Thx to C.S. for sharing.
Thx to C.S. for sharing.
Free Speech At An American University? Or Not?
James Tracy responds to questions about his firing, and about press reports of events that have swirled around him.
March 7, 2016
(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, Power Outside The Matrix, click here.)
By Jon Rappoport
“Why was he fired? I mean, why was he really fired? What did he do? What did he do to bring this down on himself? He must have done something wrong…Wait. Are you saying he was fired because he exercised his natural right to free speech? He spoke freely? That’s it? That’s all? No, I can’t believe that. He must have said something that I would disagree with—in which case, he should have been fired. I feel better. He said something I disagree with. He should be fired. What right does he have to say something that makes me feel uncomfortable? That crosses the line. I have a right not to feel uncomfortable. Isn’t that the most basic of all rights? Isn’t that written in the Constitution?” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport)
What happened to Professor James Tracy?
Here is what the NY Times had to say (“Florida Professor Who Cast Doubt on Mass Shootings Is Fired,” 1/6/16):
“MIAMI — A Florida Atlantic University professor who suggested in blog postings and radio interviews that the 2012 massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary and other mass shootings were a hoax designed by the Obama administration to boost support for gun control was fired Tuesday.
“James F. Tracy, 50, a tenured associate professor of communications at the Boca Raton university, has repeatedly called into question the authenticity of recent mass shootings, including the slaying of churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., and office workers in San Bernardino, Calif. In his blog postings and radio interviews, Mr. Tracy has said the Newtown massacre may have been carried out by ‘crisis actors’ employed by the Obama administration.”
Here are a few more news quotes about Tracy:
Orlando Sun-Sentinel op-ed (“Tenure be damned, Professor James Tracy embarrasses FAU,” 12/17/2015):
“In our view, academic freedom is not a license to do or say whatever you want, consequences be damned. So we welcome the termination proceedings begun against Tracy this week by FAU, a university he continues to embarrass with his ‘didn’t happen’ conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, the Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernardino shooting and other mass attacks.”
The Washington Times (“Florida Atlantic University moves to fire professor who questioned Sandy Hook,” 12/18/2015):
“Florida Atlantic University moved Wednesday to fire a professor who has faced calls for resignation after claiming the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a staged drill that the community benefitted from financially…The school said in a release on its website that School of Communication and Multimedia Studies professor James Tracy was served Wednesday with a notice of termination, to which he has 10 days to respond.”
And then we have this from the Daily Beast (“This Professor Trolled Sandy Hook Parents—And His University Wants Him Gone,” 12/17/2015):
“James Tracy, who taught a course chock-full of conspiracy theories at Florida Atlantic University, reportedly harassed parents of a Sandy Hook child, demanding proof of his death… Florida Atlantic University announced on Thursday it planned to fire tenured professor James Tracy for allegedly harassing parents of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 children and six adults dead… After years of Tracy stating that the massacre was a government conspiracy, the professor reportedly sent a certified letter to Lenny and Veronique Pozner demanding they prove that their deceased 6-year-old, Noah, ever existed. When the family notified the police of the harassment, Tracy responded on a ‘Sandy Hook Hoax’ Facebook page, claiming that the family had ‘made out very well for itself financially’ from the tragedy… That was enough for the university to take action.”
Here is my interview with James Tracy. Let’s read, at length, what he has to say:
Q: Did you harass Lenny and Veronique Pozner about their son, Noah?
In March of 2015, Lenny Pozner, acting on behalf of his “HONR Network,” filed a copyright infringement claim with Automattic, the ISP and parent company of WordPress.com, where my blog, Memory Hole, is housed. Pozner/HONR Network demanded that I take down an image that Pozner purports to hold copyright ownership in. This well-known photograph, purportedly of [Lenny’s son] Noah Pozner, was voluntarily provided to the press by the Pozners in December 2012 following the Sandy Hook massacre event and has since been reproduced millions of times in print, electronic, and online media throughout the world.
An identical photo of Noah Pozner also appeared in December 2014 in the wake of a school massacre in Peshawar Pakistan, purportedly representing a child victim in that shooting. I wrote an article in January 2015 on the re-emergence of this image and included the photo in question. Even the BBC eventually acknowledged how the photo first appeared following the 2012 Newtown massacre. When Automattic/Wordpress presented me with Pozner’s takedown request it remarked that my inclusion of the photo in the post constituted “fair use” under US copyright law, which provides for republication of copyrighted material for the purpose of “commentary or criticism.” Nonetheless, I removed the photograph from my blog, and responded to the allegations, referencing free speech concerns and asking for documentation and evidence supporting Pozner’s copyright claims. To my knowledge, I am not aware of any journalistic outlet that has ever attempted to accurately report this.
