Chronicling Harassment

RIcchiazzi

A local purveyor of fake news has taken to Twitter, Facebook, and probably your email inbox—and the email inboxes of my current and former colleagues—to label me a “serial harasser” and to solicit people’s stories about my supposed penchant for “harassment” for his risible publication. 

Obviously, I am not a serial harasser or anything of the sort, and it is heartening the outpouring of support and condolences from people regarding this person. So, I want to talk a little bit here about harassment. Harassment is a crime in the state of New York, with various definitions depending on the severity of the charge. I have not harassed anyone; I do not threaten people with violence or repeatedly communicate with them without any legitimate purpose. I do not harass anyone—sexually or otherwise—and any suggestion to the contrary is a damnable lie. This individual has now had his temper tantrum online, and sent myriad emails to insult me and my reputation. What has transpired over the past several days is this: 

1. A few weeks ago, the local publication produced by this individual posted an article that was replete with inaccuracies and typos, attacking me for legal work I had done on behalf of Erie County at my former job, and drawing a conclusion that this “patronage” was the explanation for why I support Mark Poloncarz. I dealt with that in this article, away from The Public, because seriously, how idiotic. He stole the picture of me from my law firm’s website to accompany his piece, without permission, payment, or attribution. 

2. Last week, I was informed that he had published actual paper copies of his rag, and that the article about me—typos and inaccuracies still present—was included therein. He used this time a different picture—a selfie I took several years ago in the rain in Cooperstown, which doubles as my YouTube profile image—to accompany his article, again violating my copyright without payment, attribution, or permission. 

I commented about it on Twitter. 

3. Coincidentally, on Monday the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted a story about fake news sites proliferating throughout Canada, and their stories being shared widely through social media. The CBC singled out that local Buffalo publication as the source of a lot of fake news, and frankly wasn’t the first to do so. I drew attention to this article on Twitter, and received some I guess not at all harassing replies. 

So that was all fun for a Monday. 

4. On Monday night, the CBC’s The National aired its story about how fake news from that Buffalo site and others gets spread online. I linked to it on Twitter without tagging either the publication or its author. 

The interesting part to me has to do with the “contract” that this person attempted to get the CBC to execute as a prerequisite to him appearing on what amounts to Canada’s 60 Minutes. If I ran a website that was continually and chronically accused of spreading false and malicious lies about Buffalo and Canadian politics, you’d be damn sure I’d want to defend myself and clear the air about that. Because ultimately what do you have if not your honesty or integrity? For instance, when we published Paladino’s emails, we at WNYMedia made ourselves available to anyone who wanted to interview us. No strings attached. When I did my Preetsmas series, only once was there someone who challenged something, and it was a detail about how—i.e., the route—through which money got siphoned from Nick Sinatra to the AwfulPAC.

So, you’d expect that if this local publication were on the level, its author would be willing to go anywhere at any time, if for no other reason than to defend his honesty, accuracy, and integrity. But that’s not what happened. Snippets from that contract were aired, and it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Firstly, he demands that this interview, to take place in Toronto, be subject to New York State venue and choice of law. 

Then, he demands that the interview be broadcast “live and unedited.” 

Here, the Buffalo-based publisher demands a makeup artist, supplies, and that lighting be set 20% softer to suit him. The CBC can only use his name for “seven days” because that’s a thing that news organizations agree to.

But this is the best part. He tried to impose a ban on words and topics like whoa. He demands that he be identified as a “political consultant and publisher” but not as a “journalist, writer, blogger, or content producer.” I’m bummed because I want to learn more about his putative relationship to the Maggadinos and Todaros and “Butchie Bifocals”.

Naturally, the whole thing has a $250,000 liquidated damages clause

The moral of the story is that if you want to be a political commentator of sorts, or to run a publishing concern, it helps to proofread, it helps to not make things up, it helps to be thorough, and it helps to do some basic research. Furthermore, when accused of malfeasance, and you’re innocent, then proudly declare it with no preconditions or lighting and make-up requirements. It is only through tactics like phony addresses, make-believe “contributors”, theft of copyrighted material, and convoluted avoidance of accountability for your alleged malfeasance that it becomes evident that every charge and every accusation is true and unable to be defended.

Here are some of the perfectly reasonably responses I received from this person:

Nothing says “serious journalist” like fat jokes. (After this person claimed he was employed, I looked into that. He lists “Enkindle Strategies, LLC” out of San Francisco on LinkedIn as his employer. There is no such entity—nothing online for that company in the US, and no LLC registered under that name in California, Nevada, New York, or Delaware. Make of that what you will.)  

UPDATE: He appears to have deleted several of his Tweets. Here is a screencap. Click it to enlarge.

All of this resulted in him posting to Twitter and Facebook that I am a “serial harasser” and soliciting stories about my harassment from anonyms.

He posted it numerous times to Twitter. To Facebook. To his email list. To the lawyers in my office. I received dozens of email forwards from concerned and amused friends in town. I mean, this isn’t at all a creepy escalation, right? 

If the author of this website tells you it’s sunny, be sure to look out the window first. He whines about harassment while harassing me. I didn’t email his putative colleagues. I didn’t blast an email about him to all and sundry. I didn’t spam Twitter and Facebook with an image of me from my personal account. I didn’t even use his name in this post (except in embeds, where it is unavoidable).

This is all ominous lunacy, and everyone in Buffalo, Canada, and beyond, should be forewarned about him, his publication, and his practices. 

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