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Wednesday, Jun 9 1999
Wag the Mission
Thank you, Emily Gurnon. Thank you deeply from all of us here at SF Weekly.
Without your assistance (and, to be sure, the assistance of your employer, the San Francisco Examiner), we wouldn't have been able to do what we've done. And what we've done is, even if we say it ourselves, quite amazingly absurd and wonderful, even for San Francisco, where outre performance art is considered a staple of life. We have pranked the Examiner, KGO radio, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Associated Press, a bunch of television reporters, the man who might be Nestor Makhno, and a couple of hundred people who take neighborhood politics much too seriously, and we have pranked them far into the next star system. We have made up a political movement out of thin air, called a rally on its nonexistent behalf, called into being a large counterdemonstration (complete with a significant police presence), and created a minor media uproar.

We have also had ourselves a hell of a lot of fun on a bright sunny Sunday, and, as I will explain soon enough, performed a much-needed public service.

But we couldn't have done it without you, Emily. So once again, and with genuine feeling: We thank you, Emily. We really, really thank you.

Three or four weeks ago, I had an offhand idea. SF Weekly Managing Editor Laurel Wellman had been writing regularly about Nestor Makhno, the pseudonymous activist connected to the so-called Mission Yuppie Eradication Project. I believe you probably know the man, and the project; he and it have posted fliers throughout the Mission District, putting forward the preposterous notion that working-class denizens could halt the macroeconomically driven influx of affluent professionals into the Mission by direct action of an extralegal sort. Specifically, by trashing sport utility vehicles and other "yuppie" automobiles, and by doing something dire to four specific restaurants that Nestor and his cohorts apparently believe to be the work of the Dark Yuppie Lord.

Our writings about Nestor had riled a few Mission residents who own so-called live-work lofts, who felt that we were supporting Nestor's preposterous work, and who objected to having their lofts inscribed with anti-yuppie graffiti. This is a reasonable objection, but a couple of these residents called our offices repeatedly, abused our editorial administrator robustly, and generally proved themselves to be jerks extraordinaire. Among other things, they complained preposterously of being the objects of hate crimes.

The sudden appearance of groups of citizens behaving preposterously tapped like a professionally wielded hammer against my sarcasm reflex. Here was a real opportunity. What if, I thought, we ran a phony advertisement, calling on San Franciscans peaceably to assemble to protect the endangered rights of yuppies living in the Mission? If we could trick San Franciscans into demonstrating against "hate crimes" inflicted on yuppies, wouldn't that prove San Franciscans will demonstrate about anything?

The idea for a phony demonstration was just that, an idea, brain effluvium. Executing the idea would require talent and energy and daring, for the prank could fail in many ways. It could fail by being too subtle and going unnoticed; or it could fail in the other direction, by being too obvious, an easily spotted, over-the-top goof. And there is nothing uglier or more embarrassing than a failed prank.

Luckily, I have trusty lieutenants who salivate at the mention of prank-playing.

Laurel Wellman (perhaps best known as the author of our preternaturally arch Dog Bites column) sprung to the task of writing the ad. A good prank should fool only fools and the unwary; people of reasonable intelligence should be able to discern clear hints that something is very, very amiss here. Wellman succeeded admirably, creating an absolutely plausible imbecility of an advertisement for the protest rally we "sponsored" in Dolores Park on Sunday last.

The ad, titled "Stop the Hate," was written entirely in the gooey vocabulary of underdog leftist social protest; at the same time, the ad's content clearly called for the masses to rally and rescue professionals who had used six-figure salaries and Silicon Valley stock portfolios to buy homes in the Mission District. This conflict of syntax and semantics, we felt, would be enough to warn away the witting.

But Ms. Wellman went the last mile in terms of protecting the innocent, ending the ad with a long list of mythical sponsors whose names were absurd enough to raise the eyebrows of snails. (My personal favorite: LOFT, the Live-Work Owners' Fairness Team.)

The Weekly's art director, Darrick Rainey, did his part, styling our ad closely after those posters, periodically strewn about the city, that call for marches against whatever U.S. or NATO bombing campaign is under way at that particular time. Then he threw a stray clenched fist into the mix, which should have made sentient readers wonder, "How do you stop hate with a fist?" But somehow, the fist was just right.

I made sure the ad ran prominently in our June 2 issue (Page 9, as it turned out).

Of course, any protest needs an organizer, a guiding spirit, a media personality. Soon enough, SF Weekly Associate Editor David Pasztor gave us one: Bradley.

Bradley is the first name of a nephew of one of the writers at the Weekly. It also seemed to be the way-perfect name for the kind of yuppie who would organize a "Stop the Hate" demonstration that used these actual words: "It's time to acknowledge that our pain is real -- not a joke!"

"Bradley" made his initial appearance as a message that Associate Editor Pasztor created on a voice mail number at the Weekly. (Bradley's phone number had, of course, been placed in the ad.) The message was perfect. No real yuppie could have done a better job of calling the faithful to the barricades: Stirring verbiage was enunciated in a nasal, please-like-me, rich kid's voice. Of course, part of the message asked members of the media to leave their names and numbers, if they wished further information.

About The Author

John Mecklin


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