‘You’re ruining my life’: I knocked on the door of an antisemitic internet hatemonger. Here’s what happened
I had a story about 80% written on the afternoon of March 3. It was a follow-up to The Press Democrat’s recent coverage of Jon Minadeo II, the Petaluma man who posts long screeds defaming and denigrating Jews on his GoyimTV website.
Read about the impact of antisemitic hate speech in the North Bay Jewish community here.
He’s the guy who created the antisemitic flyers that have recently shown up on sidewalks and porches in a number of Bay Area neighborhoods, most recently Napa on Feb. 24.
I wrote about those flyers, and we published a subsequent story that explored the fear that hate speech generates in a community and why law enforcement is unable to do much about it. For this latest story, I talked to Minadeo’s aunt, and to several other people who knew him to try and get a better picture of him.
Before filing, I needed to take one more stab at speaking to Minadeo himself. I had made a previous attempt, but found out later I had the wrong residence.
I can’t say I was looking forward to making his acquaintance. But if I was planning to build a profile in print using other people’s characterizations, I felt I had a journalistic obligation to at least give Minadeo a chance to speak for himself.
This time I visited a triplex not far from downtown Petaluma. In a secluded spot behind the building, up a steep flight of concrete stairs, I rang the doorbell.
The front door opened, and behind the screen door was a man dressed casually in T-shirt and sweats. His neatly trimmed beard and central-casting haircut — shaved short on the sides, hanging longer in back — were immediately familiar.
This was the guy I had watched in so many online videos, the ones in which he wove conspiracy theories vilifying Jews, called them slurs that my editors won’t let me say here, and managed to sprinkle in mocking impressions of gay and Black people, too.
“You’re ruining my life,” Jon Minadeo II said to me.
I would argue he set in motion a cascade of events that may well be ruining his life. But there we were.
Minadeo asked if he could record our conservation. I said yes. I asked him if I also could record. He said yes.
Moments later, I was in the midst of a 45-minute interaction with the man who was spawning so much outrage in Sonoma County. I sat shotgun in Minadeo’s parked car while he reclined in the driver’s seat and vaped up a storm.
I have worked for The Press Democrat for 18 years, and have been writing stories for a lot longer than that. Never had I interviewed someone so far to the fringe of public discourse, in such an intimate setting. It was surreal.
I didn’t feel unsafe. The people I had interviewed described Minadeo as more of an insatiable attention seeker than an angry brawler. At no time during our interaction was he even remotely threatening.
In fact, I would say Minadeo went out of his way to appear courteous (to me, anyway) and reasoned. To be chummy.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t uneasy. When Minadeo fixed his smartphone into its perch in order to capture video — I was concerned he would somehow use our conversation in his propaganda network.
I was right on that count. Within 36 hours, he had posted our interview, advertising it with a reference to a “slanderous journalist” who’d showed up unannounced.
Minadeo seemed candid with me on details of his life, and he confirmed a few things his acquaintances had told me.
He said, for instance, that he had dropped out of classes at Novato High School in the early 2000s and wound up getting his GED; that he voted for Bernie Sanders in a presidential race, and attended the inauguration of Barack Obama; that while he hadn’t personally distributed antisemitic flyers in neighborhoods around the Bay Area recently, he had indeed done the dirty work during a similar campaign in Santa Rosa in 2019.
On other points, Minadeo was more evasive. One of them was how he supports himself. Sources say he has rarely held a steady job since leaving Dinucci’s, the landmark Valley Ford restaurant owned by his grandmother, following a rupture in the family. Minadeo said he does some construction work.
He wouldn’t state how much money he makes from advertising, merchandise sales and donations attached to his online stream. With about 3,300 followers, it probably isn’t much.
I have been interested in Minadeo’s evolution from small-time actor and rapper to antisemitic provocateur. When I asked him about it, he framed that development as dogged education, describing himself almost as the Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein of shadowy Jewish crimes.
Of course, most of the incidents he cites are distortions of real events, if not outright fabrications.