Jac VerSteeg: Santa, Sandy Hook and Florida Atlantic University

This being the Christmas season, we all are entitled to believe in those things we want to believe in. This time of year – if only for a short time – I choose to believe in Santa.

I believe, for example, that the Reason for the Season will lead the Florida Legislature to ask itself WWJD and extend Medicaid to more needy people. And I believe that lawmakers inspired by the Prince of Peace will rethink their guns-first policy. I believe that, as the stewards of God’s creation, the Legislature will use Amendment 1 income responsibly and follow through with pledges to save the Everglades.

Hey, if the Grinch’s heart can grow three sizes, so can the Florida Legislature’s. I obviously also believe, for this short period, in the Tooth Fairy.

If we can choose what to believe in, we also can choose what not to believe in. In that spirit, I do not believe that “James Tracy” is a real person.

Oh, sure, I’ve seen the new reports about the alleged Tracy, but he can’t possibly be real.

According to the new stories I’ve read, Tracy is a professor at Florida Atlantic University who has achieved a measure of notoriety for denying, on a blog, that the Sandy Hook massacre ever happened.

You probably remember Sandy Hook, which happened about this time three years ago. Twenty children and six teachers died in that tragic and brutal attack.

Tracy – I should say the “alleged” Tracy – also denies that the Boston Marathon bombing ever happened. Same with a bunch of other terror attacks, including San Bernardino. Didn’t happen, “Tracy” claims. It’s all a hoax, he says, to justify oppressive gun control.

Well, reports about “Tracy” obviously can’t be true. A respectable university like FAU couldn’t possibly keep such a figure on staff.

And the story gets even more unbelievable. This “Tracy” guy didn’t just passively post wingnut theories on a blog. He supposedly went further and demanded that the parents of one of the victims prove to him that their son actually had ever existed and had subsequently died.

Lenny and Veronique Pozner lost their beautiful son, 6-year-old Noah, at Sandy Hook. They wrote an oped for the South Florida Sun Sentinel in which they explained that Tracy is at the forefront of a cadre of people who behave in an unbelievably cruel manner.

“Tracy is among those who have personally sought to cause our family pain and anguish,” they wrote, “by publicly demonizing our attempts to keep cherished photos of our slain son from falling into the hands of conspiracy theorists.

“Tracy even sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. We found this so outrageous and unsettling that we filed a police report for harassment.”

Sandy Hook is a hoax? A professor who claims it is a hoax has remained employed for years? That is so unbelievable that my only conclusion is that Tracy himself must be a hoax. No human being could be that cruel. And any university that kept him on staff this long would have to be incredibly self-destructive.

I know all about academic freedom and freedom of speech. I support both. I do not think students should be protected from all disturbing arguments and ideas. But there also is an obligation for professors to base their theories on research, proof or, at the very least, rational thought. Otherwise, if they take outrageous positions, they do irreparable harm to their institutions.

In any case, the alleged Tracy – in actually harassing those parents – moved from just writing words on a blog. He moved from the realm of words and opinion into the realm of actions and deeds. And FAU finally has moved into the realm of action. FAU has taken steps to fire him.

It is not certain the university will be successful. Tracy has tenure. But if FAU succeeds, my Christmastime fantasy – that there is no FAU professor named James Tracy – would be affirmed in reality.

Thank you, Santa.

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Jac VerSteeg


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