Following the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, there have been two separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, occurring within the same 48 hours. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson decided the information most needed following these catastrophes was some horribly tone-deaf statistics. Because Twitter is Twitter, Smash Mouth eagerly told him off.
Tyson decided the best way to quell fear and sadness over the loss of innocent lives was a reminder of more frequent ways people die. “In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings,” he tweeted. “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.”
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 frustration people felt stemmed not just from the insensitivity of his tweet, but rather the implication that a mass shooting is both a spectacle and less worrisome than car accidents or the flu. It’s particularly horrible given all of the examples he listed have preventable methods and laws put in place to decrease their frequency — affordable flu vaccines, suicide prevention hotlines, driver’s license tests — unlike, you know, the nonstop mass shootings in America.
There to articulate a communal anger with as few words as possible was Smash Mouth, the Internet’s favorite band. “FUCK OFF!!!!,” they tweeted. “There’s your data!!!!”
FUCK OFF!!!! There's your data!!!!
— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) August 4, 2019
At the time of writing this, it’s been six hours since Tyson posted his tweet. He has yet to apologize for it, or seemingly become aware of why it’s wrong in the first place. Should he still not understand, The New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb put it best: “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.”
In recent news, Tyson has been accused of sexual misconduct (including rape in one instance) by multiple women. National Geographic and Fox, who air the show Cosmos, which he hosts, have launched an investigation into the reports.