OPINION: the Why and How of the Astroworld Tragedy

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Note: This story includes quotes that contain vulgar language.

It has been just around two weeks since the Astroworld tragedy occurred in Houston, where 10 people lost their lives and hundreds of others were injured during a deadly crowd crush as Travis Scott performed during the concert. Since then, many different things have happened, including multiple lawsuits, an outpouring of condemnation from the public, the loss of brand deals for Scott, a criminal probe, and people everywhere learning how to protect themselves in a crowd surge. While the aftermath of this horrific tragedy has been chaotic, it is important that people understand what happened and what things could have led to the tragedy that night.

On CBS News, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the spokesperson for Scott, claimed that Scott had not known of the tragedy until he was gone from the event and that there was a major communication breakdown on that day. It makes sense, since there was no plan in place for a crowd surge, despite there being 50,000 attendees at the concert, according to the Houston Chronicle. Rawlings-Blake also claimed that Scott has “taken responsibility for moving forward, and trying to make sure that this never happens again,” along with reiterating that he knew nothing about what had happened during the concert until after. Additionally, she claimed that Scott has not stopped grieving for the families involved and that the idea that Scott could have stopped the concert was false. Scott has also supposedly reached out to all of the families. However, it is worth noting that while someone can say something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the truth.

First off, let’s begin with the idea that Scott could not have stopped the concert and that the only people who could have stopped the concert were the executive producer and the concert producer. That is not the case, considering how there have been numerous instances of artists stopping live concerts due to safety concerns, ranging from crowd crushes to medical emergencies. Furthermore, Houston’s fire chief, Samuel Peña outright said that “The artist, if he notices something that’s going on, he can certainly pause that performance, turn on the lights and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to continue until this thing is resolved.’” But now, that raises the question of whether Scott actually knew what was going on during the crowd surge, since there would have been no way for him to stop the surge if he didn’t know what was going on. Rawlings-Blake claimed that he stopped the concert, trying to figure out what was going on, but ultimately resumed the concert after being unable to figure out what was happening. A video from CNN shows otherwise, with Scott seeing and reacting to an ambulance near the stage, saying “What the f*** is that?” Knowing that, it becomes hard to believe that Scott didn’t know that a tragedy occurred until hours after the concert, especially after seeing that time after time, other artists have stopped their performances for less.

All of that being said, we only know the facts about what happened during the disaster, but if stories of other tragedies and accidents are anything to go off of, an accident does not happen randomly. There will always be some issues that went unaddressed before tragedy struck. And while it is impossible for the Watchdog to know if factors such as faulty engineering or bad planning played a part, it is possible to look at the culture before and during Scott’s concerts. It is possible that culture could have played a part in the tragedy in the same way that a lack of a safety culture at a workplace can lead to serious accidents. From that angle, there is plenty to see. In 2015, Scott pled guilty to reckless conduct charges stemming from an incident where he “played one song and then began telling fans to come over the barricades” before leaving. Not appearing to have learned his lesson, Scott was arrested after his 2017 show in Arkansas for inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, and endangering the welfare of a minor. According to the statement made by the Rogers Police Department following the arrest, Scott was arrested because he “encouraged people to rush the stage and bypass the security protocols [put in place] to ensure concertgoer safety.” The statement continued by explaining that several people were injured as people rushed to the stage, including one member of security and one member of the Rogers Police Department. Based on that, it begs the question of whether Scott’s arrest in 2015 and 2017 was able to make him rethink his choices. Evidently, it wasn’t enough, considering how ticketless fans stampeded through the venue earlier in the day, yet organizers did not do anything, even though that led to the possibility of there being well over 50,000 concertgoers that night.
Knowing all of that, it is impossible to tell how much Scott’s conduct affected the chain of events that led to the deadly crowd surge. However, we do know that there were already worries about crowd control from the organizers of Astroworld, with there being multiple incidents in 2019 that did not reach the severity of this year’s tragedy. It is fully possible that design flaws in Scott’s stage played a part in the tragedy. But considering the number of incidents caused by the culture in Scott’s concerts, it cannot be eliminated.