Yellow Journalism is Alive and Well on the Cal Coast: my foray into the troll’s den

When a friend recently posted to facebook an article that asks if a Morro Bay parks official is a government troll, I wanted to know more. I read the CalCoastNews article, then sought more information on this Ochs fellow and his so-called news page on facebook, Cal Coast Fraud, a site fully dedicated–apparently–to besmirching CalCoastNews due to “fraud and deception” in their reporting practices.

As a seasoned skeptic, I prepared myself to begin unbiased research on this secondary news source’s accusations of fraudulent reporting by CalCoastNews. I clicked their about page, and read that “CalCoastNews is a facade made out of cheap journalism, and behind that facade is an unforgiving force of retaliation against people who they personally don’t like.” That’s a fairly strong accusation to be making, right off the bat, and they back it up with the assurance that “we are very much in favor of investigative journalism, but if you’re going to market yourselves as ‘investigative journalists,’ you better get your facts right.” Let’s see how CC Fraud holds up to their claim that they can get their facts right, shall we?

Their website, calcoastfraud.com, has this to say regarding what they’re all about: “Cal Coast Fraud is an independent monitoring, research and fact-checking website that focuses exclusively on CalCoastNews.com, a hate group based in San Luis Obispo County, California.” A hate group? I thought they were a news organization. Hate groups don’t get business licenses, last I checked. Are you sure? In what way will you substantiate this claim?

CC Fraud, Did you want to persuade me to believe you as a reputable news source, or did you want me to find you just as suspicious as your hasty choice of moniker? (Language is so ambiguous that you may actually leave the first impression that you are the Fraud, and not the news outlet you’re criticizing, when you boast Fraud in your name.)

In spite of my strong urge to turn away from the insistent pennings of a news outlet whose sole purpose appears to be to question the veracity of another news outlet [why not just start a real news outlet and forget about your stupid beef, no?], the skeptic in me insisted that I continue on with my research regarding CC Fraud’s claims. I found an article of interest linked to their site, and was about to read it, when I became so distracted by the commentary thread that I had to chime in with my own thoughts.

I had just read the page’s rules of conduct, and therefore was perturbed to read not only a defamatory comment regarding a CalCoastNews reporter’s physical appearance, but a follow up pot shot by the administrator, who was clearly encouraging such body-shaming rhetoric, on his “news” page.

The commentary begins as follows:

[replier 1]: Summer, she’s got a face that needs triple bagging. Can you imagine drunkenly hooking up with that troll and waking up in the morning to see that face?

[site administrator]: Not enough bleach for the eyes.

Considering this level of discourse to be in direct violation of the site administrator’s own rules, I began a dialog on the same thread regarding how such reductive communication does nothing to persuade the reader to their side.

I began with: What does it matter what she looks like? Body image-shaming is f^@k unbecoming, Fraudtown. Then added, quoting from one of CC Fraud’s what-I’m-all-about mission statements:  Shame on you for such a trite condescension of a woman’s physical appearance, from the elitist voice whose mission is “specifically, to speak out against the vitriol”. Hypocrite.

How is it anti-vitriolic to body shame someone, CC Fraud?

I further quoted CC Fraud’s woe-is-me lament in my next comment:

And “naively expecting a dialogue with people who don’t know how to be civil”. Oh poor you, up there on your high horse all alone. If only the proletariat could speak your language. This yellow journalism will not be tolerated!

So I got a little carried away there with that last comment, because this cat was using double speak, as if Orwell was telling him what to do and not what to avoid. I still didn’t know if he was using double speak or ad hominem fallacy tactics in his articles, as I’d yet to get to the close reading of those texts.

I received immediate backlash from replier #1:

It doesn’t matter what the troll looks like but when she look like a troll I’m gonna point it out. Don’t like it, you have the right to stop reading and go somewhere else.

I think he wanted me to be intimidated by his ‘don’t like it?’ tone. Perhaps he didn’t want to consider how referring to a woman’s looks might be an inappropriate message to send if he wanted to further CC Fraud’s cause. I mean, here I was, trying to get at the truth, but before I could move on to read a CC Fraud article on the topic, I had to speak against the body-shaming of a reporter as an acceptable form of public discourse. Body-shaming the opposition destroys your cause, CC Fraud.

