Google Street view of Pelosi's house.

Update: Federal charging document offers clues on alleged Pelosi attacker’s plan. SEE END

The vicious, predawn Oct. 28 attack on 82-year-old Paul Pelosi was many things. It was strange. It was terrible. But it was no surprise. 

It was no surprise that the man who allegedly took a hammer to an octogenarian’s head purportedly yelled “Where’s Nancy?” — the same sinister question bellowed by the marauders who overran the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.  

And it was no surprise that 42-year-old David DePape — an apparently unstable and violence-prone man with a trove of online postings dripping with Trumpist talking points, delusional QAnon ramblings, misogyny, racism, and images of hook-nosed Yids straight out of Der Stürmer — purportedly did the sort of thing he fervently advocated should be done. 

On the other hand, DePape’s turn as a nudist activist, one of the regular naked demonstrators tooling around at Castro and 17th streets a decade ago, and the best man at a nude wedding that, for a shining, stupid moment transfixed this city? 

That one we didn’t see coming. 

But even this isn’t all that surprising. DePape’s journey from a nudist making hemp bracelets to an alleged would-be assassin isn’t as radical as it seems. The notion of a left-wing stalwart becoming a right-wing stalwart is hardly new or novel; in essence, that’s what happened to an appreciable portion of the staff of Ramparts magazine. In DePape’s case, it’s even less counterintuitive; he wasn’t an ideologue or a policy guy but, rather, a dippy conspiracist.  

“He followed a common radicalization trajectory,” sums up Abner Hauge, the editor-in-chief of Left Coast Right Watch, a site that monitors right-wing extremism. The nudists DePape palled around with a decade ago were 9-11 truthers; in many ways he simply exchanged and buttressed one dopey, anti-establishment conspiracy theory worldview with others. Along the way, he was abetted by “right-wing grievance culture,” in Hauge’s words. 

Right-wing grievance culture is a powerful thing. Right-wing grievance culture is a growth industry. As such, much of the wild material DePape purportedly wrote on the Internet does not put him all that far afield from an appreciable portion of Republican voters. It does not put him far afield from an appreciable portion of elected Republican federal office-holders; the majority of GOP Congressional representatives, after all, voted to overturn the 2020 election results. 

So that’s the story here. The story is that America’s moral climate — or at least the moral climate pertaining to a goodly portion of our nation and its leaders  — has oozed over to meet the loon who allegedly broke into the home of the Speaker of the House and tried to murder her husband with a hammer. That’s the story. That’s the story. 

But no one wants to talk about that. So, instead, this became a San Francisco story

Mayor London Breed, flanked by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others including Supervisor Ronen at a ribbon cutting ceremony at Horace Mann Buena Vista’s new soccer field. September, 2018. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

San Francisco, Lord knows, is a place with 99 problems. But violent loons breaking into octogenarians’ homes and attempting to murder them with hammers is not one. 

Except that one time. 

The attack on Paul Pelosi, per FOX News, was either “a crime situation” that “shines a light on what’s happening in San Fran … ” or  was “politically motivated.” And if that’s the case, we all know who’s to blame: “Why is our country so divided? President Biden, you got up to the podium and said you were going to bring us together.” 

FOX also trotted out the clownish, failed California gubernatorial candidate Michael Schellenberger, who said the real lesson of the attack was that “we are in a crime crisis in our country because we demoralize the police” and “have basically said to the police they are the enemy.”  

Astoundingly, the San Francisco Police Officers Association agreed with this, in essence stating that a deranged man purportedly attempted to break into the home of the Speaker of the House and murder her because cops’ feelings were hurt: “We’ve been saying for years that the mental health crisis facing our cities is worsening, putting everyone’s safety at risk. The constant drumbeat against officers is driving people out of and away from the profession.” 

Also: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The Great Oz has spoken!” 

Considering the apparently exemplary behavior of police in the fraught scene at Chez Pelosi, rapidly responding to a crisis call and subduing a would-be killer, this reactionary bellyaching by the fulminating police union was even more jarring. 

You would expect these sorts of misdirections from FOX, which is to news what pro wrestling is to sports. But it was bewildering to see the New York Times blithely note that “the break-in and assault comes at a time when the city is awash in crises over crime and disorder in the streets, where open-air drug dealing is commonplace and concerns over, especially in wealthy neighborhoods, helped fuel the successful recall of the city’s avowed progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin.”  

No, dude: This wasn’t some dope fiend stealing high-end bicycles from a garage, it was an attempt to assassinate the ranking Democrat in the House. Blathering on about Boudin and open-air drug-dealing here is wholly irrelevant, and reminiscent of an old Yiddish saying: A wise man knows what he says. A fool says what he knows. 

