Attack of the Neighborhood Sockpuppets

In a previous post, Mary Arnett commented:

And Anonymous, I know who you are on this blog but you don’t have the cajones to put your name on your postings. I wish you could put on your big boy pants and be a man.

I found her complaint about the anonymous posting a bit hypocritical — and lot hysterical — given her penchant for using sockpuppet accounts for posting negative comments.

On the Intertubes, a sockpuppet is a fake account, created for deception. Sockpuppets often are used to gin up support for positions or people that are controversial or not widely supported.

In 2010, our neighborhood email list had a new person mysteriously appear named Susan Garcia (posting as hikerlover72 [at] yahoo [dot] com). Every once in a while, Susan would pop up to make some nasty comments about some neighbors or the association. The thing is, nobody had ever met or seen this mysterious Susan Garcia.

Let me tell you about my favorite Susan Garcia post. My wife was featured in an Austin Chronicle article about film-centric websites in Austin. The original article is here:

Shortly after that article appeared in print, Susan Garcia sent the following gleeful taunt  to the neighborhood mailing list:

To: NSCNA [at] yahoogroups [dot] com
From: Susan Garcia
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 13:33:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [NSCNA] Chip and Juliette in the Austin ChronicleHey Everybody!

Check out this article in the Austin Chronicle that just came out.  It’s about the President of NSCNA and his wife.  I wonder if they are disappointed that Oat Willies has moved further away from the neighborhood.

Excerpted from the Chronicle.


Jette Kernion is not a film school reject. Quite the contrary: She has a Master of Arts in screenwriting from the University of Texas and did a postgrad year on a Michener Fellowship (for what was then called the Texas Center for Writers). She knows her movies, sure, but just as important, she knows Austin’s movie culture. Her site, the aptly named Slackerwood, mixes local coverage – contributor Jenn Brown’s invaluable “2010 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin” is plastered across the front of our refrigerator as we type this – with knowledgeable and spot-on reviews of both major studio releases and local productions. Slackerwood is, for our two bits, the best Austin-based/Austin-specific film site now going, and, as Kernion notes, it’s been going for a while.


Has Richard Linklater ever commented on the site’s name?

“Not really. He knows about it, because I’ve interviewed him. We’ve had some great comments when we do red carpet interviews, though. We had somebody say ‘Y’all sound like a bunch of pot-smokers!'”

Posted by
Susan Garcia

My wife, naturally, received nothing but accolades from our neighbors for being written up so prominently. I guess that wasn’t the response poor Susan Garcia was looking for. Best I can figure, Susan thought the closing paragraph — an obvious joke — was a cause to taunt.

Throughout the year, the mysterious Susan Garcia would appear, sometimes with some inept criticism or attack, and often just reposting emails from Mary Arnett. We never had any proof, but all were pretty sure Susan was really a sockpuppet that Mary Arnett created.

The proof eventually came out when a neighbor sent an email to Susan Garcia, but the response came back from Mary Arnett’s account:

To: luckykobold
Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010 2:38:07 PM
Subject: Re: [NSCNA] New Article – Sustainable Neighborhoods Meeting, Aug. 17

I don’t know what you have been smoking, Lucky, but that park ain’t 7 acres. It might be big enough for chihuahua owners but not for me with my Great Dane. . . . .I’d rather the city spend their money on getting the sidewalks fixed, frankly.


If I remember correctly, I wrote to Susan Garcia asking if she was sharing email accounts, or if her account might have possibly been compromised. I never heard back from Susan Garcia. In fact, Susan Garcia was never heard from again.

If you ask around, the very favorite Mary Arnett sockpuppet has to be Mabel Jean Elliott. This one is a favorite not only for the name, but the image of the barking neighbor in the fabricated story she posted.

The first anybody heard of Mabel Jean was when she signed up to a neighborhood parents’ list, and posted this message:

Date: Thu Oct 7, 2010 11:58 pm
From: “mabeljean.elliott”
Subject: Dog Problem/ People Problem on Rockwood

Hey Neighborhood Moms:

I signed up for this group a while back and have not introduced myself. I live at the Royal Orleans Condos and I have a new baby. I am writing this group because a friend of mine, Joann Xyz, at Xyzwood and Xyzwood reported a disturbing experience to me.

Someone on Primrose Ln is walking their daughter to school down Rockwood and walks beside Joanne’s house. Joanne’s dog (which is a small rat terrier type dog) runs out the doggie door and barks through the chain link fence at the little girl and this apparently makes the girl cry. The parents came and knocked on Joanne’s door and complained about the dog barking frightening their child.

Joanne is 86 years old and she just got out of the hospital with a very bad case of the flu. These people have become very irate with Joanne and I’m sure they just don’t realize how hard it is for an 86 year old woman to deal with a problem like this.

