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.

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