Just when we thought the internet fervor around Harambe faded, the Cincinnati Zoo managed to turn its barely glowing crisis embers into flames.
Harambe was the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla who was shot and killed in May when a child fell into its enclosure.
The internet outrage came quick, and it was passionate. There were even Change.org petitions and hashtags such as #JusticeForHarambe that started trending.
It’s hard to nail down the exact moment that Harambe went from tragedy to meme, but some point to a tweet from the @WORLDSTAR Twitter account. That account is suspended, but here’s the image in question:
— WSHH FANS (@WORIDSTARHIPH0P) June 7, 2016
It certainly set the tone of feigned reverence that the meme would follow. RELATED: Keep your cool in a crisis with these 13 tips.
Those unfamiliar with these types of internet phenomena may look at the rise of the Harambe meme as mean spirited or tasteless.
The Harambe meme isn’t a reaction to the actual event. It’s more of a reaction to the outrage that followed the event.
With today’s string of tragic events, the internet allows us to be outraged for a moment, send our thoughts and prayers and then quickly and completely forget about what so enraged us. The Harambe meme is ironic—an imagining of a world where internet outrage isn’t fleeting but rather lasts until real change or justice is achieved—something that unfortunately almost never happens.
Or maybe the Harambe meme is just a convenient shorthand for a certain set of social media to lash out.
Either way, social media managers at the Cincinnati Zoo don’t seem to understand the Harambe meme and certainly dont like it.
Perhaps giving in to the cyber bullies, zoo officials have deleted its Twitter account. The account was hacked over the weekend, and the perpetrators posted—you guessed it—a barrage of ironic Harambe tributes.
This week, the Cincinnati Zoo issued the following statement to the Associated Press:
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 with most of the internet’s viral content—planking, owling, Tebowing, the cinnamon challenge—thing fade away eventually.
Based on this Google Trends report, the Harambe meme was becoming less and less talked about.
Instead of letting time take care of the crisis, the Cincinnati Zoo sparked a fresh set of headlines:
In the bottom half of the harambe meme life cycle Cincinnati zoo asked us to stop. Thus giving the memes and the gorilla life eternal.
— boogie2988 (@Boogie2988) August 22, 2016
I was almost over harambe memes until the Cincinnati zoo said it was hurting their feelings today.
— Tony (@Ratherr_dashing) August 23, 2016
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you unintentionally revive a dying meme. https://t.co/h2mMYsTxZJ
— Alex Thomas (@AlexHouseThomas) August 22, 2016