Cool Gray City of Tech Authoritarians: Balaji's dark vision for San Francisco

Cool Gray City of Tech Authoritarians: Balaji's dark vision for San Francisco
It's Tech "Grays" vs. Democratic "Blues" in Balaji's Civil War for the future of San Francisco
Maybe you can literally have like the sovereign city of San Francisco and secede effectively ... if you have total control of the city ... maybe it's possible. – B.S.

The Point: Like some mustache-twirling cartoon villain, the main tech figure behind the Network State cult lays out a "roadmap" for an authoritarian future in which San Francisco Democrats ("Blues") and poor people are barred from entire parts of the city.

Tech loyalists ("Grays") will don Gray shirts, carry Gray ID cards (for swiping into the Gray sectors of town). They will also hold weekly banquets for Gray police officers (cops who have confessed their loyalty to tech). And they'll march in "Gray Pride Parades" featuring "drones flying overhead in formation."

Balaji Srinivasan says these things during a four-hour podcast, and there's video.

The backstory: My previous post introduced Balaji Srinivasan (let's call him B.S. for short), the main brain behind the Network State cult of tech billionaires trying to reinvent government and media.

B.S., a former partner at Andreesen-Horowitz and former chief technology officer of Coinbase, wrote an entire book called "The Network State: How to Start a New Country." Tech oligarchs like Marc Andreesen hold him in high regard and consider him some kind of genius oracle. His book outlines how tech billionaires can seize more economic and political power by establishing new sovereign territories under their control.

Garry Tan, the CEO of Y Combinator currently leading a campaign to take control of San Francisco Hall, has cast his efforts as part of B.S.'s Network State movement. He did this during a conversation with B.S. at the first ever Network State conference last October. Two years earlier, Tan wrote on Twitter that Y Combinator was a "prototype" for the Network State idea.

So what would it mean for San Francisco to be taken over by tech zillionaires who belong to the Network State cult? Well, B.S. is the kind of guy who likes to run his mouth on four-hour-long podcasts hosted by sycophantic fanboys. And he has a LOT to say about what the Network State will mean for S.F.

Buckle up!

Below are some annotated highlights of his four hour and twenty-seven minute long interview on the Turpentine podcast.

S.F. Grays vs. Blues

First off, B.S. portrays current San Francisco politics as a war between the Blues and the Grays. Blue is the traditional color of the Democratic Party, and B.S. blames Blues for ruining the city. (He identifies Reds as Republicans, keeping with the traditional political color scheme).

But B.S. introduces the Grays, who are the new tech-funded political faction led by Garry Tan. B.S. suggests that Grays adopt ways of visually signifying their allegiance, perhaps by wearing Gray t-shirts:

And if you see another gray on the street and you know ... you do the nod. You're a fellow gray.

Further, B.S. imagines a Gray Pride Parade of 50,000 people as a show of force in the city streets.

[A] huge win would be a Gray Pride Parade with 50,000 Grays, that would be massive. That would start, to say: "Whose streets? Our streets!" You have the AI Flying Spaghetti Monster. You have the Bitcoin parade. You have the drones flying overhead in formation ... You have bubbling genetic experiments on beakers. You have the laser eyes, you know, Bitcoin maximalist ... You have the police at the Gray Pride Parade. They're flying the...drones, they are there and, ideally, you know, you even design the police uniforms.

Later, B.S. suggests that Peter Thiel acolyte Mike Solana would march at the head of the Gray Pride Parade.

Everybody's in gray shirts and you're celebrating technology.

So, the Blues are S.F.'s traditional liberal Democrats whom the Grays accuse of ruining the city. And the Grays are the tech-funded political faction that seeks to overthrow the Blue politics of the city. (B.S. even compares this struggle to the Crips vs Bloods gang warfare, since that seems like an excellent way to run a society.)

SFPD officers clad in gray march down market street, as drones fly overhead, during the Gray Pride Parade
Gray Pride takes San Francisco by storm. Bitte klatschen!

Political 'billionaires' vs tech

B.S. explains the main reason why the Grays need to take control of San Francisco City Hall: Because that's where all the money is. He describes S.F. supervisors as "political billionaires" who control vast amounts of money and power. The Grays, he says, must seize this money and power away from the Blues:

Blues have a whole sophisticated infrastructure for essentially capturing governments and getting money out of them, and using that money to fund the next generation of activists. And it's not just money, it's power, right? Power is money, right? Like, what is a tech exit? Oh, it's a billion dollars. Well, that's great. Good for you. So [the Inflation Reduction Act] is like, whatever, 100 billion dollars, right? The stimulus [American Recovery Act] was $787 billion dollars. If you can control the levers of government, you're controlling 100 times, 1000 times, the amount of money? That's why, like, all the people in San Francisco are political billionaires. Why? Because they have a $12 billion annual budget. If you take the mayor and – whatever the number of supervisors – and you divide it into the budget, each one of them is spending like a billion dollars a year. Collectively, they have a budget authority of a billion dollars. Yeah, that's way more than a normal billionaire. You know why spending a billion in cash a year is I mean, a tech billionaire has a billion in net worth over their entire lifetime, of which I don't know, maybe 10% of that, and it's high, is liquid ...
The political billionaires are spending a billion in cash every year. So the scale of money is like 100 or 1,000 times more. In a real sense, the supervisors and the mayor are far, far richer than you.

