In an example of incredible numbskullery and piss-poor reporting, even for that rumor of a newspaper known as the East Valley Tribune, Trib reporter Chris Markham penned a front page story that ran on today's cover titled "September 11 skeptics to meet in Chandler." The tres gullible report practically reads as an endorsement of the wacko 9/11 conspiracy nuts gathering this weekend in Chandler as part of the 9/11 Accountability Conference. Most of 'em believe 9/11 was an inside job, and that al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, the 19 highjackers and those four ill-fated airplanes are myths, disinformation that we've supposedly been force-fed by the media and the 9/11 Commission. Markham's story is a completely uncritical view of a conference that's been plagued with defections since it was revealed on February 1 by this columnist that its then Conference Director, Eric D. Williams was a Holocaust denier.
But even if Markham was unaware of Williams' Holocaust-denying book The Puzzle of Auschwitz, and did not know that several scheduled speakers have flaked on the kook convention since the Williams debacle broke, why pen a story that treats 9/11 conspiracy buffs as if they're no more controversial than Civil War reenactors? Doesn't the guy have Google on his 'puter? Check this typical passage:
There are plenty of differing theories on what happened on Sept. 11. One is that government-planted bombs, not terrorist-hijacked jetliners, brought down the Twin Towers. And another is that an air-to-air missile shot down United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
At no point is someone quoted dismissing or criticizing such crackpot views, even though conference spokesperson Pete Creelman admits (after the jump) that "he doesn't have proof of the government's complicity." Huh? Then why interview this guy without asking him any tough questions, like "Why do you believe in something you have no proof for?" Seems like a logical line of inquiry to me.
When I called the Trib's Executive Editor Jim Ripley about the story, he at first didn't see what all the hubbub was about. But when I asked why there were no critical voices in the article calling into question the crazy conspiracy theories espoused by the conference's planners, he made an astonishing admission.
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"I think it's a fair question," states Ripley. "The paper's never taken a position skeptical of 9/11. And there are like millions of people out there who have the standard point of view of 9/11. So I'm not sure you'd have to race out and find people who don't believe it."
Christ, it's on your front page, Jim! Don't you realize that such reportorial laziness helps mainstream a fringe group of extremists who traffic in distortions, anti-Semitism, and outright lies? If this was a conference of Holocaust deniers meeting in Chandler, would you be so nonchalant about presenting their views without opposition?
Ripley doesn't have to be a fan of the New Times to do his job, which is making sure his reporters don't slack off, especially on cover stories dealing with a subject of this importance. A terrific person for them to talk to would be Pat Curley of the internationally-renowned ScrewLooseChange blog. Curley, who lives in Phoenix, was recently interviewed by the BBC, no less. And if he's a good enough critic of the 9/11 nuts for the BBC, then surely he'd be good enough for the East Valley Tribune.