Harambe the Gorilla
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Harambe the Gorilla was a 17-year-old Western lowland silverback gorilla who was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure in late May 2016. The incident was wildly criticized online by many who blamed the child's parents for the gorilla's untimely death.
On May 28th, 2016, a 4-year-old boy crawled into the enclosure of the Western lowland gorilla Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo. The gorilla then grasped the child and began dragging him about the enclosure before a Cincinnati Zoo employee fatally shot Harambe with a rifle.That day, YouTuber maxi uploaded footage of the incident to YouTube, where it gathered upwards of 12.6 million views and 41,000 comments in the next 48 hours. The video was subsequently removed, but several mirrored versions quickly resurfaced.
On May 29th, a post about the incident reached the front page of subreddit /r/news, where it garnered more than 7,100 votes (87% upvoted) and 6,200 comments in the next two days. The same day, a petition titled "Justice for Harambe" was created on Change.org which called for authorities to hold the child's parents responsible for Harambe's death. Within 48 hours, the petition gained over 338,000 signatures. Meanwhile, the hashtags #JusticeForHarambe and #RIPHarambe began circulating on both Facebook and Twitter.
On May 31st, the Mirror published an article about the child's parents Michelle Gregg and Deonne Dickerson. In the coming days, the story was covered by CNN, BBC News, NBC News, Time and The Daily Dot.
Weird Twitter Tributes
Weird Twitter quickly jumped on turning Harambe into a meme, photoshopping into image macros and ironically featuring him alongside photos of Prince, David Bowie, and Muhammad Ali in tributes to famous celebrities that died in 2016.
One popular Weird Twitter trend involved taking popular songs and changing their lyrics to be about Harambe. The trend was so popular it ended up getting its own "Twitter Moments" page. In one popular tweet, Blink-182's Mark Hoppus jumped in on the trend with his own song (shown below, right).
AFL Athlete Racist Joke Controversy
On June 1st, 2016, a Facebook page titled AFL Memes posted two image macros comparing the gorilla to Adam Goodes (shown below), a retired professional Australian rules football player of Indigenous ancestry who was controversially called an “ape” by a 13-year-old girl in 2013. Immediately after the images were posted, many viewers accused the page of promoting racist stereotypes of Indigenous Australians.
On June 2nd, the online backlash surrounding AFL Memes' posts on Facebook were reported on by dozens of Australian news outlets and many other English-language news sites overseas, including BuzzFeed, which misidentified another Facebook page with the same name as the party responsible for the controversy. Later that day, the Facebook page that was incorrectly cited in the BuzzFeed article issued a statement clarifying that it had been misattributed as the source of the controversial posts, while condemning the racist memes aimed at Adam Goodes as "horrifying." Furthermore, the group claimed that it would be seeking legal action against BuzzFeed for defamation (shown below, left). That same day, the AFL Memes page responsible for publishing the original posts issued a public apology for offending viewers, along with a confirmation that the images in question have since been removed (shown below, right).
Dicks Out For Harambe
On July 2nd, 2016, Twitter user @sexualjumanji posted a selfie photograph in which he is shown pointing a replica firearm at the camera along with the caption "We comin with them dicks out to avenge harambe!!!" (shown below, left). On July 4th, comedian Brandon Wardell tweeted the phrase "dicks out for harambe" (shown below, right).
That day, Wardell posted a Vine of a group of men chanting "dicks out for Harambe" (shown below, left). On July 6th, Wardell uploaded a Vine of himself with actor Danny Trejo in which the pair say the phrase "dicks out for Harambe" (shown below, right). Within five days, the video gathered upwards of 2.2 million loops, 1,100 likes and 700 revines.
The following day, Twitter user @weebriel tweeted to @sexualjumanji that he previously coined the phrase in a Twitch chat session (shown below).
On July 9th, the Trejo Vine was submitted to /r/NotTimAndEric. Meanwhile, Redditor lotsoftuna launched the /r/dicksoutforharambe subreddit. The following day, the "Another Sad and Pathetic ironic meme page" Facebook page created a posting for an event titled "Dicks Out For Harambe," encouraging people to visit the White House on July 16th and expose their genitals to "show solidarity and love for Harambe."
Street Name Prank
On July 10th, 2016, Ohio teen Max Brinton pranked Google into changing the street their high school is on, Shankland Road, into Harambe Drive. Less than two weeks later, Google updated their maps and Shankland Road was Harambe Drive. Their story was popular enough to get picked up by Buzzfeed.
