At New York Magazine, Reeves Wiedeman profiles Brace Belden, aka @PissPigGranddad on Twitter, a Jewish 27-year-old anarchist, provocateur, and former punk musician from San Francisco who is just finishing six months in Syria fighting against ISIS with Kurdish rebels. Belden — who flew to Iraq and had himself smuggled into Syria because he felt an urgent need to take action — is conflicted about having become as visible within the conflict as he has.
Belden was an unlikely recruit. He had spent most of the previous decade working in flower shops in the Bay Area and had LIFE STINKS / I LIKE THE KINKS tattooed on his left bicep. The Kurds in his tabor had taken to calling Western volunteers by their nearest celebrity doppelgängers, which made Belden, who is Jewish, with floppy brown hair and black-rimmed glasses, glad that they hadn’t noticed any resemblance to Woody Allen — nor had they seen the Annie Hall parody, Annie Crawl, that Belden had posted online several months earlier, in which he played Allen’s character as if he were a dog. Instead, the Kurds called him “Mr. Bean.”
But by the time we spoke, Belden had become — at least to American leftists — a prominent figure in the Syrian Civil War, to his surprise as much as anyone else’s, thanks to the humorous and often crass dispatches he posted to Twitter under the handle @PissPigGranddad: photos of himself giving a peace sign in front of a tank or holding a grenade with a cigarette dangling from his lips, jokes about how difficult it was to find a place to masturbate, and occasional analysis of the political and military situation. Belden, who had gone from a few hundred followers before leaving San Francisco to more than 33,000 by the end of March, was less the war’s George Orwell than its digital Hunter S. Thompson. “Sorry I haven’t tweeted I’ve been (lowers shattered sunglasses revealing empty, bleeding eye sockets) killing ISIS guys,” he wrote, after returning from his first trip to the front.