Political Climate with Mark Simon: False Facebook ID fiasco inspires Trumpian reaction in Redwood City

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

As some of you noticed, I wrote a column last week about 2018 Redwood City Council candidate Christina Umhofer and her use of a false Facebook identity to harshly criticize Councilwoman Giselle Hale. In that seven-candidate race, Hale finished first and Umhofer finished fifth.

Among the many comments came a furious reaction and a flurry of counter-postings that were – what’s the right word here? – incredible. I want to go over the aftermath, not out of some desire to keep the issue alive, but because it says some unfortunate things about the current political environment and the social media atmosphere in which public officials, and even columnists, must exist.

But, first, to review: I had been researching the column for a few days and sent a list of questions to Umhofer about the fake identity – Ann Marie. She never responded to me, but she did preemptively post on her 2018 campaign Facebook page an admission that she had created the false Facebook identity.

She said she did so because she had been blocked from posting on Hale’s campaign page during the campaign. After the election, Hale unblocked her, but Umhofer admitted she continued to use the false identity to make comments on Hale’s page. She said it was an oversight. And here’s the key element of attribution to the information in this paragraph – that’s all according to Umhofer. She’s the source for this information. Not me, not my fevered imagination.

I then wrote the column, reprinting, word for word, what Umhofer had said. I also quoted Hale acknowledging that she had blocked Umhofer during the campaign, but she unblocked her after the election. I also noted a few examples of related activity by Umhofer, including that she populated the secret identity with false facts, so as to appear to be a real person. And I cited some examples where Umhofer commented directly on postings by her alter ego, calling into doubt that the continued use of the fake identity was an oversight.

And then we were off to the races.

In a related posting, Umhofer described the column as “nasty.” I didn’t expect her to like the column, but all I did was recount an activity that she admitted she had engaged in. To choose that word indicates she wanted the column to be seen as a biased attack. I invite you to go back and look at it again.

Anyway, the reaction of Umhofer’s friends and supporters was unfortunately all too characteristic, which is to go on the attack when faced with facts and information they don’t like and that don’t suit their own particular biases. A good number of people – apparently Redwood City abounds in legal and constitutional scholars – attacked Hale for blocking Umhofer in the first place, describing it in scurrilous terms from illegal to really, really mean. It should be noted that Hale never blocked Ann Marie, so there’s that.

Turning the debate into one over blocking is a classic bait and switch tactic on social media. I guess they view that as preferable to acknowledging Umhofer had no business creating a fake identity. Indeed, some people were outraged that I’d ignored the real issue of Hale’s blocking. I didn’t, of course. It’s right there in the column. By the way, after the column posted, I was immediately blocked from the Ann Marie Facebook page. Incidentally, there also is speculation that Umhofer used another fake identity. I asked her about that in an email and she has not responded.

There are some interesting issues afoot here about the collision point between the public’s right to interact with a public official and a person’s right not to be the endless object of harassment, insults and invective. I don’t know how this sorts out and it’s certainly not settled law. It’s an issue we’re going to dive into in Climate, for no other reason than to add some facts to the wave of opinions that have been generated in reaction to this little example.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m astonished that blocking became the main focus point and that the same people who raised this issue glossed right over the fact that Umhofer created a fake identity just so she could continue to attack Hale.

Beyond that little sideshow, there was the usual hoo-ha that I’m a shill and that I’m only running interference for Hale and that Climate is all about some set of interests that are dark and sinister. One poster very cleverly described it as “Climate Ragazine.” I should note the prior sentence was sarcasm – I don’t really think it was all that clever. These days, subtlety seems to be in low currency. And, as an aside, I can promise you that Hale doesn’t think I’m doing her any favors.

Some folks tried to post the column on the Facebook page of Redwood City Residents Say What, a repository of people who do not like Hale and like Umhofer, and a page that says it exists for residents to post their thoughts and comments. The column was deleted twice and when someone asked why, a page administrator said it was full of inaccuracies.

Of course, no one has come forward to point out these inaccuracies. I’m puzzled by the accusation. Had Umhofer responded to the detailed questions I posed to her, she could have corrected any inaccurate information I may have had.

