Monday, September 04, 2006


Apparently, celebrity goofball/wildlife daredevil Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died yesterday after being "lashed in the chest" by a stingray.

Somehow I'm guessing no animals are crying over the news.


Blogger Alan P. said...

I've been expecting this news for years. He took chances with his life all too often.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Luckily his son (who must be, ohhhh, at least 4 or 5 by now) wasn't under the water with him when it happened.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Alan P. said...

What an idgit.

1:48 PM  
Blogger lonesomepolecat said...

i wonder whether Georg Carlin's amused.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Did Carlin have some riff on Irwin? Wouldn't surprise me.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

Whasamatter, Mike? Did Irwin feed your dog to a croc? Geez...

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Did Irwin feed your dog to a croc?

Nahhh, that I could forgive. He ate the dog himself. Right in front of me.

But not before he taunted it & wrestled with it in the mud.

Coldhearted monster.

11:23 PM  
Blogger DED said...

There's nothing in the article to suggest that he was being an idiot at the time that the stingray stabbed him in the chest.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Alan P. said...

Bad Karma is a beeyatch. He's lucky though, he died doing what he wanted to do.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

nothing . . . to suggest that he was being an idiot at the time that the stingray stabbed him in the chest.

Unless, like me, one considers intentionally swimming in the vicinity of a huge stingray an "idiotic" act.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

Can you swim in Australia without being in the vicinity of something that wants to kill or eat you?

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


Which is why a human needs to be very careful in other species' habitats.

Which is why intelligent people swim away from stingrays when they see them.

Which is why I think Irwin was an idiot for swimming alongside it.

4:29 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Guys, stingrays are not dangerous animals. 3 people (includig Irwin) have died over the course of 50 years! They're docile creatures. Until the video is released, we've got nothing to go on except that this was a freak accident.

They've got stingray petting tanks in the major aquariums. If they were truly dangerous, do you think that aquariums would risk a lawsuit in our litigious society?

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...


That's what I've heard. I read someone saying that a stingray would attack only if someone was really annoying it.

Sound familiar?

That jackass never met an animal he didn't want to pester. I guess he came up against the wrong stingray.

Wild animals should be left alone. We shoot wild animals when they come too confidently into our territory -- and a good thing, in my opinion -- but The Crocodile Annoyer is some sort of folk hero because he acted like an overgrown 4 year-old when he waltzed into their home turf? Please.

11:10 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Yes, it's quite possible that the video will reveal that he was acting stupid. And it certainly isn't the first time that he has acted stupid, but it will certainly be the last time that he was. I'll hold off on calling him an idiot until I see the video.

And if you think Croc Guy was wack, you should see the movie "Grizzly Man." That guy definitely went over the edge. Whereas Croc Guy behaved like an overexuberant kid, Grizzly Man's behavior was that of a man who clutched at the frayed ends of sanity.

And for the record, I'm not a psychiatrist, I just play one in the blogosphere.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I saw Grizzly Man.

The "Crocodile Annoyer" was an idiot. The "Grizzly Man" was insane.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never responded to a blog before, but one of the comments here has spurred me to. I *AM* a psychiatrist, writing from the US just blocks from where the World Trade Center used to stand. We are all thinking a lot about violence and peace and human flaws today, here in Manhattan. I hope it's OK if I share this, at some length.

I saw the Crocodile Harasser only once, for ten minutes, alone, a few years ago. It later turned into a family discussion. At first I stared with a sense of icky fascination. Then I translated it into clinical observation, noting how the Discovery Channel chose to edit/frame his actions, and how he constructed and presented his persona within that. Then it just felt icky and disturbing--some little snake was trying to escape him, and he was pursuing it in a way that I couldn't watch. So I turned off the TV and made homemade pasta for my wife and two teenagers.

At dinner I asked the teens whether they'd seen Irwin's program. Our daughter said that she had, and thought there was something wrong with the man. Our son said he thought Irwin was terribly cruel; he had had a disagreement with a friend about the program. The friend thought it was "harmless fun." Our son volunteers at a local humane society, so has deep empathy and a lot of experience for his age around what humans project onto other-than-humans. I observed that Irwin's TV image showed someone with a fairly prominent narcissistic personality disorder. When I thought about it, what disturbed me was my sense of his network pimping this--and possibly a sick man's actions--while defining it as environmentalism.

My wife predicted it'd end with him being Darwinized. Though we all predicted it'd be something like him running face-first into a tree while shrieking off in pursuit of some small creature trying desperately to escape both him and the Gaze of the invisible millions who apparently got juiced watching this psychodrama. Finding this haven with my family, I was heartened to talk to colleagues about the program. I didn't find one who viewed it as harmless fun, and several who arrived at their own conclusions of NPD. In the general sense, relating to the TV persona--one cannot make such a diagnosis of an actual individual without evaluation, and entertainers often digress from their stage personalities.

I won't bother you all with links, etc., to the ample online information on NPD, for I know you have the savvy to find it yourself. This man Irwin projected such a pumped-up image, such an excessive persona, such a brittle and obsessive-compulsive need to pursue and control creatures mostly smaller than him, while having that documented to shore up his "hero" persona, that his idea of "love" for nature may well have masked certain other vacuums. Grandiosity is the most recognizeable feature of a narcissistic personality, plus a need for admiration and the lack of empathy for others. What is it about this sort of personality that sells when human-animal interactions are at issue? Think of Seigfried and Roy, or any circus, or any situation where humans act out superiority over other species.

