Whenever events such as those in Las Vegas occur, people often accuse others of "politicizing" the event.

What is meant by this, and how do we avoid doing it?

I am looking for example of some specific guidelines like, how many days do I need to wait before I can point out how freaking explosives and automatic weapons shouldn't be as easily obtainable as they obviously were in this specific case.

  • 1
    Not going to answer this with a statement (downvote magnet). It doesn't matter the side, these accusations tend to come when any view uses an event as "evidence we need to [do party platform's idea]." Every party and view does this.
    – FalseHooHa
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 13:03

5 Answers 5


When someone says it is being politicized, it means they are using it to push a political party agenda. In this case, one can say that the democrats are politicizing this event to push for gun control. Their hope is that enough people are angered by the situation to swing the vote in their favor to get more gun control.

Other times, like what President Trump has done recently in regards to the NFL, using fallen soldiers as a way to push or politicize the whole kneeling event as using certain examples will stir them into action.

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    +1 for bothering to offer both side examples. I would avoid moral judgements like "should/shouldn't" in an answer, but that's just a minor quibble.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 22:57
  • @user4012 I can see where you are coming from, I feel there is a time and a place for those kinds of talks though and doing so when people are at their lowest point only helps to drive the rift further by angering one side or the other. That is why I voiced the opinion that neither should.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 23:00
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    I would think that members of one party publicly admonishing members of another party not to politicize something is, in fact, politicizing it, i.e. using it as a tool to portray another party as opportunists and thus gain some favor in public perception.
    – rougon
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 2:29
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    @rougon yes that is precisely my point. I added in an opinion that has since been removed but yes that is exactly my point.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 2:33
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    As a note, the President today in Puerto Rico: “Right from the beginning this governor did not play politics. He didn't play it at all. He was saying it like it was, and he was giving us the highest grades. And on behalf of our country, I wanna thank you.” Textbook definition of "politicizing" by seeming to not politicize.
    – rougon
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 17:18

I am looking for example of some specific guidelines like, how many days do I need to wait before I can point out how freaking explosives and automatic weapons shouldn't be as easily obtainable as they obviously were in this specific case.

On what do you base the claim that they were "easy" to obtain? Did he even have explosives? It's possible to make explosives out of common items (like urine, wood, and sulfur). And we don't know how hard it was for him to obtain an automatic weapon. Did he buy it? Did he make it? Did he steal it? All we know now is that he had one. Perhaps he only obtained it with great difficulty.

So here's my proposal. Let's wait until after the investigation has finished and we know what happened. In particular, we should know how he acquired a fully automatic weapon. Once we know and aren't just speculating, then we can talk intelligently about how to make that more difficult in the future.

A side effect of waiting for the investigation to finish is that they will release the bodies of the victims to the families so that the funerals can occur. And the surviving victims have time to leave the hospital and meet with psychiatric professionals who specialize in handling trauma.


You avoid politicizing an event several ways:

  1. By not pretending that an imagined counterfactual theory is a fact.

    You have no proof that specific gun control laws you personally wish enacted would have prevented the event you wish to use as showcase for making your argument in favor of such laws (Freakonomics covers it pretty extensively, backed up by research).

  2. By not pretending to know the facts

    Hillary offered the "fact" that somehow silencers are a Bad Thing. Leaving aside that they weren't used in this event, experts basically immediately indicated she had no idea what she was talking about.

    Your question wording offers the "fact" that "explosives and automatic weapons" were "freely available". Except that... you can't buy explosives freely and automatic weapons are prohibited from being sold since 1986 under Firearm Owners Protection Act. So, no, they aren't "freely" available. Even converting s-a weapons using a different sear from an automatic one is fully illegal.

  3. By consistently advocating for the same thing backed up by solid facts and statistics, NOT by pointing at a rare outlier event (this was the only mass murder in US history that used automatic guns, as even left-wing Slate admits) as a "reason" to take action.

  4. Generally politicizing an event is an excercise in engaging in at least two (if not more) logical fallacies:

    • The Narrative Fallacy - you try to construct a narrative over emotional event to push your point

    • We Have to Do Something fallacy. Just because a bad event happened, you want to make changes - regardless of whether they are warranted, effective, legal, or worth the cost/benefit trade-offs. As long as Something Is Done. This is probably the most important one.

    • The Straw Man fallacy. As per my second bullet point, your assertions you intend to fight against (""explosives and automatic weapons ... freely available") are a fake strawman, having nothing to do with reality.

    • All varieties of overgeneralization fallacy (see my point #3 above)

  • 1
    Love this answer. It is well written and in depth to explaining what it is and how it can be avoided. Great tips on how to talk about something like this event and politics without it being politicized.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 23:55
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    I like a lot of this answer, but it gets bogged down in what appears to be a partisan agenda (i.e. critiquing democrats' push for gun control after a tragedy), which is a bit out of place in a piece against politicizing.
    – rougon
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 3:09
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    Your point number 4 is actually the core of this answer. Other points are just examples of them in this case.
    – Communisty
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 6:59
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    point number 4 answers perfectly the question. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 15:17
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    @user4012 like a few people above, I think your point #4 is great. What I am pointing out is that you take the time to attack democrats and democratic positions unnecessarily. I would suggest cutting everything but #4 and you have a great, logical answer.
    – rougon
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 12:10

What “politicizing an event” means is simply raising unpleasant questions or pushing for measures the person levelling the accusation does not like. There isn't anything else to it. More often than not, the very same people will be happy to jump to conclusions or immediately debate political causes and consequences of other events that fit their beliefs and values more closely.

It doesn't really matter how sound or fallacious your arguments are, how many days have passed, etc. There is no consistent standard and no way to avoid this accusation by following it.


I suppose politicizing an event would be taking advantage of the changes in public opinion immediately following an event to try to affect some form of political change. This is not necessarily a bad thing since governance is supposed to reflect the needs of the governed and events that change the world significantly need to be responded to, often times quickly. Taking advantage of transient public reaction to an event could of course lead to faulty policy. The best example of this in recent history would probably be 9/11 and much of the aftermath including the patriot act, the Iraq war, and the myriad issues surrounding the war in Afhganistan and the war on terror.

In the specific case of mass shootings, how to avoid politicizing the event would probably be by analysing the issue in light of all recent events like Orlando, Charleston, Roseburg, San Bernardino, Aurora and Newtown.

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