This episode affirms some behavioral norms that are engaged in by these folks, based on a year of occasional observation, usually when they force themselves into my consciousness. They qualify as truisms – behavior you can count on – and some of them are tried and true political truisms, many of them in use by President Trump and his voluble supporters.

They can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

Whatever they accuse you of doing, they’re doing.

They see the world as enemies and friends, which justifies anything they want to do or say.

And, the one that has been most evident: They forgive their friends everything and their enemies nothing.

As an example of the last one, just imagine how these folks would have responded had Hale created a false identity and began posting criticisms of Umhofer.

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

64 Comments

  1. Mark,

    I read the article and felt you presented the facts as you knew them and did not try to slant the information you were puttting forth. I appreciate your column and your fairness. Keep up the good work and don’t let anyone keep you from reporting the way you see fit.

    • So, Simon isn’t a paid shill? Say what? This magazine is PR firm Singer & Associates ‘creation’ to benefit RWC? No, it’s a magazine to further the agenda of its clients … namely developers Stanford & Jay Paul who are aligned with Hale. Both developers helped her get elected by essentially leveraging Gee territory … redwood shores because she lost her neighborhood Mt Carmel to Howard didn’t she?

      No PR firm does any work a client doesn’t pay for … some of you have PR background, worked for an agency and know this factually.

      If Simon is crying foul maybe he doesn’t understand how PR firms fund pet projects like magazines for clients. But let no one think Climate is about residents … it most certainly is not.

      • Oh my. I just love people like RWCdad who doesn’t sign a real name to their post. What are you trying to hide? Attack others when you can hide behind some moniker is just sad.

        • Seriously? You think I have spent the past five years putting my neck out on the line so I can all of a sudden hide behind a anonymous screen name?!? Surely, you must not have been paying attention.

          • Egads, not sure why this even dignifies a response but Mark Fasett is not one to hide behind an alias or screen name. And neither am I.

  2. This is truly a case for the FBI. Christina Umhofer, you’re going to jail. PERIODT!

    Twitter recently suspended Jacob Wohl for making fake accounts, so Facebook should have no problem banning you and your venom.

  3. I’ve lived in RWC 35 years and really can’t imagine what this is all about. Thanks for bringing it before the public. I voted for Ms Umhofer, but would not do so again.

  4. “These folks…”. That’s one of my favorites, when Simon attacks “RWCRSW” members because of the actions of the adminsistrators. Brilliant, Mark. Trumpian, even. It’s more of the divisive “they” talk… “the other.” The “they” who, though not defined, are all safely finger pointed about and safely dismissed.

    “They see the world as enemies and friends.” Oh, really Mark?

    “They forgive their friends everything and their enemies nothing.” “They” who Mark? All RWCRSW? All “they” who disagree with you? Who is THIS “other” this time Mark?

    News flash Mr. Simon. Umhofer was clearly wrong, and wrong again. Twice. Lots of frequent posters will agree with that. Oh wait, it doesn’t fit your “they” narrative. Sorry.

    News flash Mr. Simon. Hale was also wrong to block speech which was not out of line. Whether you like it or not, that is RELEVANT to the conversation.

    I do have a reaction to this new sort of playbook both sides engage in. People don’t criticize their own side, they only make a case against the other side, and make excuses for their side. Tiresome, and responsible for the way we have gotten more divisive over the years. But that is hardly limited by the particular “they” you write about Mark. It’s the “they” you see when you look in the mirror too.

    Also who you work for and why pays your salary is extremely relevant, as much as you seem to cry foul over and over when people bring it up. Grow up, get thicker skin, whatever it takes… motivation, bias and financial interests are a major part of politics. If you can’t take maybe find another industry to write about.

  5. I consider you a “friend” not an enemy and, yet, I still am going to correct the record.

    It was not just a blocking on Hale’s part. It was widespread blocking on Ms. Hale’s campaign page in response to facts: One person was blocked for posting a chart of campaign contributors. I was blocked for posting a link to a RCPD police press release regarding their finding of the lack of a hate crime.

    I am neither a “friend” of Ms. Umhoffer nor was I necessarily a campaign supporter.

