Willmar City Council member Ron Christianson, who survived an unsuccessful recall effort in 2015, is in the spotlight again in the west central Minnesota city.
At the West Central Tribune, Shelby Lindrud reports in Concerns raised over Ron Christianson’s Facebook account activity; Professor: Elected officials are rightly held to a higher standard:
Community members have raised concerns about the supposed likes and comments from Willmar City Council member Ron Christianson’s Facebook account, specifically on the page of a Willmar woman whose posts are frequently critical of Muslims.
Christianson’s Facebook profile is shown to have “liked” an Oct. 14 post on the woman’s Facebook page that includes this passage: “We need to get these people out of our country and back to other Muslim hell holes where they will fit in because they don’t fit in here and never will.”
Other posts on the woman’s Facebook page with which Christianson is shown to have apparently interacted in some way include references to “illiterate, uneducable people with the average IQ of 68,” and “diseases, crime and filth.”
The Tribune is not identifying the woman because she is not a public official.
The Willmar City Council does not have a social media policy, and the matter has not been in front of the council, but it is expected on Monday to hear from Ben Larson, an appointed member of Willmar’s Human Rights Commission, who said he thinks Christianson should resign his seat.
“I think he should resign. He is showing he doesn’t support his constituents,” Larson said in an interview with the West Central Tribune. “He shouldn’t be representing this city. There are a lot of people in this city that want to move this city in a more progressive manner and this guy is holding us back. He is a dead weight.”
When contacted for comment on Thursday, Christianson said those bringing up concerns “are going to accuse me of anything. There is such a thing as the First Amendment.”
The paper reports that the woman has set her settings to private, but sources unconnected to the paper have told Bluestem that they know the woman's name.
Another Willmar-based site, the "Willmar Town Crier" Facebook page, kept by Willmar resident Jason Dougherty, posted a gallery of photos on November 10 that included screenshots of one of the woman's post and Christianson's "Likes," under the headnote:
Sad to see our locally elected officials & their wives approving this ridiculously ignorant garbage. Councilman Ron Christianson & Commissioner Steve Ahmann need to be held accountable for their support of this cluelessly racist & embarrassing BS.
We've included a screenshot of the local provocateur's post at the top of this entry.
The Tribune article includes the October 3 post included in the Town Crier's screenshots. The paper reports:
A post on the woman’s Facebook page dated Oct. 3 began with the author relating her advice to a student to get out of Willmar as soon as the student obtained his degree. One passage states, “There are more and more people leaving when it’s possible for them because our town has been given away to the most illiterate, uneducable people with the average IQ of 68, and the most brutal, the most evil and the most disgusting culture in the world.”
Christianson’s account appears to have liked the post.
It's not just "likes":
Christianson’s account is shown to have commented on a post on the woman’s Facebook page dated Nov. 12 in which the author says she is under attack “about my reaction to the unchecked Muslim invasions of the cities of the world. In not one instance have these invasions been a positive thing.”
The comment from Christianson’s account said, “Your antagonists are ill-educated and really don’t know sh_ _” and in a reply to other commenters, “Best to ignore their ill conceived replies. They’re definitely walking around with blinders on and very confused.”
As recently as Thursday the woman’s Facebook page showed a new post that included statements about the rise in hate crimes against Muslims.
“Could it be because Islam wants us and the Jews dead and are determined to destroy our country as well as Europe?” the post said.
Christianson’s account is shown to have commented: “You speak for many more people than you’ll ever know. You have blessed us with your ability to put into words exactly what we are thinking, but don’t know how to express in writing.”
Should this matter? According to the article:
Larry Jacobs, the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Hubert H. Humphrey School and Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, said that elected officials are rightly held to a higher standard because they represent all citizens of the city and certain speech can divide the community.
“That cuts to the appropriateness of him holding a public office,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs added that speech such as what Christianson apparently is reacting to is no different than disparaging remarks about women or blacks.
“This isn’t about political correctness but being a community,” Jacobs said.
Hateful Facebooking has led to at least one other local Minnesota elected official to step down. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reported in a 2015 article by Jon Collins, Columbia Heights school board member to quit over Muslim comments:
A Columbia Heights school board member whose Facebook page contained comments disparaging Muslims plans to resign this week.
A post on the Facebook page of board member Grant Nichols on Sept. 6 referred to the bathroom habits of Muslims as "unsanitary." Nichols denied posting the comments, saying a co-worker may have posted it using his phone. . . .
[Rep Carolyn] Laine, in an interview, said she attended a meeting on Friday with Muslim leaders and Nichols where he announced his resignation.
"His intention was to bring good things to the district, so when that was no longer possible, there were reason for him to correct the situation so the district could go on and continue with their learning," Laine said.
Later in the morning, Laine released a statement saying that Nichols in his resignation letter took responsibility for the online Facebook comments.
Monday's council meeting in Willmar should be one for the age. We anticipate the usual suspects on both sides speaking out. For ourselves, we'd hope the adults in Willmar would live up to the example set by high school students. See Willmar student royalty: homecoming court could help show the world what their schools are like and Muslim students attending Willmar Senior High: "we’ve got a really great community here" for examples of civility in community engagement.
Screengrab: From the Willmar Town Crier.
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