I told that finger pointer, This is in direct opposition to this site’s mission statement, ‘specifically, to speak out against the vitriol’. I argue that a person’s looks have nothing to do with the argument this fb page is attempting to create. If anything, to stand by such hate speech shows you as the embodiment of that which you call your opposition. Such trumpathetic discourse, in which it is somehow okay to belittle a woman’s looks as a means of making an argument, don’t belong on a page claiming to be dedicated to “news”. Your ‘Don’t like it, you have the right to stop reading and go somewhere else’ vibe is far from intimidating. I’m a skeptic; I came looking for information; I found vitriol. Wasn’t this page created to persuade? Or is it just for a bunch of good ol’ boys prattling on about the women they disagree with, but can’t maintain a dialog with?

That surely got his panties bunching.

[replier 1]: I didn’t create this page so you’re asking the wrong person.

Oh, so that excuses the misogyny and name-calling then? Way to absolve yourself of that guilt your mother would feel for you if she knew you referred to anyone (male or female) in such lowly terms.

He continues: Since Velies daughter inserted herself into her mother’s work, she’s a target. If you don’t like my barbed arrows hitting the ugly mark, I can only say tough shit, take your tears to the river and help fill it. If you don’t want to be offended, stay off the internet.

What makes pointed finger think I’m just a ball of tears in response to being offended? Or that the solution for anyone attempting to engage in a dialog in response to that offense is merely to “stay off the internet”. What’s the point of having a news page, with commentary, if dialog is so readily balked at (by the administrator) the first moment someone disagrees with you? How is that good journalism?

CC Fraud’s got his buddy’s back at this point in the conversation: [He] didn’t create the page nor is he an admin. I created the page.

Wow. Thanks for clearing up the already obvious while failing to address the points I’ve made regarding what the level of discourse ought not be on your page, Fraud.

Fraud adds: That “trite condescension” was not “body image-shaming.” If anything, it’s a little levity brought on by Mrs. Awbrey’s harassment, which I detailed without shaming. If you read my work, you notice that none of my work has “belittled a woman’s looks as a means of making an argument.” I already made the argument, and clearly you didn’t read it.

Well, you got me there, Fraud. At that point, I hadn’t read the article yet. However, I did not misrepresent your article with my statement, you misinterpreted my words due to an apparent lack of close reading skills. I did not comment on your work, as you state (thanks for reporting that fact so inaccurately, though, Mr. You-Better-Get-Your-Facts-Right). I referenced your page as “belitting a woman’s looks as a means of making an argument” via the vitriolic defamatory commentary that you added to (rather than blocking from) your page. I thought it was obvious that my commentary had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of your article, but rather the way you conduct and maintain discourse on your so-called news page.

My attempt to further our verbal tennis match, in which we were just getting warmed up in the first game, continued, as I asked: In what way does encouraging body-shaming commentary align with your mission statement, that is “specifically, to speak out against the vitriol”? You keep misreading what I’m stating, that you’re weakening your argument by agreeing with and promoting [replier 1’s] trollish sentiments. I’m not sure I’d want to read a news source with a sole mission to defame another source from a writer whose tone is that he was “naively expecting a dialogue with people who don’t know how to be civil”. When you assume your audience is beneath you, you make an ass of yourself.

So I got Fraud’s panties bunching as well. Amber Hudson Fend Where did I “encourage” or “agree” with “body-shaming commentary”? Do you see me “liking” his comments anywhere? And where did I ever state Cal Coast Fraud’s “sole mission [is] to defame another source”?

Agreeing with and adding to commentary that should’ve been red-flagged and removed immediately, why do I need to spell it out for you again, Fraud?

To answer your second question, Fraud, you’re caught up in semantics rather than listening and learning from the conversation. The point is not to win the argument, but to progress the dialog. I can edit defame away from the statement I made (easily replaced with besmirch), and then your undies will see the light of day again? Your mission, in your own words, is to “uncover the fraud and deception of calcoastnews.com.” You don’t get away with double speak just because you think you’re the good guy.