    But I am now. Because I have great respect for someone who can admit his/her mistake.

    And I wonder how Climate hopes to grow a circulation by condescending and insulting its readers. No, I am not a Constitutional law expert, as I was asked by one of your “staffers”. But I did mention the Constitution in my comments. I know you understand the effects of your words. So I guess you are mocking me in this column for raising questions of constitutionality.

    I wish you, and Hale by extension, would merely recognize that widespread blocking creates frustration too. And that Redwood City is better than both of these behaviors — blocking and false identities.

  6. Mark thanks for the solid reporting on this. Is shocking and disappointing to see Umhofer behave this way. I agree it’s good she owned up to her mistakes, that’s commendable. I dont honestly believe the excuses for why she did it, but at least she is saying it was wrong. The “Redwood City Residents Say What” group should probably be renamed to the “Redwood City Residents Censorship Factory”. The removal of posts and comments is sad and pathetic. I wish Julie Pardini and the other moderators were a little less shady about this. Are they that scared of open discourse? I didn’t realize how Orwellian that groups moderators were.

  7. Just as the saying goes “two wrongs don’t make one right”; if Ms. Hale blocked Ms. Umhofer from her Facebook and commited some sort of violation she also corrected her “mistake” by unblocking her. But even then she didn’t needed to create fake accounts; she could’ve posted on her own account tagging Ms. Hale.
    The problem is that Ms. Umhofer’s friends can’t accept that cyberbullying is an epidemic crime that can be prosecuted; and we can’t pretend that nothing is happening because then we become enablers. An just like I posted on the RWCRSW Facebook page (posting that was removed, of course); there are current laws that protect the person that has been bullied. Unfortunately, these laws haven’t catch up with the fact that nowadays “ADULTS” would need to do this too; because adults are supposed to be open for respectful debate or to “agree to disagree” without offending the rest of the human beings. I guess we still have to learn how to respect other opinions.

    https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/california/index.html

  8. I quote just one sentence, out of several, from this article which seeks to define the qualities and behavior of members and/or Administrators of the FB Say What? group page.

    If I did not know otherwise, this sentence sounds like notes from a behavioral scientific study of gorillas in the African rain forest. But it is about us:

    “This episode affirms some behavioral norms that are engaged in by these folks, based on a year of occasional observation, usually when they force themselves into my consciousness.”

    My god, how insulting. Are you aware of the impact your words can have?

    • Is that why you continue to prohibit the articles from the says what page. A group that claims to be about free speech and community participation, but only if it agrees with it. Where memebrs cry about being blocked while blocking others liberally for simply disagreeing, and where the code of conduct is used to punish and limit conversation of anyone deemed outside while being completely overlooked for its allies. If you don’t like valid outside observations of what has become of your creation and the people who inhabit it, perhaps you should do some internal review and soul searching on it.

      • “Tom”… if that is your real name (mine is real)…

        Mr. Simon’s op-ed is NOT a “valid outside observation.” It’s a cynical attempt to dismiss an entire group of diverse people who actually share relatively little common ground. The RWCRSW facebook group has lots of disagreement and debate. While it did appear the most vocal members of the group preferred particular city council candidates, that was by no means universal. There was lots of conversation about that, and to my knowledge no reasonable civil disagreement was blocked.

        Simon’s fear mongering has to stop if he is going to try and be a true journalist. IF he were to interview some people who participate, do some actual journalism work, he might find things are not what he thinks or expects. “Feelings” aren’t facts. Observations from afar aren’t facts either.

        • Mark, I’ve been blocked, restored and blocked again by RWCSW more times than I can remember. That’s within julie’s right. I think you’ll have a hard time finding any comment I’ve made over the years because they’ve all been deleted. That’s OK, too. I’ve also had to block some of the members of the group because of their offensive and often obscene private messages they send to me. It’s possible that their actions are why Julie has kept removing me; to protect me from them. IDK. I just find it odd that this group complains about being blocked by anyone. BTW, Barb Valley is having shirts made for all of us who have been blocked.

