Bradley is the first name of a nephew of one of the writers at the Weekly. It also seemed to be the way-perfect name for the kind of yuppie who would organize a "Stop the Hate" demonstration that used these actual words: "It's time to acknowledge that our pain is real -- not a joke!"
"Bradley" made his initial appearance as a message that Associate Editor Pasztor created on a voice mail number at the Weekly. (Bradley's phone number had, of course, been placed in the ad.) The message was perfect. No real yuppie could have done a better job of calling the faithful to the barricades: Stirring verbiage was enunciated in a nasal, please-like-me, rich kid's voice. Of course, part of the message asked members of the media to leave their names and numbers, if they wished further information.
Almost immediately the Bay Guardian and the Examiner's Ms. Gurnon bit. Bradley left the Guardian reporter a message to the effect that because the reporting of the Guardian and the Weekly had caused this Mission gentrification mess, Bradley did not have time to speak with either before Sunday's demonstration.
Ms. Gurnon was a different matter altogether. We wanted her to keep nibbling at our baited hook -- but we did not think we could risk an actual interview. Ms. Gurnon might begin to ask such embarrassingly journalistic questions as who, what, where, when, and even why. So Bradley called Ms. Gurnon long after working hours and left a voice mail message that indicated he was interested in talking to her, but was just so busy with the "Stop the Hate" demonstration that he would be awfully difficult to contact before Sunday's rally.
During the first couple of days after our June 2 issue, with its "Stop the Hate" ad, hit the streets, Bradley's voice mail filled with messages. Many were simple hang-ups. More than a few of the callers believed, or at least hoped, the ad was what it was: a joke. (A more complete set of transcriptions of the messages can be seen at our Web site, www.sfweekly.com.)
"I am convinced this has got to be a fuckin' joke," one caller said. "You people are fucking pathetic. This is a fuckin' joke. I'm not accepting this as reality."
Then there were the angry people:
"I'm gonna fucking kill you, you bitch. I'm gonna fucking kill you, you little fucking piece of shit. I'm gonna fucking rip off your head. Fucking piece of shit. Get the fuck out of my city, you bitch. Yeah you, you fuckin' honky scumbag. Fucking suck on these nuts you [expletive unintelligible]."
One caller, who claimed to be a member of the Aryan Nation, said members of that pathetic white supremacy group would show up early for Sunday's rally.
And then there was Emily Gurnon, who called back two more times. In one of her messages, she noted that she was working on a story "that's gonna run very soon."
My trusty lieutenants and I were hoping against hope that if we did not call anyone in the media back directly, if we held our breath and prayed to all the household gods, if the stars moved into utterly perfect alignment, our prank would go undiscovered until Sunday. Should 20 or 30 people show up, we would laugh and claim victory and get on with our lives.
We certainly did not expect Emily Gurnon to forget all about those bothersome who, what, where, when, and why questions, and go off and write a story about Bradley's "Stop the Hate" rally -- without talking to anyone who had anything to do with organizing the phony event. But write she did.
The story, headlined "Fed-up yups take on Mission hostility/ Targeted residents, merchants plan rally against 'hate crimes,' " ran on Page 1 of Friday afternoon's Examiner. A long and oddly coherent work, the story cobbled the views of the man who might be Nestor Makhno and various Mission residents seamlessly together with information from our fake "Stop the Hate" ad and Bradley's puling, phony voice mail message. Of course, significant amounts of Ms. Gurnon's story were nonsense; as a matter of empirical fact, our phony rally could have had nothing to do with the comments of the people she quoted on the rally and Mission gentrification in general.
But even if based in nonsense, the article was effective.
Bradley's voice mail registered at least 60 messages on Saturday. One came from KGO radio, which wanted to interview Bradley live on Sunday morning, before the "Stop the Hate" rally. Bradley thought he could fool a radio person, so Bradley agreed.
First, KGO interviewed the man who police say is Nestor Makhno, Kevin Keating. The interview was preposterous, except for the part when Kevin said he does not see why he should have to pay rent at all; just then, it was silly and kind of sad. Kevin announced that he would be conducting a counterdemonstration to "Stop the Hate."
During his KGO interview on Sunday morning, Bradley whined and puled and said he felt the pain of renters displaced when yuppies buy homes in the Mission. When informed that the phrase "feel your pain" has come to be seen as condescending and phony, Bradley apologized profusely. He was abjectly, unconsciously condescending. He insisted he did not want a confrontation with Nestor's counterdemonstration.