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Outrage Over GoDaddy CEO’s Zimbabwe Elephant Kill

by Steve Weinstein
Contributor
Wednesday Apr 13, 2011
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Since the CEO of Internet domain-name registrar GoDaddy.com killed an elephant last week, outrage has been mounting against him. Calls for boycotting the company are increasing from gay-rights, animal-rights and human-rights activists.

Like so many people these days, Bob Parsons apparently believes (or believed) in over-sharing on the Internet. He assumed that people would want to see him killing an elephant in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe.

Judging from the near-universal condemnation of the video, he was wrong.

Parsons spent what British gay activist Peter Tatchell calls "a small fortune" to shoot the elephant. Tatchell, an outspoken opponent of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, even once attempted to have the leader arrested on a trip to London.

Mugabe, who was initially hailed as a freedom fighter when the nation, formerly known as Rhodesia, gained its independence from Great Britain, has since become an isolated leader, who by nearly all accounts is a cruel tyrant. While his people are literally dying of hunger, his wife was photographed (and attempted to have the photographer beaten up) in Hong Kong buying expensive designer clothing.

Mugabe notoriously undermined the fertile nation’s agricultural system by systematically allowing rural blacks to terrorize white farmers, who have since fled to South Africa or Europe. That left their once-productive estates in a state of ruin.

Mugabe has undermined every election and imprisoned and tortured his opponents. The nation is also a hotbed of HIV infection, with no real prevention or public-service announcements on precautions against the virus.

In the midst of all of this chaos, Mugabe has made it a cornerstone of his public policy to vilify gay men. He has blamed them for the country’s ills, and has made Zimbabwe one of the most homophobic regimes on the planet. Gay men are hunted down by mobs, beaten by police and incarcerated in horrible conditions.

In the middle of this human-rights catastrophe, despite international calls for a boycott of the nation, Parsons came in to do some old-fashioned big-game hunting. Not anticipating the media firestorm, Parsons attempted to justify his actions by claiming the elephant was trampling sorghum fields. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others know that the corrupt government in Zimbabwe encourages big-game hunters to come there for sport and make excuses after the fact if there is controversy.

Interestingly, even other hunters are ridiculing Parsons. Vanity Fair reports that "upper-class hunting enthusiasts dismiss Parsons’ assault on the elephant as a cowardly excuse for a genuine safari. People say that his method of waiting for a wild animal to come feed on domestic crops -- he bided his time undercover until his elephant [arrived?] to graze on planted sorghum -- is equivalent to strategically baiting animals, which normally carries pejorative connotations among affluent sportsman."

Another hunter called him "a rich fat American paying for a ’canned hunt,’ pretending he is doing it as an act of condescending kindness, starving Africans behaving uncontrollably. It really nails all the great stereotypes."

Parsons has positioned himself as a renegade CEO. He wears an earring and writes a blog in which he brags about his personal life and business ventures.

In truth, elephants are among the most highly socialized of animals. Offspring stay with their fathers for 15 years and mothers their entire lives. When one elephant is killed, the whole family mourns.

Various groups such as Change.org are urging those who don’t agree with Parsons’ patronizing of Mugabe’s regime to contact him at sitesuggestions@godaddy.com.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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