Update Jan. 29, 2017 — Last night enraged Twitter users urged the public to #deleteUber for what they saw as the company’s attempt to profit from a work stoppage by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance in that city. The AFL-CIO affiliate called for the stoppage in protest of Pres. Donald Trump’s Saturday ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority companies. Today, Uber told Forbes it was expressedly trying not to profit from a development that stranded travelers, Green Card holders and families of US immigrants by turning off surge pricing.
Ted Rall’s column, below, does not pertain to recent events. Rather it’s a commentary on demonstrations held around the country last year that protested attempts to stop Uber from entering certain markets last year. It is still relevant in January 2017. -Ed.
aNewDomain — Uber is an app. For a private taxi service. Why is the media so obsessed with it?
Why are public figures, including top contenders for the presidency, compelled to take a stand about it?
Why are people all over the world so divided and so freaked out about it that they are actually rioting?
Because Uber is fascist.
Seriously, let’s walk through the parallels between the Silicon Valley startup and the genocidal right-wing totalitarian movements of the mid 20th century.
At right: The interior design of Uber’s office in San Francisco updates Albert Speer for the new millennium.
The vast majority of tech startups, including those whose activities are sinister as well as fellow members of the so-called “sharing economy,” are warm, fuzzy and downright cute. Uber stands apart for its adoption of a Teutonic coldness that even corporations find too austere. You don’t find such environments outside of dystopian films, the vampire hotels in the TV series “Trueblood,” and goth bars, if those still exist.
If Voldemort founded a taxi company, its logo would look something like Uber’s.
When you think “Uber,” what do you think of? Awesome?
If you are of a certain age, or like to watch World War II movies, there’s no way to avoid the association with “Deutschland Uber Alles,” the German national anthem.
Also worth mentioning: “California Uber Alles,” the 1979 song in which the Dead Kennedys suggested that then-Gov. Jerry Brown marked the rise of “zen fascists” under the guise of easygoing hippies.
Don’t tell me that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick didn’t focus-group the shit out of the name.
(For whatever it’s worth, Kalanick’s family is supposedly Czech and, ahem, Austrian.)
The trains ran on time in Germany under Hitler and in Italy under Mussolini. Any Uber user will tell you that one of the things that they love about the service is its remarkable on-time performance.
Crushing the individual
Yellow-cab drivers and Uber drivers alike complain that Uber is decimating their incomes and treating them “like slaves.” Slave labor: No one did it better than the fascists.
The cult of The Leader
Many tech CEOs are egotists. But Kalanick takes it to the next level, saying that the taxi business required “a fearless leader” — him — to disrupt it. As Vanity Fair put it, he’s always “spoiling for a fight.”
Typical quote: “You can either do what they say or you can fight for what you believe!” Remind you of a certain corporal?
For Uber, it’s 1939 in Nazi years. Founded in 2009, the company has, much like Chancellor Hitler, gone from nothing to the verge of world domination. That’s in six years. Fascism and Nazism viewed themselves not just as mere ideologies, but as dynamic movements that had to be constantly conquering new territory.
Uber’s goals are no less ambitious.
“Today we are one step closer to our vision of UberEverywhere — a bold idea that no matter where you are, a reliable ride with Uber is just five minutes away,” the company announced last year. Lyft, its main rival, has only a fraction of the cities in which Uber is active.
During their drive to power and well into the early years of their regime, the Nazis claimed to adhere to the outlines of legality, while constantly skirting the spirit of the law and trying to get away with, literally, murder. Given the choice between negotiating with traditional authorities or treating them like rivals, they often resorted to thuggish, bullying tactics.
Numerous municipalities around the world say that Uber ignores laws with a view toward destroying the traditional taxi business and Lyft. In the end Uber wants to be the only one left — “too big to ban,” as Wired put it.
Uber has even flirted with hiring detectives to dig up dirt on journalists who write negative stories about them.
Just remember: When you ride with Uber, you’re riding with Hitler.
Cover image: OneTenOpera.com, All Rights Reserved.