Salon Gave Truthers a Chance, Decides That's a Bad Idea

The Atlantic

After it spent a good portion of last week notably debunking the rise of Newtown conspiracy theories, the editorial team at Salon has come under fire for a decision notable for doing quite the opposite. A syndicated post by novelist Greg Olear appeared last night under the headline "Give Truthers a Chance," and while the column has since been removed (you can find the original version here), an editorial decision to promote such overtly contrarian views — "unlike with Sandy Hook, 9/11 conspiracy theories flow from a scientific fact" reads one passage — has many questioning Salon's journalist values and the overal value in giving editorial space to the arguments of so-called "truthers." Salon has said "the article slipped through our usual review process," but here's the full passage that forced readers to call out Salon's editors:

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.

Olear, who originally wrote the essay for his "rogue commentary" site The Weeklings and whose writing has appeared at The Huffington Post, seems to believe one of the most widely debunked 9/11 myths — that fire is not hot enough to melt steel. That this was the basis for the core of an argument automatically led many on Twitter to question why an online publication would publish such a story. Almost immediately, the hashtag #Salonpitches was born: 

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Many news and analysis websites (including The Atlantic Wire) frequently republish quality content from partner sites as part of a syndication deal. But for Salon, whose political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald last week produced several quality articles debunking the conspiracy theories to emerge out of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, would run such a commentary, based in the opposite of fact, led to a retraction. Salon's editor-in-chief, Kerry Lauerman, sent this tweet just a short time ago, confirming a lapse by the editorial deparment:

We re-published a story we shouldn't have. Apologies for an unfortunate lapse: salon.com/about/correcti…

— kerrylauerman (@kerrylauerman) January 23, 2013

Salon's correction now reads:

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Here's what the original story presentation looked like:

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It remains unclear whether Salon editors wrote the sub-headline, but one did not appear on Olear's original post at his site.

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