Internet mob justice

The vitriol -“someone must pay!” – feels about the same as the Cecil the lion case.


The story of the shooting of a rare gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo by zoo officials, after a small child slipped into an enclosure and fell into the primate’s area, utterly fascinates me. It has even kept Donald Trump off the lead on the news for a day or two.

What I’ve discovered is that there are far more zoologists in the United States, and the world, than I ever imagined, all well-schooled as animal behaviorists. They seemed to KNOW for a certainty that the 450-pound primate would NOT hurt the three- or four-year-old, even though he had dragged the child through the pool at least twice.

This assessment seems to be based on some case of a child falling into a gorilla enclosure 30 years ago, and THAT gorilla WAS protective of THAT child.

Or in the alternative, these experts in primate physiology attest that the gorilla would NOT hurt the child in the minutes while a painful tranquilizer dart was taking effect.

I’ve also learned that most Americans are PERFECT parents, who NEVER turn away from their child, not even for a second. When I was five, my parents were frantic when I wandered away in Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton, NY.

And, BTW, this incident isn’t about what it’s about but rather the history of human bondage or the shame of horse racing or Americans’ hypocrisy about animal suffering (meat eaters!)

But mostly it’s about the danger of Internet mob justice. “There are reports of online harassment against a woman who shares the name of the 4-year-old’s supposed mother…

“The fundamental problem with mob justice is that it’s prone to randomness…People are calling for someone to be punished for Harambe’s death. But the internet mob has widely ignored other cases in which animals needlessly die. And it doesn’t pay much heed to animals that are suffering in negligent zoos or farms right now, in some cases until their very sad deaths.”

Some believe, perhaps correctly, that race is a factor in this situation; the mother and child are black, I gather. But it shares some of the same vitriol as when some parents let their kids walk home, all by themselves. In some ways, this is different than when a Minnesota doctor shot the famed lion Cecil because the feline was killed for sport. But the vitriol -“someone must pay!” – feels about the same.

So I’m not signing any online petitions to get “justice for Harambe,” especially those targeting the parents. This was a tragic set of circumstances. The zoo is mourning its loss, and the mother has acknowledged this and apologized for her part.

Yet I’m not opposed to the negligence complaint filed by the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now against the zoo with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “The group said in its complaint letter that the child’s ability to get past the barrier was proof the zoo was negligent and should be fined for a ‘clear and fatal violation of the Animal Welfare Act.'” Zoos everywhere, I suspect, will be re-examining their enclosures.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Internet mob justice”

  1. I think people like to convince themselves that “something like this could not happen to me” by vilifying the people it did happen to.

    (Though I will admit a brief mental flirtation with the Modest Proposal that children under the age of 7 or so be banned from going to zoos, or at least the more open exhibits of them, to prevent this sort of thing happening again, though I suspect a teenager with a fool idea in his head could cause equal concern. Then again: would as much effort be expended to save a teenager as a small child, or would the “he brought it on himself” come into play?)

  2. I agree- a tragedy, an avoidable one as far as the barrier isuue is concerned and in the death of the gorilla – but I believe as you do the zoo made the right decision given the circumstances. Have you noticed on the nightly news , at least the one I watch, he is always referred to as endangered- subtle fanning of the flames?

  3. There’s a great TED talk by Monica Lewinsky on Internet mob mentality.

    It’s a tragedy. It should be investigated, but we don’t have all the relevant information.

    We all make mistakes. I’m usually an amazingly safe driver, but the other day I took an uncharacteristic risky move and nearly caused a very serious accident. We all screw up.

  4. It seems that social media exists for people to feign outrage at just about anything which is one of the reasons I don’t bother with it much. I hadn’t realised that the parents were black until I saw a photo of the father in a UK newspaper detailing his criminal past, as if that had anything to do with the events at the zoo.

    While not wishing to make light of this tragedy, perhaps the online mob might get some satisfaction from reading Albert and the Lion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial