"Why'd you do it?" we ask Fake Google employee Max Bell Alper

The viral video of Max Alper, posing as a Google employee, shouting down protesters today.

Within a half hour of our original post on today's tech gentrification and transit protest, the Guardian learned that Max Bell Alper, a union organizer with Unite Here Local 2850 was the man shouting down Google bus protesters earlier this morning. We asked Alper what motivated him to impersonate a Google employee.

You can read the original post, with updates, here.

Alper maintained that he meant no deception, and that it was all "political theater."

"This is political theater to demonstrate what is happening to the city. It's about more than just the bus," he said. "These are enormous corporations that are investing in this community. These companies, like Google, should be proud of where they're from and invest in their communities."

And the effects of the tech boom are strong, are real, which the thousands of long-time San Franciscans priced out of the city can attest to. The Bay Guardian has covered this extensively, which is what led us to cover the protest. Unfortunately for the organizers of this morning's Google bus protest, all of their work may now be for naught. 

Some of the protesters feel duped.

"No I did not know him, he didn't tell me that he was going to be doing that," said Erin McElroy, who since January has led the Anti-Evitction Mapping Project. A part-time nanny and caretaker for the elderly, she's poured hours of her downtime into the project. The protest was supposed to highlight an issue that for the past year has been her life's work.

McElroy is the one being screamed at in this video:

"I'm really upset that this happened. We've calculated about 11,000 no fault evictions since 1997," she said. And the evictions only count units -- there's no telling how many people were in each unit. Many other tenants are bought out of their rentals as well, displacing tenants in what critics call "invisible evictions." The plight of long-time San Franciscans may be lost in the shuffle over Alper's deceptions.

When asked if he intentionally intended to deceive media, he replied "People are talking all over the country about what's happening in San Francisco (referring to evictions and displacement). That's the debate we need to have here. The more we talk about it, the more we think about it, the more we're going to see the tech companies need to contribute."

Alper said that he did not intend to engage in theater before going to the protest, but when there made the decision, "spontaneously," to stage the argument. When he maintained his story that this was political theater, we again asked why he did not verify his name at the protest itself -- and only after the story blew up in national and local media.

"This was improv political theater," he repeated.

Alper came to the protest in a backpack and dressed in a button down shirt, which some readers via Twitter and comments rightly pointed out may have been his "tech costume," suggesting he planned the theater beforehand. Indeed, his performance was impeccable, mirroring snarky and shallow comments made by tech luminaries like Peter Shih just a few months ago.

The Guardian noted this, asking him how he came to show up in near perfect costume for his tech theater. "This is what I wear everyday," he said. 

McElroy didn't want the larger story to get lost in the shuffle. "I understand it was a highly dramatic moment people were drawn to," she said. "But I wish people would pay attention to the larger systemic issue of tech capital creating a particular class in San Francisco that's displacing long-time residents."

Leslie Dreyer, one of the protest organizers, said that though Alper's shoutout turned out to be a deception, riders on the Google bus itself were making plenty of snarky comments of their own, which she captured on a camera she was wearing as she entered the bus. 

"People were shaming others for even talking to me," she said. "A person tried to read (my pamphlet) and people said 'no don't take anything from them!'"

In the Guardian's original post we clarified that though it appeared Alper got off the bus and was late to work, as he repeatedly claimed, we had not verified that he was an employee. We did identify him as an employee in the headline, which we quickly amended.

In fact, we actively asked for news tips as to his identity, listing the news@sfbg.com email address to solicit help. Tips flowed in within 20 minutes of the original post. Anthony, a recent San Francisco ex-pat, emailed us identifying the shouting man as Max Bell Alper, a union organizer. The Guardian took time to confirm this, comparing photos and calling other sources. Ex-Guardian reporter Yael Chanoff interviewed Alper during her extensive coverage of the Occupy protests some time ago, as some have pointed out, but as she no longer works here she was not around to identify him quickly. The reporter who covered the event today only covered one night of the Occupy protests, the night Scott Olsen was injured, and had no experience with Alper.

When we confirmed Alper's identity, we immediately amended our post. Many, including San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ellen Huet, asked if our tweet contributed to the mis-identification problem as well. We tweeted back "Mistakes should stand, and lets correct, not erase them."

That's exactly what we did. 

The story quickly went viral, featured on the blogs SFist and Valleywag. SF Weekly covered the aftermath. The time between our original posting and our correction was 56 minutes. 

 "Many people put hours into this [protest]," McElroy said. And many more San Franciscans are losing their homes. Let's hope once people are done talking about Alper, they talk about that. 


