How not to write satire

Entrepreneur Bryan Goldberg penned a surprisingly unpleasant item about San Francisco, crafted "satirically" as a dressing down of the tech workers moving in and driving rents up. Is it ever funny when power punches down? Not today...

By making a high wage at a young age, you are pushing real and honest San Franciscans out of the housing market. Sure, you make less money than some electricians or restaurant managers, but those guys have families to support, and they pay attention to their savings and retirement. So, when you recklessly spend $3,400/month on your apartment, it is crowding out the people who are far more thoughtful about their finances. People with real responsibilities. People with families.

Did you know that those guys had two kids when they were your age? That is how things are supposed to work. Who do you think you are being unmarried for most of your 20s? No kids until you and your future wife have been married for five years? Is that a joke? What the hell is wrong with you?

It seems almost too stupid to be real, and there's already plenty of cringing disgust going around for Goldberg and his enablers. So I instead set about trying to imagine: what would a successful satire of San Francisco's natives look like? Times are still quite hard, though, and I didn't get very far. But I'm pretty sure that such a thing wouldn't involve quite so much stuff about people's children and families.

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  1. I see no reason why somebody who is currently Founder and CEO of 'Hey, there should be, like, digg.com but for chicks!' should exercise the slightest restraint in vicious mockery of those on the losing end of 'disruption'...

    (On a more serious note, does anybody have any insight into why he casts The Local as being a figure motivated by a raging sense of entitlement, just founded on different factors than the one embraced by the newcomers, rather than a desire for stability, perception of impoverishment in absolute and/or real terms, nonmarket-oriented cultural factors, and the like? Did artless satire just require a suitably blunt foil, or does the author actually not recognize such motives? It seems almost too myopic to imagine; but I can't entirely shake the suspicion that it might actually be the latter...)

  2. The rich are notoriously devoid of humor.

  3. I'm not sure I grok this issue. Is it just gentrification? Are they saying techies who work in and around San Francisco shouldn't be allowed to live there?

  4. Let me see if I can help out. I live in San Francisco, and have been to several community meetings on this issue.

    Usually when people talk about gentrification, we're talking about a single neighborhood, or a few neighborhoods. What we're seeing here is happening across the entire Bay Area, with rents rising at an astonishing rate, along with evictions (up 38% since 2010), primarily Ellis Act evictions (up 170% since 2010), at least in San Francisco. Even with rent-controlled apartments, Ellis Act evictions are allowed by the state, and allow apartments to be taken off the market and converted to condos, or other models where the unit is essentially "sold" and taken off the rental market. We've had some cases of people, especially the elderly, committing suicide because they're about to be evicted from their apartments that they've had for decades. Home prices also rose 22% during the same period, but I don't know of anyone rich enough to actually buy a home here- the name of the game in SF is renting, and the latest vacancy rate in San Francisco is somewhere around 2%.

    There are several other complaints, for example, many employees commute to Silicon Valley, and their employers use fleets of huge private buses to get them there. These buses use city bus stops, in some cases making it impossible for other citizens to use the city bus stops as intended. This has resulted in some protests and altercations that have made the national news lately. To add insult to injury, we have many people in our city government, especially our mayor, who have made major concessions to some tech companies, like Twitter (to keep them in the city after they threatened to leave). These concessions have cost the city millions in tax revenue.

    As Harvey Milk explained back in the 1970s (most people don't know that he actually had to move out of his famous camera store when his landlord raised his rent over 300% due to this same kind of speculation), this kind of boom raises rents, which lowers disposable income for everyone, which reduces the income for local businesses, and the whole thing just ripples across the area, destroying everything.

    Small aside:

    I'm a software engineer, and I've lived in the city for about seven years, so I moved here before the current boom. But I'm older, and at 50 I find it's almost impossible to find a job with any of these companies. They have a "monoculture", where you have to be young, and it helps if you're white and male. I know this might make me sound bitter, but I've found that many tech recruiters agree with me, that many of these companies don't care about profit, so they don't care about producing results, what they really want is someone to party with including drinking during work hours, going out every night after, etc., and then flipping the company as fast as possible- they don't want someone old enough to be their dad around. I survive by freelancing, where people only care about results, and my clients don't live in the Bay Area.

    This monoculture is dramatically altering the city. What we have is a huge influx of young people that in many cases are getting starting salaries of over 100K immediately out of college. Mostly they're white, and in many cases they have absolutely no interest in politics at all, and especially politics in SF. It's like having a gold rush, where almost all of the miners are rich, young, and white- it changes the flavor of the city, and pushes everyone that was there before, except those that are also rich, out of the city. You might have heard about some arrogance in the tech sector, and I believe that part of the problem is because of this monoculture. So many problems could be avoided if they employed some older, more experienced workers or workers that weren't all young, rich, white, and usually male, so that they could get other perspectives. Instead, they insists on relearning everything the hard way, using bleeding-edge technologies so they can put them on their resumes before they move on in a few months, and unfortunately, usually all of this is playing around with your data.

    I've edited this to add that I do love being around young people, indeed, I worked at major research universities for most of my career. The problem comes from having a single demographic flooding in and the associated land speculation, wiping away everything that was here before.

  5. I'm guessing it'd be similar to what I've seen here on the poor end of Illinois: it's 40-year-old tanks, which means they've leaked. Once someone wants to buy it and develop it, it'll end up being a Superfund site. I saw one piece of property in recent years that was purchased with the notion of putting a business there, and millions of dollars later...it's an empty lot.

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