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Monday, December 9, 2013

Google Bus: Max Bell Alper Is the Boy Who Cried Gentrification

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Max Bell Alper has befouled his own well. He's soiled his own bed. You can use Google to hunt down other apropos analogies. Busloads of employees roll out of San Francisco every day to make it so.

Sadly, the story of the day, the week, the month didn't last much past the morning. Today, our down-the-hall colleagues at the Guardian covered an anti-gentrification-inspired blockade of a Google bus, and captured on film a man indicating he was a Google employee behaving like a Central Casting entitled Googler/ascendent San Franciscan. His indignant thesis, bellowed at protesters: "You can't pay your rent? I'm sorry. Get a better job. ... This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave."

It'd be hard to imagine any individual more neatly epitomizing the ethos of today's skewed, rapidly gentrifying city unless, say, he ripped off a tent from a freezing homeless person (don't bother -- the city's got that that covered).

But it turns out this wasn't an outburst. It was a performance.

The Guardian soon updated its high-trafficking post to acknowledge that it -- and everyone else -- had been had. This wasn't an incomprehensibly oblivious techie but an incomprehensibly oblivious union organizer and performance artist.

It was both a surreal moment and a transcendentally stupid one. Now everyone is left to feel that much angrier and dumber for the morning's misadventure.

Alper, somehow, decided the proper method of channeling the undeniable statistics and heart-wrenching narratives of the city's Malthusian housing economy into some means of relief for the afflicted was to hoodwink everyone with a brazen display of phony playacting.

Congratulations to Alper
, who just managed to make himself the Rosie Ruiz of the anti-gentrification movement.

Shakespeare wasn't just filling up a wordcount when he posited the value of not allowing one's good name to be filched -- and now Alper has made poor indeed many, many concerned souls for whom, frankly, he was never entitled to speak.

click to enlarge Amazing scenes were witnessed today. Too bad they weren't true. - JOE FITZGERALD RODRIGUEZ
  • Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
  • Amazing scenes were witnessed today. Too bad they weren't true.
The takeaway for the day, and many days to come, won't be the economic toll of private buses for insanely wealthy companies pirating Muni bus stops, or free-spending techies fueling displacement, or any quasi-reasonable discussion about where the city is and where it's heading. Instead it'll all be about the fabulist who saw fit to turn a slow-moving tragedy into an Internet-rapid cartoon.

And nobody escapes unscathed. It's easy to tut-tut journalists presenting a man who emerged from a Google bus and refused to answer questions about his name and job as a Googler or even an alleged Googler. In the pre-Internet age, this wouldn't have happened. In the pre-Gutenberg age this wouldn't have happened, either.

But balanced journalism, or attempts at it, will always be susceptible to people knowingly bending the truth. As the ability to put material in front of eyes grows and the number of eyes perusing material before publication shrinks, it's never been more true.

It's easier than ever to ruin everything for everyone.

Apologists for this kind of half-bright guerrilla theater can attempt to parse Alper's actions; he prevaricated when asked his identity rather than out-and-out lying; he made it appear he walked off a Google bus rather than saying "I just walked off this-here Google bus on the way to my job at Google!"; he ostensibly brought more attention to real issues with a dose of "political improv."

Those arguments can be advanced, if anyone cares to do so. But so can a much easier and better-fitting argument that Alper tainted this issue and ruined other people's credibility; it'd be hard to imagine him or any one person doing as much good as he just did bad.

Alper's opinions about this matter -- or, in fact, any matter -- are now something no one ever needs to worry about again.

And that goes for any movement that will have him.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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