`Crocodile Hunter' dies

On Blogs

blogosphere is stunned

September 10, 2006|By Troy McCullough | Troy McCullough,Sun Columnist

"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin appeared to tempt fate every day of his life, yet his death was met with near-universal shock from legions of bloggers around the world.

Perhaps it was Irwin's exuberant nature, or his aura of invincibility, or perhaps it was the manner in which he died - from a stingray's barb and not a crocodile's bite - but nobody saw this one coming.

News sites in Australia, as well as around the world, reported extensive spikes in traffic in the hours after Irwin's death Monday. The Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Web site crashed under the pressure, Reuters reported, and The Sydney Morning Herald said it saw a 70 percent increase in page views.

Bloggers were moving just as quickly.

Almost immediately after the news broke, at least three tribute blogs popped up - ripsteveirwin. blogspot.com, ripcrocodilehunter. blogspot.com, crocodilehuntermemorial.blogspot.com - full of photos, videos and words of condolences.

A contributor to the group blog MetaFilter also noted: "It's so weird that it only takes about five minutes after someone dies for their wikipedia page to go from `is' to `was.' "

But the Internet being the Internet, shock and grief also morphed into gallows humor and petty debates at broadband speeds.

After several predictable "He died doing what he loved best" comments, another MetaFilter member sardonically chimed in: "He died doing what he loved: being skewered through the chest with a venomous stinger."

Many bloggers also linked to an article in the Register, a British-based technology Web site, that claimed early Google searches for "dead steve irwin" turned up automated text ads with an unfortunate sales pitch: "Buy Steve Irwin Dead on eBay!" Nobody seemed to be able to replicate the Register's results, but it was a good story that many seemed intent on believing regardless.

And in what looked like a respite from the culture war, the founder of the liberal Daily Kos, Markos Zuniga, took a break from railing against the right wing and noted: "Irwin had two small children. I'll never understand parents who put themselves in such positions of danger knowing that a misstep can leave their children without a parent."

But that comment quickly spiraled into a discussion about the ways the Bush administration endangered parents by sending them to fight in unjustified wars, which so offended the readers of the conservative Little Green Footballs that more than 700 of them chimed in on their site to denounce the Kos crowd for being disrespectful to Irwin, throwing out zingers like this: "I guess it's not endangering your children's lives to promote terrorism and to give succor to terrorists and to enable them to continue their evil plot to explode in public places or fly airplanes into inhabited buildings or to make war on innocent countries and their civilian populations."

The vast majority of bloggers, however, somehow managed to put politics aside and expressed genuine remorse over Irwin's untimely death.

A 24-year-old MySpacer from Illinois named inacrumbling summed up many people's feelings nicely: "Irwin was an inspiration to me personally. What drew me to his shows initially was his sheer enthusiasm. It was refreshing to see someone who actually loved what he was doing. His excitement never wavered. I think that's what I loved most about him."


Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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