As news of the attack on Paul Pelosi was still leaking out, I pulled up to a Victorian on Woolsey Street, Berkeley, last Friday morning. Two school buses, each in different states of conversion, were parked in front. A weather-beaten banner hung over the garage boasted that it was a “Natural addiction treatment”With an “over 90% success rate.”
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Houses like this one aren’t exactly rare in Berkeley. They evoke a decades-long history of degradation, as the city’s youthful idealism has pooled itself into decrepit front yards filled with overgrown native plants, broken-down R.V.s, and signs making vague declarations of social justice or affirmation. One of the buses on Woolsey Street was marked with its message above the windshield. “You Are Beautiful.”
David DePape is the forty-two-year old man accused of breaking into Nancy Pelosi’s house and attacking her husband with a hammer, appears to have once lived at this address with a nudist activist who went by the name of Gypsy Taub. Their connection was one the first details to be discovered in the initial internet manhunt. It was a ritual that seems like it follows any notable act of violence nowadays: Taub was getting married in 2013 to Jaymz, and SFGate had. publishedHere’s a story about the upcoming marriage. DePape was identified in the article as a maker of hemp-jewelry and was the best man. The story includes a photo of Taub, Smith, DePape, and Taub’s three children watching “South Park” together.
Some were able to conclude that DePape was guilty because of the whole Berkeley/nudist thing. “on the left”—whatever that means. Lidia Curanaj is a talk-show host. tweeted, “Reportedly Paul Pelosi attacker is David Depape—a Castro supporting nudist transient from Berkeley CA (he’s on the far LEFT literally and figuratively).” Sebastian Gorka tweetedHere’s a photo of Woolsey Street with the caption. “Here is the hippie commune Pelosi’s pro-hemp nudist attacker lived in. It is festooned with LGBTQ flags, BLM signs and other Leftist propaganda.”Elon Musk also joined the fray, sharing and then deleting a sensationalist conspiracy theory concerning the details of this attack.
This was met with the unearthing of what appears to be DePape’s blog activity. He posted a daily stream of garden-variety conspiratorial bigotryThey seemed to be sticking to the hatred of the moment for communists, Jews (via a defense Kanye West), trans people, and immigrants. “Suspect in assault at Pelosi home had posted about QAnon,”Washington Post headline read. Since then, the blogs have been removed.
So began the scramble to determine the assailant’s politics. “Here’s what we know about Paul Pelosi’s attacker,”Cenk Urgur, host of the progressive news channel “The Young Turks,”Tweeted to more than half of a million people. “1. He was DEFINITELY right-wing. 2. He liked the fake left, especially Tulsi Gabbard. 3. He was horribly anti-Semitic. This is the perfect storm of toxic ideologies combined with a mentally unstable person.”He continued to chastise media personnel who did not follow his instructions. “know that they have dangerous, unstable people in their audience” “seem to relish in instigating them.”
This kind of rapid triangulation through bits of online information—I call it Reddit profiling—has become the Internet’s emergency response for understanding men who do terrible things. I’d trace the origins of Reddit profiling back to the Boston Marathon bombingWhen a mixed group of posters and reporters believed they could conduct a manhunt using claims about an officer scanner and screenshots with a bunch a lines drawn on them, After Charlottesville, reporters began digging into the matter. Discord serversAlt-right posting boards and websites, including StormfrontWe are attempting to expose and name the fascists in our midst. The January 6th riot seemed to prove that all the alarm had been justified—that memes could lead to an insurrection and perhaps even a new political order. Every newsworthy instance of violence since then has been scrutinized for its links to this amorphous, but ascendant right-wing movement.
All of this is in some way necessary, but I’ve been struck by a persistent lack of depth to these labels. After the initial rush to tag violent actors as “right-wing”Or “left-wing,” the granular categorizations offer taxonomy without meaning; the particulars of ideology rarely have the lasting explanatory power we’re looking for. The goal is to draw clear lines between cause and effect. For example, Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson and far-right trolling ideas infect the mind and cause them to open a grocery shop or, in DePape’s case, enter the home of Speaker of the House. I am skeptical that the world works in this way. This belief in the power and effectiveness of messages mostly benefits Uygur, me, and anyone else in media. The Reddit scavengers like to suggest that bits of online detritus are the key to understanding the violence, when in reality they’re the only pieces of information they can find.
After ten minutes spent sitting in front the Woolsey Street home, I got out and walked around the block. In the months before the pandemic, my family had stayed in an Airbnb just a half mile away from Berkeley’s main street. I was familiar with the area because that was where we first moved to Berkeley. A senior woman was walking down her front porch when I passed by and we struck up an informal conversation. When I told her that I was a reporter, she quickly retreated and said that she had no idea what had been going on at Gypsy Taub’s house, but that she often saw children there. Later that day, more reporters arrived and someone put up a sign saying “I am a reporter.” “News Reporrters: Go Away,”It became obvious that we had all gone to wrong place. Taub was convictedIn 2021, a fourteen-year old boy was abducted and stalked by a stalker. in prisonSouthern California. DePape was, it turned out to have been staying at a house located in Southern California. RichmondLocated just a few kilometers north of the town.
I was reminded about a passage from “The White Album,”By Joan DidionBerkeley student. She wrote this reflection on her observations since the end the sixties.
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