The luring and killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe started an online frenzy against big game hunters. Within hours of the story going public Minnesota Dentist Walter J. Palmer was no longer a free man. The outrage of people commenting on social media spurred a frenzy of activity which resulted in closing down his dental practice and petitions to the White House to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe.
Just a few days later an accountant at Idaho State University, Sabrina Corgatelli got in on the game. While it seemed Walter Palmer was trying to fly under the radar, Corgatelli did anything but. She set up a Facebook page especially for the hunt along with posting on Instagram. Was she looking for her fifteen minutes of fame? Her photos and comments revel in the game kills she has made and taunts the “haters” as she calls them. One of these posts was accompanied by an image of a smiling Leonardo DiCaprio in his role as the Great Gatsby, captioned: ‘To all the haters – stay tuned, you’re gonna have so much more to be p***ed about.’ But the picture that outraged most people is one of her next to the giraffe she killed.
Her employer Idaho State University has been eerily quiet. In one twitter post someone posted that ISU stated that Corgatelli’s actions have nothing to do with the University. While that is unconfirmed, let me remind all employers that there is very little separation between personal and professional when an internet outrage is sparked. All it tells me for sure is that Idaho State has no idea how to handle this crisis. I put in a call to Dr. Adrienne King who is shown on the ISU website as the person in charge of crisis communications.
Dr. King called me back and I asked her why there was no official response from the University. She told me that they did post a full statement on the Idaho State University Facebook page on August 4. I asked her how the University reacted to Corgatelli’s actions and again I was referred to their Facebook page. These responses were not in keeping with an organization who knows how to deal with an online crisis. I asked if the University had a Social Media policy and she admitted that they don’t. “I imagine that we will have discussions towards that now” she replied.
Social media policies, however, cannot be the only cornerstone that determines if an organization is going to take action or not. Is it in the best interest of any organization to keep an employee who caused such an international stir and flaunts killing of big game in our faces? Is trial and conviction by internet a viable precursor for a corporation to take action? In some instances that has been so.
Remember Justine Sacco? The woman who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding I’m white!” She tweeted this out to her 170 followers just before her fight took off and didn’t even think anyone would repy. But by the time her flight landed the Twittersphere exploded with outrage. Her employer fired her by the time she landed in Cape Town. I think she was the last to know.
Then this past January UK stockbroker Rahan Qadar was fired after a tweet joking about hitting a cyclist. “Think I just hit a cyclist. But I’m late for work so had to drive off lol”. He went by the name @RayQ18. He told police he was joking but his employer Hargreaves Lansdown did not take the joke lightly and terminated Qadar’s employment
Both hunters declared that what they were doing was legal – as if that is the barometer for what is right. Just because it is legal doesn’t make it right. I still can’t find Idaho State University’s official statement regarding Sabrina Corgatelli on their Facebook page. They have set up a forum that allows you to post your comments but it is in a hidden away space with no replies to those posting. Again, not very transparent and not engaging to rebuild public confidence of the stance; moral or otherwise that the University is taking regarding Corgatelli.
Justine Sacco and Rahan Qadar were fired for posting inappropriate comments on twitter. Both companies put out official statements stating they did not condone the behavior of their employees and saw no other option but to terminate employment. Sabrina Corgatelli boasts about her kills online and Idaho State stands idly by.
Nejolla Korris is an expert in Linguistic Lie Detection and Social Media Risk. She teaches seminars on these topics throughout North America, Africa, SE Asia and Europe. Miss Korris received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her international work in lie detection.