Neil deGrasse Tyson apologized for his tweet that faced criticism for downplaying the significance of mass shootings following two mass shootings that occurred within 48 hours of each other this past week.
What We Know:
- 22 people were killed in a shooting in El Paso, Texas on Saturday, August 3, immediately followed by a shooting in Dayton, Ohio on Sunday resulting in nine casualties; The suspect from the Dayton shooting is dead, while a suspect in the El Paso shooting has been identified. The shocking timing of the mass shootings has encouraged a public cry for stricter gun control laws and inspired political action around the nation.
- Celebrity astrophysicist Tyson tweeted a response to these mass shootings on Sunday, sizing up the 34 gun deaths to other leading causes of death in the country including medical errors, the flu and suicide. “Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data,” Tyson wrote. Included in Tyson’s number 34 is the two people killed four days before the Ohio shooting when a gunman opened fire at the Mississippi Walmart he worked at.
In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings.
On average, across any 48hrs, we also lose…
500 to Medical errors
300 to the Flu
250 to Suicide
200 to Car Accidents
40 to Homicide via Handgun
Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 4, 2019
- The tweet inspired public outrage as people say it normalizes and downplays gun violence in the United States, with tens of thousands of people responding immediately via Twitter including celebrities and journalists. People complained that the tweet downplays the unnecessary emotional scarring involved in gun violence.
- “I think motive, avoidability and culpability are all forms of data that have perfectly logical emotional ramifications. You’d be angrier if somebody shot your kid than if your kid died of typhus, this is obvious and rational,” said Washington Post opinion writer Elizabeth Bruenig.
- Tyson responded to the criticism with an apology posted to Facebook, explaining his Tweet in detail and apologizing for the unintended effects his controversial tweet had on readers. “My intent was to offer objectively true information that might help shape conversations and reactions to preventable ways we die. Where I miscalculated was that I genuinely believed the Tweet would be helpful to anyone trying to save lives in America,” Tyson wrote. He acknowledged that though his tweet may be factually true, it is unhelpful to a society trying to heal.
- This is not the first recent public scandal Tyson has found himself involved in. He was accused of sexual misconduct by four women in November and December of 2018. Fox, National Geographic, the Museum of Natural History and the producers of “Cosmos” launched investigations; The results of these investigations remained confidential and Tyson remained involved with all companies involved.
Tyson’s tweet sticks out amongst overwhelming public support and mourning following these tragic shootings.
i think motive, avoidability and culpability are all forms of data that have perfectly logical emotional ramifications. you’d be angrier if somebody shot your kid than if your kid died of typhus, this is obvious and rational
— elizabeth bruenig (@ebruenig) August 4, 2019