The BIG challenge with the growth of social media and the deluge of opinions masquerading as facts constantly being produced by let’s call them ‘Zucker suckers’ is that the usual time for fact checking and rational questions is lost in a constant tidal wave of new questions:- wailing and outrage become the standard reaction to things that never actually happened because it is the only way that an individual viewpoint is heard as it is reinforced by other users. Who cares if you were there or not you heard it from your friend who had a friend who met someone… and just like the childhood game of Chinese Whispers the impossible becomes factual.
If a story involves animals and someone somewhere in the World is OUTRAGED by that then that is even better as it just might get picked up by a desperate journalist looking for their latest fix…sorry, copy. At this point with luck it might, with a bit more outrage, in combination with the old stalwarts smoke, mirrors and frozen roadkill, go viral at which point you can open your wallet and wait for the cash to flow in. Job done.
Eventually you will discover your audience is so desperate for the next outrage there is no need to wait for a new event, with just the right amount of emotional incontinence and story telling it is possible to turn boring historical non-incidents into cash cows that can be revised for use by more specialist audiences such as agoraphobic class warriors and ‘fur’ baby fanatics.
There will be occasions when the few boring authorities out there that are not ‘on message’ require difficult and annoying things like ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ to a certain standard. At this point you can ‘cock a snook’ at the judiciary, hold your head up high and submit your evidence to ‘Zucker Sucker’ Channel 3 for video viewing by your converts. Who cares if the truth is a casualty as long as people keep paying for attacking hunting people.
All this is of course is fantasy isn’t it? Surely the governance of Hunting is on the case? They are prepared for this behavior, hunt committees have been engaged in an up to date ongoing dialogue and understand their responsibilities to the hunt, ALL hunt staff, hounds and the wider community. Those that govern hunting have to accept, even if they cannot understand, that hunting needs more than tradition to support it when under attack from groups determined to perpetuate a number of myths to prop up their own prejudices. Please, please tell us that those who have somehow drifted in to position of ‘leadership’ in hunting do actually lead on trying to combat this?
Wrong. Very, very wrong. For many years now we’ve been continuously told not to rock the boat, not to put forward our side, and like the ostrich stick your head in the sand to wait for it all to go away. When hunt supporters are physically attacked, or subjected to some of the worst forms of online ‘trolling’ by antagonistic keyboard warriors, there has been a total lack of any kind of support, counter-statements, or actions to highlight the nastiness as well as inaccuracy of messages being spread about the public domain. Could it be that this is because that some amongst the self-appointed leaders in the hunting world are far more interested in protecting their own fiefdoms and perpetuating their pet internal battles than in doing anything useful to counter the ever more hysterical claims being thrown into the mix? The problem with that attitude is that it encourages a belief that because we are not defending ourselves, the accusations and insinuations MUST be right because if they weren’t, we would object more. Wouldn’t we? It’s an easy step from that to a belief that because it’s in the papers / on the television / on the internet with no counter-argument being presented, then it must be true.
If those who claim to be leaders of hunting organisations refuse to lead a proactive campaign of education and promotion of ALL of the positives of hunting, and make the changes necessary to satisfy society’s norms in the 21st century rather than years long past, then the sad truth is that there will come a time when there is nothing left for them to lead and that their own apathy or intransigence will have been the most significant factor in doing the damage. Social media and the rise of the opinion of the ‘Zucker sucker’ isn’t the problem, it is nothing more than a mere symptom of a lack of willingness or ability to prepare and encourage hunting’s stakeholders and wider community to adapt to a new environment.
Transformation is scary, but to be successful it requires as a minimum:- effective governance, sanctions and leadership. Wouldn’t it be great if we had those in place sooner rather than later? The alternative is to just continue to click ‘like’ on pretty pictures of our friends on horses and cute hounds without any consideration for the wider battles, until the day those pictures stop appearing.