Aurora shootings on Twitter: The unforgivable and the serious

A fashion boutique tweets a joke about the shootings; the NRA wishes shooters "Happy Friday;" author Salman Rushdie incites impassioned and unpleasant debate.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Screenshot of CNN by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When an event as senselessly painful as the Aurora shootings occurs, it's inevitable that Twitter -- where feelings are expressed instantly and often without thought -- will reveal humanity's inner self.

So as the sheer horror of the murders was exposed through witness accounts, the tweets flowed in reaction.

Pride of place, surely, went to the Celeb Boutique fashion store. It was so excited that the hashtag #aurora was trending that it couldn't contain its feelings.

"#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired dress ;)" said the tweet, with a link to the Kim Kardashian dress in question.

Some might wonder what kind of human being would stoop to this on the very day the shootings occurred.

Celeb Boutique's explanation was as vapid as it was unbelievable.

In a series of tweets, the store wrote:

We are incredibly sorry for our tweet about Aurora -- Our PR is NOT US based and had not checked the reason for the trend, at that time our social media was totally UNAWARE of the situation and simply thought it was another trending topic - we have removed the very insensitive tweet and will of course take more care in future to look into what we say in our tweets. Again we do apologise for any offense caused this was not intentional & will not occur again. Our most sincere apologies for both the tweet and situation.

So there was a trending topic. We didn't check it. Yes, it was front page world news. But we didn't check it. Oh, and we put the blame on foreigners.

On its Facebook page, Celeb Boutique, which appears to be U.K.-based, repeated its apology. At least there it admits: "There is no excuse for our mistake."

This has not prevented posters like Brian Mosko from saying: "Hey, @celebboutique Just close your doors....No excuse trying to get customers from the US and trying to capitalize on our pain and tragedy. Delete your website. No ones cares about your retarded little site anyway."

The National Rifle Association also managed to attract attention with a tweet of its own. According to CNN, it read: "Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?"

The organization's explanation, from spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, was this: "A single individual, unaware of events in Colorado, tweeted a comment that is being completely taken out of context."

It is possible that this was a scheduled tweet, sent via HootSuite, to simply coincide with the beginning of the weekend. But the phrasing blaming a single individual who was "unaware of events in Colorado" might suggest a certain carelessness.

However, not only has the whole Twitter feed been removed, but the NRA has offered that its "thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the community."

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

One of the more open debates on this emotive subject came on the Twitter feed of world-renowned author Salman Rushdie.

Standing with the likes of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rushdie tweeted: "The 'right to bear arms' is the real Bane of America."

Some chided him for the "Batman" pun. Others tried to reason -- for example, Uland Krzyz, who offered: "@SalmanRushdie Yes, we should be like Norway. #Brevik." Many, though, tossed him absolute abuse.

As Rushdie tweeted in response: "Hypocrite, coward, douchebag: you gun lovers "arguments" are even weaker than I expected. Ad-hominem: the low road. That's all you've got."

The debate will rage on because it often has rage at its heart.

Those who believe bearing guns is a right will point to the right to defend themselves, to stand their ground.

Those who see Columbine and Aurora find it insane that it is so easy for people (so often, men) to get hold of assault weapons and cause mindless destruction.

The defenders of gun rights claim that guns don't kill people, people kill people.

However, isn't it true that people with guns tend to feel stronger, more powerful, more able to effect instant and absolute death, not merely to protect themselves, but because they can?

Isn't it true that people with assault weapons tend to kill a lot more people than people without assault weapons?