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STR Wars: The Holesome Odyssey of Bruno Powroznik

By Mike O’Brien

Do me a favour and watch the embedded video below. It’s not graphic, I promise, but I would highly recommend headphones.

When YouTube’s ever-inscrutable algorithm brought this video to my attention, I assumed it was merely a hilarious exemplar of today’s surreal avant-garde meme humour. But when I noticed it was uploaded almost eight years ago, a hunch brewed within that there was more behind this ‘Bruno Powroznik classic’ than met the eye. Little did I know that this intrigue would reveal a bizarre, profound, and unwittingly touching journey of a mad economist who finds his true sexual identity in the face of prejudice. Without further ado, I invite you to lube up and join me on the chronicle of sodomy extraordinaire Bruno Powroznik.

Bruno can be traced back as far as 2004, when he habitually terrorised a property market discussion forum called HousePriceCrash.com (HPC). Taking no prisoners, Bruno gained notoriety as a forum menace by verbally assailing a group of property investors who would become his eternal nemesis: the agents behind the sell-to-rent scheme, or ‘STRs’ for short. When the Great Recession hit, unemployment skyrocketed, endangering many homeowners with the threat of eviction. Opportunistic investors sought property bargains, offering to buy homes from the financially challenged for ~70% market value and then rent it back to them at a reduced rate. It may seem a mutually expedient solution; investors score cheap property, and imperiled homeowners get to stay for a cheaper rate by forfeiting ownership. But to Bruno, STRs were uber-capitalist sociopaths making big bucks off the back of a national catastrophe – and he made no secret of it.

On HPC, Bruno was monstrous, attacking STRs with online abuse the likes of which I had never encountered prior to investigating this story. Bruno launched websites solely to berate individual members of the forum. These were long, garish, and terrifying indictments that ranted on for almost 4000 words. In one site, he targeted an STR named Gavin Greenway, writing ‘I would love to eat Gavin Greenway’s liver’ and ‘I would like to make a skin suit out of Gavin Greenway’. In 2008, he uploaded a YouTube video declaring he would bring an assault rifle to an HPC pub meeting and ‘give the STRs what they richly deserve’, for which he was arrested. The case of Bruno’s contempt for Gavin Greenway is an interesting one however, as Mr Greenway didn’t seek to buy property – he sold his house to investors. It seems Bruno’s contempt for STRs is reserved for everyone involved in the scheme, if any sense is to be made here at all.

A curious excerpt from one of Bruno’s targeted sites

Bruno was discharged after police dismissed his video as an empty threat, and YouTube terminated his channel thereafter. Despite the ire he invoked, some forum members enjoyed his videos as surreal entertainment, downloading them for preservation. Thirteen years later, a handful of enthusiasts, such as David E. and Stunley Andwin, uploaded their archives of Bruno’s bizarre videos for all to see. A subreddit dedicated to deciphering and discovering Bruno’s work emerged shortly thereafter. Cacophonic and chaotic, yet somehow stylistically consistent, Bruno’s videos are shambolic rants delivered in an oddly rhythmic fashion, enhanced by a lo-fi Windows Movie Maker sheen. They have a strangely hypnotic charm, aided by the shameless use of Impact font, and Bruno’s insanity lends a surreal authenticity to the videos as truly unpredictable streams of consciousness.

Among his uploads was an armada of anti-STR propaganda, one of which makes the absurd allegation that the government is colluding with STRs by deliberately tanking economic prosperity to provide property bargains. But of all his anti-STR videos, one struck me as a subject of particular interest: ‘WOMEN PREFER HOMEOWNERS, NOT RENT FOREVER LOSERS’.

In this two-minute speech, Bruno expressionlessly lectures into the into the world’s smallest microphone that STRs can’t attract women. The video is laden with wild suppositions and casual misogyny, claiming that, because they no longer own their own property, STRs ‘cannot pull slappers’, lack ‘high quality beaver’, and ‘suffer from pussy withdrawal symptoms’ like ‘penile dysfunction’. The allegations are so specific that, surely, Bruno must be projecting. 

