By Riley Fanning
Harambe will live on in our hearts, and on our screens forever. The now infamous killing of the gorilla Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo over the summer has sparked national attention.
The tragic incident was brought about when a three-year-old child fell into the gorilla exhibit, which resulted in Harambe, a Western lowland gorilla, being shot and killed. There was extreme scrutiny of the event, and it has become a largely debated topic of conversation. People have mainly divided into two categories over who should take the blame: one camp is in favor of blaming the child’s inattentive parents, and the other believes the trigger-happy zoo officials should be held responsible.
Even more interesting than the fierce argument over what officials could have done differently was the sudden internet fame garnered by the deceased gorilla Harambe. Dozens of Facebook posts, vines, tweets and memes referencing Harambe have come about, quickly turning him into a viral internet star.
Harambe jokes have spread to all corners of the Internet. Social media users have coined a fascinating new phrase “D—-k’s out for Harambe,” a faux heartfelt calling for men to expose their genitals in honor of the dearly departed gorilla.
Members of the Cincinnati zoo became upset as the jokes surrounding the incident grew larger and more widespread, and in response sent an email out to the Associated Press stating, “We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe. Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us.”
As is to be expected with the internet, their call to end the jokes backfired. The official Cincinnati twitter was hacked and briefly converted into a meme account, until they regained control and deleted it altogether.
While some think the overtly sarcastic outrage over the death of Harambe is distasteful, others have made the argument that jokes are a way of coping with a difficult situation. People have taken this serious predicament and made light of it, and to say if it is right or wrong depends on individual opinion.
While most of the memes have been in good fun, there has also been a darker element at play. An unfortunate casualty of the internet sensationalism surrounding Harambe is comedian and actress Leslie Jones, of “SNL” and “Ghostbusters.”
Twitter users compared Jones, an African American woman, to Harambe in a flurry of racist social media bombardment. In reaction, Twitter chose to ban user Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative journalist who allegedly led the attack on Jones.
This has prompted a debate concerning censorship and free speech. The Harambe-induced internet rabbit hole has now inadvertently created a new conversation about where to draw the line on what should and should not be said online, particularly on social media sites.
It seems that despite the heartbreaking killing of Harambe, his death was most certainly not in vain. The incident has immensely impacted current culture, and even prompted new thought on the parameters of free speech on the internet.
Rest in peace, Harambe.