Tag Archives: academic freedom

Director of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab Witch-Hunts Temple Journalism Prof

Takes Issue With “Fringe and Debunked Views”

(Updated May 10, 9:50AM EST)

Joshua Benton is a former Dallas Morning News reporter and Director of Harvard’s Niamey Journalism Lab. Image Credit: YouTube

Joshua Benton, the Director of Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation-funded Journalism Lab disagreed with some views a commenter left on the organization’s blog, so he did a bit of research, found out who the commenter was, and on May 4 decided to reveal the person’s name and identity in a series of Tweets. The “doxxing,” or “outing” of the commenter has resulted in an ongoing investigation by her academic employer.

Fransesca Viola is an attorney and professor of journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia. She set up a Disqus account called “truthseeker” using her Temple email address. The Disqus service allows users to freely comment across a range of websites.

The Nieman Lab’s director identified Viola by seeing the email address attached to her Disqus account. “Ms. Viola voluntarily logged into a commenting service and left a comment on our site using her Temple email address,” Benton said. “All I did was click one link to see all the other comments she had posted using her Temple email address.”

But instead of seeking to personally contact Viola and discuss her views via email, Benton used his personal Twitter account to publicly ridicule several of the comments she left at the Niemen Lab and other sites under her nom de plume. It’s almost beyond question that Benton did this with the intent to create tension between Viola, her academic employer, and the pious liberal sect that require strict adherence to its doctrinal requisites at most every US university.

As of this writing the identity disclosure and attack remain posted on Benton’s Twitter feed and have been archived here.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Viola rightly took issue with Benton and the Nieman Foundation’s decision to publicly identify her. “I dispute the incorrect attributions and specious allegations posted by Joshua Benton on his Twitter feed at Harvard’s Nieman journalism think tank,” she wrote.

I am appalled by his improper ‘doxxing’ and by his flagrant violation of the Twitter, Disqus, Nieman and Harvard’s terms of service, the apparent violation of the Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act — as well as the ethical and legal standards of journalism. I consider this a personal defamatory attack as well as an attempt to silence academic freedom and people everywhere. Most importantly, as an investigation is now underway, I would ask the community not to assume I am the author of some or all of those comments.

Benton replied in a statement that “no one was doxxed.” This is laughable considering it’s uttered from a man whose professional career is devoted to understanding “online journalism.” For example, here’s the Harvard journalism expert commenting on the industry in 2012.

While none of Viola’s personal information was released, Benton’s actions fit within the very essence of “doxxing,” which involves successful attempts “to tie an anonymous online profile to the true identity of the person behind it and then publicly reveal that person’s real name.”

Viola established her “truthseeker” identity to post comments anonymously and with the belief that webmasters would respect her privacy. Benton exposed her, and the content of his “Tweets” suggest that he did so with great relish.

“I was shocked to see that these comments…were coming from a journalism professor, posting with her Temple email address,” Benton declared in a missive to Temple’s student newspaper.

Everyone is entitled to their political opinions, but I think students and staff should be able to know when someone charged with teaching young people journalism holds these sorts of fringe and debunked views.

In other words, Benton is seeking to convince Viola’s colleagues and students that she is a “conspiracy theorist.” The Harvard staffer’s bio indicates that “he has reported from 10 foreign countries,” suggesting a possible intelligence background.

While it’s improbable that even a reporter with numerous accolades will move in a straight line from the Dallas Morning News to Harvard, Benton has no doubt executed the Agency’s 1035-960 technique against Viola with aplomb.

Viola’s boss, David Boardman, whose Twitter handle Benton included in his Viola Tweetstorm, oversees both Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com.

“Professor Viola has admitted to writing some but not all of these posts and specifically denies writing the post that is derogatory of Muslim protesters, a comment we find particularly abhorrent,” Boardman remarked in a public statement. “We are troubled by the content of some of the other cited posts but acknowledge that those in the Temple community are entitled to exercise free speech within constitutional parameters.”

