Anatomy of a Media Frenzy

By James F. Tracy

One year ago a national media frenzy ensued over my analysis and observations of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre event of December 14, 2012. Evidence that has since emerged since, including the State of Connecticut’s curiously expurgated official report released December 27, has overall tended to confirm such observations. My initial series of articles was circulated widely in alternative news outlets in late December 2012 and early January 2013. Yet not until the South Florida Sun-Sentinel interviewed me and published a rather inflammatory story on January 7 did a select set of my remarks subsequently “go viral” in major news media via the Drudge Report.

I was initially startled with the fervent backlash exhibited in corporate media outlets (below), as well as the progressive-left blogosphere. As far as I can gather, the outrage centered around 1) the conclusion upon considerable analysis that what the media publicized about a profoundly tragic event was at best only partially true, 2) my purportedly bizarre and speculative belief that a swell guy like President Barack Obama and his well-meaning administration would ever, well, act like politicians and seek to hoodwink the public, especially in such a brazen fashion, and 3) the fact that such remarks were being voiced publicly by a “tenured university [censored].”

While at times personally unnerving, the experience was instructive in that it strongly confirmed much of what I continue to study and teach–the powerful influence exerted by the government-corporate media nexus in terms of pushing certain emotional buttons to channel, manipulate and, where necessary, stifle debate on extremely important issues and events.

In my view, it was not surprising or unusual that something like Sandy Hook had transpired in the US, particularly given historical precedents in Dunblane, Scotland and Port Arthur, Australia. Still, I found it unsettling that a large majority of the public–including friends and colleagues–allowed for themselves to be swayed by their blasé reliance on headlines and sound-bites versus taking the time to actually read and engage with what I had written.

Further, while a handful came forward to point out the contradiction that I was being publicly excoriated and my livelihood threatened for essentially doing what I was trained and hired to do–media analysis and criticism–my employer’s response was not to defend academic freedom and free speech, but rather to disavow my remarks, hold a breakfast fundraiser for one of Newtown’s multitude of charities, and eventually reprimand me for using the professional salutation “[censored]” on my personal blog and elsewhere.

While my tenure was ultimately upheld, one is left to seriously ponder the informal yet persuasive constraints placed in intellectuals today who concretely address certain controversial issues and topics. Only a brief survey of today’s lamentably somber and often inane public discourse is necessary to conclude that tenure is far too infrequently used in the fashion originally intended–to allow academics to research with impunity the topics of their choosing that may prove inflammatory, particularly to some who may wield enough political influence to have them disciplined or fired.

There is in fact room for academics to engage in controversial topics, yet one must know how to strike the appropriate chord between axe grinding and well-mannered career advancement. For example, it was recently high-fives all around at my institution when a colleague secured a fellowship with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative think tank that has vigorously advocated the disastrous and criminal “Bush Doctrine” against Iraq and urges similarly brutal military action against Iran. Another social scientist is affiliated with the AIPAC-controlled Washington Institute for Near East Policy. No conspiracy mongering here, only implicit acknowledgement of which way the political winds blow, however tainted they may be.

KABC-AM (Radio)1/8/2013 10:58:40 AM
Los Angeles, CA

there are radio station that are allowing people on the air to say that the whole new down master never have right now to Florida Atlantic University professor saying it never happened it was a Obama push to push gun control advocate the day of wagging the dog , and said Finnigan Ladino music made the marathon for roughly the size of everything before her fourth really ` don’t go away with a lot of thought about a two percent tax on everyone on ABC’s Richard Davies with today’s text it for the past couple of years workers of enjoying a two percent reduction in Social Security tax they pay the debts into and on December thirty first Imperial holiday

WTVJ-MIA (NBC)1/8/2013 11:15:38 AM
Miami, FL
NBC 6 South Florida Today at 11am

the grammy winning singer was found dead at her london home in july of 2011. >>> a communication professor known for conspiracy theories is now stirring up controversy at florida atlantic university. 47-year-old james tracy claims last month’s newtown, connecticut, shootings didn’t happen as reported. goes onto say even perhaps it didn’t happen at all. tracy says there’s not enough evidence to support that one gunman killed 20 students and six staff members. the professor says he knows he sparked all kinds of controversy on campus, but he would like his students to look at events in a more critical way. fau, by the way, distancing

