A Response to CalCoastNews
I don’t take CalCoastNews seriously — that is, until they publish false allegations about me so incendiary and grotesque that I receive harassment and threats as a result.
I’ve disputed their defamatory allegations repeatedly, which they’ve refused to correct. They know their allegations are false, but they continue to publish with malice and reckless abandon.
In his Nov. 14, 2018 editorial, co-founder Daniel Blackburn is referring to me as District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill’s “sycophant blogger” and one of Hill’s “blogger buddies.” This has been part of a recurring but tired theme that they’ve pursued to the point of absurdity. Though I’ve supported Hill because we’ve both been relentlessly defamed by CalCoastNews, I only write for myself. A shared bond is not a conspiracy.
For the last several years, CalCoastNews has accused Supervisor Hill of conspiring with me and his “cabal” to cripple and shut down their website by any means necessary. The truth is not as tantalizing, but it’s certainly ironic.
I fact-checked their “reporting” and published opinions about them. This resulted in CCN co-founder Karen Velie threatening my family and my former employer’s family. In addition to harassing my employer with a barrage of screaming calls and incoherent emails, Velie also accused my father of “assaulting” her to my employer. She has bragged about reporting me to the police for crimes I’ve never committed. Her grown daughter has used a number of Facebook accounts to personally cyber-harass me, which I documented here. Velie has also discussed purchasing a gun to protect herself from “stalking” incidents that never happened.
Since 2014, Velie has been an active security risk.
Since then, Hill occasionally shared some of my posts, which they believe is “proof” of a “conspiracy.” Like most conspiracy theories shared by individuals with a long history of credibility issues, this one has no merit and never has. In fact, in 2016, I testified under oath in a deposition about this subject and Blackburn was a witness.
They’ve used this “conspiracy” to raise money for legal expenses, garner readership and sympathy amidst a wave of ridicule over their reporting by the local news media. They’ve also sold t-shirts to supplement their seedy narrative. This is their sinister enterprise.
In 2017, Velie attempted to file a restraining order against me after I asked her questions at the Superior Court courthouse about the libel lawsuit she lost. Velie falsely claimed I threatened and “assaulted” her at the courthouse before dramatically fleeing the courthouse with a bailiff chasing after me — a scene one would normally find in a John Grisham thriller. The bailiff she identified had no recollection of the events she described under oath and penalty of perjury.
Additionally, Velie falsely claimed my father and I stalked her and family at her residence; that she filed “multiple police reports.” The judge found no reports, no evidence of criminal conduct or investigation. Velie lied on the witness stand and committed perjury. The case was dismissed.
Velie used the “conspiracy” as a reason for my criticism of her and her “reporting.”
In his editorial, Blackburn lied when he claimed I received a restraining order because I “threatened to throw bleach in Velie daughter’s eyes.” I never wrote that. That was not the basis for Velie’s restraining order request. However, after I was asked about this fallacious allegation in court by Velie’s attorney Stew Jenkins and denied making such a vile comment, Jenkins leaned over the witness stand and spit in my face. The judge subsequently asked Jenkins to take a step back, but no action was taken to discipline him.
But that hasn’t stopped Blackburn from associating me with false accusations like poisoning Velie’s pets, leaving mutilated cats on her doorstep, forcing Velie to move three times in the last few times as a result of people like me allegedly acting on Hill’s coaxing; insulting Velie’s grandchildren and helping facilitate their “kidnapping” by the Child Protection Services. As a self-proclaimed journalist, Blackburn could’ve easily investigated these allegations and provided evidence, but he’s consistently relegated himself to the role of conspiracy theorist and pathological liar.
But he knows what he’s claiming isn’t true.
Both Velie and Blackburn understand perfectly well how to use juxtaposition and inference to create a click-bait narrative, using the heading, lede, pictures and words to create a meaning they chose as “reporters” to put there. They don’t use verifiable facts and sources to dictate the story.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask Velie and Blackburn, who testified to deploying this sleazy practice on the record.
So, if we know they’re discredited, why should I care about what they said? Why should anyone care?
Donald Trump has referred to the free press as “enemy of the people.” He’s fomented the idea that anyone producing critical coverage about him and his administration should be treated like an enemy combatant. He feels the mainstream media is conspiring with the political left to undermine his presidency and the results of the 2016 presidential election. The inference is: something should be done to stop these “enemies.”
This rhetoric has inspired white nationalists to action, fueling the actions of one man who mailed pipe bombs to politicians and news organizations; one man who engaged in a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue; and people to rally proudly under the banner of hate, shouting, “Jews will not replace us” while carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia. Recently, the FBI reported that hate crimes surged in the first year of Trump’s presidency.
Blackburn is appealing to a similar base, inciting a similar hatred and contempt that Trump conveys on a near-daily basis in an already-heated political atmosphere. To be fair, it’s not a large base. In fact, CalCoastNews’ readership and relevance has shrunken significantly following the loss of the defamation lawsuit. But what they have left is a group of people who firmly, truly believe they are victims of a pernicious effort to destroy them. And by using buzzwords like “grandchildren” and “kidnapping,” they are playing with rhetorical fire, dog-whistling calls for violence.
Blackburn conveys a deeply vivid, knowingly false and malicious portrayal of his “enemies” in order to rile up loyalists. Many of them feel compelled to take action against people who are inherently different than them.
In 2015, Blackburn was a featured speaker at “The Second Congress of Freedom Force” in Paso Robles. The event was hosted by G. Edward Griffin, a noted conspiracy theorist and Anti-semite. Blackburn did not disclose his affiliation with Griffin to readers when he interviewed the former John Birch Society figurehead in 2016. Blackburn had also tapped writer Josh Friedman, a local conspiracy theorist and special correspondent for controversial conspiracy theorist website InfoWars, to write for CalCoastNews. Friedman previously ran a website called FreeSLO, which referred to a number of radical, white nationalist organizations.
Suffice to say, there never was an effort to “kill” CalCoastNews. There never was. Many of their victims wanted corrections, which they didn’t get and never will, even when CalCoastNews loses libel lawsuits. The court of law doesn’t matter. The inconvenient truth, the objectively uneventful truth doesn’t matter. To them, it’s about re-litigating a fight they already lost in the court of law and the court of public opinion — hopelessly hanging onto loose threads to distract residents from the hard efforts of actual journalists and to provide cover for their deep, perverse insecurities.