Oh no! It's the City Council Derp Squad!
These neo-Nazi nerds think they're doing praxis
What is up players and lady ballers! I guess Sunday is the day for Worcester Sucks posts! Third one in a row now. Just happens to be the day that makes the most sense for me. But it’s kinda nice I think. In the long newspaper tradition of “Sunday stories.”
A variety show today. We’re starting with some internet sleuthing I did on the weird neo-Nazi nerds sending mailers to councilors and calling in to meetings. Then we got the Columbia Journalism Review, the school budget, the Canal District’s implosion, the Worcester Now | Next draft plan, and other fun stuff!
As always, please consider supporting this outlet with a paid subscription. It’s the only revenue source that keeps these posts coming, and by subscribing you can take ownership of this little experiment in fearless and unbeholden local journalism.
City Council Derp Squad
Content warning: racism, antisemitism, transphobia, nazi imagery, corniness
The racist calls at that city council meeting a few weeks ago, and the subsequent racist mailers some of our progressive councilors received, are the product of a neo-Nazi group based in California. They call themselves the “City Council Death Squad” and they are in the business of making prank calls while convincing themselves it’s activism for the salvation of the white race. They’ve focused mostly on Southern California, but they’ve called in to government meetings across the country, as I learned last night. Locally, they’ve called Brookline and Portland, Maine. And they’ve sent flyers to Newport.
I decided to do some digging yesterday. One thing led to another and I’m going down this rabbit hole until I’m watching the City Council Death Squad livestream at 8 p.m. on some Twitch knockoff called Odysee that allows Nazis apparently. A few hours into that stream they played a clip of their “activism” in Brookline and it’s a woman calling in and her name is Mitzy Papae. It’s the same voice and same name as the first Worcester caller, and just as stupid. One of the guys on the stream sounded just like the second caller. They didn’t play the Worcester clip, but they played a lot of other clips that were similar but way more obnoxious. I guess the Worcester moment didn’t rise to the level of clip worthiness. That’s a credit to Councilor Khrystian King and City Clerk Niko Vangjeli for cutting them off so quickly and not giving them the angry reaction they so obvious get off on.
Then, right as the stream was closing, the main voice (whom others called “Scotty”), confirmed they’re the ones doing the mailers. He thanked his supporters for giving some $900 on a fundraiser hosted by the company GiveSendGo.
“All this money is going to Jew naming. It’s going to be able to allow us to go... and go to the, uh, Name The Nose tour, do some live city council and help fund the postcards that city councilors magically get. I don’t know who does that. But they end up showing up at their homes.”
So there you have it. This whole thing is the result of a couple nerds who’ve poisoned their own well enough they think they’re doing praxis for their neo-Nazi cause while being too cowardly to put their names and faces to it. The livestream was just voices. Pretty sad, but also interesting in a morose sort of way. They talk about it like they’re building a movement, which they’re not.
“Go on, call your local community’s city council, do some IRL, get out there, defend the families, defend your race, do what you can to support yourself and your communities,” said another faceless host with another obnoxious Southern California accent.
Brother, you are making prank calls. Relax.
Unfortunately, I was dead-to-rights on what this whole thing was about before I even knew it. What I wrote last week:
It reads to me like the two of them were performing a coordinated stunt. If so, it reeks of “groyper” type behavior. For those who don’t know, it’s worth explaining the term. “Groyper” is a catchall for the most deeply lost members of right-wing online communities. It covers a variety of fringe subcultures that have emerged since 2005ish—all the product of decades of disaffected young men finding a semblance of community on obscure forums where all interactions are anonymous and entertaining dark impulses is rewarded. A groyper forum is about the only place I can think of where a joke like this would land.
Welp turns out that’s exactly what this was.
No one should be scared by it. These are not serious people. They’re nerds with negative reaction fetishes. Call me old fashioned but I’m not taking you seriously until you have the courage to stand by beliefs with your name and your face.
So how did I get this stuff?
