The race to tag Paul Pelosi’s striker
Last Friday morning, as news of the attack on Paul Pelosi continued to trickle in, I pulled up outside a dilapidated Victorian on Woolsey Street in south-west Berkeley. Two small school buses were parked out front, in various states of conversion to God knows what; a weather-beaten banner hung above the garage touted “natural addiction treatment” with a “over 90% success rate.”
Homes like this aren’t exactly uncommon in Berkeley. They evoke a decades-long history of decay, as the city’s youthful idealism coalesced in decrepit front yards filled with overgrown native plants, broken-down motorhomes and signs making vague statements of social justice. or affirmation. One of the Woolsey Street buses had its message written above the windscreen: “You Are Beautiful”.
David DePape, the 42-year-old man accused of breaking into Nancy Pelosiand attacking her husband with a hammer, appears to have lived at this address with a nudist activist named Gypsy Taub. Their connection was one of the first details uncovered during the first online manhunt, a ritual that seems to follow any notable act of violence these days: In 2013, Taub married a man named Jaymz Smith, and SFGate had published a story about the upcoming wedding. DePape, identified in the piece as a hemp jewelry maker, was the best man. The story includes a photo of Taub, Smith, DePape, and Taub’s three children watching “South Park” together.
The whole Berkeley and nudist story was enough for some to conclude that DePape was “on the left” — whatever that means. Lidia Curanaj, talk show host, tweeted, “Paul Pelosi’s attacker would appear to be David Depape – a Castro supporting the visiting nudist from Berkeley CA (he’s on the far LEFT literally and figuratively).” Sebastian Gorka tweeted a photo of the Woolsey Street house with the caption: “This is the hippie commune where pro-hemp nudist abuser Pelosi lived. It’s adorned with LGBTQ flags, BLM signs and other left-wing propaganda.” Even Elon Musk joined in, sharing and then deleting a sensationalist conspiracy theory about the details of the attack.
This was met with the discovery of what appears to be DePape’s blogging activity. He posted a daily feed of garden variety conspiracy bigotry it mostly seemed to stick to the hatred of the moment, whether it was communists, Jews (via a defense by Kanye West), immigrants or trans people. ‘Pelosi home assault suspect had posted about QAnon,’ Washington said Job big title Lily. The blogs have since been deleted.
Thus began the scramble to determine the policy of the aggressor. “Here’s what we know about Paul Pelosi’s attacker,” Cenk Uygur, host of progressive news show “The Young Turks,” wrote in a tweet to more than half a million followers. “1. He was DEFINITELY right-wing. 2. He loved the fake left, especially Tulsi Gabbard. 3. He was horribly anti-Semitic. berate media personalities who “know they have dangerous and unstable people in their audience” and “seem to like to incite them”.
This kind of quick triangulation through snippets of information online — I call it Reddit profiling — has become the internet’s emergency response to understanding men who do terrible things. I would trace the origins of Reddit profiling back to Boston Marathon attack, when an unruly mix of reporters and posters believed they could carry out a manhunt using allegations on a police scanner and screenshots with a bunch of lines drawn on them. After Charlottesville, reporters started digging Discord Serversalt-right posting sites and forums, including storm front, in hopes of exposing and naming the fascists among us. The January 6 riot seemed to prove that all the alarms were justified – that memes could lead to an insurrection and perhaps even a new political order. Since then, every instance of violence in the news has been singled out for its links to this amorphous but rising right-wing movement.
All of this is somehow necessary, but I was struck by a persistent lack of depth in these labels. After the initial dash to label a violent actor as “right-wing” or “left-wing,” granular categorizations offer meaningless taxonomy; the particularities of ideology rarely have the enduring explanatory power we seek. The hope, of course, is to draw clear lines of cause and effect: the ideas propagated by Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson and far-right trolls infect the mind of a mentally ill person in a way that incites to shoot up a grocery store or, in DePape’s case, break into the House Speaker’s home. But I am deeply suspicious that the world works so consistently. Such a belief in the power of messages mainly benefits message creators like Uygur, me or anyone else in the media. Reddit scavengers like to suggest that bits of online trash are the key to understanding violence, when in reality that’s the only information they can find.
After spending about ten minutes past the house on Woolsey Street, I got out of my car and drove around the block. When my family first moved to Berkeley in the months before the pandemic, we stayed at an Airbnb on the same street less than half a mile east, so I was pretty familiar with the piece. An elderly woman was coming down her steps when I passed, and we struck up a quick conversation. When I told her I was a journalist, she quickly backed off and said she had no idea what happened at Gypsy Taub’s, but she often saw children there. Later that day, as more reporters showed up, someone inside the house put up a sign that read “News Reporters: Goand it became clear that we had all gone to the wrong place. Taub was sentenced in 2021 of harassment and attempted abduction of a fourteen-year-old boy and is currently in prison in Southern California. DePape, it turned out, had been staying at a house in richmonda few kilometers to the north.