Today affords an interesting test of Twitter’s benevolent pledge to shield its users from distressing, problematic content, for this is the day that an organization known as Sandy Hook Promise posted a video titled “Back-to-School Essentials”. The video begins with anodyne footage of chipper boys and girls opening their lockers and sitting down for class, but before long, we learn these kids are dodging a mass shooter, who has entered their school and is opening fire. Surreality is the leitmotif here, as the glossy cinematography and insouciant soundtrack clash with the grim action—and the effect is as sickening as it is haunting. Yet, the terrifying nature of this video, which ends with a young girl silently weeping as she accepts that she will never hug her mom again, hasn’t slowed its spread: already, it’s been watched five million times, and retweeted sixty-three thousand more . . . uh, make that sixty-five, as the counter has rolled over twice in the time it took me to write this paragraph.
Hmm. The video, “it’s been watched”. Something kind-of creepy about the using the passive voice in this instance, don’t you think? Well, anyway, the video has inspired . . . hmm. The active voice isn’t much better. Let’s try this again:
The people of Twitter are holding a thoughtful and respectable dialogue on their reactions to this video. Joking, of course: browse and you’ll bear witness to the same uninspired melodramatic ad hominem attacks that define every debate on the public’s access to guns in the United States. You won’t find much in the way of intellectual stimulation ‘round these parts, although, every once in a while, you find a neat statistic. In this case, a user named Bob Slydell observed that the chances of a school shooting occurring are smaller than one percent. His reasoning? There are more than one hundred and thirty thousand schools in America—although “schools yet to be shuttered and bulldozed because their local governments would rather spend their tax revenue reconstructing a football arena” is probably more precise—and our country was the scene of twenty-three different school shootings last year. Goodness, didn’t you think there had been so many more? Doesn’t the media suggest that there is at least one such shooting each day?