H. Brown: Goodbye to all that, we hope

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Ah, that old school New Left he-man feeling
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS/FOG CITY JOURNAL

In an SF Weekly piece published yesterday, it was announced that progressive political blogger and gadabout H. Brown – an "irascible" man who has attained a specific sort of fame in equal measure for his political connections, his egregious sexism, and his unfortunate alcoholism -- was leaving San Francisco. Where’s he going? The article didn’t see fit to mention. It’s whatever. One can assume Brown’s destination is that netherworld set aside for those whose behavior was enabled by the old school boy’s club blinders of the San Francisco progressive movement, still worn at the dawn of the 21st century.
 
“Last Call For Know-It-Alls: Classic Specimen of Old-San Francisco Bon Vivantery,” the article was called. It was written by a man; if a woman had written it, the title might have been closer to: “I Just Bought an Evil Eye Necklace, Don’t Look at Me You Cursed Troll.”

Do I sound angry? In 2008 at a DCCC, Brown inquired at top volume and in front of an ex-President of the Board of Supervisors if I was the politician’s escort. When said political leader bailed on the situation, Brown interrogated me on camera about my knowledge of local politics. I wrote about it, most names omitted, for the Guardian. In the article’s wake, I received thankful and supportive emails from men and women across the San Francisco political scene. On his part, Brown sent out multiple emails about me to his prodigious correspondence rolls, one in which he shared an communique from his niece calling me an “ignorant cunt,” another in which he addressed an un-cc’ed me about the election night in question: “You tried to make up for your ignorance by wearing revealing clothing. I was mocking you. And rightly so.”
 
Nearly every woman in San Francisco politics has one of these stories. When a male politician was accused of any wrong against a woman, Brown could be depended on to dig through the Internet to find evidence that the victim had been asking for it. Those unwilling to suffer him had to opt out of the hobnobbing happy hours and salons in the homes of city leaders, at which Brown was a constant presence.
 
Ah, old San Francisco bon vivantery. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t have to care about Brown. You do have to care that this man was your Supervisor’s drinking buddy, that he took Speedo-clad swims in the Bay with progressive leaders. You do have to wonder about what that did to the strength of our political movement. And you might want to wonder about the dynamics behind ubiquitous bigots who are tolerated by people who should know better.
 
“If comedy is indeed tragedy plus time, however, Brown will leave 'em laughing for posterity,” wrote Weekly reporter Joe Eskenazi. “Friend after friend recalled anecdotes of offensive, bourbon-fueled behavior invariably culminating with Brown being instructed to "Get the fuck out, H.!" But, always, these were happy memories, if not happy occasions.”
 
None of these friends -- “former supervisors, consultants, academics, political Svengalis, and other city luminaries” – in Eskenazi’s article were women. (The writer, whose work on city issues I do appreciate, told me he did interview women, but apparently none of them said anything printworthy.)
 
Let’s remedy that now with a few female voices. Not coincidentally, most of these bourbon-fueled memories took place in ex-Supervisor Chris Daly’s since-closed Market Street progressive gathering spot, the Buck Tavern. None are happy.
 
“This was the first time I was introduced to H. At a benefit at the Buck Tavern I walked in and there were all these progressive journalists sitting around a table with him. He said ‘you’re the one with the great ass!’ He started asking me if I had family members he could date. I was standing there horrified, I just didn’t know what to say. I’m a mouthy lady, and even I couldn’t think of anything to come back with – not just to him, but to every other progressive journalist who was sitting there listening to him who laughed! I said hi to a few people, and then I left the event.”
- Laura Hahn, president of the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
 
“Really, I don't give much of a shit about one sad dude calling me a slut and a spy (for Newsom or Pinkerton Guards, depending on the year), but seeing some (not all) progressive men continue to put up with him was pretty demoralizing."
- Anonymous volunteer on several progressive political campaigns
 
