties with Trump, refusing to help him with his reelection campaign.
Is it possible they recognized the error of their ways? Considering Bob Mercer started a conservative political action committee called “Blacks for a Better America” and was recorded as saying the Civil Rights Act took away incentives for black people to work hard and that the only racist people left in America are black... I would say, no. I don’t think so.
Curiously, however, it did seem the Mercers had little interest in running their shiny new toy, the U.S. government. They barely blinked when their inside team was ousted, paid no attention to Trump when he needed re-election help and have slinked further into the shadows letting their money do the dirty work. But as a recent article in The Intercept reveals, the Mercers are far from done.
Their money continues to flow through organizations like DonorsTrust, which donated 1.5 million to a white nationalist hate group that floated theories that the election was stolen. And the Government Accountability Institute whose director went on Hannity to claim that there was massive fraud in the election. They are the primary donors behind several GOP officials who actively rallied supporters to march on the Capitol. Supporters who flocked to a new means of communication that would allow them to spew their views without fear of censorship.
That’s right. Parler, the possibly defunct social networking platform that took in massive amounts of disenfranchised alt-right and conservative Americans from Facebook, is a Mercer backed invention.
What are we to do with billionaires who have figured out how to manipulate data to transform behavior and stoke mass violence? Billionaires who believe black people are lazy and shouldn’t have been granted equal rights. Billionaires who have promoted conspiracy theories on viciously perverted information outlets and social platforms. Billionaires who believe they owe nothing to the institutions that support the very framework of our nation because their fortunes were amassed by literally profiting on their collapse.
Though I do believe your father is a lost cause, Rebekah, here’s the thing that he and you and your sisters, everyone will come to understand. That in just a matter of years, your father is going in the ground like everyone else where insects and bacteria will consume his flesh and make him indistinguishable from the other billions of particles leaching and bleeding out from rotting corpses.
LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE
It’s not within my power to send you ghosts of Christmas past and present, but I can paint a picture of the future. We’re all dead. You, your family, everyone you know. Everyone dies. What’s unknown is whether we’ll leave behind a habitable planet or functioning economic and social systems.
So how do you want to be remembered? Surely preservation of wealth for you and your children must be on your mind. Most people who have achieved such tremendous wealth begin to think in terms of legacy. Posterity. They name buildings. Fund truly philanthropic endeavors. But if you continue on this path, there will be no buildings to name. No outstretched arms seeking philanthropy. There will be nothing.
I cannot allow myself to believe that your vision for us all is dystopia. That’s not you. It can’t be. My offer, Rebekah my love, is this… redemption. All will be forgiven. We’ll tell stories of your bravery and kindness all while continuing to respect your prih-vacee. And we’ll pass along stories from generation to generation of a brilliant woman who had the strength of character to break from the emotional shackles of her upbringing and redeem her family name through acts of charity and kindness. Our children’s children will tell tales of the Mercer sisters who flouted the conventions of aristocracy to build a better world.
The equestrian, the gambler and you, the builder.
It’s a good offer. On behalf of the Unfuckers, we await your reply.
Here endeth the lesson.