    • On the subject of RWCRSW? blocking, group founder/owner/moderator Julie Pardini refused or ignored all attempts to even privately explain or discuss precisely why I was blocked from RWCRSW? a few years ago. The only clue she would reluctantly deign to offer at the time was that a comment I had posted to the group had “infringed the privacy” of another group member.

      The only comment she possibly could’ve been alluding to was one regarding a *public* webpage advertising a posh home for sale … which, unbeknownst to me was, as I subsequently learned, was coincidentally the home of another group member … one who I presume complained to Ms. Pardini, and resulted in her summarily blocking me from the group.

      That was over 3 years ago … and I’m still blocked! I can only assume my (apparent) “lifetime sentence” on a demonstrably and obviously false “privacy infringement” pretense was really about my frequent and sometimes pointed disagreements and detailed refutations (backed with references) of the frequent and excessively cynical, negative, pessimistic and/or misinformed (factually inaccurate) comments on many recurring subjects and themes regarding our fine city.

      Numerous others have said Ms. Pardini has blocked them for reasons more related to their non-conforming or dissenting views than for truly deserving significant/repeated violations of group rules … which apparently seem to be ignored or tolerated (sometimes with warnings) for violators whose views are predominantly shared with – or similar to – those of most other group members. This is a recipe for creating more of a (boring) “echo chamber” instead of a true community forum for interesting, thought-provoking discussions with sometimes starkly differing views on a variety of subjects.

      Or should RWCRSW be rechristened RWCR(We Agree With)SW?

      • For what it’s worth Adrian I probably would have blocked you far before Julie did. But I might have let you back on by now.. maybe. I would definitely have been very clear exactly why you were blocked. If she didn’t say why that’s wrong.

        • @Mark, while you didn’t say why you would’ve blocked me, if you re-read what I wrote, you’d see I said Ms. Pardini said enough to make clear she summarily blocked me on a false pretense. (And, I’ll add, with no history of prior warnings or anything of that sort.)

          Too bad, because I was one of the few members that were regularly correcting factually-inaccurate statements – with citations and references – that others would often discuss at length as if true.

          Democracy can only work as well as its participants are correctly- and well-informed. It’s why Trump and, presumably, a plurality of active RWCRSW members/moderators, dislike being fact-checked so much. Understandably, for many, facts are pesky, inconvenient things when they contradict what one believes and has said. For others, while they may regret having held and expressed misinformed views, they are delighted to realign them to comport with their newly-improved, fact-informed knowledge. This is what members of high-functioning groups (and democracies!) do (or at least aspire to do) when they fact-check each other. You know, “Thank you!” instead of “Screw you!”

          “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” —The Washington Post

          • Adrian, the bastion of fact checking and democracy! OK. That’s not quite how I remember it though.

            In my memory, for every fact checked response there were many more which were pedantic, arrogant, and troll-ish IMO.

            I don’t see that plurality. Facts aren’t opinions. If you participate in many online forums, you might see that they have a lot in common with RWCRSW. They are imperfect, people full of full on “dunning-Krueger” bluster, but they also encourage ongoing conversation. Again, if it were me I’d make it even more encouraging for people to express different views, and I would put up with a lot less, but it is what it is… imperfect and exactly what people make of it. It started as a rant page IIRC, and so it still has a bit of that vibe. You and Mark don’t get to define it though except in your own minds.

    • I bet a behavioral scientist examining Say what would come to the same conclusion as Mr Simon.

      I have been a member since the page began and have observed it many, many, many times.

      • I have also seen the behavior which you and Mark describe. I have seen a lot MORE behavior which defies that description. Again… people should decide for themselves not let others define things for them. Life is complex and people have their own agendas, I don’t put much credence into the opinions of others like that.

  9. I am guessing you are not a home owner here in Redwood City, therefore you were not on the receiving end of the campaign flyers sent to home owner from Ms Hale’s camp. Any reporter worth a salt would have investigated her falsehoods these flyers claimed and attempt to get to the bottom of this diversion tactic. I actually dug in myself and contacted the folks responsible for sending out these slanderous flyers in Sacramento. They picked up the phone and I said I had several questions I wanted to ask about a flyer that had sent to my home. I was immediately stopped mid sentence and said my call would have to be transferred. Guess whose extension I was connected to, left a detailed message and never received a return call from a week before the election, twice? I will let you dig in and find out who that very gentleman was and let you follow the trail. Someone is drinking the kool-aid!