“The confrontation started because I came in to wish [ex-Supervisor and then-owner of the Buck Tavern] Chris Daly a happy birthday and have a drink, and H. asked Chris ‘Who the hell is she?’ To which Chris said, ‘She's the President of the Harvey Milk Club.’ To which H began, ‘You're not even gay, are you?’ I replied, ‘I'm queer.’ ‘Queer?!’ he said, ‘What the fuck is that? Some Shona Gochenauer shit? You're not gay. I can tell you're not gay by looking at you. She doesn't know anything about politics. Look at her -- she's clearly just a vanity president.’ He said something about enjoying things because, "that ass isn't gonna last forever, sweetheart. They [the other patrons in the bar] are only standing up for you because they want to fuck you.’"
- Stephany Joy Ashley, ex-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
 
“As a purveyor of alcohol, I found that the man was a lawbreaking mooch and a pain to deal with.  As a woman, I found him pathetic, insulting, gross, or all three, depending on his mood. The first time I met him he cussed me out for an imagined slight in a way that was actually shocking -- and it takes a lot for cuss words to flummox me. For a time, I simply refused to serve him.”
- Siobhann Bellinger, Buck Tavern bartender
 
“H. is a bully and a sexist. If you want to look at why the progressive movement is failing it’s because it alienates youth, women, and people of color. Deifying somebody like him is shutting women out, the message is they aren’t welcome. It’s not separated from the fact that progressives are really faltering right now with no leadership and very little inspiration.”
- Debra Walker, artist and longtime activist
 
“His behavior symbolized the running joke amongst some progressive men that women were there for their own entertainment to be mocked and harassed with no one blinking an eye. FUCK. THAT.”
- Anonymous ex-City Hall aide
 
These women – and the progressive men who were their allies – were not laughing at the hijinx of a mouthy old man. But people were, and they will be at the party that will be held in honor of Brown’s departure and attended by member’s of our city’s progressive elite.
 
Supporters say the guy’s behavior was a premeditated mockery of San Francisco’s political correctness, that he was an actor in the grand tradition of political theater. But if he is remembered by generations to come, it will be as the embodiment of an age-old archetype: the dude that other dudes keep around because he says the shit they can’t say to people who aren’t them. After all, who can control their own id?
 
Eskenazi compares Brown to F. Scott Fitzgerald and notwithstanding that both are writers, I’d like to posit an alternative historical precedent for Brown’s passionate trolling. Remember Bobby Riggs, the proud chauvinist who taunted tennis legend Billie Jean King until she wiped the floor with him in the widely broadcast Battle of the Sexes match? Man, that guy should have been in politics.
 
Brown was allowed to establish through constant bullying both online and off that only men have the right to feel comfortable in our city’s high-powered progressive circles. As San Francisco continues to cozy up with its new moderate identity, I hope he is remembered less for being a bon vivant and more as a sign that our once-vaunted avatars of progressivism were spending too much time pounding double shots at the Buck Tavern -- while the world changed around them.

Comments

By your own admission, you lost too many battles and have given up the fight.

h. brown is having articles written about him. I am yet to read an article here about you.

It's better to be hated and feared, than to be ignored.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:16 am

It is better to have real job options in the real economy to turn to before the politicos run over the cliff after they stopped playing to win.

They're in free-fall, h. brown's has been politico "friends" and the "great writer" himself.

I'm comfy as a clam having done all I could to bring about better outcomes enjoying the best "rent control" in the form of a 30 year fixed mortgage.

h brown is leaving San Francisco, I've been stepping away from politics over the past 5 years as the writing on the wall has become clear. Why throw good money after bad?

For when writing about politics no longer delivers the goods, writing software delivers the good, although not as lucratively as in the 1990s, but good enough.

Would that the SFBG expressed as much outrage at the consequences of political failure from their stable of stalwart tepid activists and their own milquetoast coverage as they do at bad language, but that would involve a sense of accountability.

The SFBG and progressives avoid any semblance of accountability at all times, as holding activists and advocates accountable would be disrespectful.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:31 am

and gentrifier of the Mission, thereby hedging your bets. you were never as "all in" as those who were not willing to make that sacrifice just for some comfort.