In the end, the strange and terrible saga of David DePape and his purported assault of Paul Pelosi says a lot more about the state of American political discourse than it does about the state of San Francisco. 

The hammer attack on Paul Pelosi allegedly took place in front of several San Francisco police officers and was caught on body-worn cameras. This footage is ostensibly within the public domain and could soon be pulsating around the internet. 

Abner Hauge from Left Coast Right Watch  says this could be a travesty and a disaster. 

Right-wing extremists, he says, “are gonna love it. These are people who get off on violence. They love watching people they deem evil being hurt or killed.” 

He notes the fetisization of the 1960 assassination of Japanese socialist Inejirō Asanuma by a sword-wielding extremist, a scene Hauge says was, in 2019, farcically re-enacted by Proud Boys founder Gavin MacInnes to a raucous reaction by his acolytes, who then went on to do a gang assault. 

To this sort of crowd, the Pelosi footage will be a vast dollop of red meat; footage of the beating of Nancy Pelosi’s husband is “chum in the water.” It is proof positive that “you can do this.” 

And you can. It was done. And this is not a San Francisco problem. It’s an America problem. 

The prognosis for Paul Pelosi is, apparently, positive. You can’t say the same for the country.

Update, Oct. 31: A federal charging document filed today includes excerpts from a purported statement alleged Pelosi attacker David DePape gave to San Francisco police. In it, he said that he hoped to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, likely with the zip-ties he purportedly had in his possession.

If she told “the truth,” he would release her. If she were to “lie,” however, he planned to break “her kneecaps” with the hammer he later went on to allegedly use on Paul Pelosi’s head.

Nancy Pelosi, in DePape’s view, was the “leader of the pack” of lies told by Democrats. If she was forced to be wheeled into Congress, DePape felt this would be a signal for to her fellow elected officials that there are consequences for their actions.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. Being a trump supporter is a mental illness. No ability to reason or discern fact from illogical nonsense. America is full of these kinds of idiots, California unfortunately tolerated them. It’s one thing to be tolerant of people doing their own thing being different, but it’s another thing when they’re making excuses to harm others based o.j. their delusion.
    So put them on a chain gang, and make them do some real work, so that they’ll come to terms with reality. Get them off 9f those social media that’s feeding their ego, encouraging their narcissism. These delusional idiots are bringing America down. Plain and simple. Hold them accountable. Enough with the BS!

  2. Why are you taking shots at Fox News and fringe Republicans? The Democrats have their fringe. If you want to see slanted news check our MSNBC and CNN. How about taking shots at the socialists and communists who hide behind the progressive title and those who are semi-honest and call themselves democratic socialists? The average Republican isn’t a terrorist like Black Lives Matter folks or college students who shout down speakers or anyone they disagree with. This puts a black mark on your creditability.

  3. ”This footage is ostensibly within the public domain and could soon be pulsating around the internet.”

    Not really. There is only an *obligation* to disclose video if an SFPD officer was involved in a use of force situation or a ‘critical incident’, neither of which is not the case here (had they used their weapons it would be a different story).

    Otherwise there are numerous CPRA and other exemptions which could, and likely will, apply. The public interest test would certainly be relevant for the reasons you note (since it allows for speculation as to the possible consequences of release); there are also arguably national security implications (and plenty of three-letter agencies involved in the investigation).

    That said, I could imagine parts of the 911 call and possibly audio from the body worn cameras being released (or perhaps transcripts).

    We shall see. Or not.

  4. “Paul Pelosi: Violent attack isn’t an SF story. It’s the story of American politics.”

    Succinct.

  5. San Franciscans: Keep your eye on the ball. Our beloved city is a target for the wackos of social media and others. Thank you Joe for keeping things real in a dark, creepy and apocalyptic time. Peak capitalism. Don’t forget: Elon Musk has landed. Think on that. Elon Musk seeks to own San Francisco’s microphone. May your pencil dick fall off Elon. Go tend to your 10 children. That is all.

  6. Why take issue with the POA chewing on their bone. The battle to worry about is where there _is_ a connection to the rampant drug scene down the street: This attack is being mixed into the melange of right-wing grievances, all in an effort to pull the country towards a Weimar situation. It behooves us to get a handle on the quality of life and public safety issues if only to stop playing into the hands of the enemies of the republic.

  7. 100%
    Thank you, Joe.

    “No, dude: This wasn’t some dope fiend stealing high-end bicycles from a garage, it was an attempt to assassinate the ranking Democrat in the House. Blathering on about Boudin and open-air drug-dealing here is wholly irrelevant — and reminiscent of an old Yiddish saying: A wise man knows what he says. A fool says what he knows.”