If the person who is doing this is on this list serv – please leave Joanne alone. She is not going to accomodate you by shutting her dog door because it’s open all the time – Joanne is in frail health. She reported that this person has come back from dropping her child off and then stood at the fence, barking like a dog herself just to intimidate the dog.

So who ever is doing that – please stop. If any of you know who is doing that please ask them to leave Joanne alone. Someday you will be old too, and then you will understand how it feels.

Mabel Jean

Mary, of course, knew who the concerned parent was. Rather than express her concern, she made up an outlandish story and posted it under a sockpuppet. The attack backfired. The group members rallied around the accused parent, and instead kicked Mary … I mean Mabel Jean … out of the group.

It might have ended differently if Mabel Jean — to paraphrase Mary Arnett — had put on her big girl panties and expressed her concern in a reasonable fashion, rather than posting a pseudonymous attack.

5 thoughts on “Attack of the Neighborhood Sockpuppets

  1. Chip, thank you for continuing to provide information about Mary and the extremes she will go to as she bullies people in our neighborhood. There may be legitimate issues that need to be resolved but she has lost all credibility with her tactics and needs to exposed. Keep shining the light.

  2. This was so entertaining. Mary Arnett’s nastiness is well known, but this really takes the cake. She is certifiable. I’m so glad you’re publishing all of this. Maybe she’ll think twice about bullying people in the future.

  3. God, I’m so glad to have found this site. She posts somewhat regularly on the Crestview Listserv when a topic touches on her public safety bailiwick. Actually, some of her posts are quite useful and informative when she’s simply passing along information from a city source. But, she always seems to add some off-handed, inflammatory editorial that can be condescending or obnoxious. After her most recent offense, I realized I’d been meaning to Google her. I am absolutely not surprised-but, tickled!-to discover a website that catalogues her obnoxiousness. This should probably have a companion Tumblr.

  4. “Is this Mary Arnett again? This person joined the group in June of this year. It may be legit, but the writing sounds suspect to me. I know who ‘Joann Xyz’ is and am curious to know how this Mom came to know her.”

    This is the email I sent to the other person who runs our group after reading the one posted by Chip. I know Jo McFerran as she was on the board years ago. I was trying to figure out how a Mom with a new baby had befriended her. I had read enough emails written by Mary to be well acquainted with her writing style. And my suspicions were sadly correct.

    As someone who lives a few houses down from Mary, it is not always easy. She called CPS on my family during a very rough time in my life. It was so very intrusive and it was hard to think that someone who didn’t care for me because of neighborhood issues could go to such great lengths to get revenge for grudges held. And while she may have thought a specific situation warranted it, truth is, she knows very little about my family or my parenting or my kids. It was an awful experience. And while I found out later from those who are familiar and worked there that I was in little danger, I didn’t know that. And having to let strangers show up at your house randomly, talk to your children without you in the room, and ask you to share private details of your life was embarrassing and awful. I felt so helpless.

    What I have learned over the years is that something snaps when things do not go her way or someone angers her. I do not understand it and honestly, do not think it is normal as it seems cyclical for her to build ties, get angry and break them and then abuse them in the groups in which she participates. I have seen her get frustrated with those that are on the same side as her. I have seen people really stick their necks out and risk their credibility defending her, but to no good end. She persists with her position and sometimes to damaging results for her cause and for all involved.

    And in being on the board of our association for 7 years or so, it is a thankless job done for the love of the hood. And if there is an issue that causes dissension, it is absolute hell and will tear neighbors apart and create wounds that endure.

    But there is a line between disgust or anger at the situation and outright abuse of people. That is not okay. I have not endured as much as you Chip and maybe that has to do with the fact you didn’t move like the last 3 Presidents of our association. Geez, it is a toxic position isn’t it? :-p

    I don’t wish any ill on her. I just want her find a way to work through her anger and frustration that does not involve taking it out on others.

    Many of us are like her just trying to give back and help our neighbors. There will be different personalities and styles to accomplishing that common goal. And I was flexible with Mary’s style and also came to her defense because I got what she was trying to do. But when you yell, scream and berate a person in person or on-line, there can be no working together.

    After so many abusive incidents with her and Ms. McFadden, I walked away from many years of activity with the association and have quietly vowed to myself never to return. I am not a member, do not go to meetings and no longer participate because I am tired of all of it.

    I am not perfect, but I am good person and I don’t deserve to be treated like dirt.

  5. Alyssa – no, you don’t. That’s why it upsets me when the people who haven’t been victimized by the angry neighbors say, “Ignore them and they will go away.” They don’t go away, and there is real damage inflicted by their abuse. And the victims end up throwing up their hands and walking away. That has to change.