Then again, he probably doesn't. It was just shameless self-promotion.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

The fake protestor works with MakingChangeMedia
Apparently they make campaign videos -- protest videos.

They are, according to their website, for hire.
"For more information about the range of services Making Change Media offers or to schedule a consultation, please email ..."

It looks like their causes are things I might be sympathetic to, but this guy's tactics are unethical and misguided.

Blaming tech workers for what landlords decide do, is just plainly stupid.
Tech workers aren't holding a gun to landlords' heads telling them to evict people or raise rents on the very tech workers who are also being gouged out of their disposable income.

And it's an anti-progressive, propaganda diversion that pits the tech sector against progressives.

Ya'd think that young techies would naturally be inclined towards the left, but this anti-techie bullying is going to disillusion many, and push many more in the opposite direction.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

Well said.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

Yes, I'm sure young, (mostly white) tech millionaires and billionaires (intent on making this city of and for the super-wealthy) are "naturally inclined towards the left."


Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

My Google-employed non-millionare black ass would like to disagree with you a teeny bit.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 12:20 am

Nice try Google PR!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 1:00 am

Lawl, you really think the PR department of a tech behemoth sits around all day defending their company's honor in blog comments? Like they really give a shit? You're pretty deluded.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 10:28 am

Truth is many of the tech workers who don't identify themselves as libertarian do think of themselves as being liberals. But they are the liberal elite, who unlike the conservative elite who are contemptuous of those below them, are merely condescending,

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 9:53 am


Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 8:05 am

Why you lelleing bro

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

too bad a thousand bad apples had to spoil it for the few good ones.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

Your analysis indeed was well put throughout.

Truly there *should* be a significant degree of natural leftward inclination by tech workers because of their education and intelligence.

This story of the union organizer fits into my more recently arrived-at understanding of poltical conflict which was inspired by comments made by marcos in the past.

I've come to understand how rhetoric which creates and promotes discord across sharp "left-right" divisions serve the "corporate one-percenters" *quite* well.

That is a reality I spend a fair amount of time on Breitbart nowadays trying to shine light on, but clearly there are similar actors -- whether or not they are self-aware -- on the "left."

*lillipublicans: real or imp'ed?

Posted by lillipublicans* on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 8:52 am

Talk about a self-serving statement.

That should be a conclusion that you prove and not a premise that you assume without question.

My experience is the exact opposite.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 9:14 am

The More Education You Have, the more likely you are to vote Democratic. Post graduate educated people voted for Obama 2:1.

It didn't used to be that way, but the know-nothings have driven many educated people out of the Republican Party.

Posted by GPD on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

money, and people who make more money tend to want to keep it.

At least that is what lefties keep telling me.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

was foremost in my mind when I wrote that "there should be a significant degree of natural leftward inclination by tech workers because of their education and intelligence"; that's why I put education first.

"Intelligence" is the capacity to process information and exhibit sound judgment.

I don't think there is any doubt that many of those who choose against Republicans do so because they are educated; but because the policies of the Republican Party have resulted in a string of domestic and foreign policy disasters, a rational ablity to process information -- "intelligence" -- also leads people away from them.

That said, your analysis of the increased appeal of the Democratic Party also relates to the fact that the Party has become less populist over time; both for good and bad.

The new Democratic Party is not far different from the old Republican Party.

The poorly educated blue-collar wearers who in far larger numbers than today used to be able to climb into the "middle class" through hard work in brutal environments can no longer look to the Democrats as certain representatives for their interests. That is why so many are ripe for being duped into voting for the "It's morning in America"-types.

In any case, I was not specifically referring to parties as such, but ideals: the ideal of liberalism -- which is the precept that any child of any household should have equal chance to climb to the highest levels of public office as any scion of wealth has; and that there should be no permanent inherited aristocracy in this country, but rather a *natural* aristocracy formed up of the best and brightest of each generation.

I believe that education and intelligence leads people towards liberalism because the converse of liberalism has been tried again and again. For one, it does not work, and two, concentrated power is manifestly unfair and violative of the basis of all morality: "Do unto others."

As a final word -- and this isn't worth a separate response, so I'm appending it here -- nowadays I *do* spend a fair amount of time on Breitbart seeking common ground with those who are on the completely opposite side of the political aisle.

I find it very satisying to be called a "troll" while never engaging in the same vapid tactics that the trolls here engage in.