Clearly you’re not a good guy, as you forfeited the remainder of our wit match by dismissively declaring to me: Here’s the thing: You’re full of shit. Then you blocked me, which removed all of my criticism of your promotion of body-shaming speech on your page’s commentary thread.

Here’s the thing, Fraud, to call someone full of shit as your end to an argument doesn’t win the argument for you. It’s a fallacy. Look it up (perhaps while you’re reviewing the term close reading). It’s so easy to say “I had to block her for being disruptive and combative” rather than it would be to self-reflect and thoughtfully reply to my genuine concern for how you represent yourself as a “news outlet”. Calling someone full of shit is combative, by the way, and I’m fairly certain that I needed to point that out to you. Just like I need to relay that no, I did not “put words in your mouth” when I criticized you.

Here’s what I was about to say, when Fraud took the ball away, said he wasn’t going to communicate with me, and declared me a scat pile: Here’s a refresher, since you can’t recall your own very public thoughts, you lackluster reporter you. In response to [replier 1’s] truly vitriolic sentiment “she’s got a face that needs triple bagging. Can you imagine drunkenly hooking up with that troll and waking up in the morning to see that face?” Instead of deleting this body-shaming commentary, you agreed with him, when you replied: “Not enough bleach for the eyes.” Here’s the thing: your work reads like the sophomoric ranting of a smarmy narcissist. I am still trying to get at the truth; I was still venturing down the rabbit hole of who has the more valid argument between CCN and CCF. However, I got stuck on the fact that you don’t follow your own page’s rules in terms of what constitutes acceptable commentary. What does it matter to you? As far as you’re concerned, I’m full of shit. How easy, how feeble-mindedly easy that was for you to dismiss me rather than consider the fact that it’s never okay to body-shame another person, no matter what she did first, you reductive schoolyard bully, you.

Just to further point out what a double-speaking narcissist Fraud is, one of his chief complaints about CalCoastNews is this:

Facebook users who contest or correct CalCoastNews’ assertions have had their comments removed and their accounts blocked from communicating on their page.

Does he not suggest that this behavior on the part of CalCoastNews is bad journalism, yet goes on to do the exact same thing himself? What a conundrum you’re in, Fraud. You removed me, and yet:

[replier 1]: Where did Amber go? Outta the kitchen cause it’s getting to hot in here for her I’d guess?

I responded, via PM, to replier #1. He copied and linked it to the thread I’m no longer allowed to add to. Here goes, since Fraud is now quoting from it.

Your CC Fraud boy blocked me, that’s where I went. Pretty weak sauce. But I’ve still got a voice and neither of your utterances will scare me away from the big bad internet any time soon. My problem is not with “your side” being against “their side”. I haven’t taken a side on the matter. I was still doing my research. But it’s never justifiable to call someone out on appearance; make your beef with them about substance, not superficial shit.

A new voice added to the mix after reading the above comment.

[replier 2]: Sometimes a little information in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing. Obviously, Amber is not a reader. Those who don’t or won’t read anything critical, along with no- and low-information readers who get their daily “news” from CCN — and believe what they read there is the gospel according to the Velies — are CalCoast”News” biggest fans. There is currently no available antidote.

Obviously replier #2 missed the part where I said I hadn’t taken a side on the matter, that I was still doing my research, but he was just as ready to define me as the other boys trolling around at the Cal Coast Fraud page. And yes, Fraud, in response to your most recently issued comment: Amber can write to me if she wants. Wait, she referred to me as a “boy.” She must hate men. You have proven yourself to be a boy in mentality by your self-righteous tone and behavior. A man would’ve continued the dialog without needing to be so certain that he was on the right side; he wouldn’t block a gal and then continue to talk shit about her on his “news” site as if that didn’t make him look like a feeble-minded fascist.

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One comment on “Yellow Journalism is Alive and Well on the Cal Coast: my foray into the troll’s den

  1. I enjoyed your reflection on stepping into the Troll’s den. I have to admit I always get a little satisfaction of seeing attempts by reasonable people to reason with the site’s admin. He is not seeking to understand anyone, or reason with anyone, he is “in it to win it” and there is nothing you can ever say to win an argument with him. If anyone dare point out the hypocrisy, you find yourself wished away into the corn fields, as you have been, and as have I. 🙂

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