Nicholas Wilson: Whiny Wendy and the MCN Listservs

Little River

[You may have thought the recent elections here in Mendocino were over. The votes were counted, the winners announced, now time to get on with our lives, right? Well, not so with one losing Supervisorial candidate who can’t seem to reconcile herself with her overwhelming rejection in the 5th district. This is a followup report to these prior posts: MCN Discussion List To Be Shut Down; Regarding The Transition Of The MCN Discussion List; True Colors: Wendy Roberts now has a public record; Mudslinging in Mendo; Wendy Roberts’ Dirty Tricks Campaign; Sorry, Wendy. Money can’t buy you love; and A vote for Wendy Roberts is a vote for the Right Wing, Privatizing, and Dumb Growth. “MCN” is an Internet Service Provider Owned and Operated by the Mendocino Unified School District. -DS]

First, the good news that the MCN-Discussion listserv termination has been canceled or postponed. MCN General Manager Mitchell Sprague wrote in a list post dated Dec. 6, 2010 at 9:26 AM titled “MCN Cancels December 15th Discussion List Closure”:

After hearing the various comments and opinions raised in the last few days, I have spoken with Dave Miller, MUSD superintendent. The December 15th timeline for the closure of the discussion list has been removed.
The MUSD board will take up the discussion of the future of the unmoderated, open subscription discussion listserv at a *timed* item at a future board meeting. Superintendent Miller has asked me to pass along that he and the MUSD Board are aware of the other important public meeting regarding the Navy on the same night as the December 16th MUSD Board Meeting, and he has made a commitment that the MUSD board with have neither a discussion or an action item regarding the listservs at the December 16th MUSD meeting. We will post further details to the list
regarding when the MUSD board will take up the listserv issue in the future and well in advance of any meeting.
Until there is further clarification about this list, MCN  will continue to operate it under its previous protocols. MCN will allow open subscription and will offer no moderation for the list.

There has been a great outpouring from list subscribers urging reconsideration of Sprague’s executive decision, announced Dec. 1,  to kill the list on two weeks’ notice. Much has happened since then. Ukiah Mendo Blog editor Dave Smith contacted Sprague last week with a generous offer to assume the hosting and responsibility for the Discussion listserv, proposing only minimal changes, including that users should post under their real names, or at least give them if asked. Under Smith’s proposal the listserv hosting would be based on servers at in Santa Rosa, which in fact is where MCN’s servers are co-located. Nonetheless, many list users want MCN to continue providing the forum as a much-used channel for immediate communication, free speech, and community discussion.

Now the bad news. Only one person, Wendy Roberts, publicly opposes the continuation of the MCN-Discussion list.  Defeated 5th District supervisor candidate Roberts’ whiny letter to the editor published in the current Mendocino Beacon implies that the list is to blame for her defeat and urges MCN to retain only a strictly limited and moderated Announce listserv which bars any discussion. Here’s her letter in full:

Mendocino Beacon – Letters to the Editor – Dec. 2, 2010
EDITOR ­ Having been a target of systematic listserv abuse since early in the primary campaign, I applaud Mitch Sprague’s efforts to realign listserv policies and management with the original goal of providing a useful community service.
Throughout the campaign, a few individuals produced a litany of falsehoods, smears and vicious attacks on me and anyone bold enough to support me. Targets included personal friends, local business owners and their associations, the editors of the Ukiah Daily Journal and Press Democrat and the publisher of the latter paper. The Beacon was attacked for simply objecting to the negative rhetoric.
Neither I nor my consultant created the virtual personalities who spoke against my opponent, but I don’t fault them for not wanting to draw personal abuse by revealing their identity in order to express their viewpoints. The aggressive intimidation and the resulting chilling of free speech that occurred online and in person during the campaign were disturbing. The fact that this behavior continues, is simply appalling.
I strongly support creating a single list with a fixed word limit for announcements, ads, weather alerts and notices of missing pets or people. If individuals want to create topical discussion groups, enlist members and moderate the comments, they can pay a fee for this service. I do not believe that it is a proper function of Mendocino Community Network, our school district-owned Internet Service Provider, to provide a venue for or spend time moderating the kind of angry and manipulative spewing that has taken place in recent months.
Wendy Roberts

It’s ludicrous, whiny and weasely for Roberts to portray herself as the victim of listserv attacks when it was her supporters who initiated the dirty tactics against her opponent, Dan Hamburg, using false names and throwaway free Gmail and Hotmail addresses to avoid responsibility. She wrote that she and her Republican campaign consultant didn’t “create” the “virtual personalities” (aka trolls) who attacked Hamburg. That’s weasel wording. No one accused her of “creating” them. I for one accused her of using anonymous trolls and a few real-named supporters as surrogates to attack Hamburg so she could claim she wasn’t running a negative campaign. That’s been a common political tactic of the right since Karl Rove became the model for Republican consultants. It’s also a standard public relations tactic to hide the source of the client’s message and make it appear to be coming from independent voices.

Some of Ms. Roberts’ listserv supporters created brand new free addresses on gmail and yahoo, and subscribed them to all MCN community listservs in the 5th district. They used them for the sole purpose of attacking Mr. Hamburg’s character. She did nothing to discourage them, disown them, or repudiate them, despite the fact that she was reading their attacks and was actively posting to the listservs at the time.