My hunch is confirmed with stunning veracity when I discover ‘I AM HAVING TROUBLE CHATTING UP WOMEN’:

Here, Bruno confesses his difficulty engaging with the opposite sex. It’s odd, but initially sympathetic. It’s akin to reading a sad high-schooler’s diary, with lamentations like ‘WOMEN TELL ME THAT I SMELL’, ‘WOMEN JUST DON’T SEEM TO LIKE ME’, and the slightly more poetic ‘WOMEN FIND ME REPUGNANT’. It’s hard to imagine why women don’t consider the sensitive Powroznik an eligible bachelor – that is until about a minute in, where Bruno descends into cries of ‘I NEED A WOMAN TO MAKE MY DINNER’, or, ‘I NEED A WOMAN TO FULFIL MY DEPRAVED SEXUAL URGES’.

Ignoring the unignorable misogyny for a moment, there is something ensnaring about Bruno’s cutting introspection. In the history of human expression, I cannot name a more concise nor more devastating revelation of one’s vulnerabilities. Anything remotely comparable, like scathing confessional poetry, is building towards some grander moral, a statement, a takeaway. Bruno’s confessions, meanwhile, are so unambiguously self-targeting that nothing is left to the imagination. It’s easy to dismiss the enjoyment of Bruno’s content as crass indulgence in the ramblings of a puerile madman, but is it so different to surreal theatre? A Harold Pinter play is orchestrated nonsense. It compels the audience to find meaning in the inherently meaningless. Bruno, whether or not he’s aware, offers similar pleasure, but does so with a surreal authenticity that Pinter could never offer. Perhaps there is little divide in cultural value between a Pinter play and a Bruno Powroznik classic.

By now I’m entranced by the rabbit hole, transfixed by Bruno’s unique brand of boundless confessional chanting. But I soon discover that alongside STRs, Bruno has a less amusing and sympathetic target: LGBT people. One of the tweets from his short-lived Twitter account reads ‘I hope all gay people die of aids’, whilst his endless depository of websites make biblical proclamations that gay people are hellbound. It’s clear that Bruno is mentally ill, but between his rampant misogyny, disturbing threats, and indefensible homophobia, the visage of the enthrallingly mad economist subsides into one of bitter, if unwitting, intolerance.

After rummaging through dozens of videos, ranging from forecasts on the value of gold to proclamations that Satan will inherit the Earth, I stumble upon one that shocks me, yet makes perfect sense: ‘I AM A WOMAN TRAPPED INSIDE A MAN’S BODY.’

Stylistically, it bears all the hallmarks of a Bruno Powroznik classic but one: his raging tone. For the first time, Bruno speaks with sobriety, and it forever alters the way I approach her videos. They’re idiosyncratic and wild for a reason: it’s how she expresses herself. I see it now as a strangely unique form of poetry. When you transcribe this video and format it as a traditional poem, it gains a sense of expository vulnerability:

‘My body is my prison

I am the prisoner

I wish to break free from my male body

To become the woman that I am.’

It marks the beginning of a radical and beautiful transformation. Bruno embraces not only her identity, but her sexuality. She even releases videos detailing the best places in London to meet gay men for sex discretely, warning others that, in some areas, she has experienced homophobic attacks that have left her fearing for her life.

Amongst the last of her videos are two that bring me a warmth I could never have expected. The first, ‘Are you an anal virgin?’:

The content is merely advice on how to approach anal experimentation, recommending lubricants and muscle relaxation techniques. It’s the subtext here that counts, though. Her newly feminine cadence, the wig, the dress; everything from her demeanour to her speech beams with contentment. No longer are her videos comprised of rigid and hateful speeches dictated from a word document. This is Bruno in her element.

At last, the video that contextualises this entire journey surfaces – ‘MY RECTUM IS MY VAGINA.’

Here, Bruno explains that ‘buggery is enjoyable because the act of buggery is taboo […] it is a form of rebellion against society’. Suddenly, the pieces fall together, and the true meaning of ‘OBJECTS THAT I HAVE SHOVED UP MY ARSE’ reveals itself: Bruno isn’t hiding anymore. It is an earnest and revelatory declaration of what she truly is, and a proud defiance of the repression she’s overcome within herself. Pens, pencils, pebbles and coins are the tools of a personal revolution.

Bruno’s journey is one of beauty, bravery, and mystery. It’s a testament to the serendipitous anthropology of YouTube, how we can veer from immaturely guffawing at ‘STIFF COCKS’ to witnessing this vicious hate preacher surpass his internalised hatred and mental illness to embrace the woman inside. No one knows where Bruno resides now, but in her small, strange corner of the internet, her fans enshrine this peculiar legacy with a battle cry that will last through the ages: EVERY NIGHT IS BUGGERY NIGHT.

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