SLO County GOP Disinformation: The Digital Pandemic

Aaron Ochs
4 min readMay 28, 2021
Jan. 6 Capitol rioters using part of a fence to attack Capitol police. Photo by KENT NISHIMURA

Couple of weeks ago, I called out an anonymous Internet troll. Normally, I would look the other way and not even care. Most of that kind of nonsense is out of my peripheral vision these days. Don’t have the time or the patience to peruse comment sections. But this troll was different. They appeared in comments sections on several local news sites and Facebook, posting dozens if not hundreds of times within the span of a few hours, declaring with absolute certainty that a San Luis Obispo police officer died partly because the shooter was influenced by Black Lives Matter, Antifa and SLO mayor Heidi Harmon among others. There’s no evidence any such linkage exists. The investigation into the May 10 shooting that resulted in Det. Luca Benedetti’s death remains ongoing and details remain scarce. This troll was so prolific and persistent in their commentary that locals on social media took their words and used them to justify their own menacing and threatening words toward local Democrats.

Meanwhile, CalCoastNews published a pair of articles targeting two Cal Poly professors for expressing opinions related to the shooting. One professor warned their students about increased police presence on campus and around San Luis Obispo during Det. Benedetti’s memorial service. CalCoastNews falsely portrayed the professor as somehow inciting hatred toward law enforcement. Another Cal Poly professor stated in a personal Facebook post that while they support the community coming together to grieve for the fallen officer and support his family, they believed the “Thin Blue Line” flag was a racist symbol that’s commonly invoked in spite of the Black Lives Matter movement. But CalCoastNews falsely claimed that professor considered any sort of expression of sympathy for Det. Benedetti as “racist.” People got mad. Threats were posted on social media. Friends and colleagues of both professors have expressed concern for their personal safety.

Last week, the New Times’ Shredder tackled the politicization of this tragedy, taking aim at the Internet troll who who “[saw] anyone not aligned with their thinking as ‘alt.left/BLM radicals/antifa anarchists’ and progressives who believe ‘oppressive gang-stalking sharks-cops’ are waging an ‘undeclared, silent, bloody war on citizens.’” While I’d normally criticize the Shredder for once again…

Aaron Ochs

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