Boardman refers to an anti-Muslim comment from “truthseeker” below, which may very well make the author a prime candidate for an officer’s spot in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Recognizing the violation of Viola’s privacy, on May 9 Benton issued an apology of sorts via Twitter for his failure to “adhere to rigorous reporting standards.”

Yet Benton’s actions overall really have nothing to do with journalism or adhering to any set of standards. The Harvard journalism expert saw red when he encountered political views that he didn’t agree with and turned to what are effectively methods of online intimidation (“bullying”) by threatening the individual’s livelihood.

The fear of being called a “conspiracy theorist” or the equivalent has, after all, been the main technique used to keep academics, journalists, and other salaried intellectuals in line for the past half-century.

 

 

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TracyvFAU: “A Very Dangerous Precedent”

By Louis Leo IV and James Fetzer

Attorney Louis Leo IV discusses James Tracy’s pending civil rights lawsuit against Florida Atlantic University with University of Minnesota Professor James Fetzer on GCN’s The Power Hour, Monday,  April 23, 2018. Leo is the lead attorney representing Tracy in the federal civil rights lawsuit against the South Florida-based public university.

The two examine Tracy’s unlawful firing by Florida Atlantic University, the corrupt and fraudulent trial defense conducted by FAU’s corporate attorneys (who received significant aid from the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida), and the implications for public employees’ right of free speech and association in the wake of the decision. Leo and Fetzer also discuss the circumstances that led to Tracy’s termination by FAU officials, which followed a smear campaign by cyber trolls and major news media seeking to defend the Sandy Hook event’s official narrative. 

One day after the interview was recorded, on April 24, US District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg issued a 31-page final order denying all post-trial motions, defending her October 31, 2017 summary judgement rulings in favor of FAU, and asserting that Plaintiff Tracy was provided with a fair trial in her courtroom. With the decisions the case now proceeds to the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For additional information on case and how you can assist in the process, please visit the James Tracy Legal Defense Fund.


Professor Jim Fetzer

James H. Fetzer: My guest for the second hour has distinguished himself by representing James Tracy, who is an Associate Professor of Communications and the Media at Florida Atlantic, who is seeking to protect the American people from an elaborate scam by investigating the aspects of Sandy Hook, in particular, Lenny Pozner’s claim to have a son, Noah, who died there.

James was a skeptic at the time, but he was exercising his diligence and responsibility on behalf of the public to ensure they weren’t take in by a scam which wound up looting the American people of somewhere between $27 and $130 million in donations in the false belief that there’d actually been a shooting massacre, and that these 20 children and six adults had died. Divided by the 26 families that were impersonating the survivors, they split and derived over a million bucks apiece.

I believe this is one of the reasons Lenny Pozner has been so ruthless in going after those of us that have been seeking to expose the truth. James Tracy turned out to be targeted, where Lenny published several articles in the South Florida newspapers, including the Jewish journal, Forward, the Sun-Sentinel and others. Tracy ended up losing his position over this. The university had a flimsy excuse, but none better to address the issues here than Louis Leo IV, who represented him. Louis has a website, peopleoverpolitics.org, and he has authored a brilliant overview of Tracy versus Florida Atlantic, titled, “Legalizing Pretext: How an American Public University Conspired to Beat the First Amendment.” Louis welcome to The Power Hour.

Louis Leo IV: Thanks for having me.

Fetzer: I’m just delighted. Perhaps you’d like to begin with a thumbnail overview of what happened here, and how this American university beat the First Amendment.

Attorney Louis Leo IV

Leo: Well, I can tell you there are a lot of moving parts in this case, but we’re still waiting for the court to rule on post-trial motions, which include a Motion for Judgement as a Matter of Law, as well as a Motion for a New Trial. And, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened. I guess you can say it’s been a long and disturbing ride through the legal system in this case.

