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Twitter conspiracy forces cancellation of Grass Valley fundraiser

James Comey
Former FBI Director James B. Comey speaks to reporters in December.
(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Organizers have canceled an annual fundraiser in Northern California after their tiny school became the target of online conspiracy theorists, who claimed on Twitter that the event could be pulled into a terror plot.

The Blue Marble Jubilee — a festival produced by the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation and scheduled for Saturday — will not happen out of concerns for personal safety. The crisis in the town northeast of Sacramento unfolded earlier this week, starting with a tweet from former FBI Director James B. Comey.

Comey, now an author who’s making appearances on the speaker circuit, joined in a popular game called “Five Jobs I’ve Had.” He listed grocery store clerk, vocal soloist for church weddings, chemist, strike-replacement high school teacher and “FBI director, interrupted.”

A QAnon conspiracy theorist mixed the letters in his tweet to spell “five jihad.” Next, the person took the first letter of each of the jobs to create GVCSF — citing the initials of the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation and sparking a belief that Comey helped to leak a hidden terror attack.

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“In the current political and social climate, schools and communities must take into consideration matters never before imagined,” organizers said in a statement announcing the cancellation of the Nevada County Fairgrounds event.

“It’s quite difficult to talk about…. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s pretty nutty,” Wendy Willoughby, foundation president, told the Sacramento Bee. Deciding to shelve the event left her heartbroken, she added.

The tweets prompted social media users across the country to bombard the organizers with questions, asking if their foundation is legitimate or expressing concern for their welfare. Some people posted videos, while others began viewing online photos of the students.

“It became very personal, very frightening,” Willoughby said in the interview with the Bee.

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School officials, along with Nevada County leaders, later decided that the event was not under threat, but organizers said they wanted to be cautious.

anh.do@latimes.com

Twitter: @newsterrier


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