Just a few questions come to thoughts now that Steve Bannon is again within the information. After surrendering to New York authorities earlier this month to face prices of fraud and cash laundering, will he be found guilty? How many shirts without delay is one allowed to put on in jail? My very own query, although, pertains to a extra tangential, nonlegal grievance regarding the former Donald Trump adviser.
Bannon has lengthy viewed the honey badger, the unlikely star of a 2011 viral video, as his private political emblem. Earlier than his stint as a White Home strategist, Bannon made the well-known phrase “Honey badger don’t give a shit” the motto of his media operation Breitbart Information; he even had it engraved on flasks as social gathering favors. “I’m not going to again down,” Bannon stated on his Struggle Room podcast after being arrested in 2020 on suspicion of defrauding donors for a doubtful fundraising initiative to construct a border wall. “I used to be known as ‘honey badger’ for a few years. You already know, ‘Honey badger doesn’t give.’”
What did an obscure member of the badger household ever do to deserve this affiliation?
The origin story is innocent sufficient. “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” was posted to YouTube in January 2011 and has been considered greater than 100 million instances. I used to be 17 when the video got here out, and I assumed it was the most effective factor I’d ever seen. Within the three-minute clip, a slinky, industrious badger trots across the African savanna whereas the video’s narrator, Christopher Gordon, feedback glibly on its conduct: “Ew, it eats snakes? Oh my God, watch it dig.” Essentially the most memorable line within the video can also be the one which has come to outline it: “Honey badger don’t care,” Gordon says, whereas the creature swats at a snake. For my birthday that summer season, I used to be given a Honey Badger Don’t Care T-shirt, which I later wore to one among my very first faculty events, tucked into high-waisted black shorts.
The honey badger’s seemingly fearless, take-no-prisoners strategy clearly caught Bannon’s eye. When Trump made a very vicious assault throughout a debate with Hillary Clinton earlier than the 2016 election, Bannon quipped that it was “basic honey badger.” Allies in Bannon’s motion who, like him, see themselves as pugnacious disruptors of a staid political institution have embraced the label. The symbolism, in spite of everything, is extra overtly intelligible than that of a donkey and an elephant. Mark Finchem, the bolo-tie-wearing, election-denying candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, goes by the deal with @AZHoneyBadger on the right-wing social community Gab. Consultant Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who confirmed up at a Trump rally this month to declare him the rightful president, held a raffle final yr for a $2,900 honey-badger-branded AR-15–type firearm—“the identical kind of gun the hate-America gun-grabbers in DC would like to ban in the event that they ever get the votes.”
No animal chooses to be a political mascot. And the honey badger is a lot greater than an web meme or a totem of right-wing election deniers. This little mustelid is a brilliant, scrappy striver working its method by way of a hostile world with—above all—ingenuity. Please, this creature may say if he knew what was happening. Exclude me from this narrative.
Objectively, the honey badger is bodily geared up to be a whirling dervish of hassle. It’s omnivorous, with an extended physique for tunneling and robust forearms for digging. With its small, snarly mouth and sharp tooth, the honey badger is like an overgrown ferret crossed with a wolverine. The honey badger’s physique is a sinuous defensive machine. Because the animal’s title suggests, it is extremely keen on raiding bees’ nests in the hunt for honey and juicy larvae, and its thick pores and skin can not simply be penetrated by bee stings—and even by porcupine quills. Plus, that pores and skin is unfastened, which signifies that if a predator grabs it from behind, the honey badger can swing round and chew again.
The honey badger might be discovered traipsing about deserts and grasslands in Africa, India, and elements of the Center East—which makes the creature an odd selection, as a non-native species, for the “America First” set. European badgers, which have striped faces and have prominently in children’s literature, are social with each other however shy round people. American badgers look much like European ones however are barely extra ferocious, and smaller, sandy-colored badgers might be discovered all through Asia. Look-wise, the honey badger has a extra lithe and weasel-like physique than the European or American badger. And as an alternative of daring striations on their face, they’ve bought an extended, thick stripe from head to tail, as if they’ve been dipped horizontally in milky-white paint.
