James Tracy, the Florida Atlantic University professor that questioned the existence of the Sandy Hook shootings, has been making headlines all week with his commentary of the Boston Bombings, calling it a “mass casualty drill” on his personal blog. The inflammatory and misguided, and perhaps insane, remarks of Tracy have once again put him under fire.
Although Tracy is a crackpot, and that’s putting it lightly, this is a free speech issue to which every American has a right. But rather than burn this man at the stake, which so many want to see happen, he should be held absolutely responsible for his speech and answer to whoever contests.
He’s already been admonished for making the same commentary on the Sandy Hook shootings back in December. Now, his conspiracy theories have become a PR disaster for FAU, to which many hold responsible for Tracy’s remarks.
Lisa Metcalf, FAU director of media relations, has been bombarded by a wave of emails from alumni, parents and generally upset people: “your school has become a nationwide joke,” “I have two young children and…they will never, ever attend an institution that sees fit to employ hurtful, thoughtless, lunatics like Mr. Tracy,” and from alumna Stacie Berdan, “I’m not sure what the University can do to relieve itself of a tenured professor.”
Unfortunately, Tracy can’t just be up and kicked out of the classroom and no matter how good of an idea that may be. Even better, allow him to stay in the academic community, and force him to do what the community is for in the first place. Tracy is way past the pre-pubescent definition of free speech where someone says something just because he or she can. He has to take responsibility for it and own it. From there, Tracy will only reassert the population’s notion of his idiocy and will continue to argue himself out of the academic circle.
Tracy thinks he’s on the cutting edge of social thought and commentary, using outrageous claims in attempt to educate and captivate the masses. In short, he’s no different than the “media” he criticizes and questions. His 15 minutes are almost up anyway.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.