I happen to agree with you that SFBG's precious card-playing over this, and other pandering to self-styled victims of political correctness is misguided.

But whining that you quit because you were losing doesn't cut much ice, here or elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:50 am

already and spare the rest of us your obsessions and unrequited desires?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 9:08 am

ignoring posts that do not interest you.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:02 am

could you. Why is it that you seem unable to do what you tell others to do?

Posted by Guest 3 on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 12:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

I stepped back because others were taking my volunteer work and using it to their own crass advantage and I saw years ago that continuing such an approach would lead to the failure we're seeing now. Why waste energy on what we can all see is a road leading off of a cliff?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 9:28 am

you were betrayed by lesser minds and souls?

How convenient for you to believe that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:05 am

I don't volunteer my time with losing losers who get off on losing.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:27 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:38 am

Yes, I am a winner because I command the attention of losers like you.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

Even if it nothing more than a series of crushing refutations?

Still, they say that it is better to be hated than ignored. A masochist's mandate.

But still, wow, that's sad.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

How pathetic that you spend so much of your time responding to me personally from behind your chickenshit cloak of anonymity. You've not even got the self confidence to own your comments. That's truly pathetic. If I am irrelevant as you say, then that your persistent personal responses to me makes you all that much more of a loser.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

are funny things.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

That, or pay to play, a real rent boy specializing in internet stalking.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

That someone would pay me to be here, or that I am here because SFBg is so threatening.

You guys are so entertainingly self-absorbed and self-important.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 7:27 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 6:05 am

An army of a handful of tiny ants.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 7:20 pm

Apart from his limitations as a human being where you wouldn't want to spend more than three minutes with him at a time, h has a mastery of words few can match. But when we've got skill in one aspect of life, and then fool ourselves into thinking we're superhuman in all aspects of life, is where the downfall often begins.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 9:18 pm

Read a bit of real satire by Mark Twain, then read h. He's a hack by comparison.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

From the article: "As San Francisco continues to cozy up with its new moderate identity..."

Just because conservative, corporatist politicians in San Francisco hide behind the word "moderate" so as to appear less dangerous and draconian than they really are and to ram their conservative corporatist agenda through and to dupe gullible people, that doesn't mean an intelligent person has to believe it and repeat it.

Tell it like it is: "As San Francisco continues to cozy up with its new CONSERVATIVE identity..."

There is nothing whatsoever "moderate" about ripping a city apart and turning it upside down and forcing thousands of long-time residents out through rampant gentrification and evictions to make the city of and for the wealthy and by giving corporate welfare to the Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex and their parasitic predatory corporations. There is nothing "moderate" about the unconditional pro-corporatist theme and message expressed by the elitist, rabid, conservative, corporatist, juvenile, mentally-ill trolls who have infested this site.

Take off the blinders. I saw a local publication's headline this evening. It read, "WAKE UP SAN FRANCISCO!" It was about this very topic. Denying the severity of what's happening here by using the more gentle and sanitized word "moderate" (which implies that one and their agenda is harmless) will not change what's happening here. This is a conservative agenda (or as some of my friends say, "a conservative agenda that comes with a broad smile in order to deceive") that has taken over San Francisco and it's an agenda that's being repeated in many cities all over the country. It's time that people realize it for what it is and stop minimizing it with newspeak and sanitized words such as "moderate."

As for H. Brown, he's quite a piece of work.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

Because you sound soooo totally out of touch.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

Sober up some before commenting anymore. That might help you *sound* intelligent, even when you're not.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

Hey guy,

You still in Maine or whatever? Miss your dogs. My daughter has a 175 lb Mastiff that I sometimes sit in Fresno and there's a dachshund the I watch for the Cohens but my house sits are all the rest cats. Can you believe I've been doing this job for well over a decade now? Thanks for the comment. I've always prided myself with being the best shit disturber in town.

I done brought a passel of anonymous cowardly zombie hacks out of their graves.

Hope they don't want autographs.

