Pharma bro Martin Shkreli is pumped for his college ‘tour’ – but it only has one date booked
So far so good
Martin Shkreli, the emo fringe notorious for doing terrible things to the price of AIDS medicine, is trying his best to embark on a college tour.
Taking a leaf out of the current roster of provocative haircuts doing the rounds across American schools (think Milo Yiannopoulos), Shkreli is hoping to speak at more campuses than just the one he has booked now.
He’s hitting up Harvard on February 15th, and hosting an evening in New York City on the 20th (not at a university), where he hopes to play extracts of his rare Wu Tang album.
We spoke to him about trying to get his speaking career of the ground, how he got attacked at UC Davis and how he’s still furious about being banned from Twitter.
Are you looking forward to your tour?
Yeah. I have some logistical issues, I’ve never done this before. The New York City event should go off OK. I have bugs on advertising the event, I see no-one in the media has picked it up. So it’s just something I haven’t publicized too well, but I’ve still sold a lot of tickets. I’d like to advertize it a little before I decide on a venue. I just hope it doesn’t get boycotted or anything.
Are you concerned your events will get boycotted?
I could, but I’m not Milo [Yiannopoulos]. I’m not controversial. I don’t try to rile anybody up. I’m pretty open-minded. I’m pretty genuine. People don’t like Milo sometimes because he says so much outlandish shit that it’s hard to know how sincere he is, because in person he’s such a lovely guy. He doesn’t really seem like the kind of guy who’d say some of the stuff he says and his job is in many ways is to be provocateur but my job is entrepreneur.
I’m not a personality. People want to hear me talk, that’s wonderful and I’d love to set some issues straight. I’m a pretty progressive guy when it comes down to it. I’m a Republican but I’m also not some crazy animal – and I’m not saying Milo is! – but I’m in no way shape or form any kind of racist. Someone called me a xenophobe at this UC Davis protest when they canceled the speech. I found it funny because my parents are from eastern Europe and they came to this country and took a big risk on being accepted in America. Xenophobia isn’t something I would naturally be given to.
And what happened at UC Davis?
Well, they told us that the protest was too aggressive and violent to even try to go to the event. But I came all the way from New York just for this, so I was pretty miffed that I took this entire trip just to do this. I went out there myself to survey the landscape. That wasn’t really the best idea. Because it was pretty violent. There were some people trying to push me and get me on my back. It was bizarre, this one guy tried to grab my legs and tried to yank me underneath the crowd maybe to create a kind of stampede or something.
Was it scary?
It was a little weird. I’m from New York City, I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Just our subway trains, you have to be pretty tough to ride them. I’m generally a bold but maybe naive type of person, and I just went out there to see what it was all about. They said: “You can’t do that,” and I said: “Sure I can. If there’s college kids out there, how bad can it be?” So I went out there and finally they noticed me and started chanting, I think some people started throwing some stuff. But I also took about 100 different selfies with fans who actually wanted to go to the event.
I was telling Milo that sometimes his speeches can be a little repetitive, and everyone there agrees with him. So I thought I’d go on stage and try to put him in his place. And he said that would be a lot of fun. I was actually there to be the counterweight to Milo. I don’t think any of the protesters knew that. There were a lot of people who were disappointed they couldn’t see that.
I don’t think there’ll be a big problem with [my] events, especially Harvard, given the decorum you’d expect from a university of stature. And by the way, that’s why I don’t want to do a college tour. Because at the New York event, there’ll be NYPD there. They don’t mess around. Whereas college police, they’re not going to break any rules or be very tough.
What has the response been from your callout? Have you gotten many responses?
Oh yeah, 20 to 30 of them. The problem I have with university tours is, look at Milo’s. Nine out of 10 of his events are canceled. I’m not trying to rile anyone up. I love to speak and if there are people who want to hear me then I’ll accommodate them. It’s a good way to see the country and meet people and maybe have some fun. But if it’s just going to be canceled over and over again… [Milo] seems to get off on it, I was frustrated. It’s annoying! I prepared a whole thing for it. For him, it’s a cause. He’s carrying the right wing cause, he’s a flag-bearer. For me, I’m right wing but I’m not an evangelist. There are some things I agree with, there are some things I criticize strongly. Milo isn’t that, he can’t find one thing wrong with Republicans. And you don’t have to look very far.
I’ll still do a few of them, but if I could couple them with other types of events. So if I could do a college speech and then a couple hours later do something at some type of venue. Probably like a music venue. It’s also a little awkward because I’m not a musician, I don’t have any talent. I’m not entertaining.
So what’s the music element?
With respect to the music, I think it would be fun to play some of the rare music I’ve collected over the years to the crowd as a fun treat.
Do you think Harvard will protest you or will they be calm and polite?
I think it’ll be more calm and polite. The investment club invited me. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people who are excited. I’m 33, I’m probably one of the most successful young investors on the planet. For them, that’s something they want to hear about. Again, I have a lot of lessons under my belt. Some of it’s great stuff I’ve done, but some are mistakes too. Hearing about those mistakes is very valuable as well. If there were any protests it would be a true disservice to the people there.
Ultimately I understand when people say: “I don’t want Milo to spread hate speech.” That kind of makes sense, I don’t agree with it, but it stands to reason. I’m going to give a speech about investing. There’s no hate other than evangelizing rigorous analysis. I’m not going to be putting my foot in the ground and really claiming much of anything. I’m not going to be there saying “feminism is cancer” or “deport all Muslims.” I’m going to be there to talk about cash flows and how to spot good businesses and a bit about my career. It shouldn’t be controversial.
You mentioned you were banned from Twitter – what happened?
It’s frustrating. It’s a double standard. I know engineers at Twitter who complain to the management about the double standard. My interlocutor, Lauren Duca, has posted some extremely vile things over the years. Something about how all white men are pigs, some pretty disruptive things. My tribute to her, the sarcastic photo collage of her, was meant to be taken as satire and humor. Not as some abrupt harassment that was triggering. She could very well use the block button or tell me: “I don’t like this, can you delete it.” But she took it as a platform to further whatever she’s trying to do. To me, I understand if they said: “Look, you have to take that down, or you’ll be banned for a day, two days.” It’s been a month. And I email them all the time. They don’t care. They know I’m temporarily banned, but they won’t tell me how long for. They’ll talk to the media but not to me.
I didn’t send her anything vulgar, any nudity or profanity. It was just a gag, this joke I tried to tell where I saw her on TV and fell in love with her. I went a little far with it perhaps. But I have a girlfriend. In fact, my girlfriend sent her a letter the other day.
What did her letter say?
She was trying to egg her on as well. She said I recently found a pile of your pictures in Martin’s apartment. I want to fully invest in this relationship emotionally, and I want him to move on from you. I didn’t even tell her to do it! She thought it would be funny.
What are you and your girlfriend going to on Valentine’s Day?
Ha. I have to go to Harvard, but I’m going to be spending it with my girlfriend.
Any nice plans?
I don’t think we have a plan right now. Not right now.