We Just Successfully Witch-Hunted Peter Shih, a Guy None of Us Actually Knew

If you’re Peter Shih, right now you’re probably terrified. You’ve seen your face plastered like wanted signs all over San Francisco, calling for you to get the hell out of here (or else?). People are demanding that we boycott your company (even though the value of your company has very little to do with whether or not you’re a dick). There’s a good chance you’ve had some talks with your advisors at Y Combinator, including investors who might be having second thoughts about pulling out their checkbooks. Many people are publicly stating that they want to punch you in the face. You probably feel like the most hated man on the internet. And you’re probably wondering how it all happened so fast.

For the immediate future, we just saw Peter Shih’s life ruined by a blog post that took five minutes to read. But reading a blog post that may have put a damper on your afternoon is a sincerely sad excuse to bring out the pitchforks and torches. And really? Did his words sting that much? Do you truly believe that Peter is violent? Misogynistic? Then I definitely don’t recommend you read Youtube comments, ever.

People will say that Shih’s post was just indicative of the frustrating attitudes of tech-bros that are gentrifying “the city we know and love”. But this city has an ever-changing landscape. The city that’s changing now was changing just as much 15 years ago:

Don’t get me wrong. Shih’s post was insipid, derivative, and pretty exactly what you’d hear at any open mic in San Francisco (“What’s the deal with San Francisco microclimates? For a climate so small, those changes sure seem pretty big. AMIRIGHT?!”)

But so what? Shih wrote an ill-conceived missive about an imperfect city, saying things that many San Franciscans feel – he just said it in a really, really dumb way.

Do any of us think that Muni can’t be horrendous? Do any of us not wish bars could stay open later? I LOVE San Francisco. But goddammit, we are an uppity city. This city is great, but much like any metropolitan city, we have problems. And it’s okay to say that.

But we live in the age of the internet, where everything lives on, forever. Maybe Shih shouldn’t have made the post. Maybe he shouldn’t have said all the things he did. But even when he tried to edit the post – to un-say the things he said (later deleting it entirely and apologizing) – the internet couldn’t wait to jump on him for that.

I’m a comedian, and as comedians we’re pretty used to the online pitchfork-grabbing stories when they involve other comedians. But Shih was just some dude none of us had ever heard of but we all decided we knew exactly who he was in an instant. The fact of the matter is the internet is a giant hate-pit, just salivating at the chance to find who will be devoured next. God forbid we had an intelligent conversation about the whole thing.

And what does that say about a city? How great does that make a city and its people when an online essay can touch a nerve so sensitive that their only response is to revel in the burning of an individual? If you ask me, a city reverting to Lord of the Flies behavior isn’t a moment of profound moment of pride, it’s profoundly sad.

I don’t know Peter Shih. I’ve lived in San Francisco 6 years. In that time I’ve worked for startups, I’ve started startups. I’ve been a disabled attendant, and I’ve run a theater company. Currently I have this little blog and I’m on Food Stamps. I love this city. But I’m willing to bet that Peter Shih is actually a pretty decent guy. I’m willing to bet that I could grab a beer with the guy and not have to fight incessant urges to punch him in the face. But then again, I don’t know Peter Shih.

But I refuse to judge the entirety of a human being from one blog post because the internet tells me to do so.

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New Podcast! Episode 55: The Gathering of the Juggalos & 10 Things I Hate About San Francisco
TONIGHT FREE COMEDY @ Milk (Haight/Stanyan) w/ headliner Sean Keane

About Eric Barry

Eric Barry is a Chicago comedian, writer, and creator of Full Disclosure, voted "Best Sex-Positive" podcast by the Chicago Reader. He holds a B.A. in Theater & Performance Studies from UC Berkeley, and his work has been featured on Huffington Post, Cosmo, SF Chronicle, and more. He is currently working on developing a pilot based off his time in the sex work industry.

Comments

  1. whatevsssss says:

    it’s all true. SF is a shit hole and you fucking dopes cant get a grip.

    seriously if i never go back to that homeless infested dump i’d be just find. hope you step on a human shit log if you disagree. fuck that place

    • That wasn’t really the spirit of what I was saying, but you know, obviously we’re playing in the world of internet commenters (which IS what the article was largely about).

Trackbacks

  1. […] Many media outlets don’t disclose the names of victims in sexual assault cases to protect their identity, which I fully support. But I do think it’s a double-standard that these media outlets then disclose the names of suspects, especially if we’re operating in an innocent until proven guilty society (we’re not). Once anyone is accused of anything, the burden of suspicion now falls upon them, even if they’re later proven innocent. No one wants to go on an OKCupid date with “the guy who was charged with, but later acquitted of double-homicide”, and as we’ve seen this last week the internet loves to jump to conclusions about people. […]

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