On Wednesday, Valentine’s Day 2018, a 19-year-old armed with an AR-15 assault rifle entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and opened fire. By the time he dumped his rifle and attempted to flee, he’d killed 17 people, mostly teenagers, and injured more than a dozen.
Mass shootings are shockingly common in the U.S.: there have been at least 146 in the last half-century, and the rate of their occurrence has tripled since 2011. School shootings, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker in 2015, are a modern phenomenon; they mostly involve young white men like Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter.
How do Americans respond to random, recurring massacres? In Congress and the White House, by offering trite, ineffectual words: “thoughts and prayers.” On social media, though, a different word has surfaced repeatedly, aimed in anger and frustration at those very officials: craven.