Earlier this week, some councilors got some nasty mail.
There’s a direct link between these mailers and the call-ins from the other week. The first line of the “trannies don’t exist” mailer is word-for-word what the second caller said before he got cut off.
The mailer reads “you will never be a real woman. You have no womb. You have no ovaries. You have no eggs...” and on and on. In the following clip, you can listen to what the guy said. It’s linked to the correct timestamp, about 1:37 in.
Councilor Khrystian King released a statement on the mailers:
“We must intentionally root out all forms of systemic and socialized classism, racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia; through deliberate legislation, policy creation and implementation, funding, and Governmental operation and procedures.”
One of the flyers King attached to his press release includes a link to a website called Goyim TV Flyers, which links to a forum on Telegram (an online messaging app for right wing trolls). I got into the forum, but couldn’t see the archive. Just new messages. They’re pretty sad, like this one...
There’s 1,287 members, and one of them is named New England Clam Chowder for what that’s worth.
So then, after following the channel all day, I saw this...
And then I found the livestream link and I watched it.
They were plugging a GiveSendGo campaign, which includes this line...
We are also planning IRL CCDS events in 2024 and could use some help funding transportation costs and Airbnb rooms for our members. They can shut us down on zoom but they can’t stop us in person!
They raised a whopping $954.
If anyone is interested in sussing out the identity of these nerds, get at me. I have lots of tape to go over.
Woof. Time for a palate cleanser.
Also for what it’s worth this is among the many stories you wouldn’t see in a traditional publication around here so if you can swing it, throw me some bones!
Worcester Sucks in the CJR!
In case you missed it, I had the great pleasure of writing about Worcester and this newsletter for the Columbia Journalism Review! It went up Monday: Worcester Sucks & I Love It: Why communities need columnists (by a columnist).
What an honor! Here’s how it starts:
In 2019 the mayor of Worcester, Massachusetts, pronounced the local newspaper dead. “There is no real newspaper in the City of Worcester,” he said.
The Telegram & Gazette, which started in 1866, was not folding. It remains the largest employer of journalists in this midsize working-class city, known for its grit and its punk scene and for having invented the smiley face. It had, though, just dismissed its last columnist in another round of layoffs after a chain of acquisitions led the paper to be owned by Gannett.
When we think of national columnists, we think of breathless and endless takes—a bloated and exhausting corps of self-declared experts perpetuating tribal groupthink. But the opposite is true for local news. Local columnists usually started as reporters. They tend to know everyone, and have seen a large swath of local history firsthand. Maybe even made some. Their voices are informed, earned.
The news industry’s decline is marked as much by the loss of journalists like these as by newspapers. The country has lost a third of its newspapers since 2005 but two-thirds of its newspaper journalists—some forty-three thousand jobs. The majority of the cuts have come from the hundreds of regional daily newspapers owned by ten large conglomerates (of which Gannett is the largest).
The Telegram, for example, had some hundred and four staffers in 2005. Today, it employs just twenty. By December 2018, the paper no longer had an opinion page editor. Then they came for the columnists. Dianne Williamson was first to go, in 2018. In 2019, the paper laid off its last columnist, Clive McFarlane, the dismissal that led the mayor to declare that the paper was no longer “real.”
Thank you to everyone at the CJR, especially editor Yona TR Golding who put a ton of work into this!
Meanwhile you got Ray Mariano masquerading as a columnist at the Telegram, most recently penning a commercial for developers.
I had a passage on ol’ Ray in the first draft of the CJR piece but it got cut for understandable reasons (the CJR audience does not know or care about Cape Cod Ray) but I’ll put it in here, why not.
In 2020 the Telegram brought on Ray Mariano, former mayor of Worcester, to write a regular column. Though he’s not listed as a staffer, his work appears weekly. Where true columnists would provide context and weight to a given issue—speak the truth as they felt and saw it, to either the love or hate of their readership—Mariano’s style is that of a politician writing for politicians. His work is often ridiculed by local readers, and is at times nakedly self-serving.
