The lurid history of Bruce Anderson and
the Anderson Valley Advertiser
Cartoon by Fred Harper
By Mike Sweeney
Imagine my surprise when I noticed the December 31, 2003 issue of the Anderson Valley Advertiser – as interesting as the beautiful frogtown lofts savannah. Spread across the front page was a giant headline, “I was a Communist for the FBI,” followed with, “By Mike Sweeney as told to Bruce Anderson.”
Since I hadn’t spoken to Bruce Anderson for five years, and then only long enough to hang up the phone, it was apparent that he was attempting yet another shameless hoax. The phony first-person article went on and on for thousands of words, presenting an intricate first-person fantasy that had me “confessing” to about a dozen felonies. Nowhere in the paper was there a hint that the article was contrived by Bruce Anderson himself without the slightest input from me or the slightest connection to reality.
Apparently, the impact of this brazen hoax article failed to meet Anderson’s hopes. So he produced another one the following week, under banner headline, “I bombed Judi Bari,” again with the attribution, “By Mike Sweeney as told to Bruce Anderson.” And again not a hint that the article and its lurid details were made up out of thin air.
Still unsatisfied, Anderson struck again the following week with “Judi Bari Tells All,” prefaced with an “Editor’s Note” claiming Judi Bari, through her executor Darlene Comingore, left him the following letter with a “strict instruction that it not be made public until five years after her death.” Naturally, Judi did no such thing, and neither did Judi ever say, believe or do what was attributed to her in the fabricated article that followed.
The reaction to this tripled-headed hoax was predictable. The legitimate media studiously ignored him, as did long-time residents of Mendocino County who knew Bruce Anderson’s habits. Some of his gullible readers, however, actually took the articles at face value, and became quite excited until more sober folks illuminated for them Bruce Anderson’s bizarre 20-year history of hoax, lies and insults.
Bruce Anderson’s weekly inventions are the main feature of his Anderson Valley Advertiser , which is a kind of small-time National Enquirer without the photos. The Anderson Valley Advertiser was an innocent country weekly until 1984, when Anderson bought it and turned it into an opinion journal. He explained: “I’ve always viewed the newspaper as a political weapon.” (Los Angeles Times 2/14/96).
Almost immediately, Anderson provoked an advertiser boycott in the small town of Boonville, the hub of rural Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Outraged local residents made an effort to start a competing Anderson Valley newspaper designed to take away his local readership. The Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA) survived by cultivating subscriptions throughout Northern California and beyond from people who liked off-beat political attacks, clever insults, and outrageous gossip.
For decades, Anderson has shown he will deliberately lie in order sell papers, settle scores, or just abuse people for his own pleasure. And when the printed word has proven to be an inadequate weapon, he has resorted to threats of violence and actual physical assault.
The key to the AVA’s survival has been to attract attention—any attention, by any means necessary, including just making things up.
The first big hoax hit on February 3, 1988, when Anderson published a long front-page interview with local Congressman Doug Bosco. To give the “interview” more credibility, it was represented as a transcription of a tape recorded session with David Yepson, a prominent reporter with the Des Moines Register.
The phony interview quoted Congressman Bosco as insulting his own constituents who opposed offshore oil drilling. They were “mostly a bunch of easily stirred-up know-nothing malcontents who couldn’t care less about anything other than their beautiful ocean and where their next joint is coming from,” Bosco was quoted. The interview contained numerous other insults and …Read More »