In case you somehow missed the story that took over Memorial Day Weekend here in the US, a four year old boy fell into a gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo, and the zoo workers shot and killed the gorilla to keep him from harming the child. Pretty much a terrible story all around.
But this was not enough for the internet. Oh no, indignant people armed with keyboards have been savaging everyone from the mother – mostly riffing on terms like “stupid bitch” and the like – to the zookeepers. People who were not there, who do not know any of the people involved, and who are not experts in great ape behavior all rushed to make their opinions heard loudly and forcefully.
This was one of the ugliest digital mobs I have seen in a while. It has made me question the value of social media in its entirety. I think we are losing our fucking minds in the vast echo chamber that is our carefully curated list of friends. It was a pathetic display of humanity that millions of people gleefully took part in.
Maybe the mother was at fault. Maybe the enclosure was poorly constructed. But there is no way for any of us who were not there to have any reasonable grasp on the situation, and we certainly will not become experts after watching a few minutes of someone’s cell phone video. Hell even if you were there the chances that you would have carefully seen every minute detail of what happened are slim to none. Sometimes tragedies happen. But what I really cannot understand is other parents attacking this parent. I am not a parent, but if I were and I thought an animal was going to harm my child, I would strangle it with my bare hands and not feel bad about having done so.
These demonization fads run across social media from time to time, but this one felt a lot bigger and a lot more vicious. Again I know nothing about this mother, but short of her throwing her child over the railing she does not deserve the level of vitriol being spewed. She has become the victim of, to borrow a phrase from Clarence Thomas, a high tech lynching. You know the scene where the villagers go the kill the beast in Beauty and the Beast? That was you this weekend Facebook users, are you happy?
Actually I think you are, and that is the real tragedy here. From the safety of your own internet connection you stuck your nose in and tore apart everyone and everything you could get your hands on. This whole thing was absolutely shameful. Shame on you if you took joy in your own superiority at the expense of strangers. And remember, this monster can turn on you at any moment. And when it does, how will you be judged?