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Hateful speech via Zoom jars Atherton council as online trolling seeks to disrupt public meetings

Original post made on Sep 22, 2023

Hate-laden remarks bombarded the Atherton City Council meeting Wednesday night, Sept. 20, in what apparently is part of a trolling effort by extremists targeting public forums across the country.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 22, 2023, 11:31 AM

Comments (9)

Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 22, 2023 at 3:19 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

Every advertised Zoom call open to unfamiliar participants needs a moderator who's practiced at muting and (if necessary) bouncing & banning unruly participants. This moderator needs to have the moderator controls at his/her fingertips, and be poised to use them. Equally, he/she needs full authority to do so without interference from higher authorities.

I'm sorry the Town of Atherton had to learn, the hard way, exactly why this is the case. I just hope it now will have at least one moderator participating in every such call, who can and will fill that role quickly, expertly, and with confidence that the Town staff and Council will have his/her back.

-- Rick Moen
(Web-search my name if contact is needed)

Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 22, 2023 at 3:48 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

While I don't at all condone the hateful rhetoric, this brings up an important question: if an employee of the Town of Atherton can mute people who offer public comments because they are saying "harmful" things, or are "unruly", does this begin a path down a slippery slope? Reminds me of the Skokie incident and the correct decision I believe was made there to uphold freedom of speech. It is absolute (or doesn't really exist).

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 22, 2023 at 4:27 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

I think (unfortunately for those who would rather swiftly dispense with these trolls by muting them) that this is a first amendment issue. Public government meeting, speech protected unless actively threatening or inciting violence, etc. My concern is that this will be the end of remote participation in public meetings.

Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 22, 2023 at 5:40 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

Mr. Gonzales's story described the context thus: "The council took public comments on various topics". I doubt greatly that Amendment One prohibiting Town of Atherton from passing laws abridging the freedom of speech thereby also imposes an absolute legal requirement to permit any and all speakers to ignore agenda topics, during open comment periods.

But I'm just an ignorant half-century ACLU member. Atherton can and should consult its city attorney.

-- Rick Moen
(Web-search my name if contact is needed)

Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2023 at 11:55 pm

Observer is a registered user.

For decades if people wanted to participate in the open comments period they had to make the effort to show up at the meetings. They could also write and mail or drop-off a note or letter with their comment. More recently they've been able to email. It's time to eliminate live Zoom participation. It will not impact a person's right to use the open comment period
Hate speech which targets anyone's race, religion, etc should be banned.

There seems to be a difference in the speed and forcefulness of responses to hate speech. If someone presents foul hateful speech toward Black residents the speaker rightly should be prepared for all hell to be unleashed upon them from many present and from all the press. However if those hateful foul comments were directed at Asian residents the responses have been subdued in comparison. Hateful speech demands the same rapid stringent response no matter who/whom the hate is directed at.

When you hear hate speech imagine it's directed at you and your family and your race or religion. And act accordingly.

Posted by East of Middlefield Road
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 23, 2023 at 8:46 am

East of Middlefield Road is a registered user.

Zoom meetings are important. More community members can be engaged in their city. I don’t drive at night because I can’t see as well as I think I should to be behind the wheel. I also get up early and go to bed early. Zoom allows me to participate in a discussion if the item is early in the meeting. If later in the meeting I am able to stay up later because I am already home and ready for bed instead of having to get home and come undone and then get to bed.
I am able to ignore those individuals who feel the need to use profanity or offensive comments about others. I know not everyone can. Hopefully this is just a phase and will disappear. In the meantime it makes no sense to eliminate participation by eliminating Zoom meetings.

Posted by Ronen
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 23, 2023 at 10:09 pm

Ronen is a registered user.

A lot of bigots feel empowered these days to rear their ugly heads. The reason they feel empowered is not really a mystery, unfortunately, if you follow our national politics. Derangement has taken over a big part of our national conversation, and it’s all coming from one direction.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 25, 2023 at 8:09 am

pogo is a registered user.

Ronen -

It's not just "bigots" or people representing one political pursuation.

Recall the protesters who interrupt meetings and events by gluing themselves to floors or tables, throwing paint on objects or on those who disagree with them.

It's bad behavior and unacceptable no matter the political bent.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2023 at 1:30 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

I love how those on the opposite ends of the political spectrum love to claim all bad things come from the opposite side. All the while ignoring the things their side does.

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