May 1998 – While attending University of Arizona, Tracy becomes involved in a campus movement that is protesting sweatshop labor practices, which comes to a head in negotiations with the administration in May 1998, as he wrote about in 7/7/2000 op-ed:
In 1997 and 1998, while at the University of Arizona, other activists and myself were protesting the school’s pending contract with Nike, a $5 million, multi-year contract that included all athletic teams at Arizona. In May 1998, we were invited to participate in an “ad-hoc committee” created by the university’s president, which included faculty, representatives of the Arizona athletics department and the university’s legal counsel. The expressed purpose of the committee was to create an “escape clause” in the contract so that if Nike was found to be violating the rights of its workers, Arizona could pull out. (How we would ever confirm if workers’ rights were being violated was not considered.) Nike insisted on a “gag rule,” which was enforced on committee members because Nike didn’t want the hassle of renegotiating contracts it held with other universities along similar lines. The chairman of the committee threatened us with civil action if we talked to the press. Shortly thereafter, a student-athlete on the Arizona women’s soccer team told me that the Arizona athletics department similarly warned student-athletes not to talk to the press or public about the Nike contract “until it was signed.”
It was bad enough that these athletes had to be “pimped” so their coaches could rake in the dough, but that they were silenced on such an issue they just may have had a meaningful opinion on constituted an infringement on their civil rights both as students at a publicly funded institution and as U.S. citizens.
Spring/Summer 1998: Graduates from University of Arizona
Starts attending University of Iowa (per LinkedIn)
While working toward his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Communication and Media Studies, he has several papers published:
This is also the period when Tracy began getting deeper into conspiracy theories, and especially JFK, as noted in the “Man in the Media” bio piece, “Throughout graduate school at Iowa State, Tracy explored a controversial shot in history — the death of JFK.”
Given that time frame of 1998-2002, it is likely that this is when Tracy first becomes familiar with the work of conspiracy theorist and academic, Jim Fetzer. Jim Fetzer’s book Assassination Science – Experts Speak Out was published in 1998. Murder in Dealy Plaza followed in 2000. It’s not known when they met exactly, and it probably wasn’t for years after this, but it’s a safe bet that Tracy was reading these books (which consist of collections of writings from other mostly-academics, dressed up to sound like serious inquiries but that in fact are not peer-reviewed, much like the Fetzer book Nobody Died at Sandy Hook that Tracy would contribute to almost two decades later). Tracy couldn’t have known how much of a role Fetzer would come to play in his own life and career, he just was a consumer of conspiracy narratives at this point, and he surely recognized in it that an academic could lend an aura of legitimacy to conspiracy culture. He respected Fetzer and what he was doing.
Dec 14 1998: Tracy dresses as Santa to protest outside of Wal Mart in Iowa City (Daily Iowan) – Tracy would be writing op-eds for the same publication shortly. The protest is against companies using sweatshop labor, a continuation of his activism from University of Arizona.
June 10, 1999: In what appears to have been Tracy’s first of a series of Op-eds published in the University’s newspaper The Daily Iowan, he writes about the U.S.’s intervention in Kosovo, contrasting it with the Vietnam war, by way of a Captain America metaphor.
June 17, 1999: Column in “viewpoints” section dealing with health insurance. He argues against corporate interests, and in favor of universal health care. Tracy also mentions his grandfather, whom he “never knew as an adult,” but was a doctor who “practiced medicine for 50 years in my spall hometown in western New York.”:
June 24 1999: Tracy’s weekly op-ed concerns mass media and its potential to shape beliefs regarding high-profile tragedies: he remarks that Malcolm X’s outspoken nature “may well be what is needed now, as our country’s political leaders grapple with the issue of mediated violence in the wake of the Littleton massacre”. (Note: The Columbine High School shooting had occurred just two months before).
July 1 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed on 4th of July:
July 8 1999: Op-ed “Cultural Power shift is killing America’s cities” in which he notes visiting family in his hometown, “eighty miles southeast of Buffalo [New York]”
July 15 1999: Op-ed in the Daily Iowan “Administration’s IWP games are foolish”
July 22 1999: Tracy’s weekly Op-Ed “Individuals must join fight against unfair labor practices” is about a campus activism issue he would remain involved in: essentially, University of Iowa had signed on with a Fair Labor Association, which Tracy and his allies see as woefully inadequate to secure workers’ rights (see his similar complaints at University of Arizona regarding the athletes there and their position in contract negotiations).
July 29 1999: Op-Ed “Advances in technology come at the cost of personal privacy”
August 5 1999 presents paper on Gone With the Wind: “A paper presented to the Qualitative Studies Division at the 1999 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference, August 5, 1999, New Orleans, Louisiana.”
Aug 26 1999: Tracy’s column in the daily Iowan is a satire of “welfare moms”, in which he boasts about his own “milking” of the state’s funds:
September 9, 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed on research funding at University of Iowa:
September 23 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed on “Historical Tragedies”. In it, he notes that his family “broke up when [I] was 9 years old” due to “the more conventional cause of spousal estrangement.”
In a video from August 13 2020, Tracy tells much the same story, and confirms that he was actually dating “Mum” at the time.
