Conspiracy professor manufactures outrageous alternative story of Newtown shooting

FAU prof stirs controversy by disputing Newtown massacre

A communication professor known for conspiracy theories has stirred controversary [sic] at Florida Atlantic University with claims that last month’s Newtown, Conn., school shootings did not happen as reported – or may not have happened at all.

Moreover, James Tracy asserts in radio interviews and on his memoryholeblog.com. that trained “crisis actors” may have been employed by the Obama administration in an effort to shape public opinion in favor of the event’s true purpose: gun control.

[H]e says, “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.”

FAU is distancing itself from Tracy’s views.

In one of his blog posts, “The Sandy Hook School Massacre: Unanswered Questions and Missing Information,” Tracy cites several sources for his skepticism, including lack of surveillance video or still images from the scene, the halting performance of the medical examiner at a news conference, timeline confusion, and how the accused shooter was able to fire so many shots in just minutes.

In an interview Monday, Tracy said “while it appears that people lost their lives” at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, he is not ready to buy that a lone gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, entered the school and methodically shot 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

I’m not sure where to go with this. While “doubt” is admirable until the evidence comes in, his seeming dismissal of the horror of mass murder is despicable for those families involved in this tragedy, along with the assassination of Kennedy, the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9-11 terror attacks and the Aurora, Colo., theater murders, which he also “doubts”. When you can’t buy the true story because you don’t think it sounds believable, that’s called an argument from incredulity. It’s a logical fallacy, a thinking mistake. Yet, he goes on to replace it with something even more incredible and absurd.

Instead of accepting that these events were complicated incidents involving disturbed people doing unthinkable things, he has instead placed suspicion on government suggesting that they are covert and willing to do unspeakably evil things against their own citizens. You know what, Professor? That’s obscene. There is NO evidence for such a claim. It’s intellectually dishonest to just make stuff up to rile people up and get attention. Doubt all you want, the pieces will never all fall into place as people would wish. The world is messy. (Conspiracy theories would contend that convenient pieces were “placed” – you can’t win against irrational thinking.) But to take these insane ideas seriously means you might as well assume the world is evil and doomed, no one can be good or trusted, and you might as well just give up and go live unconnected to the rest of us.

Your views welcome on this topic. It boggles my brain.

Tip: Greg Martinez

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  12 comments for “Conspiracy professor manufactures outrageous alternative story of Newtown shooting

  1. spookyparadigm
    January 8, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    You are focusing on the doubt issue too much. It’s a rhetorical frame. From his blog, he appears to be in probably the most bizarre corner of American politics, the Ron Paul leftist. Most conspiracy theory today originates and is incubated in the populist right (IIRC, even about half of 9/11 Truthers identified as right-wingers in polls and such, and you could clearly see that in observing the community). But if you go far enough left, you may succumb to a sort of moebius strip effect, where the two ends meet and exchange ideas. This guy seems to fall into that. It happened a fair amount in the darkest days of the Bush II administration when the Iraq war was at its height and daily revelations of the Downing Street Memos or torture and death at Abu Ghraib and Baghram made it easy to believe the worst. Noticeably, that pond dried up dramatically with the 2006 elections sweeping the Democrats back into some power. Not because such individuals were welcomed into the mainstream, but it acted as a pressure valve (see also how the Tea Party got mainstreamed with the 2010 elections, though the Republican party did bring in more of its fringe characters, to their detriment in the 2012 election).

    What I’m getting at is, it isn’t an issue of logical fallacy here or there, but it is part of an entirely different worldview, working on different assumptions about the world. He’s masking politics as a form of inquiry, engaging it as a form of inquiry is pointless.

    • January 8, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Perhaps so, in his case. But for part of my audience, it pays to point out the lack of critical thinking in these arguments. He’s a lost cause.

      • spookyparadigm
        January 8, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        I’m not sure I disagree. My point is, it is impossible to understand conspiracy theory without involving politics, as conspiracy theory is social more than it is evidential.

  2. Mr. Shreck
    January 8, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    It’s amazing how a web of unrelated and even contradictory self-interests can congeal in the appearance of an organized plot if your worldview is driven by “agenticity”.

    People see these wrenching, terrifying events followed by misdirected or opportunistic responses and infer because of the response that those responding must have been the agency behind the first event because they got their desired outcome from its aftermath. This is irrational, but under the influence of a double whammy of fear (of the event and of the response) it doesn’t surprise me that minds tend to start shutting down and grasping for answers.

    There may indeed be political forces at work to take advantage of the situation in the wake of a tragedy, but that doesn’t mean they caused it. Why would they need to? They can wait with plausible deniability for the law of large numbers to give them a crisis they can exploit. The media plays into the outcome, not because they conspire with authority, but because they exaggerate the improbable and horrible knowing these things render us passive, hold our attention, and pump their ratings.

  3. Moose McNuggets
    January 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    The book “Among the Truthers” by Jonathan Kay is a good read for people interested in the mindset of conspiracy theorists. Kay continues his coverage of these people on his blog, which you can read here:

    http://amongthetruthers.com/

    • Russell
      January 8, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      “Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America” by Michael Barkun, is another interesting book on this topic.

      • spookyparadigm
        January 8, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        I’ve recommended that book several times on comments on this site. It is a very good book, both for addressing evidentiary elements of conspiracy theories (how such stories slide back and forth between fiction), and the political aspect (both the bit I mention above about the paradox of the same conspiracy theory appealing to radically different audiences, and also how paranormal beliefs and related ideas are “gateway ideas” into radical politics in many cases, because once something is marked “forbidden,” it starts to swim with other forbidden ideas, like race politics and the like).

  4. Chew
    January 8, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    When I read the headline I was certain the story was going to be James Fetzer. Imagine my shock at learning there is another professor just as kooky.

  5. bdash
    January 8, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    As the Allies moved thru Poland and Germany while WWII was winding down, and they began to uncover the concentration camps, Patton made sure every soldier went to see the carnage. “One day people will try to deny this ever happened.” (Paraphrase) And he wanted as many witnesses as possible.
    It makes me sad to see what some people do with their brains.

  6. D.Walker
    January 8, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    I’m certainly glad that I’ve not seen any graphic images from Aurora or Sandy Hook. Just the thought of the carnage leaves me feeling nauseated. What’s truly sad is, that, as unbalanced as this person clearly is, he’s probably got a room full of weapons,legally obtained.

  7. drwfishesman
    January 8, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    You want to lose all hope in man kind? Answer the poll on this article link and see how many people agree with his outrageous story. FAU is right up the road from where I live and owns the research institution where I used to work. This guy does this routinely to get attention.

  8. Brian
    January 9, 2013 at 6:10 AM

    “Instead of accepting that these events were complicated incidents involving disturbed people doing unthinkable things, he has instead placed suspicion on government suggesting that they are covert and willing to do unspeakably evil things against their own citizens.”

    Maybe not the shootings, but the govt *does* do evil things to its people- the radiation experiments against 16000 mentally retarded in the 50s and 60s comes to mind…

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