  10. Tom,
    Haha! You should know that we “Trumpian” types never do “internal review and reflection” and are incapable of self-enlightenment.
    But thanks for your diagnosis.

    • Julie, you shouldn’t dismiss Tom’s suggestion of an internal review and reflection. It could well lead to self-enlightenment. It would not be a bad thing.

  11. The issue of blocking seems to be a red herring that deflects from the main point of the original piece: one council candidate was bullying and harassing another: “(Giselle) Hale said the postings were meant as ‘intimidation and harassment … intended to bully someone’ and that shouldn’t be a part of the public debate.” Ms. Umhofer’s fake Facebook page was just the vehicle for the harassment.

    That type of behavior is newsworthy because Ms. Umhofer is / was seeking to represent Redwood City as either an elected or appointed capacity. Residents have a right to decide whether or not they want a representative who behaves this way.

  12. Repeat, self evaluation required. Perhaps it has change.d. If it has, I apologize. However, based on what I am reading and seeing here I don’t think so. I long ago averted eyes from the car accident that is that page. Little common ground? Hardly. It is a giant echo chamber. Don’t confuse a few rational people participating with reasoned arguments in a cacophony of vile as a community of different opinions. If dissenting opinion is allowed by the moderators, it is ostracized by the groups members and most prolific participants with personal attacks that spill off the page into personal harassment. A grand pronouncements of bribery, corruption, ill motive association is hardly a healthy debate platform or a reasoned argument for policy discussions. Moderators willful blind eye to rules of the board on the worst offenders and hyper-vigilance on anyone who disagrees does not bode well for healthy debate. I have said my part. I am going to focus on trying to advance the cause of Democracy against s different group of people who who will never stop defending the indefensible. Trump and his cult of followers is a true threat to our Country and this instance locally is a prime example of how it is not only putting us in peril, but it is rotting our civic discourse at every level.

    • Tom, why be resistant to first-hand experience? Log in. Read. There are indeed moments where it feels like an echo chamber for sure. If all you do is look in once, sure you might conclude that. But take a long view and maybe not so much.

      The one thing which is common ground is people can be in “rant” mode when they are there. But the subjects of their rants vary quite a bit.

      I agree there are some personal attacks which I find distasteful (and I would frankly moderate if I were able).

      “..spill off the page into personal harassment”.. that’s a pretty significant accusation. Do you have specifics or any proof of that? I find that incredibly distasteful and I’ve never heard of anything like that. I hope that is not just a “heard from someone” kind of thing you’re spreading. That’s a SERIOUS accusation and I (and I’d think Julie) would like to know about it.

      Though some of your points are fair, like Mark, in my opinion you are taking the easy way out and making grand pronouncements without having the entire picture I believe. That, my friend, IS “Trumpian” in my opinion. Truth is not feelings, and first opinions are not “fact.” I have been on RWCRSW since nearly the beginning and I think you (and Mark) are generally incorrect about the big picture (not that you don’t have some valid points).

      • Mark, regarding your statement ““..spill off the page into personal harassment”.. that’s a pretty significant accusation. Do you have specifics or any proof of that? I find that incredibly distasteful and I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

        I can attest from personal experience that it does happen. One of the 12 “Guidelines” of the page, #5 includes the statement, If there is some reason to “report” offensive private messages, contact the Administrators here.

        I have received PMs attacking me and suggesting I leave the group and in a couple instances that I leave Redwood City. I ignored them and blocked the senders from messenger. Since I have done that those PMs have dwindled. I did not report these as Guideline #5 suggested until I received particularly odious PM which contained an objectionable gif and a profane message. I did notify Admin. The response I received said in essence to report it to FB. So no, Mark, the Admins don’t want to know about it.

        Tom is spot on in his assessment.

        • I guess I take the statement of Tom’s indicating disagreements following into the “real world” to include something more than FB Messenger. I don’t find a FB messenger to raise to the level of “harrassment” as you can simply block that person. I have maybe half a dozen or so blocked myself on RWCRSW. In every forum I participate, I have to block people.

