Congratulations, Philadelphia Weekly, you got what you wanted.
Here we are talking about your pathetic cry for attention.
In case you missed it, the once-mighty alt weekly that recently rebranded itself as a voice for conservatives offered “sweet swag” to the person who correctly guesses this year’s number of homicides.
“Guess the murders, win a prize” is how they repulsively put it in the “State of Our City” feature attributed to “Philly Weekly Staff.”
They even offered a tip: “Look up whatever the murder count was last year on Nov. 2 and add 50 percent to it. Time to break out the calculator (or calculator app).”
There’s a special place in hell for this kind of cheap provocation.
As expected, many were outraged at the appalling insensitivity regarding the hundreds of Philadelphians — fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters — who die every year. Last year, nearly 500.
Many took to social media to call them out, myself included — even though a big part of me really didn’t want to give them the attention for which they so clearly ached.
But by the time I caught up to the day’s social media controversy, I had already spoken to:
A local nonprofit that was scrambling to find more artists to create portraits of the city’s increasing number of homicide victims.
Organizers of a gun violence museum exhibit in D.C. where Philly plays an outsize role.
And a woman who was broken by the recent death of a friend’s son — the second son her friend had lost to gun violence.
So, no, this nauseating stunt could not be ignored, though not just because it was intended to benefit off the backs of murder victims.
Let’s not pretend Philadelphia Weekly is alone in dehumanizing victims of gun violence. They’re not even the only local news outlet that’s done it — and you better believe I’m including my own here. (We’re working to get better. We have a long way to go.)
The fact is that institutions all over Philadelphia — from City Hall, which consistently fails to confront this epidemic with the same gravity it does others, to the Police Department, which consistently fails to solve most murders — regularly disregard and disrespect those most affected by violence.
Maybe not with a contest, but definitely with apathy and neglect and sometimes straight-up contempt.
Look, there was a reason some families of gun-violence victims stood against DA Larry Krasner to back Fraternal Order of Police-endorsed candidate Carlos Vega in the Democratic primary. They said they’ve often felt dismissed by him and his office. Maybe Krasner will do better by them in his second term, because they sure as hell deserve it.
None of this is new, or news. I’ve dedicated many columns to the countless ways people in positions of power fail a city traumatized by relentless violence.
Sometimes I even get your attention, but mostly that attention quickly moves to the next distraction because ... Look, a squirrel! or in this case, a city publication turning the city’s murder rate into a ghoulish game.
But hey, if a game is what it would take to get everyone on board with tackling gun violence in a consistent and meaningful way, let’s play.
Except Philadelphia Weekly apparently forgot a big tenet of journalism: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. At the very least, always punch up. For example, why not offer “sweet swag” to the person who correctly guesses how many budget cycles will pass before the city adequately addresses gun violence? Or how many days it will take for the Office of Violence Prevention to properly evaluate gun-violence programs that may or may not work. (Tip: You better shoot higher than 1,400 days, because they’ve been promising this evaluation since June 2017.)
On Tuesday, the same day the guess-the-murder-rate gimmick was causing such fury, two teenagers — one 15, the other 18 — were killed in shootings that occurred within 30 minutes of each other.
By Wednesday afternoon, when I checked in with police, we had registered 827 shootings, and 207 homicides, most of those by guns.
As much as I appreciated the energy I saw among Philadelphians united in disgust against a Philadelphia publication making light of people’s lives, there are no heroes here — not in a city where people bury multiple loved ones to gun violence, sometimes in the same year, where children are shot dead on their porches and outside their neighborhood recreation centers and even inside their homes, and mostly Philly just shrugs.
But imagine if we all brought — and kept — this same energy to all the institutions dehumanizing victims of violence every day.
Then, Philly, it would be game on.