While establishing friendships and rapport with those who lean towards a diametrically opposite political perspective is by far the most rewarding aspect of visiting there, I hope that by posting civil critiques of the 'Bartian agit-prop I work to tamp down on the proliferation of the sort of glib trolls who frequent this site: fixing the problem at its source.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 9:38 am

admitted that you were banned from SFGate for trolling.

Trolling is in the eye of the beholder and not the eye of the troller.

To the other, the left often tries to claim the intellectuals on their side. Academics have a tendency to be lefties because there is something about the left that says that if you are smart enough, you can control and manage the economy and society. This gets taken to a further extent in France, where the smartest people often choose politics as a profession (not that it has done France much good).

But this "I am so smart that I think that smartness can make society better through command and control" doesn't appear to work. There are also the people who are practically smart rather than intellectually smart. For every law passed by a smart person, and even smarter person finds a way around it.

Example: In SF we have our "smart" politicians passing every stronger rent control in the belief that that makes housing more affordable. But the smart property owners, doffing their cap to Adam Smith, can always find a way around the rules.

SF RE is more expensive than ever, and the smartest people in the US are the lawyers and financiers who can always run rings about Reich and his cohorts.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 9:51 am

There are many smart conservatives, political orientation is not a function of intelligence.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 9:17 am

That's not what I said.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 9:29 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 11:04 am

This is why I hate being progressive sometimes, because we do stupid stunts like this? Did this guy even think this plan through?

Progressives and the anti-google bus forces came out on bottom in this saga.
Thanks Fake Google Bus guy, I now look forward to dealing techies with a newly attained persecution complex.

Posted by A local progressive on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

Newly attained? The SFBG has been trying to persecute tech employees for years... decades, actually. It's been extremely effective: tech workers have been pushed far away from the Progressive agenda. A reasonable leadership would reconsider the strategy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

that he would build bridges to the tech community, since that was the audience feedback he got.

That didn't last too long.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

Congratulations, SFBG. Your work has backfired. This is story now.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

this fat and unattractive or who bloviate like this. The tech workers I know are hard workers who spend a lot of time at the gym and believe in investing in their local communities.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

How Max Bell Alper looks and talks is not the problem. Shameless self promotion and distracting attention away from a very important issue is definitely the problem. Max, this is not about you. It's about people whose lives are being upended. Do your attention hoarding somewhere else.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

"The tech workers I know are hard workers who spend a lot of time at the gym..."

Reality: Well then they are not "hard workers." Because "hard workers" don't have much time to spend at the gym, if any.

As for the tech workers at the gym: Yes, I've seen them too. Working out their thumbs on their gadget. That's all they work out. They don't work out anything else or talk with anyone. My gym is library-quiet.

Reality: you know no tech workers.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Glad to see the protest of this predatory and parasitic surveillance-state tech company, which is part of The Hallowed, Sacrosanct, Sanctimonious, Parasitic and Predatory Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex (a.k.a. TIC). The Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex contributes little or nothing to the city. The sanctimonious Google employees claim they're not the problem (that's called living in Denial). And they considered "bright" people on that shuttle (just because they can do some coding)? Bright people don't live in denial. Bright people face the reality and take responsibility for their actions and the problems they cause in and to society including San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

Smash the industrial state and monogamy!!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

Well bright people would not be addicted to a gadget like the techbots are:

search engine: What addiction to smart phone can do to you
September 6, 2013

Excerpt from the article:

Dow notes that too much smart phone use not only causes people to disconnect from reality, but smart phone withdrawal can cause physical symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and even depression.
“The more connected we are, the less we’re connecting. And it can actually create a lot of cortisone in the brain and in the body. That stress hormone is actually cardio-toxic. So it’s actually very bad not only for your mental health and your relationships, but it can also be bad for your biological health as well,” he adds.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

Yesterday I was on BART and happened to gaze over the shoulder of a fellow passenger as she responded to an IM during a break in forward progress: "someone passed-out on the train in front of us"... "OMG! are we on the same train?"...

"Oh my god," I chuckled to myself at how unremittingly trite the purposes to which modern communications gear is put most of the time.

Later, while sitting at a coffee house, I watched someone furiously playing a modern analog to the Tetris game of old on their smart phone and mused at how such games are a chore to learn... and even more of a chore to break oneself of the habit of playing.

I think even if one cannot avoid carrying a phone, at the very least people should avoid using these "smart phones." I moderate my incessant Internet forum chatter by doing so only on a laptop computer which I do not carry with me at all times.

