WallStreetBets Gorilla Donations Shed Light on a Forgotten Tragedy: the Murder of Dian Fossey
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The celebrity Reddit group r/wallstreetbets (WSB), which has been nothing short of a media sensation for the last few months for its market influence on Gamestop Corp. stock (GME), recently made headlines for a different cause: wildlife conservation. The WSB community, in what may have been an ironic yet noble jest, donated more than $350,000 to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in just six days — adopting approximately 3,500 gorillas in the process.
The Gorilla Fund responded to the overwhelming support from the subreddit in a series of tweets on March 15:
“Adoption after adoption followed. Today, we have new numbers to share. Thanks to #WallStreetBets , we’ve received more than 2000 new adoptions totaling over $265k. JUST SINCE SATURDAY…And it’s still coming.” – @SavingGorillas
“And you can *bet* those funds will go straight into our field programs, where 365 days a year we’re tracking, monitoring and studying wild gorillas and their habitat, and helping people who share their first home.” – @SavingGorillas
The Fund has also added “Apes Together Strong” to their website, a reference to the 2017 film War for the Planet of the Apes and the WSB community.
The unprecedented volume of donations to the organization has revealed a long-lost tragedy within the wildlife conservation community — the murder of Dian Fossey.
Fossey was an influential primatologist and conservationist known for her interactive research of the highly-endangered mountain gorilla species which resides in equatorial Africa. In 1983 she chronicled her fifteen-year career with the mountain gorillas in her book Gorillas in the Mist, which was later adapted into a blockbuster film starring Sigourney Weaver as Fossey herself.
Fossey was discovered murdered in her Rwanda cabin two years after her book was published, apparently bludgeoned to death with two machete blows to the face. Her belongings, including her passport, handguns, and thousands of dollars in U.S. bills and traveler’s checks remained intact, leading investigators to believe that robbery was not the motive of her assailants.
Her former research assistant Wayne Richard McGuire was convicted in absentia by the Rwanda government of her murder; however, he was already in the United States when they sentenced him to death by firing squad. Because no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Rwanda existed at that time, he has lived a mostly undisturbed life in America ever since. His only additional media coverage since that time was in 2005 when news broke that he had accepted a position with the Health and Human Services department of the State of Nebraska; the offer was revoked mere hours later when they discovered his connection to the Fossey case.
According to the U.S. government, Fossey’s murder remains unsolved.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, originally known as the Digit Fund (named for a gorilla under her study who sacrificed his life for his group when they were attacked by poachers), was founded in 1972 by Fossey as an anti-poaching charity. She is largely credited with shedding light on gorillas as gentle creatures, where they had previously been depicted as savage, vicious beasts.
Though her death remains a mystery, her legacy lives on through the lives of the thousands of gorillas saved by her charity. The Reddit community WSB, typically portrayed as a meme stock forum, has made astonishing donations towards the cause.
Perhaps their staggering contribution to the Fund is yet another demonstration from the infamous subreddit of the united laymen’s power.
Doge-1: the SpaceX mission funded by Dogecoin
SpaceX announced Sunday its plans to accept payment for its services in the explosively popular cryptocurrency Dogecoin. The Canadian renewable energy technologies firm Geometric Energy Corporation will pay SpaceX solely in Dogecoin to send an 88-pound satellite that will “obtain lunar-spatial intelligence from sensors and cameras” to the moon. The mission, dubbed Doge-1, is expected to take off in early 2022.
“This is not a joke,” Geometric Energy Corporation CEO Samuel Reid said via phone.
Despite the announcement, Dogecoin has been on the decline since SpaceX CEO and Twitter celebrity Elon Musk appeared on Saturday Night Live last week and called the currency a “hustle.” Some speculate that his offhand comment may have sparked the massive selloff that caused the coin to plummet in value from its peak price of $0.73 down to $0.43 in a matter of hours. Three days later, the value still hovers between $0.40 and $0.50 on average.
Musk also wrote a tweet about the Doge-1 satellite on Sunday:
SpaceX launching satellite Doge-1 to the moon next year
Musk’s cavalier tweet reflects the spirit of retail traders across the country, whose collective mantra “to the moon” has gained explosive popularity along with the rise in trading trends like cryptocurrency. It appears that Musk intends to show his support for the crypto and retail trading community with the SpaceX mission to take Dogecoin “to the moon” — literally.
