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Friday, December 20, 2013

Disgraced Tech Bro CEO May Be Bigger Prick Than You Thought

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Penny for the old guy - CAPITALISM/PURITANISM
  • Capitalism/Puritanism
  • Penny for the old guy

Once more in the stocks for Gopman, who is not the worst of us -- by far

His life is seriously disrupted and his fledgling two years of riding the wave of the technology boom appears over.

Former startup CEO Greg Gopman almost qualifies as a tragic figure -- except for the fact that the more you find out about him, the bigger an asshole you might think he is.

In addition to breaking voter registration rules (he would have committed fraud, too, had he bothered to vote), it appears Gopman -- whose Facebook rant last week hating on the homeless catapulted him to instant infamy -- at one time took advantage of a resource intended for the lower-classes: he lived for a time in city-subsidized affordable housing, according to records.

Yes, the Florida-born fraternity brother-turned-object of scorn is a colossal hypocrite.

That's not the problem. The problem is that there are many, many more people who think just like him.

Before crisscrossing the globe promoting his hackathons -- and putting up his room in South of Market up for sublet for $150 a day (about $4,500 a month)-- Gopman lived for a time at 420 Berry Street, voter registration and business records show.

That's housing for "low income families" operated by the Chinatown Community Development Center, aka the Rose Pak Machine.

It's not clear how Gopman got in there: he is neither low-income nor is he a family. He didn't respond to a message on his cell phone seeking comment, and the telephone number for the current occupant of his apartment there was disconnected.

The problem is there are other, bigger dicks out there -- the ones who leaped to his defense on Facebook, the ones who responded to his rant about poor people adding no value with a "Right on."

Gopman is not a fool. For him to go public means that plenty people have agreed with him in private. People think just like him -- they're just not as rash or as impolitic.

So what's that mean for the rest of us?

No one thing caused San Francisco's homeless "problem" -- which is not solely San Francisco's, or California's problem, as evidenced by the Nevada hospitals dumping mentally unfit people in California.

Most of the mental health patients dumped on the streets by former President Ronald Reagan have since passed on; the people today seen defecating in public, dealing and doing drugs and otherwise presenting the blight Gopman saw are at least partially housed, by city-subsidized nonprofits.

That's the situation Gopman found himself in, when he moved here from Florida in 2011 to "get closer to Silicon Valley," he told a Sacramento audience during a June TEDx talk (douchier and douchier, to paraphrase Alice).

He likely didn't encounter much homelessness and poverty in Miami, where the accountant's son had what appears to be a comfortable middle-class upbringing, nor would he have seen the likes of the Tenderloin as a fraternity brother in Gainesville.

But, as he told TEDx, he's gone all over the world running hackathons -- from Bogota to Seoul and Singapore to Bangalore. Unless he deliberately avoided it, he must have seen some seriously depressing shit in India, where poverty is on a scale inconceivable to Americans -- and that his reaction upon coming home was one of vitriol and dismissal is even more depressing.

Except that behind his hateful rant, Gopman does have a point.

Capitalism's great shame is the people it leaves behind -- those without healthcare, without housing, literally lying in the filth on wealth's doorstep, causing a scene and otherwise detracting from one's enjoyment of an economic thrill-ride.

This is an unacceptable situation to anyone with a conscience. San Francisco has tried to deal with this, and obviously has not succeeded entirely.

So what does a solution-oriented person do? In Gopman's case, he hacks -- and getting rid of the poor folk and starting over is as effective a solution as there is.

Scary stuff. Scarier still when you consider that what Gopman said is perfectly consistent with the anti-state sentiments posited by others: all government does is create problems like Mid-Market. It stands in the way of innovation (and profit).

Therefore -- and no piece on technology is complete without this verb -- disrupt.

Not everyone in Silicon Valley shares his feelings: after dismissing him from the firm, the AngelHack crew took up a formerly homeless entrepreneur's offer to go on a homelessness tour.

Too many, however, do. Before Gopman took down his Facebook page, he presented an apologia filled the kind of business school pabulum that sends eyes rolling in meetings: he wanted to "start a dialog" on homelessness, he said.

Gopman's saga shows that we're past that point. The time for talk is over'; minds are made up. People are coming here and seeing things as they are -- people are poor and desperate and left behind -- and declaring it not their problem and ready to move on. People like this are not going away. More and more arrive every day. People who think like this lurk are in Congress. That does not bode well for the poorer among us -- and it doesn't matter that they were here first.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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