I should note that by early 2015, Lenny Pozner had become infamous within the alternative media community for filing blatantly frivolous infringement claims. Pozner’s objective appears to be to shutdown any commentary or criticism of the controversy surrounding his son’s death, as alleged. To contest such claims, anonymous bloggers and YouTubers must divulge their legal identities. Pozner and his HONR Network associates then use this identifying information to stalk and harass Sandy Hook researchers, going so far as to contact their family members, neighbors, and employers, to suggest these researchers are emotionally harming Sandy Hook victims’ families. But there’s nothing unlawful with such study and criticism. On the contrary, it is Pozner and his group who are involved in unlawful stalking, harassment and defamation. This very harassment and defamation of myself reached a crescendo with the Sun-Sentinel’s December 10 publication of an article by Lenny and Veronique Pozner entitled, “Sandy Hook Massacre 3rd Anniversary: Two Parents Target FAU Conspiracy Theorist; FAU Professor Taunts Sandy Hook Parents.”
Q: How do you view free speech and the 1st Amendment, in light of what is happening to you?
Free speech and academic freedom are closely intertwined. When school officials at FAU [Florida Atlantic University] initially expressed their concerns about my blog in 2013, I explained to them that if I could not practice my constitutional rights during my personal time, then my right to academic freedom and professional autonomy on the job is likewise threatened. This is the case for university faculty at FAU and throughout the country. The American Association of University Professors and The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education supported my stance in letters of protest to school officials when FAU first attempted to discipline me for my personal blogging in March of 2013. Regardless of the lies told by the Pozners and their media allies, I don’t think there’s any question given what has transpired that FAU has acted wrongfully, and in violation of its own principles of academic freedom, institutional tenure and my constitutional rights.
Q: On what basis did the University fire you?
FAU’s contention is that I failed to file “outside activity” forms for my personal blog. In January of 2013, they made the same request and at that time I explained that such endeavors are personal and protected by the First Amendment. The administration fell silent for 34 months, and then abruptly resurrected this unconstitutional basis as cause for termination in late December 2015. For their exact “reasoning”, see FAU’s Notice of Termination, dated January 6, 2016.
Q: Before this situation finally blew up, you must have known you were on a collision course with the University. What were your thoughts about that?
I had no idea that university officials would so brazenly violate the well-established principles of academic freedom and my constitutional rights. In 2014, a new president, John Kelly, was recruited from Clemson University and installed at Florida Atlantic. His administration was characterized to me by one senior FAU faculty member as the most anti-faculty administration in thirty-plus years. This administration has proceeded to discipline or threaten with discipline several faculty who’ve made public pronouncements that Kelly and his inner circle disfavor.
In September 2015 the Kelly administration attempted to effectively eliminate tenure by implementing a controversial post-tenure review process that faculty eventually caught wind of and protested. I also reported on that episode.
See James Tracy, “Academic Freedom Threatened in America: The Policy of Post Tenure Review,” Global Research, September 20, 2015.
Q: In a similar vein, people must have been telling you, in the past few years, that you were treading on dangerous ground, relative to job security. How did you respond?
I can’t recall any colleague suggesting that I was in danger of being disciplined, much less being stripped of tenure and fired. I was confident that tenure and the First Amendment still had meaning at FAU. I was obviously proven wrong.
Q: Do you believe your present situation is a test case for academic freedom in America?
Absolutely—for academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. All of these protections exist so that faculty and citizens can examine, research, and publicize the potential malfeasance and wrongdoing of those in power. As some academics and journalists have come to realize, however, is the unwritten code guiding what topics can actually be addressed. Political assassinations and similar events are often deemed suspect and off-limits.
I think this is strongly-rooted in the misleading yet almost uniformly adhered to notion that we live in an “open society,” a mythic pluralism overseen by properly functioning political institutions inhabited by fair-minded political leaders and bureaucrats, all of whom have our best interests at heart. Of course, universities are a central part of this mythic democratic order. Researching such difficult subject matter calls the legitimacy of this system into question. At the same time controversial and poorly-understood topics are exactly what tenure and academic freedom exist to foster and protect.