James Frederick Tracy is conspiracy theorist and former professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University, who has managed to achieve international fame for his advocacy for Sandy Hook truther conspiracy theories. According to Tracy, the Sandy Hook massacre did not occur but was really a hoax perpetrated by the US government. The media was in on it, too: according to Tracy, the many witnesses interviewed or photographed by the press were actually “crisis actors” portraying the “official story” as part of the cover-up – indeed, Tracy can probably be credited with popularizing the “crisis actor” term, though the idea has been around in whale-to-type online communities for a long time (Ed Chiarini, for instance, has been promoting it for years). The government’s purpose for carrying out the hoax was apparently to help shape public opinion on gun control, and the evidence he cites for the conspiracy cited consists primarily of the usual nonsense gambits that characterize such conspiracy theories:
- Discrepancies in news reports rapidly released during an unfolding event. (Which is somehow evidence that it is all orchestrated, in which case one would expect … consistency, wouldn’t one?)
- Anomaly hunting in descriptions of an event with many quirky details.
- The fact that the police and other official bodies weren’t keeping him continuously updated with any detail relevant to their investigation.
A fourth strategy employed by Tracy, and just as typical for deranged conspiracy theorists, is interpreting the fact that families and people who lost children and family members don’t wish to talk to him, a guy who denies that no one died and everything was staged, about the event – as clear evidence for a coverup as you could find, as Tracy sees it (of course, if they had talked to him, that would have been evidence for a coverup, too).
Though he initially engaged in standard JAQing off when he raised the issue in 2013, he quickly and predictably devolved into harassing Sandy Hook hero Gene Rosen as well as Lenny Pozner, the father of Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner, demanding that Pozner give him proof that Noah once lived, that Lenny and his wife were his parents, and that they were the rightful owner of his photographic image. The Pozners were naturally unwilling to engage, and when Tracy realized they would not respond, he subjected them to ridicule and contempt on his blog, claiming that the “unfulfilled request” was “noteworthy” because the parents had used copyright claims to “thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event”. Then he claimed that he, James Tracy, was the victim here, whereas “The Pozners, alas, are as phony as the drill itself, and profiting handsomely from the fake death of their son.”
Tracy was dismissed from his (tenured) position in January 2016, although a statement from his former employer asserted that Tracy was fired for repeatedly neglecting or refusing to file standard paperwork disclosing activities or employment outside his job that might pose a conflict of interests. The decision has been (repeatedly) appealed. It is probably worth pointing out that among the courses Tracy taught at FAU was Culture of Conspiracy, a course that his subsequenst actions demonstrate that he was magnificently unqualified to teach – a bit like letting a young-earth creationist teach evolutionary biology. Tracy’s career as a guest on deranged conspiracy theory radio shows – which took off partly because of his affiliation with the FAU – has not suffered, however, and though we don’t usually link to such sites, it is actually rather interesting to watch Tracy gradually fall apart on this one after being asked what proof he would accept.
Tracy’s delusions regarding American mass shootings are not limited to Sandy Hook. He also believes that the Boston Marathon bombing was a false flag operation perpetrated by the government – according to Tracy, the bombing may have been a “mass casualty drill” (which makes no sense whatsoever). Similarly, according to Tracy, “Craft Intl mercenaries carried out San Bernardino shooting”, the terrorist attacks in Paris were “manufactured” with actors, and the mass shooting at an Oregon community college was also a CIA “false flag” operation. His blog has also promoted conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing (“illusions”), London’s 7/7 bombings, the Madrid train bombings, Osama bin Laden’s killing, the 2011 Norway attacks, Charlie Hebdo, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Pearl Harbor, the World War I sinking of the British ship Lusitania, the 1898 explosion of the USS Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin, Israel’s 1967 attack on the Navy’s USS Liberty, the Colorado movie theater mass shooting, and the Charleston church shooting.
Tracy is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also a global warming denialist. Indeed, Tracy seems to think that climate change is a cover-up for various geoengineering programs, including chemtrails. When Tracy “contacted to Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Lauderdale on a day with high aerial activity of this nature, I was consoled by an overly polite FAA agent that the trails were merely ‘water vapor,’” which is itself apparently very suspicious, especially because the explanation offered is in contrast with the research of various chemtrail conspiracy groups. Moreover, in 2011 his young daughter suffered from “a long-running respiratory ailment which prompted me to send off a small sample of her hair for lab analysis. The results indicated a high level of aluminum. This was disturbing especially given that she had received an abbreviated vaccine regimen, drank water run from a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis filter, and ate only organic food.” You connect the dots.
Diagnosis: That Tracy’s actions have hurt FAU’s reputation is to a large extent on them insofar they hired him in the first place. A deranged green-ink kook who is ready to accept any and all conspiracy theories that come his way, though as opposed to most of his fellow conspiracy theorist (like Boston Bombing denier Cass Ingram), Tracy sometimes does come across as almost coherent – at least with respect to grammar. Though he isn’t exactly dangerous at a general level – perhaps apart from providing talking points to opponents of the tenure system – he does cause real harm to real people.