Read this: 11 national news outlets cover SF’s tech culture war

Screenshot of Fox News "The Willis Report" with Gerri Willis.

Those of us in the Bay Area have long followed the rising rents, floods of evictions, and growing resentment between long-time Bay Area residents and the new tech elite. Now it seems the national media is catching on. National reporting of the Bay Area class war is on the rise.

We’ve rounded up some of the more colorful coverage, which runs the gamut of different perspectives (even among the so-called “objective” news outlets). Some say the resentment is understandable, some say the blame against techies is misplaced. Some, like The Huffington Post, reached out to protesters for interviews, while others simply reblogged local reporters’ Tweets and video - including the Guardian’s. 

Regardless of which of the articles you most agree with, the one thing we can all agree on is that things are changing fast. Just this week, Mayor Ed Lee announced his plan to prioritize and streamline construction of affordable housing in San Francisco. And the mayor’s pal, Ron Conway, announced via a press release today that local tech/government partnership group will form three committees to address rising inequality in San Francisco: one on housing (led by SPUR’s Gabriel Metcalf), another on philanthropy (shaking down rich peeps for cash), and another on education (hoping to form a tech pipeline from SFUSD to SFSU to jobs). 

But why blockade the tech employee’s buses? Why not protest the mayor instead?

“People say ‘you should protest city hall!’” organizer Leslie Dreyer told us. She had a large hand in organizing the first Google bus protest that blew up in the national press last week. There’s a problem with that, she said. 

It didn’t work.

“We did that every day,” she said. “No one noticed us until we protested a Google bus. There's a tension when you take it to the street.”

Maybe the national press gave Mayor Lee the nudge he needed. Decide for yourself. Below are a few examples of the national news outlets highlighting the Bay Area’s growing inequality, covering the first tech bus protests last week, and today’s. 


NPR: Income inequality in the San Francisco Bay Area

National Public Radio didn’t just do one article on the Google bus protests, they used the first incident as a catalyst for a weeklong series on inequality in the Bay Area. Kudos to them for going a step beyond the protest, and digging into the issues that prompted it in the first place.

One of their best pieces covers Manny Cardenas, a security guard at Google.

“Cardenas says it is strange being on Google's campus, watching the regular employees drive around on company-supplied bikes and scooters and taking food home.

‘You feel like you're different,’ he says. ‘Even though you're working in the same place, you're still like an outsider. And it's weird because you're actually protecting these people.’”

New York Times: Google bus vandalized during protest

The Times covered the growing inequality before the protests, but followed up with a few quick pieces on the tech bus rallies in San Francisco as well. Their take featured tweets from the tech community itself, who continued to hammer home on the point that the tech buses help take cars off the road. Uh techies, hate to tell you, but the point of the protests is not about taking you out of your buses, but about paying your fair share, like the robotic voices on the Muni buses tell us to do every day. 

The Times previous bus protest coverage and their previous coverage on San Francisco gentrification

Fox News: San Francisco Residents Protest Google’s Buses

Talk about missing the point, Fox News program “The Willis Report” coverage of the tech bus protests is blissfully comical. Watch Tamara Holder, the one female commenter, have to explain she knows what the word “pithy” means. Oh boy. 

From the program: 

“Google is a national treasure, a force for good. San Francisco should be really glad its people work at Google, yet now they’re beating up on the company… I’m trying to find it hard to understand the resentment. It just seems like it’s resenting Google because its employees are rich.”

We only wish Jon Stewart would’ve covered this silliness.

Salon: SF Protesters block Google bus

Salon approaches the issue from a “Google is smarmy and weird,” perspective, touching on the idea that maybe the class war is a culture war as well.

“If you’ve had the misfortune of watching “The Internship” — the most profound artifact of brand placement in cinema history — you’ll have been told that Google, and its ruling ideology of “Googliness,” is nothing if not purportedly a warm and cozy vector of innovation, with its own internal, coddled ecosystem.”

HuffPost Tech: Protesters Block Google Bus, Demand $1 Billion

This Huffpost piece is notable for the video at the top of the page, featuring an interview with local activist Erin McElroy, the leader of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. The piece also actually tries to explore the tech bus non-payment of city fines for using bus stops, something some of the other pieces completely avoid altogether.

“The protest centered around Google’s use of the city’s Muni bus stops for the last two years -- a practice that protesters allege is illegal and would total $1 billion in owed fines. Activists from the San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency stalled an employee-filled Google Bus at the corner of 24th and Mission Streets for approximately half an hour on Monday morning with mock traffic signs citing the shuttles for illegal use of public infrastructure.”

