When “Defamers” was published in February, I anticipated some sort of salvo from CalCoastNews. First they lose the defamation lawsuit filed against them. Then they lose their appeal. Then they lose the lawsuits they filed against anyone and everyone they feel wronged them. When my book was published, there was silence. That’s unusual, I thought. Recently, I figured out what they were up to all this time.
On July 18, CalCoastNews revealed a trailer for “Lying in Trash,” a documentary produced by an unnamed production company out of Southern California. The documentary, which anonymous users on CalCoastNews have occasionally alluded to the past few months, features several associates involved with the website that question the legitimacy of the $1.1 million defamation suit they lost and attempts to “shutter” the website. Naturally, the anonymous filmmaker(s) point the finger at District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill as being the ringleader.
In 2014, CalCoastNews essentially accused Hill of playing a substantial role of co-founder Karen Velie’s grandchildren allegedly being “kidnapped” by Child Welfare Services. At the time, the website created so much of an uproar that a rally was organized outside the SLO County Board of Supervisors chambers. The rally ultimately poured inside one of the BOS meetings with public comment speakers demanding Hill release Velie’s grandchildren. The website never offered any evidence he was involved, but Hill was the subject of anonymous documentary-style videos spread across YouTube on multiple anonymous accounts.
That same year, an anonymous account named “Longarm” announced the release of a video touting the “kidnapping” conspiracy theory on CalCoastNews.
“Kidnapper Adam Hill and his girlfriends […] are under investigation by the Knights Templar,” wrote “Longarm.” “YouTube search ‘Adam Hill slo’ to see the first of 100 YT videos, articles, a documentary, fliers and posters all over California, and the making of a 1000 person protest in SLO.”
The video contained personal information about Velie’s Child Welfare Services case that was never before made public. The video cycled through a series of people the filmmaker accused as being part of the conspiracy, including a judge presiding over the case, case workers and Hill’s partner at the time. The filmmaker had a description of the video, threatening to “draw [their] blood.” After being made aware of the video, SLO County Counsel ordered YouTube to remove it from their platform.
But before the video was removed, it was shared on a series of Facebook pages and businesses maintained by the son of CalCoastNews co-founder Daniel Blackburn. Like his father, Alan Blackburn is a filmmaker and has produced documentaries, particularly about Native Americans. In one of the shares, Blackburn admitted to producing the “documentary.” After revealing, in my column, his involvement in producing content that criminally threatened government officials, Blackburn scrubbed all of his shares. Facebook pages created to promote the video were also removed.
Two years later, in 2016, Hill announced he was running for re-election. This triggered the launch of an organization called “Fire Adam Hill” headed by a pair of anonymous accounts. Fire Adam Hill readily admitted to being anonymous, but stated they remained anonymous due to retaliation fears. Their anonymity became the subject of an investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission after they openly boasted about spending thousands of dollars in political ads on Facebook ads and failing to form an independent expenditure committee as required by law. At the time, I filed a complaint with the FPPC, which was unable to complete the investigation due to Facebook being uncooperative. Facebook would later receive backlash for allowing Russia-sponsored paid political ads that attempted to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Like the anonymous accounts preceding them, Fire Adam Hill was particularly fixated on the county supervisor and his alleged “co-conspirators.” Because I investigated and criticized CalCoastNews for their conspiracy theory propaganda, Fire Adam Hill named me as one of Hill’s “trolls” and co-conspirators along with members of my family. This fixation branched out into a number of self-produced video spots on YouTube. They, too, accused Hill of being the ringleader of a “pernicious” effort to shutter CalCoastNews and revisited allegations that he was involved in Velie’s grandchildren being “kidnapped.” For several months, the organization went as far as to create wanted posters of Hill’s supporters, calling for their immediate arrest and bodily harm and contacting their employers. The organization ceased posting after Hill won his re-election.
CalCoastNews denied being involved with Fire Adam Hill, though they anonymous accounts linked to the organization occasionally referred to CCN as “us” and “ours.”
For “Lying in Trash,” CalCoastNews declined to credit the filmmakers for the documentary, which was odd but not particularly surprising. Why would you not give a filmmaker credit? Then when you take a look at the credits, more questions arise.
Most of the individuals involved have a last name, but only a first initial. CalCoastNews mentioned the production company was based out of Southern California so I looked for production companies named “J.M. Productions” in the area.
One “J.M. Productions” in Los Angeles belongs to a man named James G. Monohan, who is not listed in the documentary credits. Monohan has denied being involved with the documentary. Another J.M. Productions is a hardcore porn film production company based in Chatsworth, California. At the risk of turning my computer into a virus-filled red alert for the FBI, I visited the site and reached out to them. They also denied being involved in the documentary.
Then I noticed two film companies on the credits, not just one. There’s a “Barns Films.” An exhaustive search of film and production companies throughout California and the United States found no results for a “Barns Films.” But then I saw the producer of the documentary was named “K. Barnes.” Maybe the name of the film company was misspelled and was actually called “Barnes Films,” I thought. No results came up for that either.
Not surprisingly, no results came up for anyone or any cameraman named “T. Randall Crew” in California or “Justino Meyers.”
You would think that any filmmaker exposing a vast government conspiracy would be proud enough to stand behind their work and not hide in the shadows. That’s highly unusual. Their website’s contact form doesn’t list an email address or phone number and their domain registration information is privatized. Though several names are listed in the credits, they’re clearly doing everything they can to keep their actual identities a secret. Even radio show host and former CCN contributing editor Dave Congalton was wondering the same thing. What gives?
This whole thing reeks.
I’ve never seen anything like it: this elaborate, extensive conspiracy theory propaganda machine — spanning for seven years and counting — focused on one elected official. And these “documentary”-style smears seem to magically appear during election season or when Velie goes through some hardship and blames it on Hill.
On the upside: I’ll likely be mentioned in this “documentary,” but that’s fine. I’ve certainly got more books to sell.