I've been observing for the past 12 years people who are narcissists not in the conventional sense--venting these complexes with other humans in relationship-destroying ways--but who project the syndrome on other-than-human individuals. Someone who, say, chased children around, as the children ran screaming in terror, cornered them, physically overwhelmed them, prying open their body parts, not responsive to the children's desire to get away, all on camera--such an individual would be seen as suffering from a serious disorder indeed. Somehow, doing it to reptiles makes it OK, and furthermore it gets redefined as LOVE. As my kids would say, EEEeeewwww.

If you want evidence that "deadly" animals really aren't deadly, you can do that by looking at statistics on actual human encounters with them. We are an extremely deadly species, including to ourselves. Compare the hundreds of millions killed in the twentieth century alone, by other humans, to those killed by "wild animals."

Jane Goodall is an outstanding example of someone who has managed to "study animals" for many decades without chasing them around, physically dominating them, etc. And she has yielded an impressive body of actual scientific research on primate societies and behavior. A zoologist friend pointed out that reptiles operate within very strict energy budgets, unlike mammals. This is why they are such good indicator species in an environment for all sorts of stresses. No one knows how many of Irwin's captured and tormented animals later died because of the stress he exposed them to, or how their reproductive competence was affected. In the pursuit of docuenvirotainment.

There's no question that psycho- and socio-pathology are hot content for TV networks these days, so Irwin's telepopularity is no surprise. I was discussing last year with a colleague whether Irwin didn't appeal to the gladiatorial element of the psyche of our republic--games and dramas of domination. At least the ancient Romans could admit that, and didn't have to sugar-coat their tendencies with things like "love of nature" or "environmentalism." You may be aware that countless millions of wild animals were captured throughout the Roman imperial world and shipped to forums for gladiators to fight, or these animals were set against each other. For major festivals, hundreds of shiploads of animals would be brought to Rome for a hemoclysm. A definitive history of this, gleaned from imperial chronicles, has yet to be written, to my knowledge.

I've been reading various reports that Irwin "died in a stingray ATTACK," which of course is a complete misrepresentation. Such interpretations come from people projecting their own fear of "nature," and a latent desire to be the one in the position of being the controller/tormentor/dominator.

This personality type was even more heightened with the Grizzly Tormentor, in a different direction. The "bear-lover" held another common NPD personality trait complex: a profound sense of alienation from others, an absolute inability to make relationships with other humans, and a salvation fantasy that was very sad and disturbing to witness while watching the movie. He was definitely a very troubled person, but the parallels are there--the need for photodocumentation, the grasping at grandiosity while doing something not very intelligent, the compulsive nature of the behavior, and, ultimately, self-destruction.

In closing--and thanks for reading so long--I'll state for the record that I consider myself a respecter and defender of all species, not just humans, even though I make my living working exclusively with humans who have been mentally or psychologically broken, often in concert with physical violence. Many of the worst cases I see are people whose personality includes a component of dominating anyone smaller than they. And bigger if they can get away with it (as with the help of tools of restraint and violence). This runs deeply in our society. Among international colleagues already there has been comment that only in the US would Irwin have gotten so much airtime, so much support, and now so much mourning. A Belgian colleague asked whether anyone in the US media was tying together the barbarism of Sept. 11 with, in her words, "The barbarism of that man who did B&D with innocent reptiles." I guess I don't have to tell you that all of us here in New York City are giving all sorts of things thought these days, around human brutality. Where it comes from. How we project it. You can rest assured that we're not settling for easy answers ("they hate our way of life").

I always marvel at the myths, stories, and projections people generate when someone who creates entertainment spectacle out of messing with animals gets mauled or killed. I think one of the great evidence's of "god's" (by whatever name) grace (or whatever you choose to call it) is that they don't all say "enough is enough" and maul anyone who tees them off, never mind actively torments, captures, and abuses them. It's not clear how the rest of life on earth is going to push back on human hubris. Probably in less dramatic ways.

I owe this way of thinking to my kids, by the way. Both are adopted, and both taught me, and my wife, over the years just how much dominance thinking we had absorbed. I am in their debt forever for all they have taught me about this. I went through a difficult period in my career as I learned to see how psychiatry bought into many dominance-grounded ways of thinking, and how I tried to get privileges for myself using those dominations. Hopefully, as we all reason and feel our way through such things, and keep talking, we all can evolve. These two teens were my lifering in 2001. For all our fear as a family, we pulled through together, but it was mostly by refusing to believe in dominance and submission, and these kids were our teachers in that. It was by keeping our hearts open to the most vulnerable that we got by, and by being able to face our grief and fear, and not let it be converted into something else. Our son got involved with the humane society, for example, when he read in the New York Times about the disaster-search working dogs who were suffering depression because, day after day, all they found in the rubble was dead people. Mostly body parts. So their human mates would sneak off, bury each other in the rubble, and give the dogs a live human to find, to hearten them. We wept together as a family, when we read that.

Thank you again for reading. Bless you all, and may you and all your creatures be held in safety.

Dr. Jim

8:29 PM  

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