CNET: Fake Google employee’s fight with protesters we wish was true

CNET took a look at the antics of Max Bell Alper, whose “theatrics” in posing as a Google employee arguably helped catapult the conversation on Bay Area’s tech driven inequality into the national spotlight. Nick Statt makes this observation about Alper:

“...what Alper did was something special. He lied to us, and in doing so, got us all to start throwing rocks and then look only at each other when the mirror shattered. Mission accomplished.”

Wall Street Journal: Fake Protest Spawns Real Outrage

One of the few outlets to play it straight, the Wall Street Journal’s new reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles (a Missionite himself) pointed out that Alper is no San Franciscan, and highlighted the differing opinions among the protesters of his “theatrics.”

“Deepa Varma, a lawyer with the group Eviction Free San Francisco and an organizer of the bus protest, said the protesters have mixed feelings about Alper’s staged outburst.

'We didn’t know that was going to happen and it’s too bad because the point was really to connect the housing crisis to the tech industry,' Varma said.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.”

Honorable mentions: Missing the point

These three outlets make the argument that the protesters anger is misplaced, and should rally against government, not techies, instead. But as we’ve pointed out, that doesn’t tend to get attention, whereas protesting techies does (or else these three outlets likely wouldn’t have written stories in the first place). 

The Wire: A fake fight at a real protest blames the wrong people for a serious problem

Slate: Protesters surround Google bus in San Francisco. Obnoxiousness ensues.

Wired: In This Silicon Valley Tech Culture and Class War, We’re Fighting About the Wrong Things

The Atlantic Cities: Why I’m Not Embarrassed to Have Been Fooled by the Google Bus Protest Hoax

In this piece for The Atlantic Cities, Sarah Goodyear points out that with real tech haters like Peter Shih (though now we have Greg Gopman too) referring to San Francisco women as “49ers” (4’s who think they’re 9’s) and saying our foggy weather is “PMSing,” buying Max Bell Alper’s Google employee impersonation wasn’t all that much of a stretch.

But she takes it the next step further, and tries to build bridges between all involved.

“Will the next generation of tech entrepreneurs abandon the suburban campus model that makes Google buses necessary? We’ll have to wait to find out, although the rise of the tech sector in New York – where public transportation and pedestrian culture are more robust than anywhere else in the United States, and the bubble of privilege is less impermeable – may be one indication that things are changing.

In the meantime, the obnoxious tech guy who wasn’t a hoax, Peter Shih, did try to make amends. After his offending entry on Medium came down, Shih posted a note of apology on the site:

'I don’t deserve any forgiveness for the stupidity of my actions and words, but I sincerely hope to demonstrate by my future behavior to humbly build up and not tear down the communities and people around me.'

I'm inclined to give Shih the benefit of the doubt, and Alper, too. Not to mention myself. We're all just trying to figure this out, after all. And sometimes it's the mistakes you make that teach you the most.”

Undoubtedly a new slew of articles will follow today's protests, as the smashed windows of an Oakland Google bus are the ultimate media bait. Post any new articles you'd like in the comments below.


"the point of the protests is not about taking you out of your buses, but about paying your fair share"

Which they have agreed to do, per an agreement negotiated with the city. The journalists covering the story have all documented that fact. The SFBG prefers to leave it out as much as possible.

When pushed, the SFBG will say "Yes, but they haven't agreed to pay MORE than their fair share".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

non sense.

It is interesting that the left insist that FOX news watchers are stupid and easily manipulated.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

Haven't seen it yet. All I see is hundreds of private buses illegally using public bus stops to subsidize their exclusive transit systems.

Talk of an agreement only became public after last week's action. The parties are negotiating it while excluding the most important actors, public transit users and neighborhood residents.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

if SFMTA has agreed to it, implicitly or explictly. Implicit could be as simple as telling DPT not to ticket such buses.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 7:43 am

Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter need to chip in $200m each towards the $800m for electrifying CalTrain and run shuttles to and from CalTrain stations so their employees can ride public transit just like everyone else.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

Absolutely. They need to give us money and do what we tell them to do. It's sort of like a stick up, only without a real gun.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

Such a collective investment would be good for the businesses involved as well as good PR in the region where public investment gave them their leg up to success.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:10 pm


I'm guessing, not at all, because you are not at all convincing.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

If these firms are seeing their reputations damaged by these protests, then it might be worth their while to pay up and invest in local regional transit infrastructure.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

those who think it is appropriate to hold people hostage in a blocked bus.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 7:44 am

