Millions expressed their outrage this week, when news made the rounds on social media that the western black rhino has gone extinct. Sad though they may be, however, people are missing one very important point: the annihilation of this innocent creature is also a superb opportunity to write a shamelessly contrary thinkpiece for the sole purpose of squeezing a few extra clicks out of the reading public.
It’s perfect. No one in their right mind would ever come out in favor of wiping out an entire species; they’d have to be ignorant or downright evil. But if they wrote an inflammatory article to that effect, a lot of people would want to read it out of morbid curiosity. In fact, thousands of angry, morally indignant readers would share the article with their friends based on the senselessly provocative headline alone.
Because you people just can’t help yourselves.
Could you imagine someone actually trying to make the case that the black rhino somehow deserved to be hunted down, one by one, by poachers who know they can sell their horns on the Asian black market for up to $50,000 a pound? Reprehensible. Unthinkable. To even attempt to do so would be akin to aiding and abetting this horrifying act.
Yet it would also make for an enticing, almost pornographically cynical, essay that would surely stand out, if only briefly, in the toxic, gushing river of disposable word-garbage that is the internet.
The writer of such an article would not have to do much to support the flimsy premise: providing one or two facts that vaguely support this point of view and accusing the anonymous pro-rhino masses of hypocrisy would suffice. He might write something like this:
As it turns out, the International Union for Conservation of Nature actually declared the western black rhino extinct back in 2011, and none had even been seen since 2006. But surely, anyone who’s genuinely concerned about the black rhino’s plight would have already known this. Nor does its disappearance compare to the mounting ecological disasters that face our species and our planet—looming disasters to which the average reader is contributing through their lifestyle and daily actions.
Then the writer would probably go on to say something about how internet activism is ultimately little more than an emotional release valve, and that the electricity needed to write a Facebook post about how evil poachers are is more potentially destructive to our planet than anything those poachers have ever done themselves. By this point, the writer might even start to convince himself that he’s actually making some kind of valid commentary.
But, let’s be honest, no one’s reading this far anyway.
So please, spread this article around on as many social media platforms as possible, to ensure that the western black rhino does not die in vain. If nothing else, it provided a terrific chance to write an article that will be spread around on as many social media platforms as possible. In the meantime, let’s hope the white rhino doesn’t follow in its footsteps because I don’t really want to have to do this again.