Nineteen-year-old Kendall Jones may be the most eminently hateable person on the Internet right now. And contrary to many, many articles on the subject — not to mention tens of thousands of mouth-foaming comments on Jones’s Facebook page — the college sophomore’s immense antipathy has to do with far more than just hunting.
Sure, hunting is where it all starts: Jones — the “African wildlife-hunting cheerleader,” as Fox News dubbed her — only came to the Internet’s attention when she began posting pictures of dead lions, elephants and leopards to Facebook. There’s a picture of a tiny, toothy Jones posing with one of her first kills, a gigantic cape buffalo, c. age 13. There was another image, since deleted, of Jones sitting astride a dead lion, its mouth yawning open.
Many people would argue that this type of behavior makes Jones something of a villain already. But wait — there’s more!
There’s the fact that trophy hunts generally run tens of thousands of dollars, and Jones has been on four.
There’s the fact that, when her “public figure” Facebook page launched in February — long before she was a public figure — Jones did nothing but post jokes mocking vegetarians and conservationists. (Ironically, her Twitter banner quotes Voltaire: “Who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster.”)
There’s the fact that Jones — a big-grinned, immaculately made-up blonde on Texas Tech’s cheerleading team — often poses with her kills in short-shorts and regularly shares variations on the sexy-girl-huntress fantasy. (You can Google that yourself, but suffice it to say most feminists would not find it appealing.)
To top it all off, there’s the fact that Jones, like many African trophy-hunters before her, seems to view the entire continent as some cross between an exotic playground and an impoverished cesspool in need of her benevolence.
“Can’t wait to go visit an elementary school in Zimbabwe to hand out all these goodies to the unprivileged school kids!” she posted at one point, next to a paltry pile of candy and off-brand school supplies. (Enraged commenters promptly called Jones stingy, conceited and stupid.)
But whatever else Kendall Jones may be, she’s certainly no idiot. Look at the range of buttons she’s managed to push here: guns! wealth! feminism! politics! race!
None of that is accidental: After all, Jones has been posting on these topics, on a fan page she made for herself, long before anybody knew she existed. And in the days since the controversy broke out, she was very savvy in fomenting the drama on her Facebook page, arguing frequently with commenters and publishing a series of slick images with the hashtag #supportkendall.
Jones is, in other words, a self-made symbol of America’s culture wars. And on her Twitter page — brand-new, as of Wednesday – she slyly winks at her motivations: “Kendall is a huntress, conservationist, and sportsman looking to host a TV show in 2015” (emphasis mine).
Jones’s critics haven’t entirely missed how deliberate and postured all this is. In a petition on Change.org, Kieron Brown complained that the teenager was “using endangered and helpless African animals as a stepping [stone] to further her popularity on social media platforms.”
Maybe popularity should read “infamy,” here — either way, Jones wins. In the past two weeks, more than 100,000 people have signed the Change.org petition. And on Facebook, more than a quarter-million people call themselves her “fan.”
As far as hosts go, some TV network could do far worse.