Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gorilla Death Mom Michelle Gregg and The Netizen Bullies

I know I've had periods when I've thought social media was great and it's a component of my job, but I'm beginning to wonder. This isn't a new thing but the downside of social media was reinforced by the story of gorilla death mom.

This is a lot more serious than Chewbacca Mom (see previous post) but another example of how social media is leading to a collective loss of our minds. Gorilla death mom is Michelle Gregg from Ohio whose four-year-old kid climbed into a compound at Cincinnati Zoo and was mauled a bit by a gorilla called Harambe, who was then shot dead by zoo keepers.



The episode has sparked a barrage of online hate, most of it directed at Gregg. Judging by the level of vitriol you would have thought Gregg had shot the beast herself in the manner of Walter Palmer, the friendly neighborhood dentist who killed Cecil the Lion.

People loosely described as netizens took to Twitter, Facebook and the like to suggest, Gregg rather than Harambe should have been shot and to generally denigrate the mother as a low life. There's even a suggestion that the police could bring charges of neglect.

This is all rather disturbing as nearly everyone I know at some time or another has lost their kids.- granted  people without kids are less likely to. I succeeded in losing two kids in the space of as many minutes at Disney. Had the park not employed hyper-vigilant people, they'd probably still be wandering around the Magic Kingdom wondering if the line for Thunder Mountain had subsided.

What's worrying about the Gregg episode is how it illustrates how social media has set the playground bully free in a larger arena. It's a lot easier to say these kinds of things online than to someone's face. A zoo-type feeding frenzy then ensues with the mainsteam, and not so mainstream media, feeding off social media. This Daily Mail article is a case in point. What's the none-so-subtle message here and why is it relevant that the kid's father has a long criminal record? This article is really saying 'hate these people because they are black." Oh and they are overweight too - so that's a double whammy.

You have to wonder if there would be the same chorus of hating if a well-mannered, middle-class white, 70 year-old grandmother had a lapse of attention that led to her kid climbing into the gorilla enclosure.

This story also raises one more obvious rhetorical question to me, namely:

Shouldn't zoos construct enclosures that make it impossible for four-year-old kids to climb in and play papers, scissors, rock with a 450-pound gorilla? Just saying.

The concept of the social media bully would be less frightening if it wasn't so pervasive. Currently one of two candidates who is running for what is nominally the most powerful office in the word has made it this far by name calling on a grand scale. Marcus Rubio became "Little Marco," Ted Cruz was Lyin' Ted," and Hillary Clinton is "Crooked Hillary." It seems a rather long time ago since Donald Trump declared Rosie O'Donnel to be "a pig, a degenerate," back in the good old days when nobody took him seriously.

I always have this image as Trump as the punchy misfit who was bullied himself at school over his tangerine face and dead duck hairstlye and wrecks his revenge in shoes with steel tips behind the bike sheds, yelling "crip. loser, big ears or retard" at his victims.

I'm not saying politics has always been a gentle pursuit. Insults are part and parcel of the whole process.

Abraham Lincon once declared as a rejoinder to Stephen Douglas's arguments in favor of an expansion of slavery that they were "as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death."


Trump is the inheritor of the party that Lincoln brought onto the political scene which is really rather tragic when you think hard about it.

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