Facebook drew resounding cheers by booting serial fabulist Donald Trump. But it remains a site of ferocious politicking, much of it done locally, anonymously and recklessly.
Jay Baker, whoever he or she may be, doesn’t think much of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber. Facebook is Baker’s daily forum to pummel Webber by any means, fair and unfair.
Webber distributed a windy campaign letter praising the American labor movement on International Workers’ Day. Baker responded by pointing out the city’s largest employee union considers Webber an enemy of rank-and-file workers. Its members voted no confidence in the mayor.
Then Webber’s administration supplied incorrect nominating petitions to certain candidates for public office. Signatures the candidates obtained were worthless. Baker called the blunder another example of Webber’s incompetence.
Facts don’t always matter to Baker. He or she also will use innuendo to attack Webber.
A Republican, Alexis Martinez Johnson, recently entered the nonpartisan race for mayor. Until then, Webber’s only challenger was a fellow Democrat, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler.
Baker went on Facebook and publicly accused two of Webber’s allies of arranging for the Republican to join the race “so they could attempt to lump both female Hispanic candidates together.”
I wrote Baker and asked for his proof that Webber’s camp had somehow lured a second woman into the mayoral election.
“No proof. Just conversations I overheard,” Baker wrote in reply.
That sums up the ugly world of Facebook politicking. Speculative gossip can be packaged as truth.
Before the pandemic and all the lockdowns, Baker declined an invitation to meet me for a column I was writing. Baker wants to be a mystery person for as long as possible.
Webber doesn’t respond to Baker on Facebook, but the mayor gave me an assessment of his detractor.
“If ‘Jay Baker’ is a pseudonym, then they should have the courage to stand behind their hateful posts and city grievances and not cower under the cover of social media, like so many of Trump’s supporters do,” Webber said. “The divisive rhetoric espoused by this individual is exactly what has poisoned our politics and what is dividing our city.”
Baker and others level the same charge against Webber.
“I don’t think that the [Plaza] obelisk destruction is an issue that people care about most,” Baker wrote to me. “Rather, people care about the fact that there was zero transparency when the obelisk was first damaged by a city contractor and crew in the dead of night without any public notice or public input.”
Baker probably is a city employee, given the wealth of fact and dirt he or she dishes about Webber and his department heads.
Using a hidden identity is a matter of survival, according to Baker.
“None of us feel safe or have job security by speaking out internally,” Baker wrote.
One of Baker’s more persistent criticisms of Webber dates to 1975. At the time, Webber was a speechwriter and aide to Neil Goldschmidt, then the 35-year-old mayor of Portland, Ore.
Goldschmidt was regularly having sex with a 14-year-old girl in a hotel and in homes, but his crimes did not become known to the public for decades. Webber says he knew nothing about Goldschmidt’s abuse of the girl until a weekly newspaper broke the story in 2004.
Webber, though, wrote a blog in 2008 in which he described Goldschmidt as “brilliant, a meteor shooting into the sky, mayor of a major city in his early 30s, a man of enormous charisma. But I believe that he felt somehow in over his head, too high up too fast, too far out of his safety zone. If you’ve climbed out on a limb that is more than you can handle and you’re a very public person, how do you end the suspense? You saw the limb off yourself, you bring yourself down.”
It was a bizarre description of a child molester. Webber would later say he should have called Goldschmidt’s conduct what it was — criminal.
Baker has made Goldschmidt’s late victim the subject of many Facebook postings about Webber.
Goldschmidt is a sore subject with Webber.
“I am sure Baker is grinning with glee that he got you to write about Neil Goldschmidt again, which you wrote about in a column almost exactly one year ago and which has been covered extensively in the media since I ran for governor seven years ago,” Webber wrote to me Tuesday.
I informed the mayor that no one tells me what to write. I’m equally sure no one told Webber to write sympathetically about Goldschmidt before Webber ran for public office.
Baker is hitting Webber hard with whatever might sway voters. There’s an odd aspect of the animosity between them.
They’re friends on Facebook. To paraphrase The Godfather, maybe the social media site keeps friends close and enemies closer.