As I've said to many people over the past week, it always seems like the thing you put the least amount of effort into gets you the most attention. The video I shot of the Daily Show camel falling down on Wisconsin Ave. is the best example.
I wasn't even there reporting I was on my way to the gym and I heard one of the workers from the brat stand exclaim, "Is that a fucking camel?" Luckily, the flip-cam I had used to shoot videos of the protests all week was still in my coat pocket. Unfortunately, it was full of content from the previous week, so I had to keep deleting previous clips to make room for new content, but for seemingly the first time in my videographing career, I managed to catch the important stuff.
As painful as it was to watch the camel struggle on the ground, it didn't occur to me that the stunt, if performed correctly, was cruel. Certainly not more cruel than, say, horse racing. I remembered reading that Al Lasee raised camels in this climate, for instance. So when the camel got up I figured it was a happy ending to a near-tragic event. I left and went to the gym.
It's been interesting seeing the response to the video. Some think it's funny, some think it's outrageous. All three cable news networks used the footage somehow, either online or on TV. The description given in this Fox News article was comically off-base:
The video shows the camel being jabbed in the neck and marched around a small fence, before becoming stuck between the metal bars.
The frightened animal is then aggressively yanked forward until it slips and falls in the ice while the fence falls down. Despite the animal cowering down, handlers still try to forcefully pull up the camel.
From my limited understanding of camels, there was nothing violent about the handling of the creature before its fall, and all interaction with it after the fall was geared towards saving it. Nothing more, nothing less. But it's interesting catching a first-hand glimpse of Fox News turn rather mundane facts into a dizzying narrative of scandal.
Equally intriguing was the response from Ann Althouse, who was not only outraged about what she saw as animal cruelty, but saw the break in footage as evidence that I had submitted to the "authority" of the Daily Show's John Oliver, who is seen towards the end of the first video telling me to turn the camera off. And of course, she mentioned the article that I wrote about her last year.
I kind of hate driving traffic to the Isthmus (and to the same reporter who wrote an article trashing me as an egotist because I declined to give him an interview), because it seems to be treating this as a kooky, quirky YouTube moment. It's not. It's animal cruelty.
...The reporter, Jack Craver, apparently obliges John Oliver who tells him to shut off the camera. The animal struggles for 10 minutes, we hear in the final video, but there's no video of most of that - it seems because Craver bowed to the authority of a comedian. Craver refers to Oliver as a "correspondent." Hello? He's an actor.
However, the really fun stuff comes from the email correspondence I had with Althouse, which she posts on her blog. Here's one of the points I made:
It's news to me that my article that you gave a generally positive review last year, and that your husband gave "a solid A-" was meant to trash you.
And here's her response:
Well, you need to think a lot harder about a lot of things. You are quite unsophisticated, and I don't particularly enjoy embarrassing you because you are or were a UW student and I am a teacher.
She then added more to that sermon on her blog.
... See if you can figure out why we addressed your article like that. See? I'm a teacher. I'm trying to teach you to think better. I'm sure you know you were trying to trash me and I am sure your colleagues at the Isthmus knew that and I'm sure the folks around the law school saw it that way. Now, be a man and admit that, and then go back and think through why Meade and I patronized you the way we did.
Well there's a glimpse of the University of Wisconsin for you. Although some of its students may lack sophistication, its professors are more than willing to set them straight.
For the record, however, one commenter who seems to know a thing or two about camels put the event into perspective:
...It is also clear that the animal IS trained. He is very well mannered, trying to obey his master, but the master had no idea what he was doing, and got the poor camel in trouble.
Camels and other camelids like alpacas and llamas are well suited for winter weather as they spend much of their time in mountains in their native lands, and have special winter growth that keeps them toasty warm. This is a Dromedary camel which sees temperatures of 30 degrees in its natural habitat, so the weather is not a factor. The same padding on the feet that protects the camel from the hot sand protects it fromt he cold of the snow and ice.
There are thousands of camels, alpacas and llamas in Wisconsin year round (I raise some myself). No doubt this camel is local, since there are plenty around the area.
I do disagree with using the poor guy as a publicity stunt. They are great animals and it is horrible to see one treated this way. The point here is that the camel was caught in a freak accident that the handler could have avoided. The poor camel was probably terrified by all the shouting, to begin with.