If you’re a normal, well-adjusted human being, you might vaguely remember Harambe, the endangered gorilla who was fatally shot by zookeepers at a Cincinnati zoo after a young boy fell into his exhibit pit back in May. If you’re a Weird Internet Person, then you have probably never stopped thinking about Harambe since his death. The web has been whirling with conspiracy theories centered around the *real* cause of the gorilla’s death. The conspiracy theories are, of course, both inaccurate and (most of the time) passed along as a joke. But the Harambe obsession is all too real.
The latest fixation among the Harambe meme crowd is George W. Bush. This particular meme is sort of a play on another more familiar Bush-centered meme, the simple assertion that “Bush Did 9/11.” This time, however, the saying goes, “Bush Did Harambe.” Like the Bush-9/11 meme, Bush-Harambe is often used satirically, as a way of mocking fervent conspiracy theorists.
The exact origin of the Bush-Harambe meme is unclear. The earliest hit for a Twitter search of “Bush Harambe” shows Twitter user @billseph_is_god may have been the first to say that Bush killed Harambe on the social media outlet, making the claim just one day after Harambe’s death. But the initial tweet gained little traction, garnering only two retweets.
Bush killed harambe
— Jacan (@billseph_is_god) May 29, 2016
It’s entirely possible the meme was birthed somewhere deep in the Internet’s many circles of hell, such as Reddit or 4Chan. Regardless, what really propelled the Bush Killed Harambe meme into the mainstream was an impromptu appearance on national television. During July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, someone managed to get a crudely made “Bush Did Harambe” sign into the frame of an MSNBC broadcast:
— Marin Cogan (@marincogan) July 21, 2016
Since then, Bush-Harambe has taken on a life of its own. A few days ago, the venerable men’s lifestyle magazine Esquire plucked some old photos from an Internet archive showing Bush during a 1996 visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, where Harambe was born. Bush, then governor of Texas, is seen posing with a female ape named Kayla, who just happens to be Harambe’s mother. The images went viral, and the meme community is pointing to the photos as incontrovertible proof that George W. killed Harambe, or at least that he was directly involved in the gorilla’s death.
This is, of course, is entirely ridiculous. But let’s play along anyway.
— Esquire (@esquire) August 12, 2016
Look closely at the portrait of the soon-to-be president of the United States and the soon-to-be mother of Harambe. You can almost feel the mutual respect pulsating between the two historically important primates. Bush might have imagined what rich life experiences could await this brilliant rare silverback’s future offspring. A spot on the Fortune 500 list? The first gorilla on the moon? The presidency, perhaps? Bush is obviously enamored with Harambe’s majestic mother. Kayla, meanwhile, is clearly thinking one thing: bananas. It is a deeply tender moment.
Which, of course, makes it hard to imagine Bush deciding to assassinate Harambe twenty years later. No, Bush did not kill Harambe. So, then, who did? To find out, we’ll first consider the king of all murder motives: jealousy.
There are a few intriguing candidates. Perhaps Dick Cheney, longing for Bush’s undivided attention, feared being replaced by a male gorilla vying for dominance. But Bush and Cheney broke up nearly eight years ago now, and they had both moved on from each other long before Harambe’s death. So Cheney can’t really be considered a serious suspect.
In August, Toronto Mayor Norm Kelly was awfully defensive on Twitter, even appearing to deflect accusations that he killed Harambe back onto Bush:
Guys, please stop tweeting at me about harambe. I don't know if it was an inside job, if Bush did it, or anything else for that matter.
— Norm Kelly (@norm) August 11, 2016
Could this have just been a desperate attempt to frame Bush? Maybe. Interestingly, a rare silverback gorilla died in a Calgary zoo only eleven days before Harambe’s death. The official cause of death was “heart disease.” Maybe Kelly, still reeling from his own country’s loss, wanted to make sure no other nation could enjoy what he could no longer have. It’s not an impossible theory. But it’s not the strongest case, either.
There has only been one other animal known to have captured George W.’s heart: Barney, the first dog. After a deep dive into the facts of the case, it’s hard to ignore the circumstantial evidence that appears to tie Barney to Harambe’s murder. Sure, the beloved dog was born in 2000, four years after the infamous photo was taken, but that doesn’t mean Barney couldn’t still have stumbled upon the photo by accident—maybe Bush didn’t clear his Internet history, and Barney, already suspicious of his owner’s infidelity, had his worst fears realized that way.
Barney was also known to have violent tendencies. The tiny terrier terrorized a Reuters reporter in 2008, biting the White House correspondent’s finger. That same year, Barney drew blood after biting the wrist of a Boston Celtics public relations person. Of course, Barney passed away in 2013. But it’s entirely possible—perhaps even probable—that Barney’s last dying bark was a callous death wish: Kill. Harambe.
Are we saying for certain that Barney ordered a hit on Harambe? No. Of course not. That would be irresponsible. We’ll never know for sure who, or what, killed Harambe (except back in the real world, we do know for sure, and there was likely nothing nefarious about what happened).
All we are saying is, this new photo really makes you think…