Fetzer: I was just going to add that I too am a colleague, a collaborator, with James Tracy, and I was the head of his legal defense fund, and I believe in this man one-hundred-percent. In fact, I can’t imagine a less likely target for an action like this than James Tracy. He is so principled. He is so measured. He is so thoughtful. He is so intelligent. And he was actually undertaking at act of what’s technically known as super arrogation—going beyond the call of duty in an effort to determine the facts of the matter, and protect the American public from fraud.

Leo: Exactly.

Fetzer: They wound up being subjected to a theft by deception, by misrepresenting what had happened there. Lenny Pozner, Neil Heslin and others have defrauded the American people of a vast sum, and have gone on this stupefying campaign for gun control that’s completely one-hundred-percent the opposite of the interests of the American people. Louis, go right ahead.

Leo: I should start by saying that the reason Dr. Tracy lost in this trial is because of deception and fraud in the court, and it’s something that the court sanctioned, using the rules of evidence. This is outlined in our motion that the court made the grave error in excluding from trial evidence that showed just how blatant and pretextual the use of this policy was to terminate a tenured professorship.

Continue reading TracyvFAU: “A Very Dangerous Precedent”

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FAU Faculty Support Academic Freedom (Restrictions Apply)

By James F. Tracy

Are faculty at FAU and universities across America pristine embodiments of integrity and truth? Do they support a flourishing of scholarly perspectives, or are they political ideologues who carefully police their own ranks?

Flashback to Spring 2013: A liberal instructor and Democratic Party activist is under fire by conservative groups for a classroom exercise that at least one student claimed was offensive to his religious faith. He put in a kick and local media leapt on the event. After an outcry in the blogosphere FAU administrators responded apologetically to the student and public, stating instructors would never repeat such an experiment with students. Even Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, ever the opportunist, responded by chiding FAU administrators.

This was the famous, “Stomp on Jesus” incident, where FAU instructor Deandre Poole, an African American, was carrying out an exercise published in a widely-circulated communication studies textbook that asked students to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper, then see if they could draw themselves to drop the paper to the ground and place their foot over it.

After the incident was called out by conservative groups and Poole received death threats there was an outpouring by progressive left faculty members, students and community members, who placed pressure on the administration to defend Poole by publicly demonstrating in defense of  “academic freedom.”

Continue reading FAU Faculty Support Academic Freedom (Restrictions Apply)

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Through Jaundiced Eyes: Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel’s Hardcore Bias in TracyvFAU Coverage

What Would Fair and Balanced Journalism Have Looked Like?

By James F. Tracy

The Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s overall coverage of the December 2017 TracyvFAU trial looks as if it could have been written by the Defendant University’s “Department of Media Relations.” Post and Sun-Sentinel managements recognize how FAU’s multitude of advertising dollars is a key  support in their erroneous and uncritical reportage of complex public events and broader operations. With the trial each outlet skewed its reportage and editorial commentary to heavily favor the school, thereby securing for their client a positive verdict in South Florida’s court of public opinion.

One need look no further than the Post and Sun-Sentinel‘s article titles to gather an overview of the TracyvFAU’s editorial thrust:

-“Trial To Begin for Fired FAU Professor, Conspiracy Theorist James Tracy,” Sun Sentinel, November 27, 2017

-“Ex FAU Professor, Conspiracy Theorist James Tracy, Testifies about Firing in Free Speech Case,” Sun Sentinel, November 30, 2017

-“FAU Professor James Tracy Claims School Fired Him for Sandy Hook Rants,” Palm Beach Post, November 30, 2017

-“Ex-FAU Prof on Trial Tries To Downplay Attack on Sandy Hook Parents,” Palm Beach Post, December 1, 2017

-“FAU Prof Wasn’t Fired Because of Sandy Hook Blog, FAU Official Testifies,” Sun Sentinel,December 4, 2017