Here’s an excerpt from virtual personality “Christine Gardner’s” list post of Oct. 19:

“Dan, if you’re a good, fair, and clean candidate, then please offer to do an illegal drug test and challenge Wendy to do the same. Otherwise, those of us who are watching you are concerned about how much you twitch, shake, and space out instead of focus on the issues that we care about. We want to know that you’ll be there to help champion our causes versus be in jail for illegal drug us such as meth. And, Anna, don’t bother, we’re wise to your shit. We just want the facts and Dan can easily provide them or not. Wendy are you willing to do an illegal drug test? Dan are you willing to do an illegal drug test? Let’s cut the bull shit.  And, see who’s willing to do the illegal drug testing to represent our County.  If you want a drug addict who’s too stoned to care, fine. Don’t respond to this post. We’ve already heard from you.”

Ms. Roberts encouraged and essentially owned this troll attack by eagerly agreeing to take a drug test herself. By her silence she owned the previous attacks on Hamburg by other trolls. Saying she did not “create” them is an attempt to weasel out of responsibility for them.

Even more telling is the fact that Ms. Roberts and her campaign advisor used a compilation of these listserv attacks on Hamburg in desperate half-page newspaper ads and a slick color mailer delivered just days before the election, when they would be too late to answer. Ms. Roberts and her consultant may not have “created” the listserv attackers, but they certainly did own them. She also explicitly approved of their use of false names to conceal their identities and avoid responsibility for their attacks.

In her Beacon letter Ms. Roberts whined about: “a litany of falsehoods, smears and vicious attacks on me and anyone bold enough to support me.” She has been repeatedly challenged to specify any of these falsehoods (or vicious and blatant lies, as she previously called them) but has so far failed to do so.

I’d like to address one so-called “false and vicious attack” specifically, because it relates to one of my own listserv posts, and it’s a good example of Ms. Roberts’ delusional grasp of the facts. It’s a fact, if we can rely on the Press Democrat, that the PD’s publisher Bruce Kyse and Ms. Roberts’ political consultant Herb Williams served together on the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee. It’s a fact, the PD reported last August, that both Kyse and Williams announced their resignation from the PAC at the same time, stating that their reason was to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. In Mr. Williams case, he was the political consultant to a slate of “business friendly” candidates for Santa Rosa City Council, as well as to Ms. Roberts. In Mr. Kyse’s case, as publisher of the Press Democrat he is a principal on the editorial committee that determines the paper’s electoral recommendations.

So it’s factual that the PD publisher and Ms. Roberts’ consultant knew each other and worked together as colleagues on the Chamber of Commerce political committee. The Press Democrat endorsed Ms.Roberts over the far better qualified and experienced former Congressman Hamburg, who was the top vote getter in the primary. A reasonable observer could fairly conclude that there is at least the appearance that the PD’s endorsement was determined by, or strongly influenced by, Mr. Kyse on behalf of the clients of his colleague Mr. Williams. It’s whiny at best to call that a falsehood and an “attack” on the publisher.

I could go on refuting Ms. Roberts’ delusional accusations, but this is long enough already, and you surely get the point. Reader comments and questions are welcome here, and I will be glad to reply.

Ms. Roberts has said several times before that the campaign is over and she wants everyone else to stop discussing it on the listserv, but of course it’s fine for her to keep whining about the campaign and the listserv in the newspaper, and placing the blame for her defeat on others. Some people are so convinced of their perfection and rightness that they can’t admit, even to themselves, that they lost a fair contest. No, it must be because the other side didn’t fight fairly, and because the local discussion listserv allowed awful, nasty, meany-bugs to publish “a litany of falsehoods, smears and vicious attacks on me and anyone bold enough to support me.”  Poor Wendy, everybody’s picking on her.
[In a democracy, the more citizens are involved in the process and in discussion with others, the better democracy works. Democracy-haters can’t stand free public discussion that exposes who people really are rather than how their marketers want them to be viewed. As a fairly new participant myself, I invite you to join in our on-going discussion that has been active now for many years. Most members read the discussions for awhile before contributing themselves. Unlike much of the new “social” software like Facebook, this particular discussion software is easily usable by rural Mendocino County dial-up users… which this list seems mostly made up of. And no ads muck up the periphery. More info and joining links are here: -DS]


Just an editorial comment. This excellent article really starts with “Now the bad news/”

The portion above that nearly lost me for reading the rest. Nice MCN is keeping its list servs.

Thanks to Herb for his comments and praise for the quality of my blog post. It began with the MCN listserv reprieve because it was news, and because the decision to kill it stemmed directly from the personal attacks on Hamburg by Roberts supporters, including several posting under false names.

So it’s revealing that Roberts is the only one who wants the list shut down. She said so in her letter to the editor to The Mendocino Beacon, a local weekly that doesn’t reach all of the 5th district, let alone all of the county. The revealing letter needed wider exposure than that, along with some analysis and commentary. Thanks go to Dave and this blog for providing the venue for it.