WFLA-AM (Radio)1/8/2013 3:14:32 PM

there and then not before sunset both covering the story of four kilometers dear here … from mother Sun Sentinel they publish this late last night for inclusion in the paper today and the online last night FAA you professor stirs controversy by disputing the new town Connecticut master are you are you kidding me of a lesson of Looney Tunes stuff you a piece written by Mike Larry Sun Sentinel a communication professor known for conspiracy theories has stirred controversy at Florida Atlantic

WPEC (CBS)1/8/2013 5:07:07 PM
West Palm Beach, FL
CBS 12 News–5:00

claiming that the newton massacre leaving 26 people dead — including several kids… was a hoax. (2shot) the florida atlantic university professor making the bizarre comments on his personal blog. john cbs 12′s lynn gordon spoke to students who say the professor’s claims are not only outrageous, they’re giving the school a black eye. trt 1:53 5:27:49 that fau ( look live intro) professor creating quite a controversy with a blog that suggests the sandy hook massacre may not have happened as reported or maybe didnt happen at all 5:27:58 ( newtown file) its one of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history. the massacre at sandy hook elementary in newtown connecticut where 20 children and six adults were murdered in cold blood last month 5:25:10 i think its kind of craxzy that a professor would say somethng lke that it def happened ( photo of tracy) students are referring to

WPLG-MIA (ABC)1/8/2013 5:36:32 PM
Local 10 News @ 5PM

a professor at florida atlantic university is raising questions about what happened at sandy hook elementary school in connecticut last month. in a blog post james tracy asked in the if the shooting was a conspiracy and if the media are asking the right questions. tracy says it’s worth asking if the shooting was politically motivated. f.a.u. is distancing itself from those comments. >>> 20-year-old adam lanza you will remember won’t a shooting rampage at the elementary school, killing 26 people, including 20 children on december 14th. lanza also shot and killed his mom and then turned the gun on himself. >> now to the subject of home here. hope is on the horizon for haiti.

WPBF (ABC)1/8/2013 6:14:47 PM
WPBF 25 News at 6:00

now to wpbf 25 news exclusive a professor at florida atlantic university in boca raton is creating controversy with the conspiracy theory involving the sandy hook school shooting. professor james tracy questions what really happened the day the 20 children and 6 teacher were gunned down in newtown connecticut. on his personal blog he questions whether the shooting was somehow politically motivated to get more gun control. he claims that the lot of missing information. >> there’s just a lot of conflicting information. we don’t have the autopsy on lanza either. it seems like a real stretch

WFLX (FOX)1/8/2013 11:01:39 PM

his bizarre conspiracy theory that suggests the newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. dan corcoran is live on the fau campus in boca raton. dan. his three hour class — called ‘communication and social power’ — just wrapped up a few minutes ago.until now professor james tracy has remained silent about his blog, which has gone viral, over the last couple of days. tracy is not apologizing for his words that he wrote this week on his blog on ‘memory hole dot com’.it was in that writing that he questioned if there were what he refers to

WPEC (CBS)1/8/2013 11:09:50 PM
CBS 12 News–11:00

an FAU professor strikes a nerve here and across the country over his claim that the newtown massacre was a hoax. tonight, “cbs 12″ confronts him and his conspiracy theory. tonight, florida atlantic university is distancing itself from its media professor and his controversial comments but the professor himself is defending his comments. peter schaller spoke with james tracy. peter? >> the professor spoke with us after his communications class tonight. he’s worked here at fau for 10 years and he’s no stranger to controversy. in the past he questioned the

WPBF (ABC)1/9/2013 4:33:57 AM
WPBF 25 News Mornings

morning of a growing controversy… comments made by a florida atlantic university professor. as erin guy shows us.. he suggests the school shooting in newtown, connecticut could have been a government conspiracy. newtown connecticut… december 14th… police say adam lanza walked into sandy hook elementry school… armed with semi automatic weapons and opened fire… killing 20 children and 6 adults… but now a florida atlantic university professor james tracey … is questioning what really happened… saying on his blog quote: “while it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the sandy hook shooting ever took place-at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.” on his blog he askes. how did lanza fire so many shots in a short amount

WDBO-FM (Radio)1/9/2013 5:31:47 AM
Orlando, FL

after he claimed a personal blog that he said he hoped elementary school shooting made a massive conspiracy W. DBO’s Ken Kendall and Marcia Taylor began our life can coverage of Prof. James Tracy a lighted the conspiracy involving law enforcement and federal government and the mass media to leave your country Johnson digging through those blogs this morning and an interview the professor did just couple days ago that Dr. Tricia question how Atlanta was able to fire off so many shots in such a little amount of time he also

