Brian Zulberti has something to say, and he’s going to say it whether you like it or not. The Villanova Law graduate and social media activist has cultivated an online persona since making headlines last year for posing provocatively…in job applications.
Right now, he’s camped out in front of the US Supreme Court. Today is day 3 of his hunger strike wherein he nourishes himself with water, coffee, and, of course, attention. He’s gotten it, too: The Washington Post, Philadelphia Magazine, and the Philadelphia Business Journal have all talked to him over the past year. So, Philadelphia Weekly decided to check-in on the Internet’s Patrick Henry.
PW: Why are you doing this?
BZ: Since the advent of [the Internet], social media has been the predominant area in which people are fired for activities that should be considered removed from their professional lives and wholly within their personal lives. I am participating in this hunger strike because it was the best way I could think of to guarantee I get the chance to give a warning to the nation about an issue I feel strongly about.
What’s the issue?
I have called my advocacy a social media campaign, but at its core, what I am campaigning for is a separation, under law, of our professional and social lives.
Should someone be able to post cock pics on Tumblr or pictures of himself engaging in BDSM if, say, he’s a teacher, without ramification? Or are there limits?
A teacher should not be fired for adult content, no, but I’d not recommend it. The question you just asked me is a very tricky one. A lot of the time people give me extremely borderline cases like this which, I admit, give me pause.
Should people be able to say bigoted things on social media without ramification professionally?
I don’t like or support bigots, but firing people for bigotry [on social media] is absolutely unacceptable. What one person considers bigotry another may consider acceptable or even clear truth. If someone says something racist or bigoted in the office or somehow affiliates the company with that behavior directly, of course they should be fired. But as much as we don’t like the concept, we have every right to be bigoted on our own time and we shouldn’t be fired for it. It’s another tough call.
The truth is that a large percentage of us hold some belief that would probably be reprehensible to a large portion of society. Going on a firing streak and digging up everyone’s skeletons and minority viewpoints is an exercise that would eventually lead to almost complete unemployment.
What will, specifically, make you end this hunger strike?
I’m here until coverage or death. I want 90 seconds of airtime on national primetime television. Until I get that, I will be here and I won’t eat.
[Zulberti also posted on Facebook that he would be willing to cancel prior commitments at the the interview request of Howard Stern or WWE professional wrestling.]
What do you say if someone calls you an attention whore?
Oh, you mean that extremely hypothetical situation, right? If someone calls me an attention whore, I’d call them a jealous, hateful moron. I’m out here putting my life on the line for a civil rights cause. That would be no different in principle than if someone had called Martin Luther King, Jr., an attention whore. Although I am NOT saying I am of Dr. King’s importance or relevance, obviously the principle is the exactly the same.
If I just wanted attention, I’d take off my clothes and walk around in a gay bar. Instead, I’m out here starving myself.
Savage Love: About Ashley Madison...
First Person Arts Podcast: I Spy