Cincinnati Zoo Director's Twitter Hack
On August 20th, 2016, a hacker who goes by the Twitter handle @prom took control of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden director Thane Maynard's Twitter account, vandalizing his feed with several Harambe-related hashtags and jokes (shown below).
Cincinnati Zoo's Statement
On August 22nd, the Associated Press published an article titled "Harambe lives: Killed zoo gorilla gets a second life online," which included a statement from Maynard denouncing Harambe-themed internet memes:
"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."
That day, The Independent published an article about Maynard's statement, which subsequently reached the front page of the /r/nottheonion, /r/news and /r/harambe subreddits. In the comments section of the Independent article, many users referenced the "dicks out for Harambe" slogan (shown below).
UMass Amherst Microaggression E-mail
On September 5th, 2016, Twitter user and University of Massachusetts Amherst student @JarodSasdi13 uploaded a picture of an email sent by his resident assistants that called for an end to Harambe jokes in his hall, claiming they were a "micro-aggression" and an attack on the black community.
The e-mail, which also suggested that the phrase "Dicks Out for Harambe" is a violation of Title IX sexual assault regulations, spread on Twitter and on websites like Breitbart and The Daily Caller, where it was widely derided for being an example of Social Justice Warrior overreach. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) claimed the e-mail was a laughable violation of free speech, writing, "UMass RAs might not see much benefit or value to the Harambe meme, but it is not a public university's place to determine that students who write Harambe jokes on their whiteboards should be punished. To imply that the phrase 'dicks out for Harambe' is sexual harassment and worthy of a Title IX investigation is laughable. However, it's not unbelievable that the RAs felt it necessary to send this email--they're simply following school policy."
UMass Amherst clarified in a statement given to VICE that there would be no administrative action taken against Harambe memes, writing, "As an institution that values free speech and the exchange of ideas, UMass Amherst has not taken any steps to ban jokes or references about Harambe the gorilla. The resident assistants were upholding their responsibility to encourage an inclusive living environment for the students on their floor."
"Harambe McHarambeface" Naming Contest Hoax
On September 10th, 2016, The Boston Leader, an online news site that claims to have been in operation since 1932, reported that a baby ape in China’s Jinhua Zoo was named “Harambe McHarambeface” after a naming contest held by the zoo was allegedly raided by Internet users from overseas (shown below), in a similar manner to how social media users in the UK hijacked the National Environmental Research Council’s contest to name its new arctic research vessel "Boaty McBoatface" in March 2016.
In the following days, several English-language news outlets picked up on The Boston Leader's article and reported on the story, including The Daily Mail, Mirror, and Metro, which subsequently spread to Twitter. As the story continued to spread across the social media in the United States, the validity of the original report was soon called into question, especially after several readers pointed out that the Boston Leader had only been created the week prior to the publication of article, while the zoo in question had not updated its website or social media accounts in three years. By September 13th, the article had been declared a hoax by BBC and Daily Dot, as well as the aforementioned news outlets.
2016 United States Presidential Election
On November 8th, 2016, many Twitter users posted photographs of paper election ballots with "Harambe" and other internet meme references as write-in candidates in the 2016 United States presidential election (shown below).
That evening, writer David Leavitt tweeted that "over 11,000 people voted for Harambe" (shown below). In less than 24 hours, the tweet gained over 8,400 retweets and 7,500 likes.
That evening, other Twitter accounts posted similar rumors about Harambe votes, but none provided sources for their claims (shown below). Meanwhile, the news site The Daily Snark highlighted additional tweets about the Harambe votes, many of which gathered thousands of retweets and likes.
Early the next morning, BuzzFeed published an article titled "14,000 People Probably Didn’t Vote For Harambe To Be The Next US President." That day, Snopes published an article listing the rumor that Harambe "15,000 votes" as "false." Also on November 9th, various news media outlets reported on the voting rumor, including The Telegraph, USA Today and UpRoxx.
On February 6th, 2017, eBay seller valuestampsinc posted a bidding for a Cheeto that supposedly resembled Harambe. The bidding started at $11.99. In the course of one day, the bidding rose to extremely high levels almost certainly due to trolling, and eventually the Cheeto was sold for $99,900 the morning of February 7th. The event was covered by Twitter Moments, which displayed many Twitter users' exhausted reaction to the event, and also The Daily Dot.