WFLX (FOX)1/9/2013 6:12:07 AM
West Palm Beach, FL

“florida atlantic university” professor. james tracy says he won’t apologize for what he wrote on his blog on “memory-hole-dot-com.” his conspiracy theory suggests the newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. on his blog, he questioned if there were what he refers to as “crisis actors” hired by the government during the massacre. now, he’s speaking out— saying why he wrote it and what he wants every american to think about.”in terms of saything that sandy hook, the newtown massacre, did not take place is really a simplification — an oversimplification — of what i said. i said that there may very well be elements of that event that are synthetic to some degree, that are somewhat contrived. i think that

WRTV-IN (ABC)1/9/2013 6:37:51 AM
RTV 6 Good Morning Indiana

and defending his bizarre conspiracy theory that suggests the newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. florida atlantic university professor james tracy talked to our scripps station in west palm beach about his blog. tracy writes that there were ‘crisis actors’ hired during the massacre…and the shooting was a ‘set up’ by the obama administration/’85to prompt more strict gun control regulations. but he now says his ideas were over-simplified. > >”in terms of saything that sandy hook, the newtown massacre, did not take place is really a simplification — an

KSHB-KC (NBC)1/9/2013 6:33:27 AM
Kansas City, MO

newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. florida atlantic professor james tracy wrote on his blog this week that he questioned if there were what he refers to as ‘crisis actors’ hired during the massacre in newtown. he also claims the shooting was a ‘set up’ by the obama administrationa to prompt stricter gun control regulations. (curtis) new this morning— a man wanted in monday’s quadruple murder in tulsa— was arrested in kansas. our scripps station in tulsa has learned joseph tillman was arrested in independence, kansas— near the oklahoma border. he was wanted in connection with a separate assault. police believe he may also know something about the

WJXT-JAX1/9/2013 7:40:22 AM
Jacksonville, FL
The Morning Show

shooting. he says it may not have happened. these new claims – by a professor at florida atlantic university – are really causing a stir. james tracy is basing them on the early reports filed during the incident. he says the timeline confusion shows a coordinated effort to hide the so-called “real” story. for example, at one point it was thought there were two shooters. florida atlantic university is distancing itself – saying the conspiracy professor does not speak for the university and tracy was writing on his personal blog page. how much do you like cockroaches? if you’re

KTRS-AM (Radio)1/9/2013 7:39:27 AM
St. Louis, MO

and I believe for Atlanta Gazette not the site of where the Cardinals of his returning that right there is right yet it’s close all floors like right altogether but not elapsed on the of America Abaco was a right afforded when it is not women’s I can’t believe that town were formulaic is to Ezra’s Roto-Rooter area within this professor from their is making some claims about this in the book of school shootings in Newtown Connecticut he’s saying that it really didn’t happen and that it was just the Obama administration’s effort to sway public opinion in favor of gun control up professor is saying this professor

FAU Professor Makes Surprising Comment
(WIOD NewsRadio 610 (Miami) © 01/08/2013)

 Indexed Jan 8 2013 9:23PM

FAU Professor Makes Surprising Comment An FAU professor under fire for saying the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut may …

FAU professor says Newtown school massacre might have been faked to push gun control
(WPEC News 12 Palm Beach County © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in Daily KOS
, Indexed Jan 8 2013 1:24PM

FAU professor says Newtown school massacre might have been faked to push gun …control Posted by Scott T. Smith / CBS12 News BOCA RATON, Fla. —

A Florida Atlantic University assistant professor says the Sandy Hook school massacre may never have happened, …to impose gun control. James Tracy, who has taught media studies at FAU

FAU students react to professor’s conspiracy theory
(Palm Beach Gardens-WPBF (ABC) © 01/09/2013)

Indexed Jan 9 2013 3:42AM

FAU students react to professors conspiracy theory Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy raised questions about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary …law enforcement authorities and the nations news media have described.”Students on Florida Atlantic University reacted after hearing about Tracys comments.Kenson Delva said his comments are …a real debate on gun control.” Alex Jeanty is a senior at FAUand said its too soon…

Florida school moves away from professor’s claim that Sandy Hook massacre was staged

(Fox News © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in WOLF Orlando,
Indexed Jan 8 2013 2:24PM

