With the recent talk of martial law in Tehran, my thoughts have been wandering back to the 1909 San Francisco earthquake and its insane aftermath, when the city’s mayor issued a blanket proclamation warning that any and all looters found in the streets would be shot dead on the spot. And, apparently, over 500 civilians were shot, many of whom were not in fact looting but instead trying to protect their belongings from advancing fires.
With earthquake, fire and out-of-control firing squads already accounted for, its a wonder that tornado, tidal wave and killer beers weren’t inflicted on the citizenry just to complete the natural suite of terrors. It feels like it must have been a hundred million years ago that firing squads roamed San Francisco, given that nowadays you can’t step on a bug without people drafting a ballot measure in protest. It’s a vivid reminder of the old, weird Wild West past that the city emphatically grew out of.
The alleged actual proclamation is posted above (although it clearly seems to have been photoshopped up a bit). Apocalyptic post-earthquake photos here. Many years ago, I made a weird little installation page using two of these photos on the old, defunct Mock Duck Project site. Photo: fallen zoologist Louis Agassiz outside Stanford University.