          BTW don’t think you are the only one to get those nice messages. 😉

          Not to say it’s not wrong for people to do that, but that’s not really what I imagine Tom was insinuating.

          I hope Julie and team can read what you write and consider it at any rate.

    • Tom, preach! This is what I’ve observed as well, after first being a member of the page in the early days and then leaving for the reasons you’ve stated above.

  13. Full disclosure: I think Climate Magazine and Climate Online could provide significant value to our community. Given the shortage of local RWC press, they are well positioned to provide a worthy service. They also have a very talented staff of contributing writers, especially editor Janet McGovern, and a top-notch creative director in Jim Kirkland. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their coverage of some of the things that make Redwood City unique.

    That said, it is impossible to ignore their ownership entanglements with big developers in our city. Despite their protests to the contrary, the people who pay the salaries of Climate staff truly matter. It’s no coincidence that Climate Magazine’s relaunch this past year was timed perfectly with Jay Paul/Harbor View’s second attempt to garner public opinion in its favor and get its project approved. That’s because Climate Magazine is financed by executives from the PR firm Singer Associates whose clients include the two biggest office projects in Redwood City (Jay Paul/HarborView and Stanford). These pending, non-transit oriented, developments amount to nearly 3 million sq ft of office space which is 6x the office space allowed in the Downtown Precise Plan. Needless to say, there is a lot of money at stake with the developer/clients of Climate Magazine’s publishers.

    So while Climate Magazine has certainly filled a void by covering many local, feel-good stories and Climate Online admirably keeps us abreast of recent news, they avoid challenging our City Hall on anything significant that would alienate Councilmembers and risk losing their votes for their clients’ projects (e.g., the Docktown debacle, budget challenges, and quality of life issues such as traffic). And most disappointing, they have yet to question and demand accountability for the darkest side of all this new office and market-rate housing development and that is the massive displacement of our working class from Redwood City. Climate intentionally does’t cover negative articles that portray big development in a bad light or raise public awareness of development’s negative impacts and they are quick to defend the biggest champions of oversized-developments and bully others who are not.

    Despite claims to the contrary, Mark Simon of Climate does not cover all aspects of development equally. And nor does he elevate the civility of our community with his increasingly divisive, sensationalist opinion columns that are steeped in hyperbole and heresay. It’s one thing to ignore investigating our big governance and policy issues facing our city and another to engage in hypocritical mudslinging targeting residents and “citizen journalists” trying their best to provide additional coverage of hard-hitting issues that Climate shies away from.

    Maybe it’s meant to distract those of us who stay on top of the really serious city issues, such as the self-serving way in which new election district lines are currently being drawn, but let me say loud and clear to Mark Simon and Adam Alberti, we won’t be bullied and we won’t be fooled.

  14. Sorry Tom one more thing, I don’t mean to say RWCRSW is a perfect group by any means, and I do believe (if indeed relevant posts were deleted which I will accept) some self-evaluation by Julie & team is welcome. I think she has always been open to feedback. Franky, as I said, I would moderate it MORE strictly and get rid of MORE of the posts I think are over the line, not less. We all have our opinion. Julie’s is the only one which matters though.

    If you’re looking for the perfect forum then you should keep looking.. just as if you are looking for the perfect publication as the voice of RWC, you should keep looking beyond “Climate.” If you want, make things better. Send Julie an email or PM with specifics. She has often changed how she manages the page based on feedback.

    I hope you might also consider giving “Climate” some constructive feedback as well, while you’re at it.

    • Take my advice, Mark, don’t suggest the page should be moderated more strictly. When I suggested how to deal with duplicate posts I was told by an Admin that it was not my place to say the group should be administered.