October 1 1999: Paper on Walt Disney
October 7 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed on SUVs
Oct 14-16 1999 – Appears at conference in Eugene
Note that this marks the beginning of his involvement with the Union for Democratic Communications, which will last until 2012 or so. Pg 228 of deposition:
November 8, 1999: A student writes a Letter to the Editor pointing out several “unclear and contradictory” arguments Tracy had made in an Op-Ed regarding athletes being exploited by the NCAA (the original op-ed is not available in archives)
November 18 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed criticizing American notions of “cool”. In it, Tracy notes that he once worked at a night club.
Dec 2 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed focusing on a speech at UI by journalist Bob Woodward:
December 9 1999: Daily Iowan op-ed regarding press coverage of the WTO protests:
Feb 3 2000: column in the Daily Iowan on “Pervasive Propaganda”
March 9, 2000: Daily Iowan op-ed “Creating music for white, middle-class ears” about reggae, dub and hip-hop being underappreciated at UI. Note that Tracy airs reggae on KRUI, the college radio station he is discussing (per CMJ).
March 23, 2000: Daily Iowan op-ed “Applying the sociological imagination to the UI fiscal crisis”
March 29 2000: SAS protests on Campus (Tracy writes about this afterward) – though Tracy had been a member since doing his appearance dressed as Santa Clause in December 1998, the group comes to prominence on-campus when they begin to protest the labor practices at the manufacturer of the school’s official apparel.
April 3 2000: “Students Against Sweatshops” of which Tracy is a member, objects to the school’s signing of letter in support of workers’ consortium (rather than joining the consortium, and eschewing the Fair Labor Association which they see as weaker):
April 4 2000: “SAS Storms occupies Coleman office”- note that it is not known if Tracy participated in this protests (he is not named in any of the articles), but he is a member of SAS, and writes about the events in later columns:
April 5 2000: SAS get their demand re: joining the Workers’ Rights Consortium, but they continue to protest because UI hasn’t dropped out of the Fair Trade Association as well.
Meanwhile the city of Iowa City says they found the SAS persuasive, and made a “time out” decision on buying apparel from companies in question:
April 6 2000: “Migrating dissent on college campuses” – the (hypothetical) question from “Student #2” expresses the Students Against Sweatshops standpoint.
Note that in the same edition, Sue Coleman’s guest op-ed also appears, criticizing Students Against Sweatshops (Tracy’s organization)
April 8th, 2000 Tracy is noted as working at the University’s radio station, KRUI, in a blog by Laura Crossett who seems to be in league with him and Matt Killmeier (of SAS).
Today we had several more classes in the morning–the current estimate is that over 1000 students have been through. We are getting this teaching thing down. And from 1112 on KRUI (the studentrun station here) James Tracy and Matt Killmeier were on political discussion show called “Point Blank” with our dear friend Joel, the founding and perhaps only member of Students Against the Methods of Students Against Sweatshops. He’s a funny guy, but we’re grateful to him in a way because his existence got us our radio spot. And he does do some research–he’s just a little misinformed about how much work has already been done by SAS and perhaps a little inexperienced in just how bureaucracies work.
April 13 2000: Daily Iowan op-ed presenting “Nikegate” satire.
… the “sweatshops controversy” continues at UI throughout April, with several members arrested after a six-day occupation of Jessup Hall. Again, it doesn’t appear Tracy was among them. The “hunger strike” ended on April 7.
- On May 1, headline “Council cool to SAS proposal to withdraw from FLA”
- May 12 2000: “SAS: UI cut off dialogue on sweatshops”
- June 7 2000: “SAS goes off-campus to fight sweatshops”
May 4, 2000: Tracy op-ed is particularly sarcastic: “We’re Oppressed, too, even if we are white, European Males”
He closes the piece with “Now I know that with privilege comes oppression, and, as I await my deliverance that will one day be achieved with my 56th birthday, I only hope that by that time they will have built more golf courses in Florida.” It is noteworthy that, when he turns 56 in 2021, he would indeed be living near golf courses in Florida, AND whining about how white males like him are oppressed, this time without a hint of sarcasm.
May 2000 listing in CMJ (College Media Journal) New Music Report shows the bands he was playing on his reggae show.
June 13 2000: “Remember a defender of the common man” – a profile of Herbert Schiller who died six months previous
June 23 2000: “In America, good and evil aren’t so black and white”
July 7 2000: “Time for UI coaches to take up arms in the fight against Sweatshop Labor” again addresses the SAS protests.
July 21, 2000: “Nader offers voters a legitimate Third Way” – in endorsing Ralph Nader, Tracy is dismissive of concerns that Nader may “take away votes from Gore”:
[Note that this 7/21/2000 article is the last op-ed from James Tracy for over a year after this – it seems he skipped contributing for the Fall 2000 -> Summer 2001 term, perhaps putting his time into volunteering for the Nader campaign.]
July 27 2000: Tracy volunteers for Nader campaign, according to email chain and “Des Moines for Nader” website.
Tomorrow, James Tracy will be manning the tables at the I.M.U. attempting to gather some more petition signatures. Mark Dowdy and Michael Rack will be at the I.M.U. and Friday.
Another source, listing Tracy as “Co-Coordinator – UI Students for Nader”
Oct 18 2000: Tracy is not named but likely he was involved in this protest given his involvement in the Nader campaign at UI:
October 27, 2000: Nader visits UI campus (per 10/25/2000 front page Daily Iowan story)
Nov 2000: Election. Ralph Nader is not elected president.