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Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm Only Here for the Comments...

"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

- Mark Twain

"Everybody is a bully on the internet."

- Scott Adams

There are few things which get me more excited first thing in the morning than to log on to the blog and see that someone has left a comment.  On the rare occasions when this happens, it's usually followed by a sigh of disappointment when I see that it was (in all likelihood) for one of the two Blackfish guest editorials (seriously, is no one interested in anything other than orcas?).  Sometimes I read an interesting, well-thought-out logical response (this can come from either side of the debate).  Other times I find something driven by passion and emotion (this also can come from either side).

And sometimes I find crazy drivel...

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it allows people to share information and opinions around the world.  The terrible thing about the internet is that it allows people to share misinformation and opinions around the world.  Whenever I read an article about zoos online, I scroll to the comments when I'm done to see what people have to say.  Some people are pro-zoo, some against.  I really don't have a problem with anti-zoo people - my job is to understand their opinions and try to win them over.  My problem is with people who just make stuff up and spout nonsense.  My favorite example from recent weeks was some conspiracy theorist who insisted that all zoo animals still came from the wild, and that we only pretended that any were born in zoos (presumably, we let the "mommy" animals get really fat, snatch a baby from the wild and put it on display, and then give "mommy" liposuction the next day).  People who claim all sorts of insider information which is bogus and wrong just drive me up the wall.

Of course, this online phenomena of craziness isn't limited to the zoo world.  It's in all things, from politics (especially politics) to entertainment.  There's a lot of it focused around animals, though.  Read an article about wolves, for instance, and you'll find people claiming to be farmers from the western states who face rabid packs of wolves ripping their herds to shreds and attacking their children nightly.  In reality, these are probably folks who have never been closer to a wolf than the local zoo.  Read an article of rattlesnakes and you'll hear how someone's granddaddy killed a rattler 20 feet long... notably longer than the snakes actually get.  In the anonymity of the internet, anyone can say anyone.

For that matter, as far as anyone here knows, I'm not even a zookeeper.  All of these anecdotes I tell could be made up.  You'll just have to take my word on it...

Not everything on the internet stays hidden forever though.  Consider Big Cat Rescue, an anti-zoo big cat "sanctuary" from Florida.  It turns out they were just caught paying strangers to write positive reviews, comments, and other nice things about them online.  Not only does it seem shameful that that is how they use their donations (instead of providing the best possible care for their animals), it just really makes them seem sketchy.  Likewise, SeaWorld didn't do themselves any favors when it was found out that they tried tilting online polls in their favor by having lots of employees vote from work.

Even when lies are called out on the internet, they still remain... forever.  Anyone doing a Google search can find that lie somewhere and then quote it as their source.  It can be hard to take things at face value on the internet, especially in situations where "sources of information" are anonymous.  The best thing to do, I find, is to do your research and make your own decisions.  And if you can't ignore the crazies in the comments section, at least learn to laugh at them.

This tiger has absolutely nothing to do with the article.  I just like showing pictures of animals...

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