After slogging through their 2,000-word anti-Google ransom note, I did not expect to engage in a remotely reasonable discussion with the Counterforce. Not when the anti-capitalist protestors distributed fliers to Kevin Rose’s neighbors in San Francisco demanding that Google pay them $3 billion—and especially not when the group “stalked” Google X engineer Anthony Levandowski.
But the Counterforce caught me by surprise during the Q&A, conducted via email, below.
Yesterday after writing about the unhinged protest against Digg founder Rose, who now works as a general partner at Google Ventures, I got an email from someone using the handle Nicolas Flamel. That’s the same pseudonym as the author of WordPress site kevinroseisaterribleperson. To show that they represented the Counterforce, they added a smiley-face to the WordPress blog for a brief, agreed upon period of time. To verify that the WordPress site is affiliated with the group, they sent me a still image “from the unreleased video of our interaction with Kevin Rose.”
That’s not airtight proof that the person or persons I communicated with represent the Counterforce, which claims to have members who work for Google, or even that their responses were true. However, the fact they suggested meeting in person was a mark in the “Possibly maybe legit” column.
This isn’t the first time the Counterforce, which also took credit for anti-Amazon protests in Seattle, has spoken to the press. NextShark just published a Q&A yesterday. According to the emails in my inbox the NextShark interview “was one perspective from a Counterforce member and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the entire group.” The answers below, my responded insisted, were drafted by “about half the present group,” adding, “A sewage leak, the beach, work and other preoccupations prevented more collaboration.”
Like those who claim to speak for Anonymous, perspectives can be contradictory, hard to verify, and just as petty as the rest of us.
Logical might be too strong a word for anyone who thinks they can get Google to part with $3 billion, much less overthrow capitalism. The many-tentacled monopolyrecently managed to wriggle out of billions in potential anti-trust fines in Europe as well as a class action lawsuit for data mining students’ emails. But after reading reports of the protest, the bar was very low. They definitely had more patience for my pedantic line of questioning than some of the technocrats they oppose, so I’m biased.
Besides, if Silicon Valley can proselytize about cloud country and dividing California into six pieces, why can’t their political enemies engage in similar flights of fancy about the world as it currently exists?
Given rising tensions, it was also a relief to hear that despite the spectacle ofthreatening to snip-snip Rose’s “ballz,” the Counterforce purports to be non-violent when it comes to human or animal life. Then again, there’s a strong possibility that I’ll come away with a different conclusion after they release the video of their interaction with Rose. Stay safe, everyone!
How many people are part of the Counterforce?
It is hard to accurately determine this. Membership in the Counterforce is not quantifiable. The group is composed of everyone who takes a conscious stand against the hyper-gentrification of their neighborhoods, whether that be refusing service, yelling at gentrifiers on the street, painting slogans, or holding banners outside residences. The Counterforce has no internal knowledge of its own membership.
You said that the group includes some people that work for Google. What is their role at the company? Why continue to work for Google considering your objections? Can you offer any proof that you have members who work at Google?
A few of our members work for Google, although we cannot describe their positions for security reasons. The wages they receive from their employer go into many anti-capitalist projects. However, our comrades who work at Google cannot stand the culture within its walls and that is why they have lent us their services. We cannot expose their identities or concretely prove to you that they are there, but think about the leaked documents, fortuitous circumstances, and uncanny occurrences that have appeared during this entire tech-backlash
Alternatively, they brought this all upon themselves through their infatuation with social-media and their reliance on exploited workers to get through their daily lives.
Hopefully this makes some sense.
Some of us are most definitely service workers who serve the new ruling tech-class. Again, we cannot concretely prove this to you, but service workers have been marginalized by society, forgotten by the old trade-unions, and exploited by the rich, and thus far their plight in the current context has gone largely unreported.
As far as detracting from genuine community activism, we would reply that we are genuine community organizers and should be taken seriously. No other community organizers have condemned our actions, so we believe that there is no conflict.
Do you honestly believe that Google will give you $3 billion? If not, why advocate for that over something more realistic that might improve the lives of people struggling to get by or find/keep housing?
Yes. The loss of 3 billion would not destroy Google. If that money were given to us, we would absolutely be able to accomplish the limited objectives of creating areas free from capitalism in the Bay Area and Northern California. We do not expect everything to go perfectly, but at the very least we could create sizable communities within each Bay Area city that are free from capitalist relationships and that would eventually blossom into a movement that could not be stopped.
Why did you chose Kevin Rose and Anthony Levandowski as targets? Neither is a Google executive.
Both were targeted for the objective functions they perform within Google, the objections to which we have described in our communiques. Unlike Google executives, these two men are perhaps slightly more inclined to speak to us. The executives never would, isolated as they are from reality and normal human behavior.
How long have most members of the Counterforce lived in the Bay Area?
Many have lived here our whole lives, some for a over decade, others for only a few years, a few have just arrived, some are just returning. In this respect, we are like any other group of people.
Unilaterally driving out everyone employed by a tech company would have a negative impact on the local economy. Why advocate for that?
We are not especially concerned about the positive health of the capitalist economy, given that it is our enemy.
Why don’t you see a distinction between tech workers? These corporations are stratified. They do not behave uniformly. They don’t all have access to the same wealth and opportunity. They do not all abuse that privilege.
Google has already stratified itself with its different castes of employees: white badges, green badges, red badges, and yellow badges. Thus far, our efforts have been aimed at the white and green badges. White badge employees are the ones gentrifying our neighborhoods and riding the buses to and from Silicon Valley. If these employees stop fulfilling their objective roles in gentrification (paying exorbitant rents, complaining about neighbors, driving up demand for luxury apartments, etc.), they will find that they are no longer subject to such intense criticism and scorn from all sectors.
What do you hope to achieve as a group?
If it is not clear, we want the end of capitalism and the creation of a free world.
Why not protest government officials or policy makers, as opposed to tech corporations?
Been there, done that. When the tech corporations are challenged, they point the finger at city hall and the federal government. When city hall is challenged, they point the finger at the tech corporations and the state government. It all goes round and round, they are all equally complicit, and they should all be equally challenged.
You told NextShark: “Anarchists are the only group with the skill set necessary to solve” the problem of capitalism. Can you point to a prior example where this skill set has provided a viable alternative to capitalism?
Is the Counterforce non-violent?
Any group claiming to be the Counterforce is against the harming or taking of human or animal life.