A telescopic look at Twitter’s intergalactic troll: Neil deGrasse Tyson

By Joe Berkowitz

Final straws can sometimes surprise you.

When it comes to the universe’s most famous astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I would never have guessed my breaking point would be a tweet about Friday the 13th. Yet here we are.

As if anyone was interested in Friday the 13th because of its rarity!

Personally, I have no special attachment to the multi-annual spooky holiday. I do, however, feel strongly about letting people have their dumb things. Being pedantic about Friday the 13th, lest anyone plan on treating themselves to a horror movie festival or whatever, means going far out of one’s way just to be mildly mean for no point whatsoever.

Unfortunately, that’s Neil deGrasse Tyson’s exact MO. He appears, on Twitter at least, to live exclusively for yucking your yum. Each new day to him is a challenge to find the most innocuous thing that people frivolously enjoy, and “debunk” it with straight talk filtered through a genuine galaxy brain. (Do you like using the “Roses are red” construction? I have some bad news.)

Every now and then, Tyson offers a legitimately insightful, topical tidbit—on Leap Day or the Equinox, for example. Mostly, though, between all the corny jokes and empty aphorisms, he’s just obsessed with letting you know that everything that has ever been said about the moon in pop culture is factually inaccurate.

Like the expression “once in a blue moon.”

Or the song “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Or the album Dark Side of the Moon.

Or the way the moon must have looked the night Ted Kennedy killed a lady.

I would say that the sight of anyone enjoying themselves whatsoever is like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s bat signal, but that would probably only lead to Tyson somehow appearing before me to explain why the bat signal is impossible, because of the moon. He just loves letting people know about technical goofs in movies.

His insistence on inserting physics-derived snowflake-accuracy into Frozen II’s marketing campaign is a perfect example of how his misguided efforts at expanding young minds just amounts to cramming teachable moments into spaces where they need not exist.

The problem with debunking everything using the cold, bleak logic of science is that eventually you turn that technique toward emotional matters, the kind whose significance can’t be sketched out on a chalkboard.

Knowing that grieving is technically insignificant in a cold, unfeeling universe is of no comfort while you’re grieving. Tyson apologized for his cruelly insensitive tweet last summer, but the incident apparently did not convince him to retire his “Buzzkill Lightyear” brand. Considering that 13 million people still follow his Twitter account, perhaps it was the right decision. But the question of why all those millions of people want a direct pipeline to his thoughts remains a scientific anomaly.

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