By: Jasmin Prasad
In an unexpected turn of events, the Stockton mayoral election has been called for Kevin Lincoln. This comes as a large surprise to Stockton residents — former Mayor Tubbs has gone leaps and bounds for the Stockton Community, namely in his guaranteed income plan and in Stockton Scholars. The 209 Times, a right wing propaganda news source, played a crucial role in the current mayor’s defeat.
The 209 Times is a San Joaquin based independent news source that claims to “[expose corrupt elected officials or [take] on institutions and policies of the powerful.” However, the Times has engaged in the spread of fake news and was responsible for spreading mass propaganda to influential Stockton voters.
The 209 Times has amassed a large following over the years where they currently have close to 120,000 followers on their Instagram account. On this account, many baseless claims are made not only against Tubbs but against the city of Stockton.
The 209 Times only found their rise to fame because local Stockton newspaper, the “Record,” has seen large cuts to their staff and has subsequently struggled to get out reputable, honest news as a result.
Before he lost his bid for reelection, Tubbs was a rising Democratic star. According to the AP, he “garnered national attention for starting a privately funded program to give poor people $500 a month.” 4 years ago, he secured victory by winning 70% of the vote. This year, he lost to Republican Kevin Lincoln by about 10 percentage points. Tubbs was Stockton’s first Black mayor, encouraged UBI, and was endorsed by former President Barack Obama.
The 209 is a popular news source for residents in the area. According to Anita Chambers, a reporter for the LA Times, they have “run news stories with no proof alleging Tubbs has misused millions of dollars earmarked for city programs, lied about his involvement with an unpopular idea to use country fairgrounds as a part of a state-funded site for homeless people, and put personal interests ahead of his elected role.”
Daniel Lopez, the spokesperson for Tubbs, spoke about the allegations that Stockton had received and misused 60.5 million dollars meant to combat homelessness. He said that those claims were “outright lies.”
More locally, parody accounts have been made as a means to counter the spread of misinformation from the 209 Times. Two accounts by the name of the “209 Thymes” and the “209 Times Online” on Instagram are the forerunners of these appreciable efforts.
In an interview with the creator of “209 Thymes,” they claim that the 209 Times is almost akin to the “National Enquirer” where there is only reporting of “silly things like random fires and pinning of them on the homeless/Tubbs.” Further, they cite great frustration with the fact that the posts on the 209 Times are inherently un-factual, where “[they] spread so much misinformation, demonize the homeless, and are just a bad mark on the community.”
Namely, the “209 Thymes” criticizes an incident where, “[A guy selling corn] by the Burlington Coat Factory was robbed — the 209 Times advertised a fundraiser in which none of the funds went to the actual person who was robbed.”
The “209 Thymes” also mentions that the 209 Times has them blocked and has restricted comments — this is undoubtedly a silencing mechanism through which factual discourse is prevented.
Ultimately, the goal of the “209 Thymes” is to “bring awareness to issues in the community” so that way they can “reach as many people and get them to snap out of this idea that the 209 Times is fair, balanced, or even a reliable source.”
In the case of the “209 Times Online,” while there is an uncanny similarity in the account name, the message could not be more different. The creator of this account is frustrated with “the lack of credible journalism in Stockton.”
The “209 Times Online” also posts many satires (some of them submitted by members of the community) as a means to show “how little effort [the 209 Times] puts into their posts.”
More specifically, the satire account makes a very critical point: “the vacuum created by the Record’s inability to adapt to modern times allowed 209 Times and other unsavory types to exist. 209 Time directly exploits the undereducated population to influence local politics to install his cronies.”