Continues to prove true!
All Hail the Budget Fish!
The Budget Fish sees all!
Kidding aside, the fish looks how we should feel about the budget situation in the Worcester Public Schools. We’re looking at a $22 million shortfall, due mostly to state aid drying up and inflation not being properly accounted for in funding equations.
In a report to the school committee Thursday night, Brian Allen, the district’s chief financial officer, explained the situation.
While the gap was clearly laid out, there wasn’t a clear remedy on offer. Allen asked for the school committee members to give the administration some priorities, the implication being that the cuts are going to have to come from somewhere. And, since the budget is 75 percent salaries, we’re very likely looking at position cuts.
I’m not going to pretend I have good analysis to offer on school budgeting. I’d refer you to Tracy Novick’s blog for a better understanding of the nuances here. It’ll be important to pay attention to this as we move into springtime. Allen said the administration plans to have a budget completed by May.
Rewind Calendar is Live! (In BETA Form)
Quick update on the Rewind Video Store—we recently got our community calendar up and running in limited form. The idea is blending cool community events with noteworthy political meetings and organizing opportunities. Right now, it’s just a Google calendar and an email for submissions and it looks like this...
...and it’s only available for members of the Rewind Video Club! We feel like this could grow into a really valuable community resource, but it’ll take some time. Submitting events is free: email@example.com
And don’t forget about the first open newsroom event coming up on Feb. 15! It’s going to be a fun time.
Video essays, perhaps?
I’ve been getting more into video editing lately just for kicks—most recently, a short reel explaining the Worcestery Council Theatre 3000 stream. Here’s a version of that WCT3k vid I threw on Youtube so you can play it in this post.
But it has me thinking I should try to do some proper video essays on the subject matter of these newsletters. I was particularly inspired by this video Taylor Lorenz made, on the same subject matter as my CJR piece (shouts out Travis Duda for passing this along).
Could be cool! Let me know if that’s something that interests you!
And if this sort of work is up your alley, get at me :-)
The Rent Is Too Damn High
If you’re a renter like me, the news that rents went up by some 7.6 percent in 2023 is probably not surprising. Rents are going up for every renter I know, it seems like. And there’s nothing for it. You just have to pay it. Per the Worcester Business Journal:
The Worcester metro area saw its median monthly rent increase from $1,661 in 2022 to $1,788 in 2023, a 7.6% increase, according to a Friday report produced by Construction Coverage, a construction-focused research firm based in San Diego.
But did your income go up 7.6 percent? If it did, good for you. Probably didn’t, though.
The squeeze at the center of this housing crisis—tight rental markets, no new housing at lower ends of the spectrum, and no cap on the rent landlords can charge—is felt harder here in Worcester than most of the country. At 0.5 percent, Worcester has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country. Massachusetts has the third highest median rent in the country, at $2,431, according to the Worcester Business Journal. The “market rate” rents at places like 145 Front Street and The Grid are tied to a somewhat regionalized version of that figure. Boston drives the high end, and it inflates the low end in satellite cities like Worcester. Meanwhile, rent control is illegal and state and local officials remain committed to the Reagan-style ideal that “housing production” on its own will solve the problem. We just have to let the developers do what they want, say the people for whom the developers are primary constituents. I love Massachusetts. Fake progressivism at its finest. Can’t wait to start Fitchburg Sucks & I Hate It in a couple years.
Would it surprise you then to learn that the manager of the city with the unmitigated rent increases has been chosen to serve on Governor Maura Healey’s new Housing Advisory Council?
The guy who took a victory lap for nine people moving into a 15-unit permanent supportive housing shelter amid an ongoing 140-200 shelter bed shortage?
The guy who allows homeless encampment sweeps to go on unabated?
I would highly suggest reading this short collection of slides put on Instagram by HALO Worcester, a group of unhoused organizers.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking stuff. This crisis is real, and our leaders are not taking it nearly seriously enough.
