Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet on mass shooting has Twitter in an uproar

(Screenshot from YouTube)

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson attempted to add some perspective about our world in the face of a pair of mass shootings over the weekend.

The effort did not go over well in the Twitter-verse.

In El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, gunmen with almost polar opposite takes on life opened fire, resulting in a total of 29 people being killed and scores more injured.

Tyson, an astrophysicist and television personality, tweeted a list Sunday showing how many people die in an average 48 hour period in America due to other reasons.

“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,” he tweeted.

It’s not clear where Tyson got the statistic of 34 deaths due to mass shootings, though former President Barack Obama lowered the threshold to qualify as a mass shooting to three deaths in 2013.

The reaction to Tyson’s tweet was swift, especially from those eager to push a political narrative in response to an apparent manifesto from the El Paso gunman.

At the same time, these same people were all but silent after a Chicago Tribune tweet noted that 48 people were shot in the city over the weekend, including a 5-year-old boy, with five being killed.

Tyson would later explain himself in a long Facebook post that included an apology.

“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,” he said. “What I learned from the range of reactions is that for many people, some information — my Tweet in particular — can be true but unhelpful, especially at a time when many people are either still in shock, or trying to heal – or both.”

“So if you are one of those people, I apologize for not knowing in advance what effect my Tweet could have on you,” Tyson continued. ” I am therefore thankful for the candor and depth of critical reactions shared in my Twitter feed. As an educator,  I personally value knowing with precision and accuracy what reaction anything that I say (or write) will instill in my audience, and I got this one wrong.”

As for the shootings, President Donald Trump plans to make a statement on Monday morning, after telling reporters Sunday “more has to be done.”

“Hate has no place in our country and we’re going to take care of it,” the president said.

The president, who spoke with both Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray, is expected to address the matter around 10 a.m.

The pushback Tyson saw from the intolerant left wasn’t pretty. There were even calls for him to delete the tweet:

Here’s a sampling of other responses from Twitter:

This isn’t to say that Tyson did not have his share of supporters. Or, at the very least, those who see intolerance for what it is and aren’t afraid to call it out.

In the end, all that was proven in an attempt to keep people focused on the big picture was just how toxic and unhealthy social media can be. Perusing on Twitter can prompt some to wonder why people are so attracted to the social media platform — then again, it’s our nature that sometimes stops us from looking away at the scene of a deadly car crash.


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Tom Tillison


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