Sam Hubbard On Super Bowl LVI
On February 2nd, 2022, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said his team was going to try and win Super Bowl LVI for Harambe. Hubbard was speaking to comedy sports media outlet Pardon My Take, who asked him if the Bengals had thought about Harambe, as Pardon My Take had been joking to that effect on Twitter prior to the game. The quote unexpectedly caused Harambe to trend on Twitter as memers joined in rooting for the Bengals for Harambe's sake.
 Mirror – Who are Michelle Gregg and Deonne Dickerson
 Change.org – Justice for Harambe
 Twitter – #JusticeForHarambe
 Facebook – search for Justice4Harambe
 Facebook – search for #JusticeForHarambe
 Reddit – Cincinnati Zoo kills gorilla to protect small child
 CNN – There was nobody getting that baby back from that gorilla
 BBC – Justice for Harambe
 NBC News – Outrage Grows After Gorilla Harambe Shot Dead at Cincinnati Zoo to Save Tot
 Time – Did Harambe the Gorilla Have to Die?
 The Daily Dot – Online petition demands #JusticeForHarambe
 Facebook – AFL Memes (unavailable)
 BuzzFeed – Facebook Memes Compare Adam Goodes To The Gorilla That Was Fatally Shot
 Reddit – Dicks out for harambe
 Facebook – Dicks Out For Harambe
 Reddit – /r/dicksoutforharambe
 Twitter – @sexualjumanji
 Twitter (via Wayback Machine) – @brandonwardell
 The Daily Dot – Harambe the gorilla lives on in beautifully tasteless memes
 Twitter – Harambe Songs
 Twitter – @gallagherc_
 Buzzfeed – These Teens Tricked Google Into Honoring Harambe The Gorilla
 AP.org (via Wayback Machine) – Harambe lives Killed zoo gorilla gets a second life online
 The Independent – Harambe Stop making memes of our dead gorilla Cincinnati Zoo pleads
 Reddit – Harambe – Stop making memes of our dead gorilla
 Reddit – Zoo that shot Harambe – please stop talking about how we shot Harambe
 Reddit – Harambe the gorilla Cincinnati Zoo not amused by memes
 Twitter (via Wayback Machine) – @prom
 Twitter (via Wayback Machine) – @JarodSasdi13
 Breitbart – UMass Resident Advisors Call Harambe Memes ‘Direct Attack’ on African-Americans
 The Daily Caller – UMass Amherst: Harambe Jokes Are Racist, Violate Federal Law
 FIRE.org – UMass RAs Are Not Amused by Your Harambe Memes
 VICE – Calm Down, a University Didn't Ban Harambe Jokes
 Boston Leader – 'Harambe McHarambeface' article via Web Archive
 Daily Mail – Has a Chinese zoo called a gorilla Harambe McHarambeface? Claim that poll decided animal’s name sweeps the web
 Mirror – Gorilla 'named Harambe McHarambeface after zoo's public vote' – but is story too good be true?
 Metro – We really hope a baby gorilla’s been named Harambe McHarambeface
 Twitter – @theneedledrop
 Twitter – @carefreetom_182
 Twitter – @joeypapile
 BBC – Harambe McHarambeface is Fakey McFakeface
 Daily Dot – Baby gorilla named 'Harambe McHarambeface' is beautiful, inspiring hoax
 Twitter – @David_Leavitt
 The Daily Snark – Harambe A Dead Gorilla
 Snopes – Harambe 2016
 Twitter – @Mexicanbanana
 The Telegraph – How a rumour about votes for dead gorilla Harambe sparked US election anger
 USA Today – About the rumor that Harambe got over 10000 votes
 UpRoxx – People Are Absolutely Furious Over The Rumor That Harambe Swayed The Election
 BuzzFeed – 14000 People Probably Didn’t Vote For Harambe To Be The Next US President
 eBay – Gorilla Hot Cheetos – RARE – One of a Kind Cheetos – Harambe Gorilla
 Twitter Moments – Someone bid nearly $100k for the Harambe-shaped Cheeto
 The Daily Dot – This auction for a Hot Cheeto that looks like Harambe is going completely bonkers
May 31, 2016 at 12:48PM EDT
May 31, 2016 at 12:57PM EDT
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