Sportsmen and The Internet

Last weeks article got a few positive responses so here’s the other half of what was originally a very long rant. Again, I would love to know what you all think of it.

I like the internet, well mostly the idea of it actually. I live and work in Alberta, Canada. Thanks to the internet, people anywhere in the world can hear what I have to say, if they so choose. I can also hear them, which is great (but I sometimes wish I couldn’t). Thanks to the internet, I have had conversations with South Africans, Americans, Germans and many many more about what being a hunter and sportsmen is like for them in their country. It’s an amazing thing to think about when you compare it to what life was like 100 years ago. Back then you were lucky to have a pen pal that far away. The internet, and our usage of it, amazes me. Anyone of us can learn almost anything we want on the internet for free. Many universities publish their course materials and there are even free online education sites which means anyone who can get online can get the same (unofficial) education that any university offers. But how many do? I certainly haven’t logged into Khan Academy and learned about finance, history, or grammar (that last one I really should work on). So what do we use the internet for? Besides cat pictures that is. The lighter side is the sharing of ideas and making of friends. The darker side of the internet is that it provides both a voice and anonymity to absolutely anyone and in my experience, for the most part, this has never ended well, especially for those that fall into any minority of any culture or civilization.

The internet is rife with faceless racism, sexism, homophobia and hatred of really anything I can think of. I dare you to find me one thing, anything, that isn’t hated by someone on the internet. This bothers me deeply, I have a hard time dealing with hatred towards anyone. Despite being a straight, white, middle class (ish?) male, literally the most non-minority possible, I have more than once been driven to feeling physically ill from the awful things I have seen displayed on the internet. That is the result of both the best and worst thing on the internet.

No matter who you are and what you do, you can find people like you on the internet. If you have severe social anxiety and a love of muscle cars, there is probably a website full of people like you. On the same coin, if someone hates something they can find it and ridicule it from behind the mask that the internet so easily provides.

I love hunting and as you can tell I like talking about hunting. I’m a member of several social media groups and often converse and offer congratulations to other hunters. I occasionally offer tips, but honestly usually I’m asking for them. At the same time, those who hate hunting have easy access to ridicule and mock those who like hunting. Yes, the block button does exist but that’s more damage control than prevention, and at what point is it infringement on freedom of speech? Also blocking only acts to stop you from seeing what they are saying, not stopping them from saying it about you.

A few quick examples from my experience: When I first started blogging I also started a twitter account, I met many fellow sportsmen and sportswomen from all over the globe. However, I received enough hateful comments, mostly on account of a picture of my bear skin rug that I decided to shut down my account. No matter how much you block it seems there is always someone willing to tell you they hope something bad happens to you and your family. I have a lot of screen shots of the hate mail, but most of them contain the kind of language I don’t want on this website. On my pinterest account I will occasionally post photos from my blog with links to the stories in an attempt at shameless self-promotion. Since then I have seen my photos be “pinned” exclusively to boards titled “evil” or “scum” or anything along those lines. It’s an interesting feeling to know that some people believe you fall into the same social circles as war criminals, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and dog fighting rings. I’ve never considered myself an evil person. I help stranded people on the highway. I’ve walked back into the story to pay for an item the teller missed scanning. I make point of holding the door for people. To my knowledge the only evil shortcoming I have, according to the internet, is my love of hunting. Am I a bad person? I don’t feel like a bad person. Do bad people FEEL like bad people? I have looked into the science behind conservation and the ethics of hunting an animal and it still adds up as acceptable and reasonable to me. Of course I am likely prone to confirmation bias.

I intend to keep hunting as long as I can, until it be age, fatal accident, or complete outlawing of hunting that prevents me from doing it. Based on my cautious nature, love of adventure, and the way the wind seems to blow in our modern times, all three seem equally likely. It’s just a sad reality for hunters that we are severely outnumbered by people who don’t like hunting or at the very least are indifferent towards it, meaning they aren’t likely to help us stand up for our rights. Reading my old hunting novels and articles it saddens me to see how much ground hunters have lost in regards to rights. Things like countries banning hunting all together and other countries banning import of trophies no matter how legally they were hunted. Oddly I have found sources that claim both of these things have actually increased poaching and decreased animal populations. But I’m sure we could find people claiming the opposite. I do think that at this rate I’m already living a somewhat antiquated lifestyle. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if someday my grandkids show off my old bear skin rug, deer heads, and my old hunting rifle (likely rendered inoperable by law at that point) to their friends as a novelty, much like you would show off old farm and pioneer equipment. Almost in a “can you believe people used to do this” sort of way. I always wanted to be a cowboy, I guess I’ll just have to settle for being a dying breed.

I am a rather small time guy in the blogging world. I have low enough traffic that if you email me your mailing address I’ll send you a thank you card with a letter inside, for real, I’ve got the time. As such the backlash I receive is comparatively small and inconsequential, outside of some hurt feelings and the occasional laugh at creative language, it doesn’t actually change my life. I am, however, often amazed at the infamy and treatment hunters get once their photos get more publicity than usual. It’s often famous hunters called out by famous actors, or organizations but in rare occasions its people with about the same fame as me, who just have the wrong person stumble into a photo of an amazing hunting accomplishment. Next thing you know their face is all over the internet “debating” just how evil they are, followed by death threats and personal attacks as well as attacks on the entire institution of hunters. If its men it’s usually attacks on their masculinity, if its women it’s usually attacks at their physical appearance. Which, if you ask me, shows our societies underlying insecurities and shameful double standards. Is hunting wrong? There is science on both sides and more than enough people to argue it. I don’t know the answer, I just know my opinion and I am happy to keep it. All I know for sure is that it strikes me as unacceptable to talk to each other like this, whether it’s anonymous or not, and I have seen this hatred comes from both sides of the fence. On the plus side, everyone ever attacked by the seemingly singular hive mind of the internet has had their infamy short lived. Look up any old controversial issue or news story, look up those tweets with millions of angry comments, they’re nearly abandoned. People have marched on to the next hot debate, leaving the earth scorched and salted behind them. I’m sure Melissa Bachmann is still having a hard time getting sponsors and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Corey Knowlton was still expending a large portion of his net worth on private security for his young family. Axelle Despiegelaere lost her modelling contract, and likely won’t find a company willing to take the heat for something so controversial. These people’s lives were thrown into a wild tail spin because the internet didn’t like what they do and even after the mob has moved on there’s still a lot to clean up. Keep in mind that these people weren’t breaking the law in any way, shape, or form when they became the subject of public scrutiny.

You’re probably asking yourselves “Where the hell is he going with this?” Honestly I don’t have an answer. Sorry about that. I guess I just felt like sharing my thoughts on globalization making adventure a much rarer thing. Honestly that’s probably for the best considering that more people have access to medicine and the average life span has increased dramatically in most places. I also just wanted to get it out there that I think the internet holds up a mirror that has the capacity to show us the worst part of ourselves and our society. Again, I’ll still vote to keep it because it does do some good and the potential for it is amazing and I know somewhere out there someone is using it for good, even if that’s just self-improvement. Until then I suppose I’ll do my best to stay outside and try to ignore the digital hatred I get for being who and what I am. Sorry to bring everybody down, I’ll try and have an actual story for you soon and I’ll even try to make it funny. Lastly, since you suffered through these two hodgepodge articles mapping my strange thought process, I was serious about that thank you card thing and if you don’t believe me send me your mailing address to TysonGoesOutside@gmail.com


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