The Mission: Liberal Guilt Aboard the Google Bus

“Sick of being blamed for S.F.’s housing crisis?” asked the Facebook invitation for a happy-hour event at Virgil’s Sea Room, put on by a group calling itself Tech Workers Against Displacement and promising an “open discussion” between housing-rights activists and those from the tech industry. Clearly people were sick of something, since more than 150 people packed the Mission bar for a series of lectures by anti-gentrification activists about how the city was being destroyed by corporate interests and high rents. A hipster with a bongo drum stood behind the speakers and thumped emphatically to highlight the key points.

Eventually, one young man wearing a gray hoodie and a messenger bag interrupted. “Excuse me, is this a dialogue? I’ve been listening for a half-hour now and this seems pretty lopsided.” Speaking at the time for Housing Rights Committee, Fred Sherburn-­Zimmer said, “People seem to think that you’re special,” pointing out the members of the press in the room who had thought the event worthy of coverage. “I don’t think you are special-er than anyone else.” Then Sherburn-Zimmer noted some ways that techies could help the fight: by “fixing our pretty shitty website” and “showing up at a fucking rally.” Another activist hoped there might be someone in the room who could teach them how to hack into the SF Realtors website.

It was a tech worker named Mark who gave the activists what they appeared to really want: a full-on self-flagellation. “I’m part of the new upper class, and it sickens me what I’ve done to help kill this city,” he told the crowd. Then he pulled out a poem that read in part: “The Internet is killing us / Stay off-line unplug and wake up / Dot-coms: We are killing this city / Dot-coms: We are stealing their land / Let us donate our salaries, help real people not Skynet.” Hoots filled the bar and the drummer pounded.

“Awesome, is that online?” one activist yelled.

“Post it on our Facebook page!” another added.

The Mission: Liberal Guilt Aboard the Google Bus