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Why Cecil The Lion Is The Perfect ‘News’ Story


The Cecil the Lion story is so big precisely because the stakes are so low. Some folks have noted through humor or despair that other issues better warrant society’s attention.

The two problems mentioned above are complex problems we should be grappling with as a society. Whether it’s the over use of force from government-appointed officers that target citizens simply changing lanes without a signal or the horrors of babies being valued for parts, not their own lives, these stories get less discussion and traction than one lion.

I get it: The hunter was a jerk who lured this lion off a protected reserve and shot him for a trophy. To any hunter, poaching is reprehensible. We all agree: bad dentist. But national outcry and nonstop media attention for one lion?

Any Idiot Can Cover Cecil the Lion

Actually, that makes sense. The story about Cecil the Lion requires zero resolution, and any idiot can cover it. The same media can’t spare a moment to engage in a discussion about whether it’s right to consider human beings a commodity for distribution or test talking points coming from Planned Parenthood.

It’s the perfect zero-responsibility outragepalooza fit for the news entertainment business.

Some folks see a conspiracy here. I suspect it’s much simpler. Cecil the Lion is the perfect media story because it requires zero resolution. It simply creates a space for folks to morally preen about how sad they are about this. It’s a nationwide pity party. The media loves it because the story requires no deep discussion, no real inquiry, and no real thought.

In other words, the media is stupid. Really, they aren’t clever at all. They are soaked in their own biases and have lost the capacity for critical thinking. Society loves a great story that we can all be against and say “that’s bad” and have to do absolutely nothing about. It’s the perfect zero-responsibility outragepalooza fit for the news entertainment business.

Cecil Makes A Super Platform for Cheap Moral Superiority

What becomes perverse is to watch the lack of solutions combined with escalating desire to present oneself as more outraged than the last person. I’m so glad Cecil the Lion died so everyone could have a big feeling fest.

Jimmy Kimmel bawled like a little baby on national television. Mia Farrow, unimpressed with that, went right for the jugular and shared the dentist’s address:

…on Wednesday [Farrow] used her Twitter platform to post the [hunter’s] business address to her 656,000 followers. The post sparked instant shock, with commenters telling her, ‘Maybe Donald Trump should give out your phone number’ and ‘How would you like it, @MiaFarrow, if someone gave out @RonanFarrow’s address in hopes of causing him harm?’

I’m unaware of any large contingent of Americans who support killing exotic animals and endangered species. Who are these people celebrities presume to be superior to except a tiny minority of folks who break the law? The bar is low here so everyone can join in. Thankfully, even the State Department weighed in, between pushing strange videos with Jack Black and Natasha Lyonne as reasons to support their ill-fated efforts to prevent a nuclear Iran.

Finally, someplace the State Department can hold the moral high ground. This is the same administration which, when faced with the ethical issues highlighted in the Planned Parenthood videos, thought it prudent to investigate…the folks who investigated Planned Parenthood. I guess it’s consistent with their logic on the Iran deal, since clearly the problem there is Israel, not the “death to America”-chanting regime in Iran.

At Least Zimbabweans Are Sane

Folks in Cecil’s native Zimbabwe have a bit of a different take, and perhaps a better hold of reality:

‘What lion?’ acting information minister Prisca Mupfumira asked in response to a request for comment about Cecil, who was at that moment topping global news bulletins and generating reams of abuse for his killer on websites in the United States and Europe.

The government has still given no formal response, and on Thursday the papers that chose to run the latest twist in the Cecil saga tucked it away on inside pages. One title had to rely on foreign news agency copy because it failed to send a reporter to the court appearance of two locals involved.

In contrast, the previous evening 200 people stood in protest outside the suburban Minneapolis dental practice of 55-year-old Walter Palmer, calling for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face charges of taking part in an illegal hunt…For most people in the southern African nation, where unemployment tops 80 percent and the economy continues to feel the after-effects of billion percent hyperinflation a decade ago, the uproar had all the hallmarks of a ‘First World Problem’.

‘Are you saying that all this noise is about a dead lion? Lions are killed all the time in this country,’ said Tryphina Kaseke, a used-clothes hawker on the streets of Harare. ‘What is so special about this one?’…

‘Why are the Americans more concerned than us?’ said Joseph Mabuwa, a 33-year-old father-of-two cleaning his car in the center of the capital. ‘We never hear them speak out when villagers are killed by lions and elephants in Hwange.’

Cecil Lets the Media Swim in the Swill of Their Biases

The same media that cannot do any research into the political donations to Planned Parenthood dug up this nugget regarding Palmer.

The media, the nation, and our government have become a nation of punters. We simply want to feel like we are right, not ever figure out what is right. So any story that needs no resolution but can create outrage plus be used as a tool to reconfirm biases will be huge. That’s why Cecil the Lion is still the biggest story this week.