People used to think of Google as an example of a good corporate citizen; now they're primarily thought of as a company that sells your information to the NSA. I'm weaning myself off in favor of DuckDuckGo. Now add "agents of gentrification" to the list of things Google is associated with.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 8:03 am

And for $200m each, relative chump change for Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter, they could invest in connecting BART Millbrae with BART to San Jose via an electrified CalTrain and do more to salvage their reputations than contributing as much to nonprofit poverty charities.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 10:17 am

Now you want private trains as well as private buses?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:05 am

No, I want for Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter to each contribute $200m to electrify public transit, CalTrain. Give 'em a tax write-off for the contribution.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

There is already CalTrain, SamTrans and the shuttles.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

That 50 people come out and protest. Or that the other 799.950 people in this city did not?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:12 am

You think that the other 799,950 people fully support the tech companies just because they didn't show up to the protest?

That's quite a stretch.

Posted by Yo on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

bother showing up and so, like people who do not show up to vote, we can only assume that they don't worry about tech companies and whatever evil you think they cause.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

Yeah, I remember when NSA-Google used to have a good reputation. Not anymore. I'm also on DuckDuckGo. Only rarely use NSA-Google. And they've completely ruined UTube. The "You" has been taken out of it and the most recent change has been by connecting NSA-Google Plus with UTube and people hate it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

I agree with you about the other three though. They all can easily afford it.

If they didn't all dodge taxes through the dubious and possibly illegal Double Irish With A Dutch Sandwich and other tax avoidance strategies, we would have already collected the taxes we are owed. Right now the money is sitting overseas, where no one can get at it.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

I see only perfectly legal tax strategies.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Excellent idea, since these techies refuse to live close to these companies where they work (Google, Apple and FB). Even though Twitter is in SF, they are receiving generous corporate welfare from the city, and contributing nothing of value, so they should also be required to chip in $200m.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 1:03 am

and companies widely separated by geography. But good on you for hitting all the right buzz words.

Marcos suggested companies in the Valley contribute towards paying for electrifying Cal Train because they would benefit from it, something one can disagree with but still admit there's logic there. While you take the next progressive leap and suggest Twitter be forced to pay as well, since in your mind "it doesn't produce anything of value" (those using Twitter to organize protests - like Iranian and Syrian dissidents & the SFBG would beg to differ). Twitter's stockholders would also disagree. So would its employees.

And you wonder why people look askance at progressives gathering with their begging bowls out - their entitlement mentality never ends.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 1:35 am

And you wonder why people look askance at corporate techie companies gathering with their begging bowls out - their corporate welfare entitlement mentality never ends.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 3:55 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:13 am

I agree. Marcos has a really good idea. Agree with your comment about Twitter. It is such a waste of time (a lot of silly people writing silly sayings). I don't use it for anything. A friend of mine was trying to use it for marketing, but got nothing out of it. He said that it seems like it's mainly robots on there. Other people he talked with in the same business field through acquaintances had the same dead results. They abandoned Twitter too.

I go to Indymedia/Independent Media Center for protest news and protest organizing news. One doesn't need Twitter for that. Indymedia have been around since 1999. It's also international.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 3:41 am

"I go to Indymedia/Independent Media Center for protest news and protest organizing news. One doesn't need Twitter for that."

Yeah, a protest can be organized on any message forum, including the Bay Guardian's message forum as well as through people's email connections. You don't need a corporate site where you are limited to 140 characters or less and where the company has never made a profit for that!

related: Twitter: Why Twitter's IPO Was Really A Failure

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

Where do you live and where do you work? It's the damn Bay AREA, a metropolitan area, where people commute all over the place for work, for school, for church or doctors appointments, for all sorts of reasons. And it's everyone's right to live where they want and work where they want. If you want to start restricting that right, you had damn well better ensure you will NEVER have to travel more than a few miles on a bike to get anywhere you need or want to go, or you are a hypocrite.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

>>>since these techies refuse to live close to these companies where they work (Google, Apple and FB).<<<

The "Green Concept" seems to go way over most people's head, in part, because it would require a change in their life/behavior and most people simply aren't willing to change their life/behavior. They'd rather commute for hours, sit in gridlock, etc. and then whine about it.

But there's one company:

By Paying Employees To Live Near The Office, Imo Cuts Commutes, Ups Happiness
"The messaging company offers $500 a month towards housing within a five-mile radius. Goodbye gridlock, hello walking shoes."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

What the hell does that mean?

