Harambe and the internet mob of justice

I know you were probably hoping to have a gorilla free day on social media and I apologise for making that impossible for you, but I’d like to get my two cents in whether or not anyone is actually listening (or in this case, interested in reading).

“The internet mob determines the severity of a crime based on subjective factors, such as how unlikeable they find the alleged criminal to be, how likeable they find the victim, and the degree to which the alleged crime fits into their preconceived beliefs,” writes Max Fisher of the New York Times.”You’ll notice that most of these trace back not to the crime’s impact on society, but rather the degree to which punishing the crime will feel good for the punishers.”

We’ve all seen the footage captured at the Cincinnati zoo where a four year old boy found his way (whether he slipped and fell or intentionally landed himself in there is unclear) into an enclosure where seventeen year old Harambe, a Silverback gorilla was on display. Fearing for the child’s safety as Harambe began dragging the child to another part of the enclosure, zoo officials shot Harambe, killing him.

Considering that silverback gorillas are endangered, obviously there was uproar and there seems to be conflicting information given by “experts” being interviewed in the States. Some claiming he was protecting the child while others were claiming that Harambe was going to kill the boy. I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty sketchy how people who are supposedly experienced in dealing with gorillas could have such conflicting views on the matter, surely they would all be saying the same thing.

The explanation which cleared this whole thing up for me was given by former zoo keeper Amanda O’Donoughue who gave some very helpful insight into why killing Harambe was necessary for the safety of the child. O’Donoghue outlined in a status that has since gone viral that despite gorillas being considered “gentle giants” they are Class 1 mammals and due to their strength, they are considered to be very dangerous. Even if Harambe did not intend to kill the child his weight (450lbs) and strength (ten times stronger than humans) would have meant that the risk of him accidentally injuring or killing the child was quite high and tranquilisers would have caused him great distress increasing the chances of the boy losing his life. As difficult as this story was for animal lovers like myself to watch unfold, I have to admit that when it came down to it there was very little else that could’ve been done without putting the child in an even more dangerous position.

Conflicting stories of the events that occurred on that day in Cincinnati zoo have left everyone on social media divided on who should be held accountable and whether or not anything else could have been done by zoo officials to rescue the boy without killing Harambe. This division has been made worse by inconsistencies in accounts given by news reporters and gorilla experts and the mother of the child has come under fire on social media for negligence. Michelle Gregg posted a status on her Facebook page thanking God that her child was safe and that because she had other children with her, her son managed to slink off without her knowledge. In this case, we are talking about either one teeny tiny four year old who has no problems fitting through small gaps in barriers or just poorly constructed barriers around the enclosure, no one knows for sure how the child got into the enclosure but the point is that he did.

Gregg has been harshly criticised for her Facebook post because she did not appear apologetic for what happened nor did she mention the death of Harambe. A few journalists and bloggers who are also parents have since jumped to her defence saying that these things happen and you only have to look away for a split second and things can go horribly wrong.

I think what this angry internet mob seems to have forgotten is that children are curious beings who seldom make clever decisions. One of my nephews once pulled a hot cup of tea on himself because he was toddling around the kitchen checking out what was on the work tops. It was an incredibly scary ordeal as he was seriously hurt but it didn’t happen because my sister is a bad parent, it was a freak accident that no one could have prevented because it was so sudden and none of us realised just how tall this kid actually was at the time, he’s fine now with a small scar on his chest left from the incident, a similar thing happened to my dad, not because of negligence but because children are unpredictable and do things suddenly. I used to babysit a little boy who decided to prove that his nerf gun wasn’t loaded by aiming the gun at his crotch. It was loaded, a float and Daddy Daycare later he was grand, did this happen because I was a terrible babysitter? No, it happened before I could react, it took a split second for him to pull the trigger.

We all have memories of scary things that happened when we were children, most of these events happened because we were curious or bored, not everything a child does can be blamed on the parents, these things just happen and there is no straightforward reason why. I feel sorry for the mother given that those taking the moral high ground have ironically decided that she is in need of a brutal telling off followed by death threats. This is not the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last. Is this really how we are choosing to handle these situations? All parties have a certain amount of responsibility to take for what happened, pinning the blame on someone simply because it is easy to make them look like the bad guy is in no way productive and makes the situation worse for everyone involved.