  15. I have provided comment to Climate on their operations and shortcomings direct. I have been responded to every time I have. Don’t see the need to do it here. Journalistic standards, I can’t see anything wrong with the coverage. May not always include the emphasis I would like, but that’s how the news business works. Perfect is a far way away from where we are today when it comes to local media. In fact, without Climate there is not local media coverage. I choose not to attack the fact that someone is investing into doing it, and I’m sure not making much for the investment. Unlike online forums, they are actually providing deeper coverage and perspective , not just a cacophony of online commentators who apply no journalistic standards to their opinion–yet expect it to be accepted as fact. That’s not how the news is suppose to be and it isn’t how I will read it. I don’t mind it for those who want it that way. I prefer to read a different style. Mark’s column brings me back to the day when columnists put forward something to think about, and evaluate. Where they test your beliefs and the way you think about an issue. Sometimes its blood boiling wrong, but its an opinion not a mandate. In this case–I agree with it 100%. All the facts are there, the opinion is based on them. Thus far, I have not seen a single fact be disputed. The entire noise is about which fact deserved more emphasis. I agree with the balance–you don’t. That’s prerogative. But the giant noise and defense of the topic of the story is so clearly based in political affiliation and not factual disputes. This column’s assessment hits that spot on.

  16. Tom, I am not sure I’m clear on what you mean when you write I don’t “agree with the balance.” I’m not disagreeing with any facts. I’m disagreeing with his opinion that where the financing of Climate Magazine comes from is irrelevant. I’m disagreeing with his broad brush dismissal of RWCRSW too.

    I think this website and the Climate publication are less about journalism than about op-ed and opinion. I haven’t seen a lot of pure journalistic work here. For example, if Simon wanted to be a journalist, he would have simply reported on Umhofer’s actions and Hale’s actions and not editorialized about it. So let’s be honest, this is an op-ed.

    He also painted RWCRSW with a very broad (and in my opinion unfair) brush. Not journalism, op-ed.

    I don’t think Mr. Simon is any more or less informed than some people on RWCRSW or NextDoor etc. who do their own detailed research.

    I repeat my wish for you and everyone else to actually take part in RWCRSW before simply agreeing with Simon’s somewhat inaccurate portrayal. First hand info beats 2nd hand anytime.

    • Mark,

      As Publisher I will weigh in and try and address a few comments you made so you can understand.

      First, Mark is a columnist. It’s not an Op-Ed as he is being paid to write a column that shares his opinion. The news stories written don’t share opinion, but report on fact. It’s a sad fact that we are losing our news media literacy as the traditional structures around us dissolve.

      It’s a happy fact for me, that we have invested to try and preserve them. Climate makes its money from ad sales. The revenues from ad sales pay for the content. Lot’s of very warranted people writing news stories, both long form for the magazine and short form for the online product.

      Mark Simon writes those too. But in his work as a columnist he has liberty to infuse perspective and opinion. He does it wonderfully, and expertly. Always supported by facts. Climate is lucky to have him.

      As for how the business works or doesn’t, that’s the Publishers role. Just like any publisher, this isn’t my only job or business. I don’t have grand visions for retiring a rich man from climate. It is a passion project for me and an effort to try and preserve the finer aspects of journalism as they wash away around us.

      Feel free to reach out to me. That goes for anyone really, with ideas or suggestions. I don’t mind the criticism and welcome the conversation about the effort to anyone genuinely interested in it and not just trying to spin their own narrative for their own ends.

      I understand that will happen and welcome it to some degree. It makes it simpler when you see the noise about the ownership structure without any analysis of the content, it’s pretty transparent. I stand by these columns. I stand by Mark Simon. I stand by the facts as presented and in the several hundred responses to this, there has not been a single dispute of one of them. What does that say to you?

      • Adam, you are truly missing the main point of my posts. I take no umbrage with any factual reporting Mark does above. Most of the facts he states (Umhofer and Hale’s actions) seem to be factually correct.

        The problems begin with statements like “Redwood City Residents Say What, a repository of people who do not like Hale and like Umhofer..”

        BULLSH*T. There were lots of people who liked Hale there, and Umhofer. Lots of conversations about both (and other) candidates. That is garbage writing. It’s not worthy of anyone who considers themself a journalist. If you are the publisher, I would ensure I had higher standards for editing Mr. Simon.

        Then of course, since he’s already created the straw man… RWCRSW people “do not like..” then it’s easy to just dismiss all of ’em as the kooks they are. “The other.”