    1. What Elizabeth said. Keep your eye on the ball. Our beloved San Francisco is a target for wackos of social media and others. Thank you Joe for keeping things real in a dark, creepy and apocalyptic time. Peak capitalism. Don’t forget: Elon musk seeks to own us now. Seriously. Think on that. Elon Musk seeks to own San Francisco’s microphone. May your pencil dick fall off Elon. Go tend to your 10 children.

  8. Democrats would politicize a medical issue as a Hail Mary “Reichstag Fire” pass for as vulnerable martyrs before the midterms by imposing rationality on the “workings” of a clearly irrational mind.

    It is poetic that the spouse of she who had the power to act on fixing SSDI and ensuring that mental health treatment was available, especially as her district devolved into an open air psych ward, the spouse who profited from insider trading due to proximity to her power, got whacked by a lunatic. Compare Pelosi’s wealth with your 401(k) these days and tell me who should not be outraged?

    We are told by local Democrats that the issues of poverty and homelessness, housing, substance and psych treatment are state and federal issues, localities cannot act on their own. On Pelosi’s federal watch in SF, the public realm has deteriorated by most every measure with no federal fixes for persistent vexing problems.

    By any objective measure, Democrats who sit on power for decades and retain power after losing serial national elections are responsible for governmental non-responsiveness that has allowed problems to fester and led to the rise of populism left and right. Responsive governments do not experience fascism.

    In a real democracy, I’m talking about you Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, politicians retain a modicum of shame and resign when humiliated. The opposite is true in the US or Democrat Party. Shamelessness is a virtue, humiliation denied, and tribal allegiance trumps critical analysis.

    That the Democrats went to war on their progressive faction in a way they’d never go after the Republicans confirms that the Democrats do not see a problem with current arrangements and will not change.

    That lack of responsiveness is not well received and alienates much of the electorate and population from the Democrats. The longer this approach continues and the more conditions deteriorate as the decadent empire slides towards decline, the more of this we will see.

    When one wins power and then just sits on it as the world deteriorates outside one’s mansion walls and declines to use power arrest that deterioration, then it should be of no surprise that social problems eventually seep into the sanctuary.

    With voting disarmed as an effective vector for political change, and after populism goes unanswered, the situation will escalate unless changed.

    Taking the acts of an irrational lunatic at face value is an act of manipulative desperation.

    1. that was some of the best commentary I’ve seen in sometime, as a rebuttal to a news article.
      Unfortunately, the average Democrat would simply read your thoughts as a lunatic, fringe, and frankly wouldn’t fully understand your points.
      Very very well done sir

      1. @Rich — To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, Marcos is able to swim in the same water the crack-up drowns. His comment does border on conspiracy theory, and it is not something he conjured post-Paul Pelosi attack; in that regard the article is a rebuttal to Marcos’s theory.

        Candace Owens referred to the Jan. 6 insurrection as a “Reichstag fire,” did she nail it on the head?

        Marcos = never short on erudition, but sometimes short on logic. In my opinion, and as I expressed to him in another thread, Pelosi never truly had the power to revamp SSDI/SSI and there is no indication, as of yet, that DePape has ever been in the system, either via psych hold or arrest. In that regard, the link is tenuous.

        It’s been nearly 60 years since the Birch Society was plastering Dallas with anti-communism posters and Oswald put a bullet in JFK’s head. If I was as smart and well read as Marcos, I could really effectively tie that in somehow. But I’m not, so I’ll just leave it as something to ponder.

        1. “In my opinion, and as I expressed to him in another thread, Pelosi never truly had the power to revamp SSDI/SSI ”

          The Speaker of the House is the leader of their political party in the House and has the power to set the legislative agenda. If not Pelosi, then who?

          “no indication, as of yet, that DePape has ever been in the system, either via psych hold or arrest. In that regard, the link is tenuous.”

          A quick glance at the Gypsy Taub crowd and knowledge of Bay Area alternative freak culture is sufficient to derive a probable scenario that has nothing to do with MAGA.

          Pelosi’s approval rating is slightly lower than Ted Cruz’. There is a reason for everyone to detest Pelosi.

          And at the end of the day, it is never your opponents’ fault when you lose a political contest. When well funded politicians cast blame blame for loss onto their political opponents, they’re telegraphing their incompetence.

          On Pelosi’s watch, the Democrats have lurched rapidly to the right, declared open warfare on their progressive wing, and set the stage for incipient fascism. Watching the Labour Files on Al Jazeera now, covering a massive leak of Labour internal communication that reveals how the party staff has taken over the party and sabotaged Corbyn and purged his supporters at every turn. Given the close ties between Democrats and Labour, it is not out of the question that they’ve skill shared on this.

          The denial fueled disconnect between the Democrat political class and the deteriorating circumstances of their electoral base is nothing short of astounding. COINTELPRO was once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.

          You may have to go to war with the army you’ve got, but fragging is always an option when the officers are leading the platoon off of the cliff.

