The weekend of Oct 5th 2019 saw the 29th annual Jersey City Studio and Artist’s Tour (JCAST). The yearly event showcases the work of artists who call Jersey City home. The event was first held in the wake of the developer led displacement of the artist enclave at 111 First St.
This year however, one of the participating events was not all it appeared to be.
Those arriving at Home + Unity at the Wonder Bagel Annex on Bergen Avenue were not met with the effervescent hum of intellectual discourse or the gentle chiming of wine glass upon tooth enamel. Instead, the soulless drone of Kristal Haynes wafted across the room like chlorine gas over Flanders Fields.
Kristal, a Harlem resident and longtime Airbnb employee, was attempting to recruit less than a dozen seated patrons into Airbnb’s troll army.
Paintings and photograps adorned the walls of the donated space, but nestled between them were pro-Airbnb signs from Keep Our Homes – a front group and 501c registered charity set up and funded by Airbnb to advocate against regulating Short Term Rentals in Jersey City.
Strutting back and forth in kneehigh, patent leather jackboots Krystal detailed some of the tactics and strategies Airbnb has honed conducting similar anti-regulation actions across the country. For the last five years, wherever cities and towns have attempted to regulate short term rentals, Airbnb mobilizes a ready made base of hosts. Aided by paid organizers and agitators they infiltrate communities in order to influence opinion and further the political and financial ends of the corporation.
Political scientists call this Astroturfing, from wikipedia – “…Astroturfing is the use of fake grassroots efforts that primarily focus on influencing public opinion and typically are funded by corporations…”
Here we see a perfect example as Home + Unity organizer Nathan Jalani Taylor daubs the Keep Our Homes logo onto one of his pieces. An official Keep Our Homes sign is propped against the leg of his easel.
The terms Brobilize and Apptivism have been coined to describe the use of tech led Astroturfing. From a recent Buzzfeed article –
“The Airbnb Citizen campaign, which casts hosts as victims of regulatory overreach who would lose much-needed income if Airbnb can’t continue to grow, succeeded in San Francisco, where hosts went out, knocked doors, and asked their neighbors to support a pro-Airbnb policy. The company’s user brobilization was so successful that it launched host-led campaigns called “home sharing clubs” in cities around the world. In New York City, where Airbnb just lost a major regulatory battle, the company even agreed to finance a local host’s lawsuit against the city.”
The same thing, or an evolved form of it, is happening right now in Jersey City.
Art show or campaign Event?
Jersey City art luminaries who attended the show include militant monoglot Anand Jagadeesan, international playboy and toilet cleaner Christian Gavillan and amoral sociopath Graeme Zielinski. Graeme was flown in from Chicago by Airbnb to act as spokesman, attack dog and trollmaster for Keep Our Homes. He has a long and storied history of political dirty tricks both on and off the internet, a fitting wingman for his immediate boss.
The show was fronted by Airbnb hosts Nathan Jalani Taylor and Jhyda Pura-Quila. Nathan currently exploits an apartment in his building, offering one of three rooms for $35 each or the entire place for $99. Jhyda offers the attic of her single family zoned residence in Bergen Lafeyette for a princely $145 a night.
On social media, both Nathan and Keep Our Homes falsely promoted the show as part of JCAST. Airbnb used our community and art scene as a smoke screen for their propaganda, the same way they use small time hosts with everyday needs to obfuscate the problem issue of the big operators.
Your empathy is a weapon to them.
While few bothered to make the trip from Manhattan, Airbnb did invite all Jersey City hosts. Here’s the text of the invite, see for yourself and decide if this was a genuine community art show or the work of a large corporation attempting to interfere in our democratic process.
**Jersey City Hosts! Join us to learn more about the ballot initiative campaign followed by an art reception organized by local community members!**
Home + Unity: A Jersey City Community Art Show
Join us this Saturday, October 5th to celebrate local Jersey City artists who host on Airbnb and to learn more about how to advocate for the November 5th vote on the short term rental ordinance!
The Airbnb Team will provide the latest update on the ballot initiative campaign to “Vote No on Municipal Question 1” and will show you how to get involved in the latest fight for short term rentals. You’ll learn how to educate your neighbors on the issue and will hear updates from the campaign team.
Directly after the information session, we’ll celebrate amazing art created by local Jersey City hosts! Join us for the opening reception of “Home + Unity: A Jersey City Community Art Show” where local hosts and artists will celebrate the right to share their homes and create in their communities.
Free food and drinks will be provided during the event! RSVP to let us know if you can join!
What: Airbnb Campaign Session + Jersey City Community Art Show!
Where: Journal Square, Jersey City, NJ (**RSVP for the event location and for more details**)
When: 2:00pm – 3:15pm followed by the opening reception
RSVP to let us know if you can join!
Paid for by Keep Our Homes, 123 Town Square Place, Unit 239, Jersey City, NJ 0731
This is just the beginning. At time of writing we are 4 weeks away from the election, we can expect to see increasingly desperate actions from Airbnb as the November 5th election approaches.
What this city faces cannot be understated. An evolving adaptive enemy, created by a corporation, sent to infiltrate our community. It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop until affordable housing is dead.