Journalist: I was assaulted on street for wearing Google Glass

Kyle Russell, a journalist with Business Insider, says he had his Glass ripped from his face in San Francisco's Mission District. However, he says he understands why.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

A symbol of gentrification? Google/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's a temptation to believe that San Francisco is in the middle of severe social tensions around tech.

When Yahoo buses are vomited upon and Google lawyers are the targets of a protest for allegedly evicting teachers from their homes, you'd conceive that things can only get worse.

And then there's Google Glass.

Already the subject of an altercation in a San Francisco bar, now it appears to have incited violence on the street.

Business Insider journalist Kyle Russell says he was walking in the city's Mission District when someone came toward him, put his hand in his face, yelled "Glass!" and ripped the device off.

Russell said: "I ran after, through traffic, to the corner of the opposite block. The person pivoted, shifting their weight to put all of their momentum into an overhand swing. The Google Glass smashed into the ground, and they ran in another direction."

Some might wonder why Russell was wearing his Glass out on a Mission street on a Friday evening. He said: "In retrospect, I can see how that might not have been the best idea."

He added that he understands that anything to do with Google "has come to represent gentrification in the city."

He said: "My love for gadgets makes me look and sound like one of the people whom residents of the city have come to feel oppressed by."

Yet in this supposed home of peaceful protest, why excuse what appears to be a simple and unprovoked assault?

Is it any different from being assaulted because of the car you drive, the clothes you wear or, as sometimes happens, just because?

The "well, you were asking for it" defense is troubling here.

Behavior is always about a sense of place. In the case of the San Francisco bar fight, some have criticized the woman who says she was assaulted, Sarah Slocum, for appearing to contribute to the disturbance.

For example, tech entrepreneur Jason Calacanis tweeted on Sunday: "If you are going out, leave Glass at home. Glass is not for bars."

In another tweet, he criticized Slocum: "Why did you escalate the situation and try and record them over and over? Really."

He believes that if someone doesn't want to be around Glass, then the Glass-wearer should simply walk away.

Google itself is extremely conscious of the effect Glass is having on some. It issued a guide, which included instructions on how not to behave like a Glasshole.

There is no indication that Russell was behaving like a Glasshole.

Though his insistence that something must be done to combat gentrification seems sincere, the suggestion that assault and destruction of property is somehow understandable is also a touch generous.

The problems are gentrification are real. The pace at which it is happening is extremely disturbing to many.

But much opposition to Glass has nothing to do with gentrification and everything to do with the belief that someone is surreptitiously sticking a camera in your face and filming everything you do. It is everything to do with the pervasive snoopiness that is invading every corner of society.

Just as you wouldn't wear a tutu to a wedding, wearing Glass on the streets of the Mission might not, as Russell admits, be the wisest choice.

But at the wedding, no one is going to scream "Tutu!!" and try to rip it off. They'll laugh at you, of course. But you surely knew that might happen before you put it on.

At heart, when there's no information about Russell's alleged assailant and why he really did what he allegedly did, forgiveness seems premature.