Whoops We Killed the Canal District
In related news, the Canal District continues to collapse.
Once a budding hub of actual urbanism—a density of small, complementary businesses that facilitated foot traffic and made it feel like a city neighborhood—continues to flounder. post-Polar Park. I’m sick of saying I todaso but there were an awful lot of people who called this. And there’s no way of putting that genie back in the bottle, so... R.I.P. The Canal District. We’ll give it another go with another neighborhood in another decade and hope City Hall doesn’t kill that one too. But they probably will.
The news this week is three restaurant closures coming all at once. The District Wood Fired Kitchen on Tuesday, Blackstone Herbs & Martini Bar “undergoing a new concept,” and Lock 50—one of the real harbingers of the “Renaissance” narrative—permanently closing.
There are not a lot of restaurants left down there! While Crompton Collective and BirchTree Bread remain a credit to the city and the Worcester Public Market has its gems (Pasta Mani kicks ass) and there are old standbys like the Vernon and Steel & Wire (Nick’s 2.0), they find themselves increasingly on an island.
The Canal District had some real mojo there for a minute! City hall sabotaged that, cheered on by all the “stakeholders” in the “community.” They took out tremendously large loans to do so. All of the promises they made about spin-off activity were, at best, empty. Classic Worcester.
And I can hear you saying it’s not just the ballpark and of course it isn’t. It’s tough for restaurants all over. Zorba’s just closed, for instance. But I for one think City Hall should be in the business of helping, and when it signed the dotted line on Polar Park, it was hurting. The evidence backing that claim continues to build.
Lastly, rest in peace, Dive Bar. You are still missed.
NOW | NEXT Plan Is Live!
If you want Worcester to be less of a make-believe city, I’d highly suggest reading up on the Now | Next plan, which was released in full this week, and getting involved in making sure this plan is stuck to and doesn’t get messed up! Here’s the plan and a summary and a one-sheet.
It’s a big report, at some 150 pages, and I’m not all the way through it yet. But the big thing it’s doing is charting a path for sorely needed residential density and transit increases.
The astute political observer could look at a map like this (pg. 13)...
...and see where some problems vis-a-vis the cranks might come up. But this sort of stuff is important for “real city” purposes, and so we need to make sure City Hall prioritizes the plan over the Moe Bergmans of the world.
I should do a deep dive post on this plan, as there’s so much to get to. Soon!
Odds and Ends
Thanks for reading yet another Worcester Sucks Sunday edition. What with the video store and the Media Foundation and the Twitch stream, Saturday is increasingly becoming the only sensible deadline day for me.
Please consider supporting everything we’re doing here! In case you missed it, I opened the last post with a long explanation of what it is I’m trying to build here. Every paid subscriber is a part of that mission, and can take personal ownership of it!
A few more odds and ends.
The Telegram announced it’s getting rid of comments under articles. Thank god! And right when the Groypers started showing up at city council! Good timing.
Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital filed official complaints with the state over dangerous working conditions. Per MassLive:
The complaints are based on over 500 reports made by nurses over the last six months that detail issues such as staffing deficiencies and poor allocation of technology, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), which represents the nurses, said in a press release.
The reports — over 100 of which were filed in January 2024 — also describe “a deliberately punitive management culture” that is causing delays in delivering patients’ medications and treatments, preventable patient falls and even preventable patient deaths, according to the MNA.
Tenet Healthcare, which owns the hospital, is a collection of rat bastards. Having spent a lot of time at St. V’s the past few months, I can say all the nurses there are gems, and they deserve much better than this. Here’s hoping Tenet will bow to the pressure of their employees over the pressures of the market, but if past practice is any indication, they will have to be dragged to do so.
In other troubling healthcare news, a new report has found “numerous instances of abuse or neglect of patients” at the Bear Mountain Nursing Home in Worcester.
Ok bye bye. Have a nice Sunday :-)