I recently came to the realization that I am — in a very tangible way — a slogging soldier on a campaign to destroy the modern-day slave-trade that is the industrial, global economy. Yay, for me!
With such a daunting mission and huge enemy, like any campaigning soldier, I’ve had to contemplate the things I carry. I’ve had to ration my limited emotional, intellectual, physical, and financial resources such that I land as big of blows as I can in crucial battles rather squander my energies on meaningless fights.
Most of my meaningless fights are fought on Twitter.
While a fun toilet activity, I know Twitter is inherently flawed; its algorithms favor posts and pundits pushing certain agendas and, most critically, certain buttons. Anger-stoking and black-and-whiting conversations — not constructive discourse — is Twitter’s raison d’etre. Bereft of serotonin-abusing polemics, Twitter would just be a place where people hung out and discussed the world, perhaps in a civil manner.
But that’s not Twitter. Twitter is a commercial juggernaut run by a white, entitled, narcissist who’s far less evolved than he thinks he is. Jack has built his fortune destroying public discourse and fluffing folks like Elon Musk and other profiteers of systemic violence and environmental degradation. The revolution is unlikely to be Tweeted.
Chock full nuance and promoting a largely non-commercial agenda, my Twitter virality has been quarantined to an island of misfit, on-the-ground housing activists in NYC and SF.
Despite my meager Twitter following, I am extremely well known in my industry.
I inherited a pretty decent reputation from my family that I grew over the course of my lifetime in and around the startup world; my various world and interior travels; my nineteen years in NYC and the lifestyle hijinks therein; and the past decade as the world’s preeminent expert in housing affordability, applied-innovation (MMC, PropTech, etc.), and climate preparedness and adaptation.
My ability to assemble the team I did for the Change Order Group was not an anomaly, nor was being published in not one but two widely distributed publications in influential metros last month, nor was me being featured in the Times’ a few times, Dwell, etc…none were anomalies. These are things that show how boss I am. They were hard to do and filled with triumph, heartbreak, hustle, and discomfort. I risked, spoke-up, fucked-around, earned, lost, worked, committed, reproduced, bought, built, sold, rented, got chased, cuffed, freed, played, and educated. I paid my dues and emerged stronger, older, wiser.
It’s pathetic I have to boast this about myself, but boast I must.
Without stuff to sell, condemning many, and mostly telling people they need to consume and build far less and prepare for the worst, my virality — if not virility — have been easy to quarantine online and in public discourse. I still struggle to get adequate attention and most of my press appearances still feel like snuck in when the head editor was at lunch.
Fight Hard and Brave, Oh Virginal, Entitled, Institutional Twitter Warrior
Twitter’s algorithmic and serotonin-hit driven discursive battles promotes a certain type of soldier brandishing weaponry specifically designed to perpetuate internecine Twitter trench warfare volleys. These volleys rarely land any effective blows — i.e. lead to substantive change. For YIMBY Twitter soldiers, the object is to tire everyone involved and distract from the foregone, industrial-military, ahem, industrial-real-estate complex-approved solutions being discussed.
To be clear, Twitter housing experts are often not experts at all, but patsies for large corporate real estate, financial, academic, and political concerns. Most so-called experts are far too young to be trusted with real decisions. They’re social media attention is the direct result of their abilities to spread propaganda promoting simplistic, fixed, often patently-false ideas — e.g. like increasing housing density is always a win for the environment — with expensive institutional solutions. These experts promote the idea that individual action is always insufficient for affecting real change, thus further reinforcing dependencies on their expertise and the institutions that define every part of their lives and histories.
It should also be said, these are expert in stoking ire, which promotes hits, which increases ad sales for Twitter’s corporate concern. The Twitter warrior must be cool with this with this sort of manipulation and ulterior motive.
Anyway, I wrote this post a couple weeks ago about the problems pervading YIMBY-NIMBY online discourse. In it, I revealed I got some YIMBY Action in their San Francisco office with Executive Director Laura Foote, back in 2016.
Indeed, I mentioned our theretofore private interlude to get hits — which, again, is the currency Twitter deals in — but the event was germane to the post’s topic of how Twitter-polemics prevent productive discourse to emerge in almost any area, and certainly housing.
In her unguarded moments, Laura, a well-known Twitter housing thought leader, showed a familiar blood-thirst drama (I’m a 45 year-old divorced dude who’s seen a thing or two) and an immaturity that belied her bleeding heart advocacy for affordable housing.
To be clear, I did not mention the interlude to shame her. I think it’s great for a young woman to hook-up with a cool, older dude on her office sofa. It’s super punk rock and I’m all for free love now that the marriage didn’t pan out.
