Salon Gives 9/11 Truthers a Chance, Then Thinks Better of It [Updated]

By
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23, 2011: (EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply)   The Memorial Pools are tested with water for the first time as construction continues at Ground Zero in Manhattan July, 23 2011 in New York City. The site is where the World Trade Center stood before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  (Photo by Steven Rosenbaum/Getty Images)
Photo: GARY FRIEDMAN/2011 AFP

Salon, the still-kicking early Internet magazine, published an article on Tuesday evening with the carefully couched headline "Give truthers a chance?" and a tagline that insisted, "Not all conspiracy theorists are as crazy and absurd as Alex Jones and the Sandy Hook truthers would have you think." The reasonable conspiracy theorists alluded to are the "eventually vindicated" JFK assassination obsessives and none other than 9/11 Truthers, whose alternate theories, according to writer Greg Olear, "flow from a scientific fact" unlike the new batch of crazies that don't believe the Newtown shooting happened. A bunch of outraged tweets and comments later, the entry is no longer accessible on Salon's site.

It is still readable thanks to Google and on the Weeklings (original headline: "Not All Truther Movements Are Created Equal"), where Olear writes an essay every Tuesday (a few of which, like this Truthers piece, have been republished by Salon). Here's the money paragraph:

What concerns me about the repudiation of the Hookers is that the 9/11 Truthers are being tarred with the same “crackpot” brush. Yes, many of the September Eleventh conspiracy theories are implausible, and too often veer, as conspiracy theories unfortunately tend to do, toward the anti-Semitic. But unlike with Sandy Hook, 9/11 conspiracy theories flow from a scientific fact: whatever the 9/11 Commission Report might claim, fire generated by burning jet fuel is not hot enough to melt steel. As with JFK’s “Magic Bullet,” the official version asks us to pretend that the laws of physics do not exist. This opens the door for alternative versions, however ridiculous, that must at least be considered—even if, as was probably the case in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, the cover-up was well-intended, and not the case of an evil shadow government doing evil shadow-government things.

This is simply not the case with Sandy Hook.

Defending the melting-steel point on Twitter last night, Olear wrote, "Should I have gone with WTC 7, then? There are a lot to choose from. The point is that Sandy Hook ain't 9/11." And: "The point is only that people have benefited, and that feeds the theories. No one gained anything from the horror of Sandy Hook."

In a tweet this afternoon, Salon editor Kerry Lauerman wrote, "We re-published a story we shouldn't have. Apologies for an unfortunate lapse." He added, "It shouldn't have slipped through." Here's the official statement:

On Jan. 22, Salon republished an article from one of our content partners, the Weeklings, that was sympathetic to unfounded 9/11 conspiracies. The article slipped through our usual review process, and was clearly not up to our standards; we removed it as soon as it was brought to our attention by readers. Salon has a long history of debunking fringe conspiracists — around Sept. 11, and more recently, Sandy Hook — and are proud of those efforts. We regret this oversight.

Reached by e-mail, Olear said he didn't know the piece was taken down and declined to comment for now. In the meantime, the first sentence of his Wikipedia page has been updated to reflect the fact that Olear is "an American writer best known for a Salon article in which he defended so-called 9/11 Truthers."

Update: Olear provided Daily Intelligencer the following statement:

"Salon does not post pieces contrary to certain of its editorial views, one of which, I'm told, is any sort of sympathy to the so-called 9/11 Truthers. I fully support this. They are entitled to these editorial judgments, just as, say, Mother Jones can choose not to print radically conservative op-eds. That said, the sympathy I expressed was so mild that the editors at Salon did not notice it; the point of my piece is that we should keep an open mind — hardly a controversial position. The curious can read the piece over at the Weeklings, the original publisher."