Posted by a political "nobody" on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 11:07 am

Muchísimas gracias for all the articles about this BG.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

Google is only a small part of the problem, the protestors are akin to an ant trying to push over an elephant not going to happen. First understand what is happening, then target the main source, with your protests etc.until then your not effective in changing the eviction situation in SF.

Posted by Guestguest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

Keep telling yourself that while this protest gets press from all over the world.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

Translate press into substantive changes to public policy, to credible candidates for local office in the upcoming election, and get back to me.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 5:28 am

Oops, there goes another elefant.

Posted by Binky Portugal on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 8:51 am

From the article:

"Alper said that he did not intend to engage in theater before going to the protest, but when there made the decision, "spontaneously," to stage the argument. When he maintained his story that this was political theater, we again asked why he did not verify his name at the protest itself -- and only after the story blew up in national and local media.

"This was improv political theater," he repeated.


But that does not answer WHY he did it. It only describes (in his mind) what he did. And he knows that. It's called being deceptive. This guy would make a perfect corporatist politician. He acts like one by not answering questions, and just saying anything.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

It would be churlish to deny him that, even if most of us would rather be known for something more positive and constructive.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

Way to teach a lesson, Geronimo!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

I am appalled that the SFBG does not call out the protesters for their fraudulent representation. "Political improv" is a euphemism for lying. If this had been Republicans, SFBG would have (rightly) been all over this. But since this is a union, it seems they can do no wrong. "Politics makes strange bedfellows" - whoever organized this political improv deserves to be ripped a new one.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

And street improv theater is the best he could come up with. Beyond sad.

The good thing, however, is that we've had a few new faces showing up here, and some of them even make sense. Unfortunately, they all seem to be overseas. Maybe we can offer them H-1B visas, and they can displace some of the losers we already have.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

"The good thing, however, is that we've had a few new faces showing up here"
Right, because a handful of trolls got energetic and used new pseudonyms.
Oh looky at all the new morons who agrees with you!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 12:58 am

We protest higher density development then complain when rents go up.

We demolish freeways then complain about traffic.

We chronically underfund our schools then complain about the quality of education.

We complain when retail parking snags all the spaces, but then refuse to build parking structures.

We want everyone to drive less, but underfund public transportation. Then complain when corporations fund their own private group transport.

It's almost like this town doesn't understand cause and effect.

Posted by john@offenhartz.com on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

The most loud are those with narrow interests.

Narrow interests drown out the whole. This applies to both left and right.

Partisan politics is a scam.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

Frankly, I suspect most of these techheads/techbots on the Google shuttle are too obsessed with and addicted to their gadget to even begin to have any intelligent understanding whatsoever of the effect and consequences they and their predatory industry are having and causing on this city and the many issues involved. In other words, they're clueless and they find great comfort in that, otherwise they wouldn't act as smug and snarky as the way they do. They are making no friends here by that attitude. Instead, they're showing themselves for who and what they really are: Many of them are self-absorbed assholes.

In the pictures on your other articles on this topic, it shows them looking out the windows of their tech shuttle. I bet that was a new and exciting experience for all of them. Never done that before. So they are able to look up from their gadget on the rare occasion?

Also, when I see these tech shuttles at night (and I pay close attention to them), either no one gets out of the shuttle where they stop (and previously 3-5 people used to get out at one stop), or no one is on the shuttle, or just 1-2 people. They seem like such a waste for such big tall tanks. Why do they need all of that bus? Are they too good to use shuttles like the type that UCSF uses which are not massive tanks? Damn pretentiousness is what is it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

And yet you're bloviating about the obsessions of others?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

I found Alper's caricature outrageous and personally insulting. I want San Francisco to accommodate anyone who wants to live there, to retain its diversity and character, to stay weird.

But what would you have me do? I love San Francisco, I'm not about to pack my things and get out of town. I'm not sure what you hope to accomplish by persecuting me. It seems like the only solution is to build enough housing that everyone can find an affordable place to live. I wouldn't mind a lower rent, either.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

all the dim bulbs here who rant and rave about paid posters.

Pass the bong progressives.

Any equally crazy right winger who defended such antics would get the horn from progressives.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

San francisco is complaining about gentrification. Detroit is praying for it.

Posted by GuestMark on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

Just a superficial and shallow drive-by troll comment from someone with clearly no understanding of either situation. Detroit is "praying" for the end to corporate greed. As Detroit's bankruptcy problem is rooted in capitalism.

The main problem we face as a nation is not a lack of money; it is too much money in too few hands. The growing inequality between the haves and the have nots, which is happening all over, including in San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

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