Last week, the Ames Progressive detailed how Cityview managing editor Amber Williams promoted the myth that vaccines cause autism and cited the work of quack anti-science authors. It turns out those aren’t the only conspiracies she’s fond of. In 2011, she devoted nearly half of a 9/11 anniversary cover story to a truther who explained how he tried to convince everyone he knew that the government was behind the attack.
This means that Cityview publisher Shane Goodman, an accomplished 23-year veteran of the newspaper industry, has allowed one of his paper’s main writers to promote conspiracy theories off and on for nearly two years. Goodman also co-owns Big Green Umbrella Media, the Des Moines company that publishes Cityview (circulation 28,000), with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Iowa Board of Regents president Michael Gartner.
In her 9/11 story, Williams profiled three locals who shared stories of where they were when the attack happened and their subsequent reflections. The first two gave conventional accounts of the anger and shock they felt. Williams told their stories in eight and 11 paragraphs, respectively. But after that, she told the story of a 9/11 truther in 14 larger paragraphs.
“I started looking into the events of what happened — the details — instead of sitting idly by and letting the media tell me what happened,” the truther said. “I started reading and researching on the Internet. I literally watched hundreds of documentaries. It changed my whole view on everything.” That gives him roughly the same credentials as the mother whose expertise Williams touted because she got an A on a community college class paper supportive of anti-vaccine myths.
As in the vaccine story, Williams didn’t explicitly endorse any position herself. But the amount of coverage she gave to people in both stories who clearly didn’t know what they were talking about, without any acknowledgment that their views had been long debunked, is evidence enough that she sympathizes with conspiracy theories.
Williams also explained how the truther found it suspicious that the media ignored 7 World Trade Center (aka Building 7), which predictably collapsed several hours after it was pummeled with debris from one of the Twin Towers. The truther said, “In the beginning, everyone just wrote it off. But the way 7 came down, the official story doesn’t mention it, and the media don’t touch it — they barely even admit the building exists. But the physics, the geometry and the mathematics, it just doesn’t add up.”
That’s false. Two months after the Cityview 9/11 story came out, the Progressive, which was not aware of the story at the time, published a lengthy article debunking 9/11 myths voiced by a leader of the truther movement on the Fallon Forum. It included an explanation of the Building 7 conspiracy.
To summarize: truthers claim that, because it wasn’t hit by a plane, Building 7 is the “smoking gun” proving that the government wired the towers with explosives for controlled demolitions. There is no evidence of this outside of a paid-to-publish paper falsely passed off as peer-reviewed research. Truthers claim that the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth has proven the theory true. One of the group’s main experts is a former high school physics teacher whose theories contradict the law of gravity. Truthers claim that Building 7 fell at a speed only possible with a controlled demolition, which has been disproven both by exhaustive research by actual experts and, more simply, by a video that shows its collapse from a different angle.
This year, Cityview returned to the Building 7 conspiracy. In the same issue as Williams’ anti-vaccine cover story, the newspaper ran a guest commentary by 9/11 truther Steve Stone, an “anti-gun pacifist” who argued that gun enthusiasts had a valid point: that the gun control debate was a “smoky diversion” to distract the American people from a police-state takeover.
“Four dead in Ohio [at the 1970 Kent State massacre] taught us that it is very, very possible to be at war with your own government,” he wrote. “We don’t see it in the mainstream media, but the Internet — even discounting the crackpots — gives enough plausible information to show us the question is valid. (Google the words ‘Building 7′ if you doubt this.)”
It’s one thing to to provide a forum for these bogus theories when you’re Ed Fallon, a former state lawmaker whose progressive views cut against the establishment grain and have always attracted conspiracy theorists on the fringes. But Cityview is the only major alternative weekly in the entire state of Iowa, and Goodman and Gartner ought to know better than to tarnish its credibility with such nonsense.