“Those parents should have all the blame and may actually face charges, thankfully.”
These words were found on the comments section of a Facebook meme about Harambe, the 17-year-old, 440-pound gorilla who was tragically shot and killed after a child entered its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on May 28.
Let’s turn our attention away from the probability that the 21-year-old poster of that comment has no first-hand experience raising a child. Let’s not even worry about whether or not said poster has ever been responsible for the safety and well-being of a child. After all, the internet is an open forum where people are allowed to pout and protest freely.
A bigger issue is at play here, one that inches its way into social media firestorms ranging from sensationalized local news to crucial — and in this election cycle, sometimes scary — political coverage.
I’m talking about the insatiable thirst to hurl insults, wish the worst and claim heads that haunts every headline interesting enough to keep us reading past a cursory glance.
News of this tragedy had barely broken and details were yet to be reported by the time the sanctimonious selfie-snappers reached a verdict: This is undeniably the mother’s fault.
Posts placing full blame on the mother for the accident were very popular, as were calls for investigations into negligence. What must have been more delightful for the mother to hear were the death wishes against her very own life. It’s like drinking with a hangover. The cure to life-threatening, palpitating trauma must be more trauma-inducing online harassment.
The virtual vitriol took an unsurprising turn into the land misogyny (see: Earth). The same attacks that earned Casey Anthony top billing on Nancy Grace for a couple of seasons were now being used against a mother who was on the brink of losing her child to a gorilla that smacked him against concrete.
A neglectful parent is one thing. Dads help conceive kids they never see again all the time. But a bad mom? No one can forgive that. The use of an expletive grew more and more pronounced next to “gorilla” and “zoo” on the word cloud.
An article appeared in this section last week calling the child “stupid,” absolving the zoo of any blame and, of course, faulting the mother for the tragedy.
Published in a paper so closely affiliated with a large university, one would be hard-pressed to find the policing feminism that supposedly plagues campuses anywhere within the piece.
There are many bizarre feelings on the issue, including the idea that shooting Harambe was somehow unnecessary.
But the very public witch hunt against a mother who made a parenting mistake matters most because its causes and effects will linger in stories still to come.
Most parents have a Rolodex of life-threatening situations they’ve put their kids in. They carry on like nothing happened with the benefit of privacy, anonymity and human forgetfulness. Does this mom not deserve the same deal?
Adam Manno is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.