The Atlantic

The Fetishization of Mr. Rogers’s ‘Look for the Helpers’

Turning the reassuring line for children into a meme for adults should make everyone uncomfortable.
Source: Gene J. Puskar / AP

After the senseless calamity of a mass shooting, people seek comforts—even small ones—in the face of horror. One of those small comforts has come to be Fred Rogers’s famous advice to look for the helpers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Lately, whenever something goes horribly wrong, someone offers up Rogers’s phrase or a video in which he shares it as succor: during the Thai cave rescue, in response to the U.S. family-separation policy, after a school-bus accident in New Jersey, following a fatal explosion in Wisconsin, in the aftermath of a van attack in Toronto, in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas school massacre, and more.

And so it was no surprise when “Look for the helpers” after a gunman killed 11 people and,” reads the headline of Bari Weiss’s column on the slaughter.

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