November 21, 2013
The Internet continues to connect Earthlings in interesting ways. A woman shared an image similar to many she had shared in the past. This time, though, the picture caught the attention of enough people for it to go “viral” and was covered by media all over the world.
At the same time, the scenario demonstrated the extent to which human emotion usurps reason.
Earlier this week, United States human Melissa Bachman of Minnesota shared a photograph from her hunting trip:
She used the social networking Website, Twitter, to do so. Other humans on the Website saw the image and responded:
Hope that Melissa Bachman gets mauled by lions the stupid cow
Melissa Bachman deserves to be shot herself…
The reaction branched from Twitter. A human in the nation South Africa–where the hunt took place–started an online petition to keep Bachman from ever returning to their country. It has garnered 300,000 signatures worldwide. This petition got the attention of other news media.
England’s Manchester Evening News had commentors saying:
“Do you think licences to shoot women will raise as much revenue for the wildlife?”
“This isn’t a human being, she or it, is a monster. Killing beautiful animals, including many gentle, harmless ones like giraffes, is inexcusable evil. Simply for trophies. There is something very vile and wrong with this crazy freak. Ban her from hunting ANYWHERE! “
A Facebook page, Stop Melissa Bachman, has attracted over 160,000 likes. And not just her, but the South African company that organized her hunt had to respond via their Facebook page after receiving “hate mail”.
Media in Bachman’s own nation also offered their takes, with commentors offering theirs. On National Geographic‘s coverage, a reader wrote:
SICK !!! Someone should hunt her !!!
she is a pig of a woman. may she one day become the prey of what she is hunting.
Sometimes, the media itself indicated their dismay–even one as purportedly non-political as the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). They covered this story with either little awareness their ideology was obvious, or they simply didn’t care their coverage was slanted.
From the host’s intonation to the correspondent’s interview with a zoologist saying, “It absolutely disgusts me…how [Bachman] can just smile away at something that is so disgusting and gruesome”, to the correspondent then offering statistics to the viewer regarding lion population while petting baby lions at a South African zoo, it was clear where this media stood:
The zoologist from South Africa was shocked by the image. The intimacy of the Internet offers Earthlings novel customs to be seen and shared between many people–to their enjoyment, surprise, or in this case, disgust. It also gives these reactors a voice.
People from other nations may not be used to seeing these kinds of photos but certainly humans in the United States are. There, hunting and hunting television shows are common. Yet the host of the ABC coverage offered with intonation: “[Bachman] has sparked shock and outrage for posting photos of herself smiling alongside animals she’s killed.”
The line was stated as if appalling, yet countless humans from the United States smile alongside their kill. They smile alongside their hunted deer, ducks, and large fish they catch.
Maybe the momentum carried over from other nations’ coverage. Maybe Bachman’s image was what English-speaking Earthlings call “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Whatever the reason, these reactors are seemingly unconscious of how their emotions have illogically elevated this one instance despite there being several other examples of hunts from Bachman’s past that didn’t bother them. These humans also seem to be unconscious of their exaggerated reaction toward this one hunt of countless African safari hunts that United States humans have done for Earth decades.
It was the United States’ own president, Theodore Roosevelt, who himself went on African big game hunts. He also established the U.S. Forest Service, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, and 5 National Parks. As it does to many of those angry at Bachman, this also strikes me as a counter-intuitive relationship. Nonetheless, much Earth habitat is and has been maintained because of those who want to see it strong for their recreation–in large part due to hunters.
Lastly, humans beings tend to personify issues. Animal welfare may be important, but it is much more powerful and motivating to Earthlings if they mythologize a villain–if they have a fellow member of their own species to attack. And while in the throes of their ideological uproar, some lose their humanity and wish to see their ideological enemy perish.
In the end, it seems many humans and media didn’t/couldn’t consider much context because Earthlings have an affinity toward lions. They have an innate hierarchy differentiating the levels of importance between classes of animals–insects, birds, reptiles, mammals–with mammals being the most important. But even within mammals humans react differently.
Many referred to the animal she killed as “majestic” . To these humans, Bachman didn’t just kill an animal. (An animal that regularly commits infanticide. I’ve observed many male lions such as this one stomp on and break the necks of several baby cubs. They kill the offspring in their pride that don’t belong to them so the cubs’ mothers stop nursing, start ovulating, and will then be mates for the male to produce their own offspring.) To those angry, Bachman killed “majesty”. So the fact that this woman could smile next to the carcass of “majesty” which she was responsible for killing is reprehensible.
Many Earthlings went with this flow so unconscious of how their emotions shape and direct their understanding. The Internet is a tool to demonstrate and exasperate this phenomena. It’s also a tool, however, which can reveal these limitations.