Activism or Terrorism? Outrage Over the Death of Harambe the Gorilla

By now, many readers will have heard and possibly discussed the recent death of an endangered gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo which sparked the outrage and protest from animal rights activists across the nation. Most, by now, will also have heard the Zoo’s defense for killing the silverback gorilla when Thayne Maynard, the Zoo’s director, spoke at a press conference on May 30th. Due to time being crucial, zookeepers made the decision to put down the gorilla rather than tranquilize it in order to ensure the safety of the young child being dragged up and down the concrete moat inside the enclosure.

With this justification, activists have now turned their sights on the mother of the child for whom petitions have been made calling for a social service investigation into the woman’s possible child neglect. However, many at the scene along with many concerned parents across the country have been clear in the fact that there was simply nothing the mother could have done, that the incident simply happened too fast for her to have done anything. Children often sneak off and disobey their parents.

The recent outcries from activists stir up a debate about the power, both positive or negative, that activism carries. Used in the wrong way, the social influence that activism groups and online movements generate can destroy lives. As we’ve seen done with professional trolls in Russia a similar destructive online force surfaces in the Cincinnati Zoo incident through the social influence of online activism.

Where do we draw the line between activism and terrorism? How do activists formulate their agenda? Does the relentless pursuit of this agenda devalue the moral justifications in their cause? What role does money play in professional activist groups?