I was at the Forecastle Festival, a music festival in Louisville last month. In the middle of the Avett Brothers playing a song, a group of about eight 20-somethings started chanting: “Harambe! Harambe!”
It was an absurdly out-of-place moment.
As weird as the incident was, it was one of the more benign protests over the western lowland gorilla’s death in May.
There have been endless memes and attacks directed at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, ridiculous petitions and the hacking of Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard’s Twitter account.
On Monday, some Reddit users launched an attack on our web editor James Leggate. They were angry because James wrote a column blasting the stream of petitions.
"At first, the petitioners had good intentions," James wrote in his column. "But then the goofuses of the internet hopped on the Harambe train for their jollies, and it has gotten out of control."
More than 3,600 people have “upvoted” the post about James.
Also on Monday, the Zoo deactivated its Twitter account.
The memes and trolling had become too much. The result will be less knowledge about the Zoo’s animals — including some endangered ones — spread out into the world. How can that be a good thing?
And here’s the thing: I firmly believe that no one regrets Harambe’s death more than the staff working at the zoo who actually knew the gorilla.
Harambe was agitated and violently dragging a 3-year-old boy who had fallen into his enclosure.
If you haven’t seen the video, watch it here before you meme:
I’m sure killing Harambe was not an easy decision for Maynard and his staff members.
I’m sorry internet trolls, but the Cincinnati Zoo staff care more about gorillas, conservation and Harambe than you do.
I believe Maynard when he says the trolls and hackers’ incessant attacks on the Zoo are difficult for his grieving staff to handle.
Many of the memes are intended as jokes. But they’re not funny. It is sad that a beautiful, endangered animal is dead.
And besides being hurtful to people who genuinely care about animals and conservation, the focus on Harambe is misguided.
Internet trolls and meme creators: Find something better to do with your time.
If you care so much about endangered gorillas, have you — like the Cincinnati Zoo has — spent any time, effort or money to help protect gorillas?
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the primary threats to western lowland gorillas are disease, habitat loss in the Congo Basin and hunting.
Where is the outrage over gorillas killed by hunters? Harambe was one gorilla. A 2009 BBC investigation found that as many as two gorillas PER WEEK were being killed by poachers, just in one region of the Republic of Congo.
And while protecting endangered gorillas is important, what about children?
Most of the trolls and meme-creators probably aren’t Cincinnati residents.
But here in Cincinnati, where Harambe lived, we have a massive childhood poverty problem.
In the city of Cincinnati, 47.2 percent of all children live below the federal poverty threshold, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in December.
That means more than 30,000 children within the city limits live in poverty.
For the region, one in five kids — or 105,000 children — live below the federal poverty level.
Those poverty rates are staggering.
Where is the outrage over children living in these deplorable conditions?
What if we as a society put our energy and focus on attacking systemic poverty instead of Harambe memes?
If it isn’t childhood poverty or protecting gorillas, fine. Find some other cause that means something to you and do something constructive with your time.
Maybe I’m wasting my time. The likely result of this column is the trolls will just come after me next.
But if I convince one person to spend their time trying to make the world a better place, it will be worth it.