One year later: Harambe's odd story becoming a centerpiece of in - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

One year later: Harambe's odd story becoming a centerpiece of internet mischief

Harambe (YouTube) Harambe (YouTube)
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

In the year since Harambe was shot and killed by Cincinnati Zoo officials after he grabbed a child that fell into his enclosure, the gorilla has grown into a centerpiece of internet culture.

On the one year anniversary of his death, the zoo's gorilla exhibit is still closed for renovations. 

Editor's Note: Some links contain crude language. 

As many tragic incidents go, reaction to the ape’s death is a mixed bag. Over the past 12 months, Harambe evolved from a largely unknown zoo animal to an immortalized icon of internet culture.

There was genuine anger from animal rights activists, those who thought the internet outrage machine went too far grieving, malevolent trolling and even a pocket of folks that used his death to call for more attention to unarmed black men shot by law enforcement. The incident also raised a moral question of whether or not gorillas belong in captivity, echoing Seaworld bowing to pressure from the public to terminate its orca breeding and theatrical shows

But mostly, Harambe became an evergreen meme with a wide array of permutations. The most common excessively honoring the gorilla’s untimely demise to the point of absurdity, potentially satirizing the out of control nature of internet culture. 

Harambe has become part of the internet lexicon. But the flood of harassment and trolling prompted both the zoo and its director, Thane Maynard to  temporarily take down their Twitter accounts until October. Now the Cincinnati Zoo is moving forward and firing on all cylinders with Fiona, the premature baby hippo that has become an internet darling in the Tri-State that is set to make her public debut shortly, according to zoo officials. 

Despite Fiona being a hit, the zoo was slammed by trolls on the one year anniversary of Harambe's death. 

The incident that drew national scrutiny made its way into politics. In the 2016 election, Harambe's face was on signs and T-Shirts at political conventions. He even made his way into a national poll where he got 5 percent support, beating out Green Party contender Jill Stein. 

"I think it was a very tough call," President Donald Trump said to reporters last year on the campaign trail. "I don't think they had a choice, you had a young child at stake."

In the wake of Trump's shocking upset against Hillary Clinton in November, some Democratic voters fired on third party supporters in critical states for swaying the election in the New York billionaire's favor. Harambe's posthumous bid for the Oval Office lead to a widespread unverified rumor the ape earned 20,000 votes as a write-in candidate. Some voters upset about Clinton's defeat started pointing fingers at an impossible to prove subset of constituents: Harambe voters. 

Third parties have spoiled past national elections. However, only seven states count write in votes. Did 20,000 people vote for Harambe? Some may have as a gag in an election that saw historic levels of discontent for both major parties. But it is a number that is impossible to prove. 

Outside of fun jokes on Twitter and election pranks, the Harambe meme has also been used as a harmful message outside of attacks against the zoo. After the release of "Ghostbuster," African American actress Leslie Jones' website was hacked when video and images of Harambe were posted side-by-side with supposed nude images of her.

A month after racially-charged attacks against Jones, exaggerated reports erupted out of of Clemson University in South Carolina banning the use of Harambe memes and imagery from campus saying it promotes racism and "rape culture." The alleged banning drew national outrage online and prompted media personality and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos visit the school to protest the administration's decision. 

“Let’s get this out of the way at the top, Harambe is not a racist concept," Yiannopoulos said at his campus visit. "It never was, and never will be. Harambe is being slandered just like poor Peeper Frog."

The university blasted the reports for being overblown, saying one dorm resident was asked to take down a public display after it allegedly made some feel uncomfortable.  

On Reddit forums like r/Harambe have amassed strong communities at  the core of the ever-flourishing culture of internet mischief which is the cornerstone of Harambe's legacy. Online petitions have made their rounds like making Harambe a Pokemon, constructing a White House statue and changing the name of Cincinnati to "Harambe City.

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