Reaction to FAU professor’s Newtown conspiracy is misguided and misinformed


(Ryan Cortes)  When I saw the headline — FAU prof stirs controversy by disputing Newtown massacre — I had one thought: James Tracy. Who else?

I’ve taken three of Tracy’s classes in my time at FAU, including one called Culture of Conspiracy. I’m well aware of the man’s ideologies. Hell, I’ve seen more 9/11 documentaries than Tarantino flicks, and damn do I love those. But I also love people who think differently and cause you to see perspectives you wouldn’t ponder.

In a series of blog posts on his site — the first coming on Christmas, the last coming this past Sunday — Tracy made readers ponder plenty, most of it not pretty. He spilled out over 14,000 words, asking questions about the recent Newton, Conn. massacre. Maybe the parents interviewed after were trained actors? Maybe there were multiple shooters? Maybe the whole event was just a setup for more gun-control talk?

The Sun Sentinel picked up the professor’s story and closed its comment section after so much loud noise. The Huffington Post re-ran the story and left its comment section open, giving space to things like “Fire him NOWWWWWWWW” and “this loony tune still has a job at FAU how?” Gawker even picked apart his post.

I understood why. Even asking the question was disrespectful to many. The mere thought seemed to minimize the grief and grimaces many felt after Adam Lanza allegedly shot young and innocent children. My own mother emailed me after she heard about Tracy. “He sounds crazy to me,” she said. “I think it is sad to see what he did.”

Now, mind you, this is someone who has changed my opinion many times before. His theories usually center around a failed national media that didn’t dig deep and ask more questions. It led him to believe Osama bin Laden’s alleged killing was a conspiracy, that the Oklahoma City Bombings were another, and that 9/11 had so many unanswered questions that if you weren’t asking on your own, well, you never were going to ask about anything anyway.

So I come into this discussion having spent a good deal of time with the man. I know how he thinks and I know when he starts asking questions, this many questions, he’s informed on the subject and he’ll cause me to at least think twice. I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, but I knew what was coming Tracy’s way. Vitriol. Hate. Anger.

All of it.

But none of these people knew the real Tracy. It was a blog post turned into a headline turned into a tweet turned into thousands of angry readers, but it didn’t tell the whole story. I remembered classmates of mine while taking Tracy’s classes who would stand outside during breaks, mesmerized, over what the professor’s opinions forced you think long and hard about before believing.

“I was a little intimidated at first because of how he presents the class,” says Manny Casillas, a senior multimedia journalism major. “But by the end of the semester I felt like I learned more than I had from any other teacher.”

“After I took his class,” says Lorenzo Ponce De Leon, another senior multimedia major, “there’s something that says, well wait a minute, based on the other stuff he’s taught us [maybe he’s right]. There’s a method to his madness.”

The last class I took with Tracy, we had a guest speaker come in one of our last meetings. He called himself Popeye, a 37-year-old with his own conspiracy website and radio show. He was covered in tattoos and came equipped with bold opinions.

“It takes a big brass set of balls to be a college professor and talk about what he talks about,” he told me yesterday. “Unfortunately today, most college professors are brain-washed. They toe the line.”



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