Say hi to everyone and there's a chance I might get through there in a year or so when I'm done with DC and Northern Virginia. I'll give you plenty of time to warm up your banjo and brew up a batch of moonshine.

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Still in Maine - raising the family The Wife and I couldn't afford to raise in EssEff, but nobody wants to talk about the hard stuff here, it seems. It's easier to dogpile on the likes of you. You get out here, give me a ring. I'm easy to find. Take it easy, H, and don't let the bastids get ya down ...

Posted by Fjgallagher on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 9:10 pm

Looks like Gallagher was displaced by the fruits of his own political advocacy.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:09 am

You're a lightweight compared with any of them.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:21 am

Except that I'm still alive and living in San Francisco and they're not.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:39 am

in when you are nudging 70? I doubt that anyone will be writing SFWeekly or SFBG articles about you then.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 8:46 am

The future is unwritten.

The past saw my name on RFC1945 and RFC2616, one of the more significant and consequential documents of our time. And ALL you can do is hack at people on a comment board. Pathetic.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 9:09 am

lol, so significant and consequential that no one knows WTF they are.
Stick to the anonymous STD trading in the local steam rooms and dark alleys of the mission - its one thing you are good at.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 9:41 am

Or though that does beg the question why isn't he sufficiently rich not to have to live on one of the shittiest blocks in the Mission where the odor of stale urine is only matched by the fumes from the abandoned gas station around the corner.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:01 am

@Guest - Not the whole Internet, but a really important part of it: the protocol that allows you to post your hyper text.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

It was his exaggerated role that he was claiming for it that I was debunking.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

I played a tiny role in moving HTTP to a standard, a tiny role, but I played a role.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 9:29 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 10:03 am

And you are relegated to using HTTP to troll progressive comment sections...

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 10:46 am

Didn't think so.

If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 11:06 am

Nobody got royalties on HTTP, it was a volunteer collaborative open exercise that created a tool that billions of people use every day. I'm comfortable enough for now economically, thanks. As the prayer of St. Francis says, it is in giving that we receive.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 11:31 am

That block you live on is comfortable for the homeless guys that camp out there, shoot drugs and urinate on your stoop.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

Steven, do you have the balls to debate H ?
Somehow I don't think so.

Posted by Davidinsf on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

The Guardian knows nothing of accountability, very few progressives do. When was the last time that any of the professionals lost their job for failing to perform advancing their policy portfolio?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

So are you admitting to"failing to perform advancing your policy portfolio"?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 7:29 am

I was not paid to advance any portfolio. The housing, labor, bicycle, walk and transit advocates have failed to advance the portfolio that they're paid to advance. Once I realized that I was surrounded by people who had every interest in not solving problems because keeping the problems around meant keeping the game going and keeping them employed, I quit donating my time on projects with them.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 10:49 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 11:07 am

Nope, I tried to be a team player on a team where half of the team ended up playing for the opposing team.

I am an indicator species in that regard, that volunteer civilian noncombatants were banished from politics by the professionals who used our energy and resources to screw us and then cursed us in the process.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 11:29 am

@Davidinsf - One symptom of the problem under discussion is the notion that one must have "balls" to engage in a verbal flamewar. I am reminded of the wise words of Betty White, "Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding."

Posted by Jym on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

suspect that she could have spared herself years of resentment, as well as saved us her snide self-serving hit piece.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

Amazing to see so much fury directed at some dude in an SRO who writes a little. The Guardian had to get one of the WOMEN it fired to do the deed too LOL!

The Guardian has a real problem with women - why have they fired so many good writers? Remember Savannah Blackwell? Kick ass investigative reporter? Fired, because the men in charge needed more penises on the premises. Oh but she's not the only one...

And the only thing the Corporate Owned, thin Guardian can get it up for now is attacking some dude who's moving out of SF?

Prediction: in 2015 the Guardian will cease to exist. You heard it here first. Steve Jones will be sitting in his lonely SRO smoking dope and writing rant tracts.

Sound like anyone you know?

Posted by Phineas Brown's Cat on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 8:47 pm

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