…Connecticut really happened. James Tracy, an associate professor of media history at Florida Atlantic University , made the bizarre claim on his personal blog memoryholeblog.com, writing that …for himself. “James Tracy does not speak for the university,” Lisa Metcalf, FAU ’s director of media relations, told FoxNews.com in an email. “The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way. As for any previous disciplinary actions …

Newtown leader condemns professor who suggested school massacre was ‘drill’
(Fox News © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in KBND News Radio,
Indexed Jan 8 2013 10:24PM

…community really happened. James Tracy, an associate professor of media history at Florida Atlantic University , made the bizarre claim on his personal blog memoryholeblog.com, writing that …for himself. “James Tracy does not speak for the university,” Lisa Metcalf, FAU ’s director of media relations, told FoxNews.com in an email. “The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way. As for any previous disciplinary actions at…

NUTTY PROFESSOR? FAU Prof Suggests Obama Behind Sandy Hook
(Boca News Now © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in Bayoubuzz
Indexed Jan 8 2013 9:44PM

NUTTY PROFESSOR? FAU Prof Suggests Obama Behind Sandy Hook BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) – Florida Atlantic University (FAU ) officials are distancing themselves from communications professor James Tracy who on his …

Obama staged Newtown shooting with ‘crisis actors,’ says professor who is totally not a crackpot
(Daily KOS © 01/08/2013)

Indexed Jan 8 2013 5:44PM

…all: A communication professor known for conspiracy theories has stirred controversary at Florida Atlantic University with claims that last months Newtown, Conn., school shootings did not happen …not speak for the university” and his website is “not affiliated with FAU in any way.” But lest you think that this lunatic is, you …

Professor makes no apologies for calling Conn. massacre a hoax
(WPEC News 12 Palm Beach County © 01/09/2013)

Indexed Jan 9 2013 3:34AM

…School massacre are creating a national controversy. Its not so much that FAU professor James Tracy doesnt believe the tragedy happened, but that he believes …could have done a better job,” Tracy said. Tracy has taught at FAU for ten years and is no stranger to controversy. Hes questioned the …reading the media stories about his blog than the blog itself.  FAU Media Relations Director Lisa Metcalf says that Tracys views do not reflect …those of the universi…

Professor’s Ridiculous Newtown Theory Gets Internet Wings
(Associated Content © 01/08/2013) 

Indexed Jan 8 2013 5:24PM

…use “whippersnapper” these days, but nonetheless, the words of a professor at Florida Atlantic Universityhave escaped their little corner of the South. Before the grand scheme …

1/9/2013 — New York Daily News — Florida conspiracy professor suggests Sand Hook massacre didn’t occur, was cooked up by Obama to promote gun control

1/9/2013 — Web Pro News — Prof: Newtown Didn’t Happen The Way We Think It Did

1/9/2013 — WBDO Orlando — FAU professor under fire for blog comments on Newtown shooting

1/8/2013 — Fox 8 Cleveland — Prof: Newtown Didn’t Happen

1/8/2013 — DesMoines Register — Florida professor, a U of I grad, stirs up controversy by disputing Newtown shooting

1/8/2013 — KSEE News 24 — College Professor Creates Controversy with Claims Connecticut School Shooting Never Happened

1/8/2013 — Gawker — Florida Atlantic University Professor Wonders if the Sandy Hook Shooting Isn’t Just One Big Mass Media Conspiracy

1/8/2013 — The Inquisitr — Florida Professor James Tracy Claims Sandy Hook Might Be A Hoax

1/8/2013 — Christian Post — Professor Claims Newtown Shooting Was Likely Staged

1/8/2013 — Radar Online — Whacko Professor Says Sandy Hook School Shooting Didn’t Happen, Was Hoax By Obama Administration

1/8/2013 — Opposing Views — Professor James Tracy Claims Sandy Hook Shooting May Not Have Happened

1/8/2013 — International Business Times — Professor Claims Sandy Hook Shooting Did Not Happen As Believed, Sees Political Agenda

1/8/2013 — Human Events — Florida Professor Questions the Newtown Massacre

1/8/2013 — Orlando Sentinel — Daughter of Eustis coach has dreams of becoming Olympic speedskater

1/9/2013 — Broward Palm Beach New Times — James Tracy, FAU Professor, Says Sandy Didn’t Happen; Revels In Notoriety

1/9/2013 — Miami New Times — FAU Professor Thinks Sandy Hook Massacre May Have Been A Media Conspiracy

1/9/2013 — The Holiday Gossip — Newtown Didn’t Happen, Professor Claims