          1. “Domestic terrorism” reconnaissance is the new FBI COINTELPRO. Says so in the affidavit: sentence 2 under “affiant background.”

            The big difference between when Kennedy was assassinated and now is how information is disseminated. All the fundamental elements surrounding the Pelosi incident, and what’s been happening in the days following, were there during that month of December, 1963.

            A step to the left and increased SSDI aren’t going to make it go away. We got Obama and ACA and shit got worse.

        2. Rosh,

          You and Marcos have both honored me by choosing which of the 9 chairs in my dwelling to plop on and you both chose the same.

          I pay attention to such things.

          Marcos probably has 20 years on you and has long been generally agreed to have the best mind on the Left.

          His stuff is dense and his allusions are valid and to be studied rather than read.

          Your equal and best mind on Right ?

          Sonja Truss …

          And, over it all sits Joe Eskenazi.

          Last man standing.

          Loving it from Sonoma til votes are counted.

          Go to my blog for a Peter, Paul and Mary song …

          sfbulldogblog.wordpress.com

          Go Niners !!

          h.

        3. So you say “Birch Society was plastering Dallas with anti-communism posters and Oswald put a bullet in JFK’s head” and from that your say anti-communism posters motivated right wing anti commie Oswald to assassinate pro commie JFK? LoL…do the facts of Oswald peddling pro commie fliers in the years leading up to 63 is an inconvenient truth to you? In today’s leftist dem san francisco, JFK would have triggered people like you more than Trump ever did.

          1. Yeah, I’m well aware Oswald tried to become a Russian citizen and all that fun stuff. I mentioned JBS to further tie in propaganda, conspiracy theory, and partisan hatred to that time. It’s not a great comparison (obviously magnitude is off), but there are some ‘which way is up’ similarities.

    2. you are suggesting that a real democracy is represented by the prime minister of the UK which is subordinated to the king/queen?
      damn tories need to be tarred and feathered.

      1. I’m suggesting that British politicians, even the conservatives, retain a modicum of shame, and fall on their swords when they lose elections.

        Here in the US, the failure of the Democrats to course correct with new leadership after losses goes a long way to explain why the party has such a tenuous grip on connection to the electorate, even with the Republicans having gone off the rails, and why the Democrats are only a few steps behind the Republicans on the rightward lurch.

  9. Thank you for saying the very thing we have been lamenting at home since Friday morning.

    If it happened almost anywhere else, we would be saying it was a travesty of our current political climate.

    But it happened in San Francisco, and apparently it is our own fault that one of the most powerful women in the USA’s husband was attacked in his own home.

  10. Isn’t it a little early to definitely make conclusions about the attacker’s motivation? Seems like there are still questions as to what exactly actually happened, much less to nail down motivation. Your conclusion that this was a pre meditated assassination attempt could be true. Could also be a psychotic person doing what other psychos have done with some very whacky idea in their head. Seems like there is more reporting to do here. Sometimes, it takes a little while to understand an event like this. What’s the hurry?

  11. Look at the trolls commenting on the tweet for this story. I’m so sad to see what this nation has become.

  12. Joe,

    As with most of these lone attacker things, it was about love.

    And, a mind set that will do anything to bond with the beloved.

    This guy loved Gypsy.

    Who was the one who loved Jody Foster ??

    Really, really strange that Foster was the object of affection first in the Fantasy world of Hollywood, then in reality.

    So, he shot a president/movie star to impress a movie star whose ‘protector’ shot several people to death in fantasy world.

    Recall that the Taxi driver didn’t care who he killed to impress the ample posteriored campaign worker; first he went to kill her boss (who had a security detail) …

    Helen of Troy musta been some fox.

    Much as the media seeks to make this about cold blooded politics, they are wrong.

    This one was about hot blooded nudist insecure male attention seeking …

    Nevertheless, the Suttonesque local political managers have Brooke Jenkins with spurs and a whip mounted on this ole boy’s back hoping to ride him past Hamasaki and Alioto.

    One of them better rescue a baby from a burning building fast.

    Can’t wait to see those body cam videos.

    I keep getting flashes of cops standing in schoolhouse halls.

    far from the madding crowd,

    h.

    1. Visitors to last open comment Platform in SF …

      Chomsky has a new book with David Barsamian:

      Notes on Resistance

      In a conversation on today’s political scene worldwide, Chomsky concentrated on Brazil and tied the situation with Barsanaro and the world environment and noted that in the U.S. the pieces are in place to …

      “lead way to Minority Proto-Fascism Party …

      the goal of the Republican Party is to destroy the planet as quickly as possible ”

      He noted the irony of Lebanon and Israel and Hesbolah coming together to destroy the environment with more Med wells.

      Give yourself a designated ten minutes to dance or sing or play and instrument …

      you need it

      h.