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Chesky and Me

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Barack Obama would likely disagree with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s interpretation of “try talking in real life to strangers or their designated spokespeople.” (Courtesy photo)


During his farewell address, President Barack Obama said, “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking to them in real life.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted the quote, which I interpreted as an endorsement of the sentiment. What follows is our Twitter exchange:

Me: “I’m happy to come talk to you in real life about the millions you’ve made eliminating desperately needed rental housing.”

Chesky: “Hence why it’s so valuable to talk in real life. I think your perspective would change if we spoke.”

Me: “I can walk to your office from my house. I will if you will.”

Chesky: “Better idea – how ‘bout talking to some of our hosts? You will learn more.”

Me: “Hosts aren’t spending millions of dollars on lobbying and political campaigns. I want to talk to the dude who makes that choice.”

(I wait for a response for two days …)

Me: “Huh. I guess you quoted Obama but didn’t really want anyone to take you up on the whole ‘talking to strangers in real life’ thing.”

Point of order, I have talked to Airbnb hosts, though perhaps not those Chesky would prefer. In my experience, hosts are mostly decent people trying to survive the new Gilded Age. I haven’t met the brazen scofflaws who, according to the geniuses at the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, defy San Francisco law with impunity to operate about 4,000 illegal full-time vacation rentals, but I’d love to meet them. Maybe The City would feign concern about lawbreaking if they had tents.

Obama would likely disagree with Chesky’s interpretation of “try talking in real life to strangers or their designated spokespeople.” Obama discussed three threats to democracy: polarization, racism and inequality. Chesky would ameliorate the first while exacerbating the other two. Good luck with that.

Chesky’s response embodies the limits of elite Democratic imagination. The embrace of vacuous gestures of inclusion, provided it does not require anything uncomfortable. Forbes reports Chesky’s net worth at $3.8 billion. He’s wealthy enough to avoid talking to anyone who might ask questions he doesn’t want to answer. It’s the politics of dialogue without justice …

In other news, Trump is making our government more efficient. Corporations used to have to buy politicians, and Trump has cut out the middleman. He’s turning government into self-checkout at Safeway, where they can give themselves tax breaks like the rest of us give ourselves toothpaste.

The other day, I was watching HBOGo. My daughter asked, “What is ‘Hobo Go?’” I said it was the mayor’s new homeless initiative.

I stood in line in the rain for hours to vote for Assembly Democrats. Some of the progressives, who won eight of 13 spots anyway, were upset that David Chiu brought busloads of people from Chinatown to vote who didn’t know what they were voting for. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was voting for, so let’s not clutch our pearls too tightly over the Chiuglebuses. People handed me slate cards, and I voted for the slate with fewer people who had ever yelled at me on it. Sometimes, the difference between progressives and moderates is Bauer charters vs. Muni.

The Chronicle reported the Ethics Commission is woefully understaffed and has a long backlog of cases. This is the agency that is supposed to drain this swamp of corruption. San Francisco must have reached the pinnacle of virtue, because Ethics felt the most urgent violation to address was to fine Broke-Ass Stuart $2,500 for a silly anti-Airbnb video he made, which I was in.

Supervisor Mark Farrell was fined $191,000 by Ethics and settled for $25,000. Applying the “Farrell Deal” to Stuart means he should actually pay 13 percent of the fine — or $327. If it’s good enough for the tent-shredding supervisor from the Marina, it should be good enough for the impoverished raconteur from the Mission.

Hey @bchesky I'm happy to come talk to you in real life about the millions you've made eliminating desperately needed rental housing. https://t.co/wbsP8jSVDC

— Nato Green (@natogreen) January 13, 2017

Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and writer. See him live on second Thursdays at Verdi Wild Things Are at the Verdi Club and talking over the movies monthly at the Alamo Drafthouse.

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