        Hey but it’s all good! Lots of page views! Lots of people looking at the ads!

        And the noise about the financial and ownership structure of “Climate” is factual information that many people find a relevant lens through which to observe the writing. That is called being an intelligent consumer of modern media.

        • Mark, you are deluded if you think you can’t describe RWCRSW members as rabid Umhofer supporters (and Hale haters). There were a small handful of people who supported Hale and were constantly harassed and insulted for it by the vast majority of that group. Take another look at the pre-election posts. Anything posted about Hale got a huge pile-on of haters (all of the usual frequent posters and the admin’s friends). Anything about Umhofer and Reddy got endless praise (and please note that Umhofer/Reddy posts/posters were not on the receiving end of that kind of vitriol from the Hale supporters). Simon’s description of the group sounds pretty dead-on to me, and I’ve read posts there much more frequently than Simon says he has.

          • Joe Bron, we will have to respectfully agree to disagree.

            People get all spun up about stuff. On that board, here, etc. You have falsely accused me of posting with multiple accounts right here on this page. Maybe you might consider a look in the mirror when considering bad behavior? Truly no reason for making baseless and false accusations.

            As far as RWCRSW, I have indeed seen some piling on about candidates. It’s not some conspiracy of “friends” or whatever. We all know angry people are more vocal. We all know the RWCRSW was created in response to unmitigated growth in RWC and those artifacts. It’s not surprising that more people are biased there toward less growth or a more reasonable pace of growth. That also goes toward how candidates had positioned themselves. But that doesn’t mean there was no Hale support. I read lots of people who would just post about Hale and ignore any piling on. I know lots of people who posted anti Reddy stuff and had conversations about it and issues related to the campaign (lots of rent control conversation there, I was involved in many of them).

            Those people disagreed and had their say.. on RWCRSW. I know, I was there, and I was involved.

            So I disagree, and my disagreement is based on being involved in the page for years.

            Simon’s description of the page was lazy, mean spirited and dismissive to an entire community of passionate RWC citizens. As others have said, he could have made his many valid points without that. So far neither Mark nor his publisher seem to get it.

    • To provide additional context:

      Singer Assoc (with Chevron as a client) created The Richmond in order to shape public opinion on behalf on the client.

      Singer Assoc (with Jay Paul and Stanford as clients) relaunched Climate Mag in order to…

  17. Far worse than Hale’s blocking or Umhofer’s pseudonym, in my opinion, were the several misleading hit pieces mailed out slamming Diana Reddy. Yet Simon doesn’t even mention that. If he could uncover the source of those hit pieces, THAT would be enlightening and help put all the shenanigans of the last Council election into perspective. It did seem to be someone(s) who favored Hale. I hope she was not complicit in those mailings.

    • Susan Swope,
      The attacks launched at Diana Reddy and her campaign (and the sources) should have been “breaking news” and a justifiable reason for an investigative report.
      Big money financed big lies in a local election. The reason? To derail a candidate’s chance for gaining office. Thank goodness a majority of voters saw through it.
      But that it was even attempted—on that large of a scale—gives voters in this city and county much to seriously worry about.
      We need to remember what almost happened: they were almost successful in undermining our election. That does not make for good democracy.

  18. “They see the world as enemies and friends, which justifies anything they want to do or say.”

    Mark, RWCRSW is much bigger and more diverse than you suggest, not just a “repository of people who do not like Hale and like Umhofer.” You’ve made me question how Say What? moderate their page. But you’ve also created a new “basket of deplorables” in the process rather than building bridges and strengthening this community.

  19. I think everyone is overlooking the facts. It is outright weird that she would create a fake Facebook account. Whether it was a mistake to actually post from it or not (which is not believable at all), it is actually just weird and not the actions of a normal adult, and such a bad example as a mom and for her kids. However, I am not surprised. She has done this before on greatschools.org and was reported. She’s been a bully since childhood, bullied parents at her kids school and I have no doubt in my mind she isn’t trolling these articles and posting with fake names. It’s quite obvious actually. She has nothing better to do, she should get a job. She is a bad character and it’s finally caught up with her.

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