While the fallout continues from yesterday’s shooting in San Bernardino that left at least 14 dead — the 355th mass shooting of the year — it was hard not to notice a dramatic turning point in the conversation around mass shooting yesterday. The sense in the past is that we in the media — social, Internet, and mainstream — shouldn’t be quick to politicize these tragic deaths, but the tide has begun to turn. We’re beginning to fight against this idea that we shouldn’t politicize something that can only be fixed through politics.
Chris Kluwe began teasing it out in October, after a mass shooting,
I can't remember a single case of a victim's family saying "Please don't politicize this." Why do we have to listen to those unaffected?— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) October 1, 2015
After a mass shooting is exactly the time to politicize these acts of violence, Kluwe seemed to suggest, and after yesterday’s mass shooting, Vox was quick to explain why it’s important to politicize it:
The same debate that has played out over and over after a mass shooting in America: A massacre happens, someone calls for action, critics say calls to action are politicizing the issue, and nothing changes.
This is not an accident. Cries of “politicization!” are in and of themselves political — they’re meant to stop any momentum for changes in gun policy. The reality is that responding to crises with political agendas is one of the things that government is supposed to do, and doing nothing is a political and policy decision by itself.
The mass shootings have gotten out of hand, and now we’re finally pushing back. What I found even more telling, however, was social media’s pushback against politicians expressing the same goddamn platitudes they express after every shooting. “Our thoughts and prayers” are with the family.
Yesterday, social media finally told the politicians to shove their thoughts and prayers up their ass and do something. It felt, to me, like a watershed moment in this debate. Take, for instance, the literally hundreds of responses to this Jeb Bush tweet:
Praying for the victims, their families & the San Bernardino first responders in the wake of this tragic shooting.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 2, 2015
Here’s a sampling of the responses:
— It would be great if you used your intellect, connections and power to go beyond prayer to action, dude. Might win you a new job.
— With all due respect, words are cheap. Any politician who isn’t talking about solutions isn’t ready to be president.
— You have prayed many times over these deaths and nothing changes. Stop preventing the reform that will help prevent this.
— Stop praying and do something with the @NRA
— Do you have any possible solutions to stopping mass shootings that you would actually implement if you were to win? Feel free to consult relatives who’ve actually become President to find out how their inaction contributed to today.
— Maybe grow a pair and lead your party to some kind of sane gun safety legislation. But that’s tougher than vapid tweets.
— Thank you, Mr. Bush, for offering nothing but more worthless platitudes. I am so relieved that you will never be our president.
There were scores and scores of responses that echoed similar sentiments, and the same kind of sentiments could be found in responses to other politicians expressing “thoughts and prayers.”
In fact, Igor Volsky at Think Progress — who gained 25,000 new followers yesterday — retweeted the “thoughts and prayers” of countless politicians, while also including their association with the NRA:
Earlier this year, Rep. Buck offered amendment to ALLOW FELONS to petition for their right to posses a gun https://t.co/lQ1CxtNnk4— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 3, 2015
Got $3,000 from NRA in 2014 election, so all he can do is send "thoughts and prayers" — nothing actually useful https://t.co/wt5hZznTKQ— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 3, 2015
Got $7,450 from NRA during the 2014 election cycle to address gun violence by "praying for peace" https://t.co/RsVMK3u2ju— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 3, 2015
In 2012, NRA spent *$19.7 MILLION* on independent expenditures for candidates to only tweet #thoughtsandprayers in response to gun violence— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 3, 2015
I think you get the picture. Even the New York Daily News got in on the message with the cover of their newspaper this morning:
A message is taking shape, one that’s likely to get louder and louder after every mass shooting, and that message is clear: Fuck your prayers. Do something. Enact reform. Stop kowtowing to the NRA. Do what Australia did. Or follow in the footsteps of England. No other country has a mass shooting problem like the United States, and that’s because no other country has a gun’s rights organization as rich and powerful as ours.
You want to be respectful to the victims of these tragedies? Politicize them, honor them not with “thoughts and prayers” but by using their deaths to demand reform that will prevent more of these tragedies from happening.
If I ever die in a mass shooting, please politicize my death.— Damion Schubert (@ZenOfDesign) October 2, 2015
If I am ever killed in a mass shooting, or otherwise by gun, please politicize my death, even if it means saving lives. #UmpquaShooting— brian boucher (@briankboucher) October 2, 2015
If I am ever killed in a mass shooting incident, please politicize the hell out of my death, and do so IMMEDIATELY.— April Daniels (@1aprildaniels) October 1, 2015