COMMENTARY | Modern society has more than its share of two-sided blessings, but none seems to cut so much in opposite directions as the easy spread of information. Or misinformation, depending on the topic.
James Tracy, a hopefully soon-to-be-former Florida college professor, claims the Newtown, Conn., school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary did not happen in the way documented by the media. And then he goes completely outside the universe of reality.
He suggests that it didn’t happen at all.
Instead, he says that the whole tragedy was manufactured to push gun control. Who would mastermind such a twisted plot to impugn the benign nature of killing machines? President Barack Obama, of course. After all, no modern off-the-wall conspiracy is complete without the nefarious complicity of the president.
Thanks to the ease and immediacy of the Internet, where every pixelated word enjoys a weight equal to every other pixelated word, no matter how irrational, Tracy’s “theory” is fast-tracking around the world. Granted, there are probably very few people who read it and think, “Hey, this young whippersnapper’s on to something,” perhaps mostly because people under use “whippersnapper” these days, but nonetheless, the words of a professor at Florida Atlantic University have escaped their little corner of the South.
Before the grand scheme of the interwebs, Tracy might have shared his theory with his students. Perhaps he could have written a letter to his local paper, though that wouldn’t guarantee that they’d publish it. If he was feeling very ambitious and didn’t mind the possible damage to his reputation, maybe he could have gone in a scholarly direction and tried to submit his theory to a peer-reviewed journal.
Now, there are no second-thinkers, no gatekeepers to tell someone when he’s not even no longer inside the ball park, but somewhere in another state where they don’t allow sports. No, now someone like Tracy can have his flash of “insight” and make global headlines.
Spouting incredible, unbelievable, damaging nonsense.
I can’t imagine how it must feel to the parents of those slain children to hear that anyone is pushing the notion that their grief isn’t real, that’s it’s all pretend. That their children never really lived, as such. That they never actually died.
The truth is that no one has to create make-believe tragedy to make the issue of gun control relevant. Sadly, we have daily examples, like the eight people shot and one person killed in Chicago overnight, or the four women found shot to death Monday in an apartment in Tulsa, Okla.
Without the Internet, Tracy would have a soapbox and the town square, but now he has the ear of the world, even if most of the world is mocking. What he’s casually said is abhorrent. That people might listen, casually or not, is even more so.