Blackfish Documentary and the Success of Online Activism


Looks like it’s time to weigh in on the documentary Blackfish and the effect it is having on anyone with access to the internet. Blackfish, originally broadcasted by CNN, covers the capture and training of Orca (also known as “Killer” Whales) for the amusement of families all around America. It especially focuses on Tilikum, one of the original whales caught, and also the male used for breeding, who has been linked to the deaths of three people. Anyone who has seen the documentary seems to come to one conclusion–this process is wrong. The subjugation of any species for the amusement of another should be at the very least questioned, if not outright railed against.

That’s where Willie Nelson, Joan Jett, the Barenaked Ladies Heart, Cheap Trick, and more come into play. These musicians, while perhaps not at the height of their popularity, were each going to be holding concerts in February 2014 which no doubt would have added revenue to the park. However, after viewing the documentary Blackfish (end link) the artists listed pulled out of the concerts.

As warm and fuzzy as this makes some bleeding-hearts feel, although Willie probably does care a great deal about animal rights, he wasn’t sitting around watching Blackfish and calling up his closest musician buddies, gripped with sympathy for the whales. petitioned these artists and many others, asking them to cancel their concerts instead of supporting Sea World. The artists cancelled in response. Several things are at play here, all of which are very interesting.

The impact of is defintely on display. Based on several thousand signatures, a handful of so-called legacy acts with large, stable fan bases cancelled what would’ve been lucrative events. It’s nice to know that your signatures do actually make a difference. I know I’ve personally signed petitions and wondered if anything became of them.

Another thing at work is the willingness of the public to latch on to a cause with very little information. I would be curious to see the age group of the petitioners. People in general are always looking for causes to latch onto, but the current generation especially seeks causes with very little need for details or pesky things like “facts.” A well-narrated documentary with statistics, names, and important people being interviewed is usually enough to light a fire under the average Millienial’s texting finger.

We are living in an era where information is funneled toward us constantly–all we need do is turn our focus in one direction and we get a great big-picture, biased by whoever presents it (much like this article is biased by my own views on the subject). You can become an ‘expert’ overnight on any subject you choose. But how much do we really learn? Sea World does a large amount of work with its release program. It also helps raise money for many animal focused causes. In the end, I think the boycotting is a good thing–it’s not going to bankrupt the company, but it will hopefully cause people to take a closer look at the industries they support, the causes the sometimes blindly follow, and how much impact their voice can have.



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