Capital gains tax hike, SEC announcement sends Bitcoin into period of volatility
The historic stock market selloff last Friday following President Biden’s capital gains tax hike announcement left the cryptocurrency market in shambles with more than $200 billion in losses across the board. The popular blockchain-based coins Bitcoin and Ether both dropped by nearly 8 percent in value in a manner of hours after the announcement last Thursday, with rising-star coin XRP falling by more than 16 percent. The proposed tax rate of 43.3 percent — double the current rate — would apply to returns on assets held in taxable accounts and sold after more than a year. It would also be the highest income tax rate in the country.
Bitcoin experienced another hit in its market value when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was delaying its decision on whether or not to approve Bitcoin as an exchange-traded fund (ETF) per the request of VanEck Global, an investment management firm that has been in operation since 1955.
“The Commission finds that it is appropriate to designate a longer period within which to take action on the proposed rule change so that it has sufficient time to consider the proposed rule change and the comments received,” said an assistant secretary at the SEC in a filing.
Despite the recent news stories, the largest digital asset in the world is still trading at more than five times its value one year ago to date. Major stock market players have recently entered the Bitcoin game with significant bets in the cryptocurrency — including Tesla, which has acquired more than $2.5 billion in Bitcoin. The coin’s value continues to pick back up, and many speculate that it could soon exceed its mid-April high of over $64,000.
Emily Ratajkowski to auction NFT in statement about image appropriation
The above image will be auctioned as an NFT at Christie’s on May 14
Artist Richard Prince is known for his highly controversial pieces, which often plagiarize others’ work. Some have deemed his appropriative style as a subversive commentary on exploitative American ideals, while others have condemned him as merely a misogynistic “troll.” Perhaps his most famous, and simultaneously most controversial rephotograph (a photo of another photo) titled “Spiritual America” is an appropriation of a photograph of then-10-year-old actress Brooke Shields, who stands completely naked, heavily made-up, and covered in oil in a bathtub. The recontextualization of the disturbing photograph, originally taken by Gary Gross, was named after another photograph of a castrated horse taken by Alfred Stieglitz. “Spiritual America” debuted in a gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1983 and quickly garnered global recognition for Prince, a then-budding artist.
Prince’s most recent newsworthy art show “New Portraits,” which debuted in 2014, featured prints (or “paintings”) of images appropriated from various celebrities’ Instagram profiles. Among the countless ultra-famous faces represented in the show was supermodel Emily Ratajkowski, who was surprised to learn that her image was one of those included in the show. In a tell-all article featured in New York Magazine’s The Cut last September, she chronicled her experience discovering the painting, her failed attempt to purchase it, and finally her obtaining a second image of herself that had been included in the “New Portraits” series. The Richard Prince “appropriation art” piece that she eventually claimed for more than $80,000 now hangs on her own wall — and she has decided to use it to create an appropriation of her own.
Ratajkowski’s The Cut piece, titled “Buying Myself Back: When does a model own her own image?” details multiple occasions where the model has lost agency over her own image. She prefaces a scathing account of sexual assault and legal woes regarding the non-permitted use of her images for profit with an emphatic quote:
“I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own.”
She continues her exploration of ownership almost in tandem with Prince, who is considered a pioneer in artistic commentary on authorship and ownership. The upcoming auction of her NFT (non-fungible token) transcends unprecedented layers of copyright infringement, the likes of which perhaps even appropriation artist Richard Prince himself has yet to breach. The NFT, titled “Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution,” depicts herself posed in front of the “New Portraits” piece she purchased in 2014. The image contains a photograph taken by a Sports Illustrated photographer, an Instagram post created by Ratajkowski herself, and the artwork created by Prince.
The piece will be put up for auction on May 14 at Christie’s, a globally-renowned auction house where artist Beeple’s infamous NFT artwork “Everydays: the First 5,000 Days” sold for a record-breaking $69 million; it remains the highest-grossing NFT to date. Though many pieces set for auction have a projected value listed on the site, Ratajkowski’s NFT shows “estimate on request” where a ballpark figure is typically presented. The model and actress’s net worth currently sits around $8 million — with the exploding popularity and value of NFTs, that figure could likely change with the sale of her debut artwork.