5:44 PM EST, January 10, 2013
The First Amendment, a cornerstone of our constitutional system and way of life, is not tested by those who hold popular opinions, it is tested by people such as James Tracy.
Mr. Tracy, a tenured communications professor at Florida Atlantic University, asserted that the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six female educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown may not have happened, or not happened the way it was reported by a conspiring media. He suggested in several blog posts that the killings may have been an event staged with hired "crisis actors" and orchestrated by the Obama administration to promote its gun-control agenda.
Where would one even start to refute such absurd drivel? That until Newtown Mr. Obama didn't have a gun-control agenda? That the media are largely incapable of conspiracy? Or simply, that the unspeakable event actually happened as accurately reported by the press and experienced by an entire community?
Disastrous events bring conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork, and according to news reports, Mr. Tracy is a longtime practitioner. Perhaps, somewhere or some time, a conspiracist has been right. But not here. As Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said in a scathing attack on the professor (and his university for keeping him on the payroll), "I can assure you, sadly, that the events here in Newtown unfolded exactly as are being reported."
But note how the First Amendment works. Someone puts his ideas out. Other people weigh and consider them, and either accept or reject them. In Connecticut at least, Mr. Tracy is being widely and soundly rejected.
Florida Atlantic has sought to distance itself from Mr. Tracy's comments; President Mary Jane Saunders said Wednesday that the school does not share his views and that "I am personally saddened by any media stories that have added to the pain felt by the victims' families." One hopes she realizes that her professor was the inspiration for these stories.
Mr. Tracy was not speaking for the university, he has a right to his opinions, however daft, and he is still on the faculty. But as one Florida commentator put it, he is a good argument against tenure.
Copyright © 2015, The Hartford Courant