4 ways the online hatred aimed at Melissa Bachman is misdirected

By Stuart Thomas: Senior reporter | Small Business

By now you’ve most likely seen the hunting photos US TV presenter Melissa Bachman posted online of her South African trip. Judging by the fallout, if you’re anything like the more reactionary parts of the internet, you were probably disgusted by them too.

The anger directed toward Bachman for posting a photo of herself smiling with a male lion she had supposedly hunted and killed, saw her shut down her Facebook profile, make her Twitter account private and has also resulted on a Change.org petition aiming to have her banned from ever entering South Africa again.

The petition, which has over 95 000 signatories so far, calls her “an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation this country prides itself on”.

It’s not the first time Bachman has been at the wrong end of a petition. In 2012, an online campaign saw her axed from National Geographic Channel reality series “Ultimate Survivor Alaska” because, well, she’s a hunter.

While the images Bachman was posting online were no doubt disturbing to a large number of people on social media, there are a couple of things about the various online reactions that suggest trying to get her banned from a country, or hoping “she gets breast cancer and dies in pain”, as one tweeter put it, might be a little misplaced.

Please note that we are in no way condoning canned lion hunting nor condemning responsible hunting done in the name of conservation. That’s not our argument. We’re merely suggesting that the rage directed at Bachman could have been sent down more effective online avenues.

1. She was well within her rights to post the images

Let’s get one thing straight: as things stand, Bachman has every right to post whatever images she wants to her various social media profiles, so long as they conform to the norms and standards put in place by the social media platforms. Now those terms and conditions aren’t always perfect — as the difficulty in getting pro-rape pages removed from Facebook demonstrates — or morally correct, but they are there.

While you might object to the photos being put up, it does seem that all the animals were hunted legally. As such, whatever moral stand-point you take, she has as much right to put pictures up as any other hunter.

You might argue that this shouldn’t be the case. If so, then no one should be able to do it. In that instance however, the gripe should be with Facebook rather than Bachman. You don’t cure an illness by treating the symptoms. Which brings me to my next point.

2. It’s going after the wrong target

Remember that online petition I mentioned earlier? If it goes through (highly unlikely given that there is no evidence that Bachman engaged in illegal hunting activity), what will it have actually achieved? One woman will have been blocked from entering South Africa and not much else. Thousands of hunters from around will still be able to enter the country and hunt legally. As political cartoonist Jeremy Nell points out, if your issue is with the hunting of lions, then surely a petition aimed at getting the South African government to ban lion hunting would be more effective, and realistically possible, in the long run.If you want to create petitions and whatever else, then direct your anger at South African authorities who permit such hunting.

— Jerm (@mynameisjerm) November 18, 2013His point has extra merit, when you consider the fact that South Africa isn’t exactly averse to regulating the hunting industry and a future ban on canned lion hunting is certainly not unthinkable.

In fact, there are a number of petitions on Change.org to stop the practice of canned lion hunting, in which the animals are kept in a small area with little to no chance of escape. None of them, as far as I can tell, has anywhere near as many signatures as the one attempting to keep Bachman out of South Africa.

3. It has the potential to become another example of slacktivism

On that note, one can’t help but wonder how many of the people directing online vitriol toward Bachman are actively involved in conservation, or have even donated money to a conservation effort in the last few years.

Many of them may well volunteer both their time and money, but the whole approach taken by those who’ve signed the petition has a very faint whiff of Kony 2012 about it. If you’re so inclined, you get to feel like you’ve directed your anger into a righteous cause by signing the petition but, as I’ve already noted, it’s unlikely to really achieve much.

If you really want to help wildlife without leaving your desk, there are loads of wildlife conservation funds who can do something tangible with your money. It doesn’t take long to find them either.

4. You’re letting in the trolls

Take a look at the Stop Melissa Bachman Facebook page. It may have been started with the best of intentions (angry as the people who started it likely were), but it’s pretty much become a stomping ground for trolls.

How many people commenting on the page genuinely feel passionately about the issue and how many are there to sow discord and cause arguments? With a proliferation of comments like “The way I see it, to stop the hunters is to just shoot them, nobody will miss them…..really”, “The person that created this site should be fucking shot!” and ” Don’t knock hunting if you can’t afford it!!!” where do you think the balance of power lies?

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