Those "techies" you smear are people. People who pay their rent, pay their taxes, spend their money locally, try to make a lives for themselves in a neighborhood that they like. They're human beings, just trying to get by. What are they supposed to be "paying" that they're not?

In other news, lovely to see that taking people hostage is now the way to get attention. How long before someone decides to throw something more than a brick through one of these bus windows? It only takes one unhinged person.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

The "non-techies" (aka unentitled masses) YOU smear are people too. People who pay their rent, pay their taxes, spend their money locally, try to make a lives for themselves in a neighborhood that they like. They're human beings, just trying to get by.
Why are they paying for what the techies are not?

I would hardly categorize a small disruption in schedule "hostage taking".

In other news:
I do love the irony of the workers who are "Changing the world through disruption" (creating a new grill cheese apps, etc) are miffed at personally having their lives "disrupted" for 30 minutes".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:20 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:17 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 9:45 am

"The passengers were free to leave at any time."

Exactly. The tech people were on their way to work, a group of people chose to block their way and prevent their bus from continuing.

But the people on the bus could have simply gotten off and found another way to get to work.

So how could anyone realistically have any problem with that?

Posted by C.C.P. on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 11:03 am

you went to the protest, isn't it also true that you could have found another way to the protest?

Even though of course you would have been massively inconvenienced and might have been very late arriving?

I do not think you would be happy to be treated the same way you seem to think that these workers should be treated.


Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

"one on housing (led by SPUR’s Gabriel Metcalf)"

This is something Mayor Lee has wanted forever. The "Progressives" have always tried to block market rate housing, they are going to hate this. SPUR is in the in pocket of developers and will ask for zoning and other regulations to be relaxed so that developers can build more.

"another on philanthropy (shaking down rich peeps for cash)"

Of course, many already do give, but it never hurts to ask for more. Maybe they can get that busybody Ron Conway to squeeze some of his rish friends.

"and another on education (hoping to form a tech pipeline from SFUSD to SFSU to jobs)"

Another thing that Progressives are going to hate: they absolutely hate it when workers get good, high paying jobs with decent benefits at companies like Google and Apple.

So it looks like these protests are going to spur The City in the direction the business leaders have wanted to push it all along.

I am not the biggest fan of Mayor Ed Lee, but you have to admire how well he has handled this.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

So true (and funny). "Progressives"

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

No progressive I know believes this stuff. We want good jobs with good benefits, both in the public and private sector. There's nothing I'd like more than for the private sector to provide better wages and benefits.

But not everyone can have a job like that, and we want to make sure that people who don't are protected as well. I don't see why that's so hard to understand.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

Where you live and how appropriate that is to your earning power IS a choice.

Help the disabled and the old. Don't help someone who just wants a cheap rent to live in a cool desirable city that he cannot afford.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:15 am

But you don't want to help the people whose lives they disrupt. I get it.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

They pay a lot of tax.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

Don't even try to figure *that* out.

Some of the people on here have got to be on the payroll of some tech company(ies) because nothing else can explain their idolization and hero worship of tech. They're also the same people who idolize, worship and glorify this mayor who they see as above reproach and who can do no wrong, no matter what he does. (There's a word for that but it's not coming to me at the moment.)

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

"I am not the biggest fan of Mayor Ed Lee, but you have to admire how well he has handled this."

Oh yes, absolutely splendidly. I've personally loved his speeches where he used lots and lots of words but said nothing.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 4:55 am

1) He hasn't made more of this than it is. A few ragged protesters do not represent a majority, nor probably any of the 73% who support Lee.

2) He wants to work with tech to improve things, and not punish them for being successful

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:16 am

He does like to talk doesn't he? And after you cut through all that bull shit, lies and newspeak he spews, his message is: "I work for the Tech Industrial Complex, my venture capitalist friends and that's all I care about. Period. I toss some pretty words to other people whom I despise and want out of the city during the same empty speeches and some people fall for that. Then the people from my campaign and my staff get on message forums and absolutely gush over me and urgently rush to defend any criticism of me whatsoever."

The weak among us really can't stand any criticism of one's politician(s).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

is that his approval ratings are falling fast because of the affordability crisis. And now I understand why Latterman hastily put together an online poll, shoddily done as it was, on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. Ed Lee could well lose the next election if this continues.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

I look forward to Mayor Ammiano taking office. YES! He will restore honor, dignity and integrity to the office that's been lacking for some time.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 6:41 am

Mayor Ammiano Sylvester,
Thuffering thucotash

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 11:34 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 7:45 am

Did you not read the link in your rush to post a response?

Posted by Greg on Dec. 21, 2013 @ 8:20 am

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