Last night Secondhand Smokette called for me to come into the den to look at CNN’s Piers Morgan grilling Bob Parsons, the CEO of something called Go Daddy—which is apparently a Web company of some sort, I’m too into my fogeyhood to know. Morgan was clearly upset that Parsons went elephant hunting in Zmbabwe, and took a bull, the kill having been caught on video. He then took some of those Hemingway-style “Great White Hunter” photos, after which the elephant was butchered and fed to hungry Zimbabweans. Oh, and it is also worth mentioning that the elephant was destroying crops in a country that is going hungry, which is why Parsons was at that particular locale to shoot the animal in the first place. Here’s part of the CNN transcript:
Piers: “Ok so you have a company worth billions and yet you there you have to shoot elephants to help poverty stricken locals, why don’t you just give them some money?”
Parsons: “I don’t know that one has to do anything with the other, because in this country we now have this bent if you have money you are evil, but actually I was over there doing a very good thing”
Piers: “Will you carry on shooting elephants?...
Parsons: “I will not carry on shooting elephants, but what I will carry on is helping the farmers with problem elephants and its very different.”
Piers: “Mr. Parsons looking at picture posing proudly with your kill, if you were doing this for some kind of humanitarian purpose why are you looking like your some kind of super hunter?”
Alas, reflecting the times in which we live, the fact that many people were materially benefited by the hunt—both in future crops saved and nutritious meat consumed—matters not a whit. The animal rights crowd and media are in an uproar all around the world. From the story in Wired:
While PETA falls all over itself being indignant at the very thought of the act, I decide to check out the video and it’s a must-watch. It gets interesting in the minute or so of absolute darkness before terrifying shots rent the silence and the hulking shape of an elephant is illuminated by gunfire. Possibly the most offensive scene of the video follows, with Parsons smiling cheekily next to the dead elephant, his gun placed casually on its hide. Its wide open eyes are looking straight at the camera, enough to give anybody the chills.
There are no dialogues or voices, just some overly facile subtitles and the widely-decried AC/DC “Hells Bells” soundtrack. All in all, completely preposterous and more than slightly disturbing. “It was done to feed farmers on the brink of starvation,” Parsons told wired.com. And will he post the video next year, just as he’s been doing for the last two years? “Sure,” he says, without hesitation. “If I said I wouldn’t be going back [to Zimbabwe], the farmers, they would be very disappointed indeed.”
It seems like the video has touched a universal chord, beyond the usual animal rights crowd. Wayne Parcell of the Humane Society of the United States [Excuse me? He IS the usual animal rights crowd!] wrote on his blog that he doesn’t “like doing business with a company with a leader like Parsons.” The society has found a new web host for its 650 domain names. Actress Cloris Leachman (who recently parodied the GoDaddy Girls in a commercial for a competitor) has lashed out against the video, encouraging her followers to switch to a different web service. A petition started by Laura Goldman of Change.org has more than 3000 signatures, expressing their anger towards Parsons.
I’m sorry? What’s the big sin here? That farmers’ crops were saved? That many people were fed? No, it was the shooting of an elephant, and more particularly, that Parsons videoed the kill and posed for triumphant photos. Our priorities are sure a mess.
If Go Daddy is hurt financially because destitute people were fed and their crops protected, it will just show how we in the “enlightened and oh, so caring and compassionate West” care more about elephants and than very poor people. And I am afraid that is precisely the case in our FEELINGS RULE! culture. Good grief.
Post Script: As I have thought some more about this, I think part of the problem is our hyper visualized content. Everybody sees the elephant being killed or dead. But the hardship of the villagers caused by the elephants, their difficult lives, are not depicted. Hence, no empathy. Hence, people are abstract and many go into mourning for the elephant because their emotions were, understandably, tugged.