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Palmer Luckey & John Carmack Argue With Meta CTO Over Luckey's Firing

Palmer Luckey & John Carmack Argue With Meta CTO Over Luckey's Firing

On Saturday I was out at a soccer field in Manhattan watching my kid play, relaxing like many of us do on the weekend, when I saw that former Oculus CTO John Carmack wrote “I regret not doing more to support and defend Palmer Luckey at Facebook. We were in different states and divisions, and I was largely out of the political loop, but when I became aware of the situation I should have made a clear and open statement of opposition to the witch hunt.”

Carmack added two statements in separate paragraphs.

“Companies are better off without the crowd that did that.”

“Thankfully, Palmer has gone on to even greater success.”

During the final months of the 2016 U.S presidential election, Luckey’s comments and political interests became the subject of a bombshell article in The Daily Beast. At the time, Facebook was also involved in a lawsuit with ZeniMax, then rights holders to Fallout, Skyrim, Doom, and Wolfenstein.

Luckey appeared in court alongside the other Oculus co-founders and Zuckerberg himself, and then was fired a few months later with the words delivered by Facebook PR.

“Palmer will be dearly missed”

Facebook declined to say he had been fired.

In congressional questioning in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg responded to Ted Cruz on the firing saying ”I can commit it was not because of a political view.”

On Saturday I asked Carmack a question I’ve wondered since reading The History of the Future by Blake Harris.

“You can confirm that internally at a high level it was a firing motivated by politics?“

Carmack wrote back.

“I was not in any of the meetings around it, so no, I can’t confirm that, but I do believe it was in response to hysterical internal employee pressure. I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg had a strong personal view on it.”

I wrote to Luckey and Carmack.

“I think the two of you have similar politics, correct me if I’m wrong. But one of you made a headache during the 2016 election for Zuckerberg, and one of you didn’t.”

In a separate paragraph I asked.

“Would the headache have gone away with more internal support?

Harris wrote: “Yes, Ian. Obviously”

Carmack currently works on generalized artificial intelligence following his periods in VR, rocketry and 3D gaming. He replied.

“I am a non-activist libertarian. We never did any kind of a policy belief comparison, but I suspect I am mostly aligned with Palmer. I never had a problem working with anyone based on what their political beliefs are, as long as it stayed out of the work. Unfortunately, FB encouraged “bring your whole self to work”, which meant politics was openly present, and rabble rousing was a thing. I would guess that an employee referendum would have gone against Palmer, but it might have been different if there was a unified front of Oculus founders behind him.”

Bosworth replied in a thread with Carmack.

“The culture has changed a lot since you left (internal discussions have to be work focused) and also you are woefully incorrect on your speculation but I am not in a position to correct except to say maybe don’t speculate!”

Bosworth noted his support for the company Luckey started with his money from Facebook, defense company Anduril, while Carmack asked for clarification.

“My speculation about being aligned with Palmer or how a hypothetical employee referendum would have gone?”

Carmack added a separate paragraph.

“I remain optimistic about Meta as a company, and I think it is on-net very strong and even admirable, but I do still look back at this as a low point of my experience there.”

Bosworth answered.

“The former, I won’t add to the speculation on the latter but I will say there is a reason we changed our policies to keep internal discussions focused on the work at hand.”

LOW-FI creator Blair Renaud added his view.

“This is a wild thing to read. For one, you weren't even there when this stuff went down. Secondly, I assume you think you know Palmer's politics don't align because you know that someone else wrote the "voting for Gary Johnson" letter? lol”

Back in 2016, while still employed at Facebook, Luckey issued a carefully worded statement apologizing for the “perception” that had been created with his communications to The Daily Beast reporters, a statement citing his support for Gary Johnson rather than mentioning the hot button issue of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton.

Bosworth wrote.

“I have absolutely no idea about palmers politics now or then and defended him publicly inside the company when people were agitating around them."

The statement by Bosworth doesn’t hold up to even passing scrutiny. As such, Luckey responded in four paragraphs.

“Great story to tell now that I have dragged myself back to relevance, but you aren't credible.”

“You retweeted posts claiming I donated to white supremacists, and a post saying that anyone who supports Trump because they don't like Hillary Clinton is a shitty human being.”

“You publicly told everyone my departure had nothing to do with politics, which is absolutely insane and obviously contradicted by reams of internal communications.  It is like saying the sky is green.  Same goes for you telling people that I wasn't pressured into saying anything untrue, that any mention of politics and who I was voting for was up to me.  Can I post my original statement, the one that was explicitly rejected on account of saying negative things about Hillary Clinton, or is that still considered Work Product?

“Maybe you are lying, maybe you are just ignorant and willing to launder the lies of others about something you weren't even around for, but don't try to play the apolitical hero here.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s chief technical guide replied.

“Not claiming to be apolitical, I certainly have my own politics probably different than yours, but internally at the time I certainly was clear I thought no employment consequences should come from someone's political beliefs and people asking about it at Q&A were out of line.”

Luckey pressed Bosworth.

“Great job focusing in on a pedantic critique of a single word and ignoring everything of substance.”

Bosworth added a follow-up, perhaps alluding to a non-disclosure agreement paired to Luckey’s severance package?

“You better than I know the limits on what can be said here, as I understand it. I think there is some jeopardy there. To that end you are right in your critique that I am working with secondhand information.”

Luckey continued.

“I am down to throw it all out there.  We can make everything public and let people judge for themselves.  Just say the word.”

Bosworth again.

“I’m not the one with anything to lose so I don’t think that’s my call to make.”

Amanda Watson started working for Oculus VR in 2015 and took up a cubicle outside of Carmack‘s office in Dallas. She worked on the mobile SDK, Oculus Link, and Air Link. On Saturday, she wrote four paragraphs:

“It sucks that, at the end of the day, these were small, closed-door meetings without witnesses, and anyone who was there probably isn’t incentivized to give an accurate account.”

“…except for me! Because I worked late nights and those office walls didn’t work.”

“I think John Carmack slightly downplays how much he did dissent in that moment — especially relative to others. It earned my respect at the time, and the fact that he’s taking careful pains to tell this story humbly further solidifies that.”

“If anyone who was there ever feels like they can get away with rewriting the story to tell a rosy story of themselves to the public, know that you are not. Self reflection is a good thing, and odds are good that I will outlive all of you.”

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