Harambe: The Meme of 2016

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Oh Harambe, you really captured the hearts of the nation - once you were dead anyway. Why did the internet embrace Harambe the gorilla in such a strong and affectionate way?

In May, a three-year-old child fell into an enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo, then one of the gorillas inside started to drag the boy around.

Fearing that the boy's life was in danger, a zoo worker killed Harambe with a single shot and the boy escaped without serious injury. 
People were saddened by what had happened but would they have been more upset if it was the child that had died?

Harambe's death began a heated, if predictable, debate about zoo welfare standards and whether lethal force was necessary.

But what wasn't expected was what came next. Harambe became meme.
Meme
An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.
His image was spread across the entirety of the internet. What started as a very real outpouring of shock and grief spawned into all manner of jokes and trolling.

The hashtag #RIPHarambe was alight with comments ranging from people wishing they had been there to jump into the enclosure themselves if that meant saving Harambe, to people declaring that they would have been happier if the child was the one who had been shot.


Were people really that upset, or even angry, at Cincinnati Zoo's decision to kill the animal?


It was clear after several days that people were now just posting about Harambe because it was funny, this was when 'meme status' had been reached. The online community wanted to "keep Harambe's legacy alive" and they did so by trolling Cincinnati Zoo's Twitter feed. Strongly worded messages 
about how wrong they were to kill Harambe and endless photos of the gorilla adorned with crying emojis were spammed in the general direction of Cincinnati Zoo's account.

The situation wasn't helped when Cincinnati Zoo asked Twitter users to stop sending them the messages. In this instance, the internet acted just like a toddler who is told not to touch something because it's hot.

There were those who held vigils and started campaigns targeting the child's parents, things just
 spiralled out of control because it involved an element of supposed animal cruelty. Being in a zoo meant that Harambe was in an unfair environment where he didn't have much of a chance to begin with.

The problem with some people online is that they seem to get off on being mad about things that they don't actually care about. 
For me it was driven to the ground so quickly, it stopped being funny after a day or two.

The only way to understand why Harambe was embraced by the internet as he was is to imagine that people were just tired of the usual media spiel that dominates the news and, in turn, society.

People were bored of hearing the same old stories about war or famine or refugee 
crises that they just wanted some way to vent their frustration with the world.

The only way of expressing this anger was to turn this into some sort of worship of Harambe and then offer up memes to their gorilla god.

Harambe: the meme of 2016.

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