-“Christie: Tracy-vs-FAU More about Arrogance Than Free Speech, Insubordination,” PalmBeachPost.com, December 5, 2017

-“FAU Prof James Tracy’s Firing ‘Wasn’t a Surprise’ to Him, University Officials Say,” Sun Sentinel, December 5, 2017

-“What It Was Like in the Class of FAU’s Conspiracy-Spinning Professor,” Palm Beach Post, December 8, 2017

-“Claims against FAU by Sandy Hook Denier Headed To Federal Jury Monday,” Palm Beach Post, December 8, 2017

-“Jury Rules against Fired FAU Prof James Tracy in Free Speech Case,” Sun Sentinel, December 11, 2017

An editorial by Palm Beach Post opinions editor Rick Christie, arguing that the content of Tracy’s speech and disbelief in government-endorsed conspiracy theories make him “arrogant.”

In fact, the papers pulled their reporters from the courtroom entirely when crucial testimony was given by Professor Tracy’s colleagues and fellow union officers giving the lie to the central argument of FAU’s million-dollar defense—that Tracy consciously violated a school policy rigorously adhered to by all other faculty and employees.

Continue reading Through Jaundiced Eyes: Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel’s Hardcore Bias in TracyvFAU Coverage

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Legalizing Pretext: How an American Public University Conspired to Beat the First Amendment

… and Got Away With It

By Louis Leo IV Esq.
People Over Politics
Florida Civil Rights Coalition

In 2016, former Florida Atlantic University (“FAU”) Professor James Tracy filed a civil rights lawsuit against FAU following the termination of his tenured employment. If one relies on mainstream press reports of his firing they may conclude the action was justified because of Tracy’s alleged “harassment” of Sandy Hook parents, and/or his failure to comply with the school’s “outside activities” policy.

James Tracy with attorneys Steven Blinkensderfer (left) and and Louis Leo IV (right). Image Credit: Palm Beach Post

Yet at its heart, Tracy’s case has grave implications for the First Amendment rights of virtually every US academic and government employee. Through their own repeated admissions FAU administrators justified Tracy’s termination by arguing that Tracy failed to “disclose” his constitutionally protected political speech for university approval under a vague and confusing school policy.

If this precedent stands unchallenged it will allow virtually any government agency to police employees’ extracurricular speech or political activities, and accordingly discipline workers whose views are deemed objectionable.

What do you know about the James Tracy case?

If you get your news and information from “mainstream” media outlets and their affiliates and partners in fake news around the globe, you probably know nothing about the case.

Or if anything, you might think you know some crazy teacher said nobody died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and lost his job. So what?

Well, if you think Professor Tracy is crazy, or was out of line in his blog postings about Sandy Hook, Tracy is far from alone in casting doubt about the official story. In fact, 24% of Americans surveyed in 2016 acknowledged the massacre may have been faked to promote gun control—a number which will undoubtedly grow as more and more Americans discover the vastly censored body of research and documentaries like “We Need To Talk About Sandy Hook”.

Notwithstanding the truth about Sandy Hook, or other government conspiracies, what if I told you that Professor Tracy didn’t do anything wrong?

What if I told you that government officials at FAU broke their own rules, and the First Amendment when they disciplined Professor Tracy?

For those who don’t care about freedom of speech, you need read no further.

For those who understand and appreciate the fact that FAU, a major American public university, isn’t the NFL, and that its government officials aren’t allowed to conspire to beat the First Amendment and fire a government employee because of what they say as a private citizen about a matter of public concern, please keep reading.

Professor James Tracy, who has a Ph.D. in mass communications, was an award-winning, tenured communications professor at a government-run university. He was a good teacher who received outstanding and excellent annual evaluations from his supervisors while teaching at FAU for over a decade.

Don’t take my word for it. Read his FAU performance evaluations.

Continue reading Legalizing Pretext: How an American Public University Conspired to Beat the First Amendment

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