So, the Gray tech tribe must seize this money and power away from the Blue Democratic tribe. That's what B.S. says the 2024 election is all about.

'F' the Police

What would S.F. look like under tech control? The B.S. vision involves the creation of a Gray-controlled police force.

Among the first orders of business, he says, is to "F the police." That is, "Fund the Police." He lays out a scheme in which Grays ascertain which members of the police force are willing to be loyal to the Grays in exchange for considerable financial rewards. This would start, as most political corruption does, with free meals.

Every week ... ideally every week, have a policeman's banquet. Okay, all Gray sympathetic policemen are allowed to come to this banquet. Those that are not very sympathetic, you do need to filter you don't just because there's some sort of some policemen who are full Soviets, right? They actually believe in the system and you know, whatever, especially now, right? So you have to figure out whatever that filtering criteria is, okay. There's different versions of it. But it might be like, "would you have taken the sign off of Elon building? Did you want to take the sign off of Elon's building?" You can talk to them one on one. That's probably a good thing. You can look at what their actions where their posts are online. And if they're silent, they're often Red or Gray or Gray sympathetic. And if they're not, they're often Blue. But even then, sometimes they, of course ... many Soviets had to mouth support the regime, even enthusiastic support.

But weekly banquets aren't bribery enough. B.S. outlines a national system of patronage policing in which police who pledge their loyalty to the Gray cause will reap benefits for their entire families:

Grays should embrace the police, okay? All-in on the police. What does that mean? That's, as I said, banquets. That means every policeman's son, daughter, wife, cousin, you know, sibling, whatever, should get a job at a tech company in security. And again, you tap the Gray root network, right? Yeah, you're fighting in San Francisco but they've got a son in, you know, South Dakota or whatever, you know, in San Antonio, and you get them a job somewhere. Okay, this is legal, but you also do things like you donate to the policemen's benevolent union, or what have you.

Is it legal, though? My fifteen years in government and politics mean little to geniuses like B.S., but to my expert ear this sounds like a complex multi-state racket to steer public resources toward private interests in exchange for financial gain. And that kind of thing often ends with dozens of months in a federal prison with bad food and worse wifi. Will the Grays also be bribing building inspectors to sign off on subpar projects? Now there's a new idea that no one in San Francisco has ever thought of before!

And Grays publicly donate [to the Policeman's Benevolent Union]. They don't just donate, they tweet out that they donate. Okay, they get [Policeman's Benevolent Union] patches and they put them on Gray shirts with the same policeman on there who are responsible for patrolling their block. They know their names, they bring them to their houses. This alone does a lot of the work. Okay, you start to actually merge the Gray and police social networks, which have been totally disjointed because essentially, and I understand this, many people, their encounter with the policemen is usually negative.

Okay, so the Grays are going to pour lots of food, money and jobs on the police. And they are going to dress in Gray shirts that signify their alliance with the police, and the police are going to dress in uniforms that have been specially designed by the Grays.

The Grays and the Police are going to walk around in matching uniforms. Will the shirts change from Gray to brown at some point? Will the Grays and the Police adopt a funny stiff-legged march and storm around the streets accompanied by "drone formations" overhead? Asking for a friend.

B.S. also suggests "paying" Blue police officers lots of money to leave the force, allowing the Grays to recruit more officers from Red states.

You could get Gray loyalist policemen to come in – hundreds of them. You could ... there's 50 different tactics to bring in new ones. Any Blue sympathetic policeman, if you want to, you could pay them to retire. Blue sympathetic people, the true key nodes, pay them to go and sit on a beach somewhere, right? You can use whatever tactic you want. Just get Blue leadership out of the city

(Aside: Where do I send my Venmo request?)

'Ethnically cleanse': Gray v. Blue Apartheid

Once the Grays have established dominance over a majority of the San Francisco Police Department, the real work begins. B.S. imagines a city in which entire sectors are controlled by Grays. Only official members of the Gray tribe will be allowed to access Gray-controlled areas. Homeless and poor people will not be allowed to enter the Gray zones. Neither will Blues, who will be kept out as part of a system of apartheid meant to punish them for their political crimes:

The macro task is to take back the city. The micro task, or the meso-task, is to take back individual streets and buildings and clearly mark them as under Gray control ... For example, if you had Gray owners of every single building in San Francisco or even every single building on a block, you could set it up such that the Gray login will get you into the building. I mean, this already kind of happens. You have to swipe your key card to come in because the streets are so dangerous. Like near Twitter HQ, for example, that you'd like or run inside and you swipe your key card and you go up the elevator or whatever. Sometimes I've seen people do that. So that's already something that exists but the difference is you'd network it between buildings. And you have something of a Gray tribe membership gets you into the buildings, gets you into certain floors. That is already legal and already practical, under current law. Okay, so that's good, where you have a foothold of private property. And you have a group membership of Gray tribe membership and private property. You also issue T-shirts, and T-shirts are, let's say, the similar Gray color and it's just got different logos and patches on it.