It’s not fine when Laura and her ilk — Matt Yglesias, Nolan Gray, Jacob Anbinder, and this morning’s tiny warrior, Sam Deutsch — use socially, sexually, economically, environmentally, and psychologically maladaptive behavior to build consensus around national housing policy and individual development matters.
Theirs is a world that celebrates, accommodates, and at the same time manipulates Twitter’s hoards of mostly-young-male, mostly anonymous tech workers in living in various global locales. Brimming with money, free-time, and unfulfilled pyscho-sexual longings, these minions freely tire out and aggravate real people who are often defending their homes, communities, and ability to exist in a cruel 1-percent-dictated market that’s content to squeeze working people for all they can.
These champions of the common people are never common people themselves. Most of their lives, like Sam “Spanky” Deutch, one of Twitter’s top housing guys, are completely constrained and financed by large institutions.
Consider that Sam graduated undergrad in 2017. With my mere decade or so in housing, it’s inconceivable to me that a green 26-year-old could begin to understand the complexities of housing supply and demand, which depend on a deep understanding of how real estate relates to climate, demography, economic development, policy, finance, engineering, cultural, architecture, design, and culture. How could he know this stuff when, like most of his peers, he has zero non-institutional — academic, corporate, and political — experience. His life — and therefore worldview — is manufactured product built on a risk-free conveyor belt moving from one institution to another. This existential dependence on rule making, changing, and obedience are not conducive to productive discourse or, it would seem, productive libidos.
It’s hard for people like Sam to understand power isn’t determined by Twitter. It’s hard for someone who’s spent so much time building up his little brain, that people could be attracted to something intangible like “heart” or something quite tangible, like fitness and height — things that aren’t supposed to matter.
Laura could barely stop herself from jumping me, but only after the battalion of schlubby, sexless, tech-workers, and weirdo hobby activists had left a party — ones that look like the guy I guess she married, or was married to, but in an open relationship with, when we hooked up. Whatever.
These people usually spend too much time online and are out of shape. They love gaming, cupcakes, and, like me, hating on suburbs.
They pine for an urban landscape that never will or did exist. They’ve never been to an underground party. They seldom have children or have no idea what real conditions working families face.
When I shared my post a couple weeks ago, revealing that I had hooked up — quite effortlessly — with Laura, one of YIMBY’s sassiest, sauciest dishes, I believe it really struck a nerve with a lot of the boys in the “community.”
In general, people are motivated to do things — whether making money, helping people, sex, making art, etc. — for the sense of power it brings them. It feels good to have agency in a universe that can seem unfair. Further, many men see women, particularly in a romantic context, as agents for personal power. So relationships and sex is often used to affirm the partner’s worth, rather than perform practical stuff like providing a stable social and economic units for having children.
In a male-dominated world like YIMBYism, the few women that are around like Laura and Sonja Trauss take on a goddess-like statuses and untouchability. No one fucks with a young, angry YIMBY bitch, or there’ll be sorry, because a thousand anonymous, sexually-frustrated YIMBY trolls will defend her honor and her right to speak up as a woman.
When I let it drop that I hooked up with Laura, I think it screwed up a lot of guys’ ideas about plans about how stuff works. These guys tend to not be very successful in the romance department, and may have viewed their advocacy as a way of changing that, maybe even with Laura or the six other YIMBY female celebs.
I think Sam was especially disappointed. In his institutional myopia, he couldn’t understand why a woman, especially one like Laura, would find a guy like me attractive. Sam might be unaware that many woman are more attracted to a man’s ability to follow his intuition than his ability to follow institutions. Boys like Sam, who’ve lived lives free from pain, who seldom wander beyond their safe spaces, can’t see what a woman would find attractive about a disobedient asshole like me.
What he and so many of his species miss from their classroom, think tank, or from behind their screens, what he won’t hear from his classmates or colleagues or donors, what romantic partners won’t tell him, what he will never see because some places reflexively distrust psychotic young crackers in suits — what he misses is that assholes like me are the people who do everything. We make the deals, write the letters, hop on the phone, show up in person to community board meetings, scrub floors and toilets, tend shitty, old buildings, make and serve food, host parties, get evicted, make art, sleep around, experiment, dance, sing, occasionally do illegal stuff when a law is dumb, drop out of school, and have kids when we’re not ready in too small homes we can’t afford despite working two jobs…and that’s what makes us hot. You do and have done none of these things.
Yes, age matters. Yes, employment history matters. Yes, looks matter. Yes, size matters. This is the real world, and until Sam and his trolls realize the difference between it and the Twitterverse, they and their opinions should be reflexively dismissed. I felt like it needed to be said.