Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stumbling into a low place

I used to live in a huge U.S. city: relatives would tell me to be careful because sometimes you can be a perfectly okay neighbourhood and then just make one wrong turn and end up in some dangerous scuzz-hole. I mainly ignored their warnings, obviously, survived my recklessness, and, as a result, saw extraordinary places I would not have otherwise.

But the Internet is a wholly different place. Of course, sexual pornography is never further than around the next clicked corner, as are batteries of white supremacists, Islamic polemicists and the like. But this week I happened into a fetid not-so-little backwater whose existence I would have preferred never to even know about much less have witnessed.

While helping my daughter work on a presentation about wolverines and checking out what YouTube had for footage of this rare, cagey and fearsome species, I happened across one harmless enough clip wherein the wolverine was chasing a much bigger bear up a tree. That seemed kind of amusing so I opened it, and... as frequent YouTubers know, when you view one video, others ostensibly related to it appear in a side bar. Suddenly, involuntarily, I was in a screwy netherworld rife with crude footage of deadly confrontations between various wild and domestic creatures which, for the most part, would never encounter each other in nature. Tigers were pitted against black bears and lions, lynxes versus cougars, pit-bulls against wolves, poisonous snakes against birds of prey, and crocodiles taking on damn near every kind of adversary.

Just as troubling as the content of this repulsive stuff is the copious dialogue - if such it can be called - of ostensible humans e-blabbering their commentary underneath each video. With more vehemence than beery hockey fans, anonymous rooters with nicknames like Panikmaker and Hickman13 triumphantly proclaim the superiority of their "home team" predator and, inevitably - though it hardly seems possible - stoop lower and lower in their mutual recriminations. "A tiger could own your f---ing polar bear you dumb motherf-----" etc. etc.

One has the distinct impression of overhearing lunatics who can get their ya-ya's off only vicariously through violence among wildlife they wish they were like... a pervert's version of the animal daemons in the Golden Compass.

But, it seems, these aren't just a few twisted odd ducks: YouTube tracks the number of viewings and for most of these videos there have been 100s of thousands of visits recorded. One clip of a tiger/lion encounter has been watched over 5 million times! Moreover, I soon discovered as I pressed with morbid fascination into deeper recesses that this manly preoccupation has been institutionalized in a wide array of websites including ones with such telling titles as and [Note: I am not providing direct links (a) because it is ugly stuff that you should search out only if you enjoy excrement; and (b) putting in links makes the crap all the more likely to turn up when kids do searches about wild animals on engines such as Google].

Naturally, because I am who I am, I left a scattering of mocking and contemptuous remarks, just to stir up the dim-wit sadists. I argued that a ruffed grouse would lay waste to their tigers and black mambas and referred to non-existent scientific literature on the inherent violence of gallinaceous birds. This seems to have found its mark, as a flurry of hate-mail soon landed in the box of the email address that I keep especially for such people and occasions. Most amounted to slightly less sophisticated versions of primary school "sez-yous" but with added epithets advising me to undertake various anatomically impossible maneuvers.

Any way, my latest windmill to tilt at involves tracking down whomever makes these videos, finding out whether the footage is real, and, as appropriate, bringing this sordid preoccupation to the attention of animal welfare bodies. I shall advise later on outcomes.