Honey badgers even have a excessive diploma of immunity from the neurotoxins produced by some snakes. They’ve been recognized to struggle and eat black mambas, among the many world’s most venomous snakes, for a nighttime snack. In a single well-known video, a honey badger is bitten by a puff adder, passes out, wakes up, and eats the snake. “That’s an especially distinctive response” within the animal world, Danielle Drabeck, a biologist on the College of Minnesota, instructed me. “It’s fairly unimaginable that it’s doing that—and we don’t know something about it!” Drabeck’s present analysis entails finding out vertebrate variations corresponding to venom resistance, which might show helpful in antivenom growth.
Regardless of what the YouTube video suggests, none of those variations is as a result of honey badger not caring. The animal is kind of obsessed with survival. As a substitute of enjoying useless like an opossum, the honey badger tackles challenges immediately. When cornered, it would take on a leopard. “Mustelids punch above their weight; that’s one thing they’re recognized for,” Emily Latch, who research badgers on the College of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, instructed me. “They’re carnivorous in a method that maybe comes as a shock.”
Though they’re courageous and constructed for survival, “it’s not like they’re going out simply to select fights,” Liz Johnson, a senior wildlife-care specialist who works with honey badgers on the San Diego Zoo, instructed me. Johnson describes them as “a little bit mellower” than nature documentaries may make them out to be—even bashful. “It’s been laborious for researchers to check them within the wild, as a result of they do every thing they will to keep away from interplay with people,” she stated. Honey badgers are sometimes nocturnal, however in additional distant elements of their territory, researchers have noticed them going about their enterprise in the course of the daytime, Johnson stated.
The primary factor to know in regards to the honey badger, although, is that they’re incorrigibly curious. They like to examine unfamiliar objects and can make off with gadgets that curiosity them. Brian Jones has many years of expertise with honey-badger mischief. He runs the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, in South Africa’s Limpopo province, the place he’s been rescuing honey badgers and different native animals for many years. In South Africa, honey badgers are thought of pests, typically breaking into farmers’ rooster coops and killing birds, and Jones is typically known as in to lure and relocate them.
Just a few badgers stay at Jones’s rehab middle, together with one 20-something male named Stoffel. When Stoffel first arrived at Moholoholo some years in the past, he was allowed to roam free. However after one too many raids on the middle’s pantry, Stoffel was positioned in a wire-fence enclosure. Stoffel proved to be a formidable escapologist. Virtually instantly, he burrowed beneath his pen and located himself in a cage filled with bewildered lions. “He fought the lions!” Jones instructed me. “His pores and skin is so unfastened, he’d swing in his pores and skin and chew the lion on the face!”
After that, Jones constructed the badger a cement enclosure with excessive partitions. Stoffel was undeterred: Repeatedly, he scrambled up and over the partitions, utilizing sticks, rocks, mud balls, and the rest he might discover to construct a makeshift ladder. Honey-badger cognition stays under-studied, in keeping with the specialists I interviewed, however tales like this add to the anecdotal proof suggesting that honey badgers are able to utilizing instruments to resolve issues—an indicator of intelligence in animals.
Natalia Borrego, a biologist specializing in African mammals, has conducted a few pilot studies of honey-badger intelligence with a number of the badger residents at Moholoholo, together with Stoffel’s son Stompy. Not solely did the badgers rapidly remedy each meat-filled puzzle field she put earlier than them, however in addition they needed to wrestle and obtain stomach rubs. Borrego hasn’t completed her experiments, however “honey badgers have all of the hallmarks of an clever species,” she instructed me. “I want there have been extra researchers investigating them.”
In my interviews, not a single knowledgeable stated they might describe the honey badger as “imply”—or “nastyass,” per the 2011 video’s title. As a substitute, they spoke of those mustelids with awe, admiration, and one thing like delight—as if they have been grinning on the opposite finish of the cellphone whereas they described the badgers’ antics. Jones retains a drawer filled with candies in his desk. This reality has not gone unnoticed by Stoffel, who at some point scrambled into Jones’s workplace, decided to have a style. As a result of Stoffel couldn’t open the drawer along with his claws, he rapidly modified ways, mendacity on his again below the desk, lifting his ft up, and kicking the drawer open from beneath. “They’re a terror,” Jones admitted to me fortunately. “However I like them, I like them, I like them.”
Drabeck, the College of Minnesota biologist, sighed once I talked about the honey badger’s unwitting political ties. “They’re simply actually cool animals,” she stated.