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+4 votes
edited by
Will they be handing the info over to the cops?
'cause fuck the organizers of the SF anarchist bookfair. those guys are serious jerks.

2 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
this is a really good question, one that you have presumably answered yourself with your tags.
that said, here are the possibilities that i can see:
1) they were forced to do something along these lines by some legal recourse taken by either keith herself (the pie-ee), the cops, or her publishers (perhaps regarding insurance for the space, or some such bureaucratic nightmare)
2) it's a prank post by someone unrelated (and has yet to be noticed by any of the bookfair organizers who could refute it)
3) it's a post by one of the bookfair organizers who perhaps likes keith and got carried away and is too proud to back up now
4) it's fucking stupid and there is no excuse for it
5) all of the above
by (53.1k points)
edited by
Because that book fair is sketchy as hell.

As to why the pieing occurred in the first place, our answer can be found in Nietzsche:

"A diet that consists predominantly of rice leads to the use of opium and narcotics, just as a diet that consists predominantly of potatoes leads to the use of liquor. But it also has subtler effects that include ways of thinking that have narcotic effects. This agrees with the fact that those who promote narcotic ways of thinking and feelings, like some Indian gurus, praise a diet that is entirely vegetarian and would like to impose that as a law upon the masses. In this way they want to create and increase the need that they are in a position to satisfy"
–4 votes
If "why" is asking for justification, I don't have anything to say about it . . . but if it's asking about cause and effect, then I suppose it's a sign -- like the pieing itself -- of the breakdown of anarchist community.
by (210 points)
what does "the anarchist community" mean? what group is that exactly? why does something done by the bookfair organizers reflect on the whole group? why does the pieing (of a non-anarchist by non-anarchists) mean anything at all about anarchists? wtf are you talking about?
Wow, that's a lot of (possibly rhetorical) questions to answer.  Okay:

1.) By that phrase "the anarchist community," I don't mean to imply that there is or ever has been a single big happy family constituted by all the people who call themselves "anarchists" -- but communities are not ordinarily single big happy families; they are groupings constituted by people who have something in common, e.g., problems, interests, desires, ideas, and who feel some sense of mutual solidarity as a result.  Communities are always fuzzily defined, so that it is often difficult to tell where they begin and end, and they are always full of differences.  These are some of my basic assumptions, anyway.  On that kind of understanding, I think we can probably agree that something we could call an "anarchist community" is constituted by people who have in common at least a few things, e.g, we call ourselves by the A-word _and_ we enact that in some concrete ways (associate with other anarchists, create/participate in anarchist actions or projects or organizations or institutions, read and write anarchist texts, try to live in an anarchist way, etc., etc.).  None of this fulfills the conditions implied in your question, "what group is that exactly?" -- but communities aren't generally capable of being "exactly," period.

2.) The event at which said pieing occurred was the SF Anarchist Bookfair, yes? As opposed to the I-Don't-Know,-Some-Kind-of-Politics Bookfair? Okay then: I'd say that what happens at such an event, all things being equal, can be taken to reflect in some way on the community by and for which it is created.  For example (a much more dramatic and awful example), I think of Altamont: the beating murder that happened there was not the work of the festival's organizers, nor was it perpetrated by people who were typical of the hippie community by and for which the event was created, but the fact that it could happen there and that nobody stopped it sent a message, cast a pall that spread way past that particular time and place.  For a lot of young people, it signaled the fraying of that community and the dispersal of the hopes and energies that had gone into it.  In the case of the SF Anarchist Bookfair, even if "non-anarchists" were the only ones directly involved in the pieing, it is hard to disconnect it from the anarchist community because of the overall context, because of how the organizers handled it, and because there was cheering -- and no other response from the participants.

