5 Activists Who Met Ironic Fates

In the last few years there have been news stories about activists who have either died or had some tragedy occur where the very thing that they have spent time fighting for or against has been their downfall. Some people would suggest that these people have met with some ironic twists of fate whilst others would suggest that it stands for reason that the things that they have been arguing against have been things that governments or regulatory bodies have had laws and regulation put in place to prevent these tragedies. In other words, not so ironic.

Some have come from the world of parenting, others, as in the case of the man from New York who died are things that, as a parent I understand why the rules are in place even though some might suggest that the rule is nothing more than governments forcing nanny states upon their citizens.

In his book Senior Year: A Father, A Son, and High School Baseball, American sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy suggests that the words irony or ironic are often misused and cites the same thing that many of us grammar nerds have in the past when debating this; Alanis Morrisette’s song Ironic is probably the most ironic song ever as it doesn’t actually contain any irony within its lyrics. Dan suggests that he has stayed away from using those words in his writing as it is often substituted for coincidence.

That’s true to some extent, but when we look at the whole topic of irony it is more that just the “old” meaning that us logophiles like to correct others about the misuse of. When you drill down further you find that irony is more than a literary device where the literal meaning differs from what the speaker or writer has said. That form of irony is often akin to sarcasm, but not all uses of irony are sarcastic.

When someone tries to explain something to you and then asks if what they’ve said has been understood by you, I’m sure, like me, if you got lost somewhere along the way you will respond with “that’s as clear as mud.” Of course, with mud obviously not being a clear substance you are conveying that the opposite of what you said is true, and that is the use of irony in its literal sense.

But irony has been used in other ways, and can be traced as far back as the works of Shakespeare. Shakespeare is known to use what scholars have called “tragic irony” such as in the story of Romeo and Juliet where one pretends to be dead which causes the other person to commit suicide to join their dead lover and then when the first person wakes from their drug induced slumber, upon seeing that their lover has died, they end up taking their own life as well.

“Oh no, Juliet is dead…”
"Wait, no I'm not..."
“Wait, no I’m not…”
...and then, they both were...
…and then, they both were…

And then there’s the type of irony that Alanis was trying to use within the lyrics of her song but failed at the attempt. What Ms Morissette was trying to do is use situational irony. This is the type of irony whereby the outcome of an event or action is completely different to what the situation or person involved was hoping for. I won’t go into detail about why each individual situation that Alanis wrote about are not ironic in any way, but the main reason they are not is that is that we haven’t heard the back story of any of her characters.

If by chance any of these people were activists for their causes, such as the person who was offered the free ride after they had already paid; if that person was a campaigner for free public transport, maybe that would have some humorous ironic leaning, but without knowing this we just have to assume that this was just some unfortunate situation.

And, by chance, there are actual cases of activists having the very thing that they are campaigning for or against bite them on their proverbial behinds. I am not going to comment on whether I agree or disagree with their stance, nor am I making fun of these people because of their tragedy, but thought it would be interesting to document these people’s stories in a single article. All the names are real, and all of their stories can be found in great detail on the internet if you choose to do further reading on them.


Anti-Helmet Bike Rider Dies After Crashing At An Anti-Helmet Rally

In 2011, New York resident Philip A. Contos died when he crashed his Harley Davidson and hit his head on the pavement. At the time he was taking part in a ride with 550 other motorcyclists protesting against the law that makes wearing a helmet compulsory.

Authorities believe that had he have been wearing a helmet he would have survived his accident.

Home Birth Activist Dies After Giving Birth At Home

Australian home birth activist Caroline Lovell died in 2012 after giving birth at home. Caroline was an outspoken activist in favour of funding of professional midwives to be present at home births. Although she did have a midwife attend her home birth, complications after the birth which were acknowledged by Lovell herself, and the delay in calling an ambulance meant that the new mother passed and and went into cardiac arrest before medical help arrived.

Earlier this year the coroner handed down a finding that Caroline Lovell would still be alive today had she have given birth in a hospital or if the midwife called an ambulance when the first signs of distress from the mother were shown hours earlier.

Scientist Who Suggests High Doses of Vitamin C Will Cure Cancer Dies of Cancer

Linus Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator who was one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Twice awarded Nobel Prizes, once in the field of Chemistry and then again for his peace activism

In his later years he promoted nuclear disarmament, as well as orthomolecular medicine, megavitamin therapy, and dietary supplements. It was his promotion of high doses of Vitamin C to cure cancer that made him eligible to be on this list; in 1994 he died of Prostate Cancer despite him keeping up his large dose of Vitamin C.

Anti-Vaccination Mother’s Seven Children Contract Whooping Cough

In 2015, a Canadian mother, Tara Hills who was against having her children immunised against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, changed her stance after all seven of her children have come down with the disease.

Medical professionals suggest that had her children been immunised against it, they would not have contracted whooping couch.

Pro-Gun Activist Shot By Her Son

Earlier this year, Jamie Gilt from Florida, USA who is outspoken on social media when it comes guns laws was accidentally shot by her 4-year-old son whilst driving in her car. The child, having noticed the gun on the floor of the car unbuckled his seatbelt and then fired the gun at his mother’s seat in front of him. Ironically, her main stance in her pro-gun rhetoric is that she needs the gun to protect her child.

Although she didn’t die, and despite early calls for authorities to charge her, Jamie got away with nothing more than being forced to sit a course on gun safety, plus measures were put in place to protect the gun from being mishandled in the future. She can count her lucky stars that she didn’t end up like many other people who have been accidentally shot by a loved one playing with a loaded gun.

Have you heard other stories like this? If so, share them in the comments. And although it’s a different form of irony, here’s another short post I wrote about that topic; The Definition of Irony When Parenting…

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