Welcome to the Big Tech company town, where democracy and labor rights are a farce

Behold the new god-kings of American kleptocracy, who will soon buy out your local government like a sale at IKEA

By Rae Hodge

Staff Reporter

Published September 5, 2023 12:00PM (EDT)

Silicon Valley investors Michael Moritz, Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon are backing a company called Flannery Associates that has been buying large parcels of land adjacent to Travis Air Force base approximately 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Silicon Valley investors Michael Moritz, Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon are backing a company called Flannery Associates that has been buying large parcels of land adjacent to Travis Air Force base approximately 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Although it's been quietly happening over the last decade, historian Timothy Snyder's new book "The End of Reality" has crystallized the tale of how an "interlocking directorate of Silicon Valley" moguls have come to snatch up large swathes of land to develop modern-day company towns. 

In light of the de facto handover of U.S. territory ceded to the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Google, SpaceX and other tech giants, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to our new president-governor-fiefdom-plutocrats, as they take to their respective thrones. The writing is on the wall and there's no winning this battle, folks, so we're gathered here today to bend the knee. 

Company towns are flourishing under Big Tech — a revival not seen since the 1920's. Sure, we could keep putting up a fight, exposing the tech industry's secret contracts with cities, and demanding a defense of constitutionally protected democratic governance on U.S. soil. But, c'mon, we've known this was coming for ages now. Nothing's changed that would stop tech moguls from buying literal towns in the decade since Google's 2013 California land-grab, so there's no reason to think anything is going to stop them now. 

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US lawmakers, elected officials and even Supreme Court justices aren't going to bite the hand that writes their campaign checks — whether Republican or Democrat. Some might suggest that we can just vote our way out of this one by electing people who will enforce anti-monopoly regulations and enshrine public protections into law. But cracking jokes about electoralism during our new god-kings' coronation is generally considered poor manners. 

Besides, it's cruel to get people's hopes up that we can be saved from corporate capture by some miracle of electoralism (roughly, the fallacy that voting is the only way to change things, or that you can vote your way out of authoritarianism). Everyone knows that Democrats are better at destroying reformist candidates within their own party than they are at winning elections against lunatic-fringe right-wingers. And no one can deny that voter suppression and mass incarceration have escalated so wildly in the past 20 years that an ever-greater portion of the country is losing its right to vote. 

And it's not like you can actually vote the money out anyway. The power of money in politics has wholly eclipsed the power of the electorate, even without the help of the tragi-comic dog and pony show we call the Electoral College. Electoralism hasn't been able to stop abortion clinic doors from closing, AR-15s from being toted into elementary schools, US presidents from crippling unions, police violence from damaging black communities, state governors from shoving LGBTQ communities back into the closet, nor corporations from unleashing climate hell across the globe. 

Electorialism hasn't been able to stop the US from operating full-blown domestic spying operations of literally immeasurable size against its own citizens. Nor even prevent drinking water from being poisoned with lead across the US, nor stop the air we breathe from choking us. 

So I'm hard pressed to find even one logical reason or piece of material evidence that supports electoralism as a singularly viable solution to stop full-blown corporate takeover by Big Tech, especially when state governors like Nevada's are literally inviting companies to form their own governments and write their own laws. America's for sale, as NOFX once screamed, and you can get a good deal on it — and make a healthy profit.

We weren't sure of the process for obtaining a parade permit for the soon-to-be streets of Googletown, Metaville and Amazonia. So we've organized a welcoming procession around the perimeter of the towns to celebrate the arrival of our new overlords and their union-busting Pinkerton secret police. Not that we're making assumptions about our god-kings' choice of law enforcement, of course. 

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It's just that, once the inevitable climate change-prompted devastation rips through one of these company towns, the Pinkertons would obviously be an ideal choice to make sure corporate overlords can secure their hoarded food and clean water from the desperate masses. No doubt the private militia's reputation benefited significantly from the New York Times' generous 2019 portrait, but Amazon's history of successfully using Pinkerton spies to track warehouse workers like they're KGB assets — along with Facebook and Google's use of them — is a far better recommendation. 

Thus, gather we plebeian masses to hand over as a symbolic token of surrender this carefully folded American flag and welcome their high exaltednesses — the Great Jabbas of the technocratic confederacy, and the corporate jackboots whose leather we've come to polish with our wagging tongues. 

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Salon's Lab Notes, a weekly newsletter from our Health & Science team. 

By Rae Hodge

Rae Hodge is a science reporter for Salon. Her data-driven, investigative coverage spans more than a decade, including prior roles with CNET, the AP, NPR, the BBC and others. She can be found on Mastodon at 


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