3.) It's been observed that people are dependent on authorities and oppressive institutions to the degree that they are unable to depend on each other.  Where trust and solidarity is absent, force and coercion fill the gap.  Sadly, this seems to me to describe the situation at the SF Anarchist Bookfair.  Even if Lierre Keith is not an anarchist herself, even if (I do not know, not having read it) her book is offensive to some, the positions she was expressing when she was pied were not atypical in the anarchist community -- no? I have only my own experience to go on, but if every anarchist who is opposed to factory farming but not to eating meat were to be the recipient of a pie . . . there would be a lot more pies flying, don't you think? Note that while pie-throwing isn't necessarily violent in the narrow sense (though it's quite possible to hurt people in the act), it is a gesture of supreme contempt; it signals that the target is worthy of maximum disrespect.  In a community in which some large fraction (half? a third? two thirds? what do you estimate?) have reason to believe that they are going to receive maximum disrespect from the other fraction (a majority? a substantial minority?), how much solidarity, how much cohesiveness, how much energy-to-do-work-together, in short, how much _power_ is it capable of generating?

Please, tell me if I'm missing some part of the picture, or if you think I'm mistaken in my interpretation, or if this doesn't fit with your experience.  I'm being sincere, though.  I don't think this is an isolated incident; I think it's a symptom of bigger problems we have, ethical problems, problems of negotiating across differences.  We risk shrinking our community, already small, into even smaller communities of even narrower consensus.  It's not all a matter of narrowness, either: we have good reason to be afraid of erring on the other side, the side of tolerating too much in the name of community or solidarity, looking the other way when folks who share the same political identification pull sexist or racist or otherwise oppressive crap.  But I know many sincere, engaged anarchists who are routinely afraid of being judged and disrespected and attacked by other anarchists for what anybody outside of the community would consider to be really small differences.  I don't think that's a sign of health.  Do you?
a) i do think you're mistaken in your interpretation. in this pie-ing i don't see "anarchists acting against themselves" (to paraphrase your point), i see people expressing dissatisfaction with the organizers/the bookfair/the specific speaker.
b) i don't think pieing is some horrible disrespect. obviously this is in the eye of the beholder, which is perhaps part of the point.
c) if you read my answer to this question (oops, i was referring to my response to "Why would one concern themself with nitpicking others' dramas?") then you perhaps noted that there is a question about how well the bookfair organizers represent the people they ostensibly serve with the bookfair. many people would say that the list of speakers is part of the problem. so rather than holding the audience responsible, perhaps you could have a more interesting perspective on the relationship between the audience, the attendees-in-general, the organizers, and the speaker. maybe that would lead towards actually understanding something, more than your brief, vague, and accusatory two-line response.
d) you say that the event wasn't anarchist (or was a failure for anarchists) because the audience didn't rise up in condemnation of a low-level physical critique of this author. i would be far more afraid of a group of people who did rise up in condemnation of such an occurrence. it's easy to see the gross aspect of an audience clapping in an ironic hipster way at a spectacle, but it's also easy to imagine that people were frustrated by the speaker and were accepting of the pie-as-critique. i'm sure it was some of both motives, as well as others.
e) i asked you rhetorical questions as a way to point out how empty your answer was. you appeal to the concept of "community" without actual concrete explanation of how you think a "community" would operate, or why you think a group of people should be called a "community", ie without being explicit about how your assumptions make sense in the specific situation under discussion. your explanation in your comment above doesn't actually seem consistent with the expectations you seem to have of the people at the bookfair.
f) i definitely see anarchists who are routinely afraid of other anarchists as being a problem. obviously i locate the problem differently than you do.

edited to remove unintended repetition.
I don't think shoving a pie in somebody's face is "critique." The gesture is drawn from the imagery of slapstick comedy, not from Immanuel Kant.  It is a form of physical humor that's all about aggression and/or superiority, in which you're invited to laugh _at_ someone (like blonde jokes or caricatures).  Smushing a pie on somebody's face literally shuts him/her up, indicating that whatever they've been saying is not worth hearing, and it obscures the face, rendering him/her faceless.  It strips somebody of dignity in a public setting; it is supposed, I think, to humiliate.  All of this says pretty unequivocally: "This person deserves maximum disrespect."

