More often than not, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s tweets can be infuriating when it comes to what they say about popular culture. The celebrity astrophysicist’s comments about the Avengers franchise, Game of Thrones and other science fiction film and television titles almost always provoke a reaction. Since the sexual assault allegations against him went public last year, though, Tyson has kept his infuriating tweets to a minimum. That changed on Sunday when he decided to comment on the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
“In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings,” the tweet began. From there, it listed several other prominent causes of death “across any 48hrs” — including medical errors and automobile accidents. However, what really ticked people off was Tyson’s concluding thought: “Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.”
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
“This is really not the time to be the smug counterfactual guy,” wrote New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb. “Medical errors don’t evolve into ethnic cleansing. The flu didn’t lynch black people to keep them from voting. You’re ridiculously blithe to the implications of ideology-driven violence.”
This is really not the time to be the smug counterfactual guy. Medical errors don’t evolve into ethnic cleansing. The flu didn’t lynch black people to keep them from voting. You’re ridiculously blithe to the implications of ideology-driven violence. https://t.co/yMeXEAdixq
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) August 4, 2019
Most of the responses to Tyson’s tweet offered similar sentiments, though with varying degrees of the very “emotions” that he was hoping to lessen.
Cold take, Neil. 200+ Americans died from gun violence in the past 48 hours. And you list causes of death that are researched, regulated and also happen in other high income countries. Our gun violence crisis is preventable and senseless and driven by a special interest. https://t.co/jua4wH7gOX
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 4, 2019
Here's the data, Neil. While all those errors are preventable in some way, only the gun deaths are wildly outside what should be the realm of possibility during a normal day. The others are risks of living in any country. The gun deaths are a uniquely, distinctly American fact. https://t.co/9ljeT0Od6U
— Jess Phoenix 🌋🏳️🌈🤠 (@jessphoenix2018) August 4, 2019
For a smart guy, your sense of the room isn’t that great. https://t.co/MXW2EoEil5
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) August 4, 2019
neil you should go to the funerals and say this man https://t.co/6jEkQCXygq
— LVL 45 CHAOS POTUS (@thetomzone) August 4, 2019
even the smart ones are fucking idiots now. https://t.co/esPB9noXmU
— tracy the emotional support penguin (@brokeymcpoverty) August 4, 2019
Even Data from The Next Generation wouldn’t tweet something this off base. https://t.co/EJZXsfF0jK
— Blair Imani (@BlairImani) August 4, 2019
tfw you just gotta 'well, actually' people being sad about two mass shootings https://t.co/oqaZgWg3u0
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) August 4, 2019
Here’s a number: Two, for the amount of middle fingers I’m holding up in your direction. https://t.co/znP0zz823l
— Ryan “Tweets” McGee (@TVMcGee) August 4, 2019
This just goes to show that you can explain the beauty in the farthest reaches of the universe and miss the significance of a horrific act right under your nose here on Earth. https://t.co/N5orUi2MpM
— Kevin M. Levin (@KevinLevin) August 4, 2019