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Kumail Nanjiani Tries to Kill the Harambe Meme, Gets Into It with Max Landis

By Dustin Rowles | Social Media | August 24, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Social Media | August 24, 2016 |

For those of you blissfully unaware of the obnoxious Harambe meme that’s taken over certain corners of social media in the last three months, allow me to fill you in. In May, a 4-year-old boy crawled into the enclosure of the gorilla Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo. The gorilla grasped the child and began dragging him around. A Cincinnati Zoo employee fatally shot Harambe with a rifle. The Internet went crazy. You know this already.

In the days after the death of Harambe, the outrage over the gorilla’s death intensified to a ridiculous degree. At some point, the exaggerated grief over the death of the gorilla took on a life of its own. It became a joke. It became something of a social-media competition to see who could express the most grief. People began to compare the death of Harambe to celebrity icons.

Among the many memes that have splintered from the death of Harambe was the “Dicks out for Harambe” meme. Danny Trejo got involved. It went viral.

It’s now been three months since the death of Harambe, but social media still hasn’t let it go. The Harambe meme refuses to die.

In fact, it may be worse now than ever.

It got so bad that the Cincinnati Zoo had to deactivate its Twitter account, pleading with social media to stop making memes, which of course is the sort of thing that’s only going to make it worse, because the bro-y, Reddit contingent of social media gets off on the fact that there’s an element of cruelty to their joke.

To me, the meme is not particularly funny not because of the meme itself (although, that too), but because of the general type of person who employs the meme. You know who I’m talking about. Mostly (but not entirely) dicks, and the kind of people that frequently use the term “false equivalency.” Ugh.

Yesterday, Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani had a “hot take” on the Harambe meme.

For all I know, Nanjiani was only half joking about their being a racist subtext to the Harambe meme, but to another subsection of the Internet, Harambe is associated with the sickening, racist-as-hell insults that bigoted jackasses Tweeted at Leslie Jones, temporarily forcing her off of Twitter, so there’s definitely a half-serious element to the tweet, as well. Indeed, I thought the Jones incident would kill the Harambe meme once and for all, because whether it was originally racist or not, it was, at the very least, being employed by racists.

Meanwhile, in a very civil disagreement, Max Landis disagrees with Nanjiani in the only way he knows how: By being obnoxious.

This is one of those arguments, to me, where you look at the people participating in the debate, you ignore the merits and you choose a side based on who is making the argument. Max Landis is an obnoxious white dude with a history of flaunting his white privilege insisting to a person of color that a meme is not about race, and Kumail Nanjiani is a smart, funny, sensitive guy with an amazing marriage and no such history of sketchy remarks.

Yeah, I’m going default to Kumail Nanjiani on this one, not just because Nanjiani is the superior person, but because that Harambe meme never really sat right with me, either.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.