If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’d think that Berkeley is the national hub for anarchism. You can see photos of ski-masked anarchists all over the place. Masked bandits are breaking windows, starting bonfires, and robbing and looting banks, stores, restaurants, and the like. (1)
But there is one problem with this narrative. There aren’t any anarchists in Berkeley.
OK, maybe there are a few UC Berkeley professors who call themselves anarchists. But while they talk the talk, they don’t walk the walk. This elite group only gets their hands dirty when they are in their leafy backyards, composting.
But after decades in Berkeley, I’ve never met a single, true blue anarchist. And my unscientific poll of other Berkeley-ites — young, old and in the middle — elicited the same reaction. No one knows any violent revolutionaries. Everyone is scratching his or head to figure out who are all of these people.
You see, over the years, Berkeley has become wealthier, more gentrified, and more bourgeois. Some of those two-bedroom shacks Berkeley-ites purchased in the 60s for $20,000 are now worth a cool million. Despite its reputation, Berkeley is a moneyed community.
Current day locals may be progressives and liberals . .but they are armchair radicals. They voice passionate political opinions. But they do so while enjoying a fine bottle of Cabernet from their wine club. They become most spurred into fierce political action when their neighbor uses a leaf blower.
So if the anarchists in our midst aren’t homegrown, then who are they? And where did they come from? Here are some theories making the rounds.
Many people postulate that the sudden influx of anarchists is coming from San Francisco. Given that there’s this strange disconnect between the East Bay and SF (people on each side only cross the bridge when they absolutely have to and do so quite miserably), it’s easy to just assume that “it’s those people over there.” But this theory makes absolutely no sense.
First off, it’s even more expensive in the City; it costs about $4,000 a month to rent some modest digs. So unless the anarchists are Google executives by day and bandana-ed vandals at night, the anarchists aren’t crossing the bridge.
Popularized by the MSM, some believe that the anarchist epidemic is due to Berkeley old-timers taking it to the streets for one last shot at revolution. Like aging rock stars taken out of moth balls for a final reunion concert, these 60s relics are making a trip down memory lane to plunder 7/11s. But this theory is totally absurd.
First of all, our senior citizens can barely locate their keys, much less their old machetes. Plus: our septuagenarians fall into two categories: 1. The well-heeled, who live prosperous, cushy lives, or 2. The burnout cases who save most of their moral outrage for when the local dispensary runs out of pot brownies.
Which brings us to Theory Three:
A couple of folks offered that maybe the anarchists are drawn from our homeless population. But this is laughable. Our homeless are a sluggish bunch; they sleep in; eventually they park themselves prostrate on some sidewalk for several hours to collect spare change, and then after a hard day’s work, they return “home.” It’s hard to believe that they are pulling off an insurrection.
Some people believe that the anarchists are being bused in from out of state. They are flocking here from compounds in Idaho; centers of radicalism, such as Ann Arbor; and various parts unknown. This theory is given credence by the fact that apparently the lion’s share of anarchists being arrested have out-of-state IDs.
However, there are problems with this theory as well. For one, there aren’t enough anarchists in the whole country to explain all the rioting and looting in Berkeley. And anarchists everywhere are suddenly dropping everything to bus into Berkeley?? And where are all of these visiting anarchists staying anyway — Courtyard by Marriot? Unless there is some sort of Vast Anarchist Conspiracy of massive proportions that nobody knows about, this theory doesn’t pass muster.
Now, there is one final theory: Theory Five. My friend, Patricia, the conspiracy theorist, swears by this one.
In this theory, the anarchists are getting paid. Most of them are out-of-work actors, transported in by shady characters connected to the New World Order. The idea is to create social unrest, paranoia, and racial anomosity all over the country. According to this theory, while some of the players are real (e.g. the Berkeley college students and the street thugs), the leaders and shakers creating most of the damage aren’t real anarchists.
This theory is offered some validity by some of the quotes by the anarchists. One female anarchist was quoted in the news as saying, “We are here to destroy capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, racism, the police, and the military.” If these aren’t the rantings of some B list actress, I don’t know what is.
However, there’s a hole in this theory as well. Is this gig so well paying that the faux anarchists are willing to get tear gassed and arrested? Or are the police actors too? And, anyway, this theory is too creepy crawly to even contemplate.
So given all the possibilities, what do I think? I haven’t a clue. (2) I just wish that things would return to normal, or at least as close to normal as we get around here. I’d like to be able to go to Trader Joe’s without possibly ending up in lockdown.
And, even worse, the anarchists are corrupting the minds of all of those sweet, innocent university students who are joining in the pandemonium. The conversations of our cute young coeds have morphed from, “Why doesn’t Justin text me?” to “We are here to destroy capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, racism, the police, and the military.”
Maybe some of us need to start a counterrevolution. Ours would be peaceful and lawful. And what would be our clarion call? Anarchists Go Home!
1. Blessedly, the rioting has cooled down, possibly because of the rain, and things at the moment have been restored to “normalcy.” Please pray that this continues.
2. What do I think is going on? Again, I don’t know. But the official story makes no sense. I don’t think this “spontaneous” protest/rioting movement has been so spontaneous. Interesting, isn’t it, that the riots just so happened to coincide with one week that the UC Berkeley students have off before finals? And though I’ve been here for decades, there’s never been anything like it — yes, a riot up on Telegraph every few years, but never in downtown, never involving thousands of people, and never a takeover of a freeway, Amtrak, etc. etc. This whole thing feels planned and engineered. But by who and where? That is the million dollar question.