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



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.

Google_prank.jpg
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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34 comments
Innosanto Nagara
Innosanto Nagara

Well, trashing other people for your own errors is certainly not helpful. Anyhow. I don't do internet flame wars, Chris. My comments are meant for Joe Eskenazi, who went to the trouble or writing the piece for the SF Weekly. Turns out it's an out-there view anywhow, as the Times and the Guardian and others have addressed the coverage in more productive ways.

Chris Rosamond
Chris Rosamond

Yup. THAT's a sure fire way to change the system. From the Unemployment line.

Innosanto Nagara
Innosanto Nagara

In that case, write an opinion piece about how your bosses don't allow you enough time to do your job, instead of trying to make it seem like it's the organizer's fault that your reported an edited clip of political theater as fact.

Chris Rosamond
Chris Rosamond

as the MSM consolidates & corporatizes, no reporter has the time or funding to do real, investigative reporting. So it's garbage in, garbage out. Reporters are subject to all the same corporate squeezes the rest of us are.

Innosanto Nagara
Innosanto Nagara

What's so bizarre is that if you look at the whole action--the blockaders were dressed like city workers, they had a big sign that said "Warning: Illegal Use of Public Infrastructure" that looked like a hazard sign. They pretended to fine the bus. The SF Weekly failed to notice that the whole thing was political theater, got duped by the video of one segment of it, and then freaked out that their "reporting" consisted of viewing tumblr shares. News flash: Viral internet clips are often not what they seem to be. And if you represent a some type of journalistic institution and didn't check your sources--then shame on you!

ChristineB
ChristineB

This article seems to be its own self-fulfilling prophecy.  This staged argument will only negate the positive aspects of the action if all media chooses, as SFW has, to focus exclusively on the staged argument rather than the wider context of growing housing concerns in SF. The fact too, that this article goes beyond its snark and hyperbole to attempt to shame this person and suggest he be effectively shunned from "credible" communities/movements does more to convince me of the lack of credibility of the author of this piece than of anyone to do with this event.  Thank goodness other media sources have covered this action in a more nuanced way.

John Waldrep
John Waldrep

@kevin Bard, you hit the nail on the head.

cdelac
cdelac

speaking of filling a wordcount, could this article be any more verbose?

Chris Rosamond
Chris Rosamond

Don't worry. I went over and soiled his bed, too.

Kevin Bard
Kevin Bard

Forget gentrification and the Google buses. It's the union organizer who's the bad guy. (Oh, the irony!)

akbarovich
akbarovich

HAHAHHAAH. Trolled. I found this story from Metafilter, and the level of outrage among the commenters there at this EVIL EVIL GOOGLE EMPLOYEE was incredible. Hook. Line. And Sinker. The funniest thing is when they realized they were trolled they just ignored it. Not a single person took back what they said about how this is proof that tech companies are Bad and people who work there are Bad People.

Innosanto Nagara
Innosanto Nagara

Rosie Ruiz? More like the inverse of. I guess SF Weekly also hates The Yes Men. Boy they're going to be pissed when they find out that Stephen Colbert is not actually a right winger.

davidrentibbs
davidrentibbs

I'm not saying this guy is in the right at all, but I remember when I was a young activist still learning my chops and my lessons.  I made some pretty embarrassing mistakes and was fortunate that the groups I was working with chose to react with support and education.  They didn't shun me and I ended up becoming quite productive and helpful.  Hopefully the same will happen with this hapless chap.  In other words, maybe y'all should give him a break.  If he has the balls to do what he did this morning, imagine what he could do with some patient guidance.

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien

ya sounds like theyre cranky cause they fell for it. Simultaneously exposing the naked truth of silicon valley AND the decline in real journalism skills involving research beyond repeating what one sees on twitter.

Shane Eric-Eugene Hensinger
Shane Eric-Eugene Hensinger

"Political theater action." LOL - yeah. Like Stalin's show trials. Anything in defense of the cause!!

Brooke Anderson
Brooke Anderson

He just dramatized what Google and its employees say (implicitly and explicitly): that public resources should be used to subsidize private profit and that longtime residents who are being displaced can just move elsewhere.

Tim Gray
Tim Gray

Oh ... how "Breitbartesque"..LOL!

Rae Louise Breaux
Rae Louise Breaux

Was it a stupid thing to do? Cause it sure got everyone talking...

Jesse Smith
Jesse Smith

I don't know that this is quite the Second-Coming-Of-Joseph-Goebells that SF Weekly is making it out to be, but the guy does seem like kind of a dolt.

Ruby Kane
Ruby Kane

He's only saying aloud what all of SV is saying all over Twitter.

Kevin Bard
Kevin Bard

I guess the storming of the Bastille will have to wait. For now.

Wilson Linker
Wilson Linker

Way to over blow a political theatre action SF Weekly. Maybe you are so mad because you are so gullible. Get some thicker skin next time you sit down at your keyboard.

CarlBenson
CarlBenson

If the goal was to get a bunch of eyeballs on this issue, Alper is winning the internet today. Real question: how much more attention does this performance get than the actual pretty hum-drum protest? 

Maurice Rivers
Maurice Rivers

According to a Google search, he's a union organizer for Unite Here Local 2850. Their office is located at 1440 Broadway, Suite 208 (Oakland, CA 94612).

Jen Rabon
Jen Rabon

That's nuts. Was the bus staged too?

BayAreaActivist
BayAreaActivist

The good news is, Max Alper won't be welcome in a lot of radical spaces ever again. 

johnny137
johnny137 topcommenter

What. A. Loser.

joe.eskenazi
joe.eskenazi

It's 650 words. A regular "War and Peace."


Best, 


JE

joe.eskenazi
joe.eskenazi

Carl -- 


That may be so, but I think the attention will be focused on the disingenuousness, not the message. 


Thanks for reading, 


JE

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