Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson got an earful Sunday on Twitter after an ill-advised tweet in the aftermath of Saturday’s two horrific mass shootings that left at least 29 people dead.
The killings don’t really matter in the big picture, deGrasse Tyson seemed to say, it’s just that darn human empathy that makes them seem so bad.
“In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings,” he wrote, claiming, “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.”
A number of high-profile Twitter users immediately called out deGrasse Tyson for his tone deafness at a time when much of the nation was grieving.
“This is really not the time to be the smug counterfactual guy,” New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb said.
“Making a didactic if factually accurate point does not always equate to intelligent or productive discourse,” wrote baseball writer Andrew Baggarly. “And this was neither intelligent nor productive. Disappointed to read this from you.”
“Imagine going to the store or a bar and getting shot at or killed or having a loved one shot at or killed and a supposed genius tells 13 million people it’s all just a spectacle because, really, statistically, it’s not all that bad compared to other ways you could suddenly die,” said sports broadcaster Rich Eisen.
“Imagine tweeting this and thinking it adds anything to intelligent discourse,” said science writer Shaena Montanari.
“However alien it might be to you, that you’re not always the smartest guy in the room,” said screenwriter Gary Whitta. “Because right now you look like an idiot.”
“You can care about mass shootings, the radicalization of young white men and gun violence while also caring about the other problems you mention,” said game designer Jennifer Scheurle.
“Here’s a number: Two, for the amount of middle fingers I’m holding up in your direction,” tweeted TV critic Ryan McGee.
The ’90s band Smash Mouth even piled on with a profanity, leading one Twitter user to say: “Never really imagined it’d get to a point where I have more respect for Smashmouth than Neil deGrasse Tyson but here we are!”
Last week, the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which employs deGrasse Tyson, said he will keep his job and that it had closed an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations made against him, according to the New York Times.