It was one small tweet for man, and one giant, pointless controversy for mankind.
The man in question, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
The controversy? Manufactured to create a distracting talking point before the November midterms, perhaps.
On Friday, Rubio took to Twitter, joining others to try to stir up outrage about the upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, which stars Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong.
This is total lunacy. And a disservice at a time when our people need reminders of what we can achieve when we work together. The American people paid for that mission,on rockets built by Americans,with American technology & carrying American astronauts. It wasn’t a UN mission. https://t.co/eGwBq7hj8C
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 31, 2018
From La La Land director Damien Chazelle, First Man takes a behind the scenes look at Armstrong’s journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon.
Controversy however soon surrounded the movie after a successful premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Critics who had not seen the film quickly called it unpatriotic for not including the moment Armstrong planted the United States flag on the moon.
According to Chazelle, Gosling and people who have actually seen the film though, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
First screening of FIRST MAN just out in Telluride. Very warmly received. Understated but spot-on perfs, terrific VFX and sound, incredible action sequences, etc. Seems like a major contender. And today’s commotion about the American flag was absolute BS — it’s all over the film.
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) September 1, 2018
The controversy began with a story in The Telegraph, which chastised the movie for, in their opinion, downplaying the patriotic angle of Armstrong’s achievement. By the time it had filtered down to Breitbart and Fox News the story was claiming the film didn’t include an image of the flag at all.
However images of the flag appear throughout the movie and in the trailer.
Despite the controversy though, Chazelle and Gosling are sticking by the decision to not include the actual planting of the flag in the film.
“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement, that’s how we chose to view it,” Gosling told reporters at a press conference.
“I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”
For Chazelle, the choice was about focusing the story around Armstrong, stating:
“I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon.”
The decision was also defended by Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Mark.
“This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an American achievement. It also celebrates an achievement ‘for all mankind,’ as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon.”
In the wake of all the controversy and misinformation though, much of the outrage now seems to be turning on those who started stirring things up in the first place.
Plenty on Twitter went after Rubio for his armchair patriotism and reminded him he had bigger things to worry about.
If you only you cared this passionately about kids getting mowed down by guns under the same flag
— Ryan Tobin (@Tobesole19) September 2, 2018
Or the thousands of people who died in Puerto Rico. Please forward an appropriate Bible verse when ready.
— Libby Higgins (@LibHig) August 31, 2018
Just checking, are there still refugee children separated from their parents?
— Cat (@catherinedamin) September 1, 2018
Definitely an urgent national issue. Thank you for taking a strong stand on something that congress should definitely investigate right away.
— Luke Epplin (@LukeEpplin) August 31, 2018
Not wanting to leave out Fox News, Twitter also turned on them for encouraging the wave of faux outrage.
Ryan Gosling: "First Man" omitted the American flag from the moon landing because it was a "human achievement."
Fox & Friends: "They don’t think America is great, they want to kneel for the flag, for the anthem… They’re scared to use the American flag."https://t.co/4dhxB2MIlv
— Jenna Amatulli (@ohheyjenna) August 31, 2018
Sounds like there’s multiple shots of the flag on the moon. Outrage culture. Nice.
— Chase (@TheSeibert) September 1, 2018
Watch the film. The American flag is in it it's even planted on the moon. They just don't physically show the planting. Climb down from your horse
— Danny Allen (@DannyAllenUK) September 1, 2018
But after the various scoldings Twitter took the time to remind those outraged by the story the true spirit of what Armstrong accomplished.
I remember as a child how all of us kids sat around a television and heard these words “0ne small step for man one giant leap for mankind .” We all thought america did it for the world. We had a peace Corp and believed in helping the world not just our selves
— Rick Najera (@ricknajera) September 1, 2018
That was the spirit, Rick.
The statement says it: “…. one giant leap for MANKIND”, not “for the US”, not “for America First”… for MANKIND.
The plaque left on the moon says so too. pic.twitter.com/k5ZCIguk7l
— Hispanic Citizen (@US_Latino) September 2, 2018
You really should talk to some astronauts about how they feel about nationalism after seeing Earth from afar…
— Thomas Balu Walter (@balu) September 2, 2018
And in that spirit Twitter had a fantastic suggestion for Rubio and how he could focus on his own “American” achievement.
The movie is about the people involved in this country's greatest achievement, not about the flag. If you want to remind people what can happen of we work together, do it in the Senate chamber.
— Justin-in-the-round (@cephalopernicus) September 1, 2018