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The term “viral” is used to describe anything on the internet that gets spread far and wide. The term implies that it’s widely found on social media and is seen by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.

In other words, viral things like videos tend to become something of a cultural phenomenon.

While looking at the gun news of the day, I kept coming to stories about this viral anti-gun video created by two Australian kids.

Now, I’m more than a little annoyed at foreigners poking their noses into American politics like this, especially since so many of the people who I figure are applauding this video have spent the last couple of years prattling on about Russian influence in our elections, but free speech is free speech. They can say what they want and if anti-gunners want to listen to Australian kids, so be it.

I’m under no such obligation.

However, this video is “viral.”

The New Zealand Herald:

In a video, released by March For Our Lives, the gun control group established in the wake of 2018’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a young girl, Kayleigh, instructs a group of adults in their workplace on how to survive in the event of an active shooter.

Since its creation about a month ago, the now viral video has racked up more than 50 million views sending a distressing reminder of something Americans are becoming increasingly desensitised to.

From ABC News (Australia):

Since it went live about a month ago, the video has gone viral.

It has racked up more than 50 million views and caught the attention of politicians and celebrities at a time when Americans are becoming increasingly numb to school shootings.

Wow, 50 Million is a lot of views.

However, there’s no link to where that number comes from, nothing at all.

But I found the video on the official March For Our Lives’ YouTube channel, where the anti-gun student group has a whopping 8,000 or so subscribers, and the video is showing that it has a much more narrow distribution than that implied. In fact, the video shows only 115,808 views as of this writing.

There are a lot of YouTubers out there who can rack up this kind of a view count overnight. This despite the video being out for over a month.

The video also appears on Facebook where it’s gotten 8,900 shares and 708 comments as of this writing.

Now, let’s be fair for a moment. Those aren’t exactly tiny numbers by any stretch, and if you combine both YouTube and Facebook, you’ve probably got some solid number of viewership.

But I’m still going to call BS on their claim of 50 million views.

However, even if those numbers are right, it doesn’t mean anything. Total views are a useless measurement for a video meant to persuade someone to take an ideological position. All that tells you is how many people have seen the video. If you’re getting paid advertising on that video, that’s all you need to do.

A video meant to persuade people one way or another is a different matter entirely. At least some views are people who want to see what stupid arguments are being presented (and with March For Our Lives, there will be stupid arguments made) for any number of purposes, including refuting them or even outright mockery.

But again, I want to see where this supposed 50 million views came from, because unless it’s in a whole lot more places with far better numbers than two of the most popular video platforms out there, I’m more than a little skeptical of the claims that this video is viral in any way, shape or form.

Of course, that leads us to ask why the media is claiming it is.

The answer is simple: Exposure.

The idea is to write all about how this video is viral, all so people will seek it out. After all, “viral” has cultural implications. You don’t want to be the guy to ask what some reference means, so you seek it out. In the process, you find yourself exposed to an anti-gun message. In this case, it’s one based predominantly on emotion and fear, not hard facts. They want you to be scared into backing gun control.

And it will work with a lot of folks. A number of people don’t have firm positions, and emotion is a powerful tool.

So they claim it’s “viral” so people will seek it out, maybe even share it themselves, and perhaps make it viral.

The evidence I can see suggests that like the gun control arguments themselves, the claim that the video is viral lacks hard data to support it.