Protest by public humiliation.
The nightmare of the rich and powerful: you come outside your home to see and hear ordinary people decrying you for being a total scum bag. Worse yet, they are passing out flyers to your neighbors, explaining the virtues of your douchebaggery. ¶ The idea of targeting the elites is nothing new: animal rights activists did it in protest against lab experiments, and anti-fascists singled out neo-Nazis. But this past summer, the streets of the Bay Area in California were ablaze with new energy against the gentrification and the displacement caused by the tech industry. Counterforce, a group that targeted Google and tech-company executives for public humiliation in the form of protests, sat down with us in an exclusive interview to talk about their ideas, aims, and the possible end of the group.
In the late 1990s, the Bay Area experienced a dot-com boom which lead to a wave of gentrification in San Francisco and beyond. Why is what is happening with the growth of the tech industry different from before, or worse?
During the first boom, digital technology had not yet achieved its current levels of mass saturation. Those were the days of anarchists smashing computer monitors on the streets of San Francisco, Eugene, and London, believing they could take down the techno-industrial complex with high-profile arsons, riots, poetry, and tree-sits. It is unfortunate that this revolution against capitalism did not spread, as it should have. The radical environmental movement reached its zenith just as the first tech boom reached its own. In November of 1999, environmentalists, unionists, anarchists, and other groups converged on Seattle to protest against the WTO conference. After the police attacked non-violent demonstrators, anarchists dressed in black began smashing the windows of banks, corporate offices, and chain stores, while others spray-painted slogans and smashed ATMS. But there was one tech company that did not get its windows smashed or its facade defaced. Amazon.com, a friendly book company that employed punks and bohemians in its warehouse, was spared the wrath of the anarchists.
Now everything is completely different. Amazon has become a totalitarian corporation bent on off-world colonization, total control of commodities, and absolute automation. It exists alongside Google, Tesla, Facebook, and other corporations that are explicit about their intentions to take over the world.