All that being said, I think there are plenty of people who are deserving of a pie in the face, and these have been the traditional targets -- bosses, big shots, privileged and powerful persons with little respect for other persons.  I think most people get why Bill Gates needs a pie in the face.  It was a little more confusing, in the event, when Willie Brown got pied.  Now it seems we are seeing more pies thrown at people who are not in positions of institutional power but who are insufficiently radical, e.g., Medea Benjamin or Lierre Keith.  It's not an encouraging trend, I think.
lol. yea, cause critique and humor are mutually exclusive.
your analysis of pie-ing sounds like a literary criticism thesis.
pie-ing could be all the things you say, but it is not only those things. and how it is understood depends as much on the person being pied as on the pie-ers.
the people you list as being worthy of pie-ing seem to me to be worthy of something a bit more significant than a pie. when people have actual power over things and people, then the actions addressing that power should not just be symbolic.
it's funny that pie has so much power for you.
No, humor and critique aren't mutually exclusive.  It's just that calling the act of shoving a pie in somebody's face a "critique" seems like, I don't know ... a bit of a euphemism? As a thought experiment, imagine pieing some random guy in the street, then try to imagine that their response would NOT be to want to kick your ass (or should that be "physically critique your critique"? :-).

But if pieing is "just ... symbolic," a mere "critique" (and a pretty wimpy, ineffectual critique, you seem to think), hence not very "significant," why throw pies at figures of authority in the first place?

You seem to think, at the same time, that physical acts, gestures, bodies in motion, can carry meanings: for instance, that even nonverbal slapstick can propose an attitude, a way of feeling about things, an idea (maybe even a "critique," although in the case of a pie in the face, the word is just too genteel to translate it).  I agree.  But if bodies and forces can convey meanings, if they have a symbolic aspect, then symbols and their meanings are not totally separate from material forces.  And in that case, it seems funny -- make that "implausible" -- to insist that pieing is merely symbolic and not at all an act of force.  

You can definitely expect the target to respond as if it were both.  Try it and see.  Pie the next person you meet, then ask: "What's the matter? It's just a little critique!"
this is, pardon me, an idiotic response. if i were to pie someone who i didn't know, then i wouldn't be critiquing them, obviously. i might be critiquing business-as-usual, but in that case i wouldn't expect them to understand, nor would their understanding be the main point.
obviously pie-ing someone who is being held up as someone to listen to, someone who is an appropriate person to speak to anarchists, in front of a bunch of people who are not in much of a position to speak back (being an audience is a typically pretty passive position) is quite different than a random street-side target.
i'm sorry that i have to point that out to you.

and i never said it wasn't an act of force, just that that is hardly the only way to talk about it, or even the most accurate way.
"pie-ing could be all the things you say, but it is not only those things."
Feel free to pie someone you _do_ know.  Is the result different?

Don't be sorry!  Please tell me -- the literary critic, the idiot -- what you think pieing "could be," and for whom.
i have given you plenty of information. thanks anyway.
I read this conversation in tiny print on my phone, and thought for the longest time that it was about Peeing on people's faces. Now that issue would definitely have warranted all the metaphors about decapitation and tongue severing and the positing of the Pee-ee's identity as {S|√-0} and all that stuff rich kids still do in Humanities. It was disappointing to find out it was just pie {S|√~:(}
just to add to this - someone i know was pied at the houston @bookfair a couple years ago. he was pied by people who knew him and worked with him. he laughed at it, although i'm sure his feelings were hurt a little, and took it for what it was worth, which is to be (as far as i'm concerned) a pricking of an inflated image (either of the person for themselves, or of other people for them).
that was an appropriate and laudable response. and if anything made people like him more.

(fwtw, three years later.
some people just can't let things go!)
I lived in a place where filthy amoral crustLords actually literally Peed on each other on a daily basis, and thus my sense of proportion will always be distorted. I really like Pie a lot, so that's another bias.