(Received October 8, 2013)
Following the publication of my article, “DisinfoWars: Alex Jones War on Your Mind,” I was disheartened to read a blazing critique of the piece and Project Censored–who published it–from James Tracy. Given that we both worked on Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times, which was released just a few days before his critique, I would have assumed Tracy would have contacted Project Censored or me about the release of his article: “With ‘Disinfo Wars’ Project Censored Abandons Principles.” However, he did not and consequently released a critique chock-full of omissions and distortions.
Tracy cherry picked and misrepresented the sources used in my essay. He disingenuously wrote that my essay “is based largely on the work of writers such as Alex Seitz-Wald, Jeremy Stahl, Mark Potok, Alexander Zaitchik, and Jonathan Kay, media personalities like Rachel Maddow, and dubious if not defamatory websites including “RationalWiki” and “AlexJonesDebunked.”
However, he ignored the data from Media Matters, interviews with people who knew and worked with Jones such as Dr. Peter Phillips and radio host Jake Blood, the scholarly work of UC Davis History professor Kathryn Olmsted, Florida State University professor Lance deHaven-Smith, and the work of James Tracy himself, articles from Jones’ websites Infowars and PrisonPlanet, and Jones’ radio show and interviews. Tracy falsely insinuated that I support Maddow’s critique of Jones and the 9/11 Movement.
Quite the contrary, I cite Maddow’s fallacious views as part of a reactive problem to people like Jones. However, I referenced her to document how corporate press personalities silence debate on controversial subjects through Jones’ work, and others like him that get widespread attention. I wrote “The corporate press has ignored most evidence-based researchers’ conclusions about 9/11 by falsely identifying anyone in the 9/11 Truth Movement with Jones and his unproven, sensationalist claims.”
Tracy’s critique focused on lambasting the cherry picked sources instead of addressing the actual evidence in the Jones article. Some of the piece’s strongest evidence —ignored by Tracy—were Jones’ own words. The litany of unfulfilled predictions, flat out wrong statements, and speculative conclusions by Jones demonstrate a pattern of making things up for profit, fame, or some other, undefined reason. Rather than address why this is a problem for other scholars who look into similar controversial subjects once Jones becomes a mainstream face of the topic, Tracy defends Jones and his websites, citing Jones as a “skilled interviewer.”
Tracy does critique the overall thesis of my essay. He argues that Jones is the face of the 9/11 movement because of a vacuum created by the “timidity or disinterest of Progressive-Left scholars” on the subject, and that “Such indifference long-preceded the popularity of Infowars,..” Tracy is right on this point, and that is why I cited this exact claim in my piece by explaining where that “timidity” comes from, “The ability of the corporate press to undermine the message of the 9/11 Truth Movement, one that questions official reports, by associating it with Jones results in part from tactics used by COINTELPRO and the CIA during the Cold War.” My essay argued that the timidity Tracy discusses does not come from a vacuum, it has an origin– the specific causes vary by time and topic– but the contemporary source for many controversial subjects is Jones and the corporate press which peddle him.
The hypocrisy of Tracy in his article is disheartening as he lambastes all of Project Censored for an article written by one individual. Tracy accused my essay of erroneously introducing Jones’ speculation as tantamount to all of Infowars’ reporting: “‘Disinfo Wars’ fails to distinguish between Jones’ on-air antics and Infowars’ journalism.” Then in an illuminating act of hypocrisy, Tracy does what he accused me of doing, by arguing that my essay is representative of the entire Project Censored organization despite it having been written by a single author, myself. “The notion,” Tracy writes, “that the entity [Project Censored] would lash out at any public figure in such a fashion is troubling.” He falsely claims that “PC has chosen to abandon its own essential impartiality to assail one of its own honorees,” despite the byline which identifies myself, not Project Censored, as the author. Further, outside this one article which I wrote, Tracy offers no evidence for why he feels there has been a growing trend, especially among the leadership of the Project, whom Tracy speaks with on a relatively regular basis.
Most troubling is that Tracy’s article promotes censorship through its insinuation that any criticism of Jones and his websites is tantamount to censorship. Tracy argued that PC practices censorship and my essay was an effort to blame it on Jones. He argued that PC “now derogates a media personage [Jones] and outlet [Infowars] producing undeniably important work that is at least as concerned and focused on corruption in high places, threats to civil liberties, and an extremely dangerous American foreign policy as the journalism generated by the array of Progressive news media PC increasingly tends to celebrate.”
Tracy’s claim insinuates that despite the glaring inconsistencies and lack of evidence in Jones’ and Infowars’ work, Project Censored should not criticize them because they produce some good work. This artificial measuring system created by Tracy—for who can and cannot be criticized—is essentially arguing that, even though Project Censored knows people like Jones peddle falsehoods, the Project should censor itself because it shares (some) common interests with Jones on other issues. Thus, critiquing Jones, Infowars, and anything that resembles them for behaving in a specious manner—like the very corporate media PC has critiqued for over four decades—is off limits, because they share a common goal which supersedes their commitment to truth.
The Project has published full chapters applying the propaganda model to the left progressive press and lack of coverage of issues like 9/11 and election fraud, and has regularly critiqued Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! The Project did this again in their newest book Censored 2014 (which also published two pieces by Tracy, one on conspiracy panics) in a piece by John Pilger which points out liberal foundations and censorship in the left progressive press. Jones’s work, like the work of any journalistic outlet with wide viewership, should not be beyond critique.
The work of Tracy is still something to be read and discussed. I welcome debate on this subject and any other. I applaud people like Tracy who want to have dialogue on these subjects, but it is in the best interest for all of us if we stick to the facts and not misrepresent the scholarship of either person. I hope for a continued relationship between Tracy, Project Censored, and myself, focused on maintaining the free flow of information as well as continued dialogue about Jones and his effects on movements.
Higdon, Nolan. “Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones’ War on Your Mind,” Project Censored. September 26, 2013, accessed October 5, 2013.
Tracy, James. “With “Disinfo Wars” Project Censored Abandons Principles,” Memory Hole. October 3, 2013, accessed October 5, 2013.