If you had to sum up the biggest internet phenomena of 2016, and you were mercifully allowed to exclude Donald Trump and the alt-right, two things would be at the top of the list: Harambe and campus outrage. And now, thanks to a viral conservative news story out of Massachusetts, the two have combined, and may give birth to potent new super-memes.
Let’s review these two internets before getting to their unexpected merger. The Harambe internet is pretty straightforward: It is dedicated to producing and disseminating memes that celebrate and glorify the life of Harambe, that noble gorilla cut down in his prime after a toddler found his way into his enclosure back in May. Harambe memes range from Photoshop jobs to dumb journalists tweeting out horrible Harambized song lyrics to everything in between. Overall, it’s all mostly harmless and pretty funny, with the notable exception of that time the Cincinnati Zoo had to shut down its social-media account because people wouldn’t stop tweeting Harambe memes at it.
The campus-outrage outrage internet is a bit more diffuse, and you may be unfamiliar with it if you don’t masochistically follow certain online culture wars. In short, there’s now an entire corner of the internet dedicated to finding random examples of college kids acting in over-the-top social-justicey ways, heaping ridicule on said students, and using them as examples of how libtards want to execute professors who assign books written by white men (or something). The most extreme such incidents go viral, as was the case with an unfortunate woman caught on tape freaking out at a Milo Yiannopoulos talk at UMass, who was subsequently dubbed Trigglypuff. The campus-outrage outrage internet attracts a lot of angry alt-right types, who are not afraid to get very, very mean and very, very personal.
Normally, these two internets are pretty separate, but they have been smushed together thanks to an email that was sent out by resident assistants at UMass, which has since gone viral. Campus Reform, a key node in the campus-outrage outrage online ecosystem, has the story:
Over the Labor Day weekend, Resident Assistants at the University of Massachusetts purportedly released an announcement stating that “crude” references to the deceased gorilla Harambe will be considered racist attacks against African-Americans.
In the statement, which was leaked to Twitter Monday, Resident Assistants calling themselves Ryan and Colleen inform students that “any negative remarks regarding ‘Harambe’ will be seen as a direct attack to our campus’s African-American community,” and warn them to “be careful of what gets written on your whiteboards, as well as what you write on them.”
The reasoning behind the RAs’ message is that there is an African-American heritage community on campus known as Harambee (Swahili for ““the point where all things come together”), so talking about a totally different Harambe in a jokey way is offensive.
Which, frankly, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As fodder for campus-outrage outrage, this has it all: inexperienced college students twisting themselves into a pretzel to be intersectional, the opportunity to blow up said students because their actions totally prove trigger warnings are part of a cuck conspiracy, and a dash of the racial resentment often expressed by online anti-campus-outrage warriors (the whiny “Oh, so BLACK PEOPLE can mention Harambe, but we can’t?” comments practically write themselves). Plus, it’s got Harambe!
This is an unexpected marriage of two corners of the internet with extremely active, passionate followings. And with the campus-outrage outrage brigade’s record of memes like Trigglypuff, College Liberal, and so on, it’s only a matter of time before Harambe gets thrown into the mix. When that happens, the only question is whether things get quite offensive, or wildly so.