Aaron Ochs is the author of “Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized a Community & Those Who Dared to Fight It,” a nonfiction uncovering the defamatory, deceptive and criminal practices of online tabloid CalCoastNews. Click here to subscribe to his Patreon, check out exclusive news features and more.
Daniel Blackburn was once angry I called him “senile.”
It was 2016. Blackburn penned a bizarre, self-victimizing editorial that touched on the conspiracy theory that District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill and his “toadies” were on a vicious campaign to smear CalCoastNews. Piggybacking on his colleague Karen Velie’s false claim that I was paid by the supervisor, Blackburn dragged me into his screed, referring to me as a “toadie” that may or may not have responded to some anonymous Craigslist ad seeking a blogger to “change public opinion” in SLO County. Blackburn put my face up there in the article, with allegations that CalCoastNews reporters have “had their phone numbers and addresses posted online; homes vandalized; a family dog poisoned; [and] mutilated cats left on porches” right underneath it. To have my likeness associated with this activity was, quite frankly, insane.
I found it ironic Blackburn commented on my mental state by him “confirming [my] lack of acuity.”
While it’s a laughing matter now, it wasn’t then as I was hit with harassing messages and death threats over an editorial that was largely speculative and unbecoming of someone who prided himself on penning investigative stories. I remember thinking to myself at the time, “Something is really wrong with this guy,” so I countered his editorial with one of my own and called him senile. I didn’t hold back.
This stoked Blackburn’s ire. Shortly after I responded, he appeared on radio show host Dave Congalton’s show and went on an extended rant about me, speculating on my posting habits and my mental state. Being provocative as always, Congalton piled on and said, “Of course [Aaron] is paid by Hill.” And that was Congalton’s justification for attacking a private citizen for nearly an hour.
I’m seeing the same hyperventilating escape from reality with T. Keith Gurnee, someone who actually threatened me based in part on CalCoastNews’ conspiratorial assessment of me. Don’t know him personally. Never met…