But it won't stop with buildings. The Grays must also privatize entire streets and neighborhoods to keep out the riffraff – "addicts," "hobos" and, of course, "Blues":

Take total control of your neighborhood. Push out all Blues. Tell them they're as unwelcome as ... just as Blues ethnically cleanse me out of San Francisco, push out all blues. And then you'll easily win.

B.S. recommends that Grays find ways to physically signify their control of certain sectors of the city. He seems especially incensed by the fact that Elon Musk was required to take his illegally-installed X sign off of Twitter (I guess building safety codes are woke). B.S. envisions a system in which similar signage goes up on every tech-controlled building to communicate Gray dominance. And the Gray Pride parades should be held to celebrate new sections of the city being taken over by Grays. Reds (Republicans) will be welcome, but not Blues:

Reds should be welcomed there and people should wear their tribal colors. No Blues should be welcomed there. And in addition to celebrating celebrating Gray and celebrating Red, you should have movies shown about Blue abuses. For example, there's this guy who's addicted to drugs, who was addicted to drugs he posts on Twitter about how the Blue government helped him get addicted to drugs. You should have an interview with him. There should be lots of stories about what Blues are doing that is bad.

So, in addition to the matching uniforms, the Gray Police controlled Gray Zones and the Gray Pride Parades, there will be streams of official and publicly-screened anti-Blue propaganda. (Are they gonna clone Leni Riefenstahl to produce these things?)

And there will be statues! Yes, a new genre of public art and monuments will be erected to publicly vilify the Blues for all eternity:

They should have murals and busts and sculptures of the Blue victims of crime in the city. Right, put that sculpture up there. This person was murdered here by a Blue. Not by the addict. The addict is downstream of Peskin or Preston, right? They're the ones carrying the knife carrying the bat effectively, right? They're the ones who made it happen. It's Hamasaki. It's all these critters...

Blues will also be required to pay "reparations" to a "Hanako Abe Fund" (Abe was a 27-year-old killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2021, an incident which became a political attack on then-DA Chesa Boudin).

Doing to S.F. what Elon did to Twitter

B.S. goes on and on. Streets will be renamed for tech founders and companies. Any vestige of San Francisco's Democratic past will be erased, and the Blues who once held power here will be stripped of their status. B.S. specifically likens it to how Elon took over Twitter and stripped Blue Checks (experts, journalists, celebrities) of their verified status:

Elon, in sort of classic Gray fashion ... captures Twitter and then, at one stroke, wipes out millions of Blues' status by wiping out the Blue Checks and, another stroke, you know, where it does cause some damage, renames Twitter as X, showing that he has true control, and it's his vehicle, and that the old regime isn't going to be restored.

So, the Grays will do to S.F. what Elon did to Twitter. Clear enough yet?

S.F. Civil War 2024

Conclusion: This is a lot to take in, and I'll have more to say in a distilled version later on. Here are some of my key takeaways:

Civil War: B.S. is basically using a Civil War analogy to describe his plan for San Francisco. It's the Blues (Union) vs the Grays (tech authoritarians). The Grays wish to secede from Blue society and establish their own form of tech confederacy. This is bizarre imagery to apply to your own political movement, but either B.S. is totally clueless or he's doing it on purpose.

B.S. even ties the idea to secession, and having San Francisco secede from Blue California once the Grays seize control.

Color Scheme: Gray is a terrible color for politics. The Grays lost the Civil War. Political campaigns are usually very deliberate about color schemes, and nobody picks Gray. But Gray is also a better descriptor than "moderate," the weasel word currently being used by the Grays. But when you use the B.S.-preferred color nomenclature, the politics of this situation all become clear.

Elon Musk is a Gray – that tells you everything. The Grays hate the Blues, but they like the Reds.

Perhaps we should start calling them the Grays, too.

Police State: All the stuff about the Gray Police State is pretty terrifying. Blue Voters are going to want to know about that. Something tells me they aren't going to like it.

There's a lot more in the full interview below.

These may sound like the rantings of a madman, but Balaji Srinivasan's extremist ideas are a key inspiration behind Garry Tan's effort to capture city government.

When you witness the dehumanizing disdain with which B.S. refers to Blues, Tan's drunken death threats against Board of Supervisors begin to make a lot more sense. It was more than a drunken slip. It's how these people really think and talk when no one else is around.