While many celebrities reacted with despair and anger to yet another round of mass shootings in America, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s approach to addressing the tragedy was different… and very much not appreciated.
On Sunday afternoon, the host of the rebooted “Cosmos” compared the death count of the two shootings in El Paso and Dayton to the average death rate in 48 hours to other factors, including medical errors, car accidents and suicide.
“Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data,” he remarked.
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
Tyson’s tweet comes following the killing of at least 29 people who were shot and dozens more injured in the past 24 hours in mass shootings at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart and mall, and at a bar in Dayton, Ohio. That comes after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California that killed three people last week.
The tweet was quickly met with backlash, as Tyson was accused of downplaying the violence and using faulty data. Writer and lawyer Amee Vanderpool noted that Everytown, a research think tank pushing for gun control legislation, found that an average of 100 people per day die of gun violence in America. That includes accidents and violent crimes that do not make national headlines the way mass shootings do.
“Maybe you should add some emotion to your game, because your data collection sucks,” Vanderpool tweeted to Tyson.
Others noted that while no other country has had more than three shootings in 2019, the attacks that occurred this weekend bring the U.S. up to 249 in just 215 days. Others also noted the lack of legislative response to the shootings over the decades, thanks in large part to anti-gun control lobbying on behalf of groups like the National Rifle Association.
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
We're working to prevent medical errors.
We're working to prevent the flu.
We're working to prevent suicide.
We're working to prevent car accident.
We're doing fuck all about mass shootings.
Spot the difference, Neil.
— Rekalty (@Rekalty) August 4, 2019
Neil, please read the many MANY responses to this awful tweet, from the rational to the outraged (often both) and take a moment to reflect on the idea, however alien it might be to you, that you’re not always the smartest guy in the room. Because right now you look like an idiot. https://t.co/jQBKGRaKJQ
— Gary Whitta (@garywhitta) August 4, 2019
You’re a lame who will never be Carl Sagan. https://t.co/NIhTHxkc0s
— Ronald Funches (@RonFunches) August 4, 2019
Would you be so callous about the data if it were your child senselessly murdered out of someone's color-aroused hatred? pic.twitter.com/rhhiUGaKyH
— Powerful Mel Ankoly ???? #ForThePeople (@Mel_Ankoly) August 4, 2019
When Neil deGrasse Tyson misses the point, he misses it astronomically.
— Mike Godwin (@sfmnemonic) August 4, 2019
This isn’t the first time Tyson has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this year. Last winter, he was accused of sexual misconduct by four women, including his assistant on “Cosmos” who resigned after he made inappropriate sexual advances.
Investigations were opened by National Geographic Channel, which aired “Cosmos” and its sequel “Possible Worlds,” as well as the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson works as director of the Hayden Planetarium. In March, National Geographic announced it would move forward with “Cosmos” and Tyson’s talk show “StarTalk”; and in July, AMNH said that Tyson would not receive disciplinary action.