CalCoastNews, Black Lives Matter and Blackmail

Aaron Ochs
6 min readAug 19, 2020

I have to admit it’s rather peculiar to see a story written by CalCoastNews of Black Lives Matter-inspired protesters allegedly demanding money from San Luis Obispo businesses, especially considering one of SLO’s mayoral candidates is a victim of CalCoastNews doing the same thing to them.

Since mid-July, CalCoastNews has ramped up coverage of recent protests taking place throughout SLO. As they often do, the website generated controversy for reporting claims that could not be independently verified — from claiming protesters “detained” a pregnant woman in labor to organizing a protest in front of a District Attorney’s home to attempted extortion of an unnamed “handful” of business owners. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed “reporter” Josh Friedman has covered a number of these protests, offering his spin. And CalCoastNews co-founder has continued her strange fixation on SLO mayor Heidi Harmon and campaign manager Quinn Brady, both of whom Velie has dragged on several anonymous accounts.

One of the things I’ve talked about with protesters is how CalCoastNews will take a kernel of truth and exaggerate it into a believable lie. They can never report the truth as is because, to them, the truth isn’t sensational enough. They’re so insecure about themselves, CalCoastNews feels compelled to needlessly fortify their stories with allegations. Readers will congratulate them on their “reporting” and disseminate the allegations as statements of fact. And by the time the lies go viral and make their way around social media, the targets of their sensationalism will respond. By then, it’s too late. The die is cast. The lies have taken root into the discussion and have become so deeply rooted, at that point, that a denial is perceived as an external manifestation of conscience of guilt. By then, the speculative and conspiratorial narrative is shared on conservative-leaning social media and websites.

As protesters, organizers and protest supporters are experiencing that rinse cycle, my path and theirs began to converge when CalCoastNews wrote about protesters demanding and collecting money from local businesses. When I saw the byline on their article, I was immediately taken back to 2014.

I’ve written about this a number of times in the past, but it bears repeating because of the unique parallels between then and now.

Sandra Marshall in 2014 (Source: SLO New Times)

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Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.