We Ruined It… Again
Last week we saw one of the fastest evolutions of an instance of Internet mob justice ever. Surely you all heard (and yes, before you take the opportunity—I know your name’s not Shirley…) about the killing of Cecil the lion, right? Here’s the superfast version: Cecil, a lion living on a preserve in Zimbabwe, who was one of the most recognizable and beloved animals on Earth, was killed, rather unsportingly, by a big game hunter. The world reacted with shock and horror, and then it found out the guy who aced Cecil was not a nameless, faceless poacher from an 80s action movie, but American dentist and family man Walter Palmer. Faster than you can say “disproportional emotional response,” the Internet flooded with pained expressions of anguish and fantasies for revenge. Palmer’s dental practice was swiftly destroyed by bad reviews online (not to mention borderline-literal) mobs of pitchfork-wielding justice-seekers, and frankly not too many people shed tears. But then things escalated with several seemingly rational people, and some less rational people (I’m looking at you, PETA), calling for his actual murder. Now Palmer and brood are in hiding and on the run. What did we learn here?
• The Internet ruins everything, always. I feel like we’ve been over this point before, but it could use repeating. Obviously most people have a natural, visceral revulsion to the concept of killing a creature like a lion for fun. Particularly by a wealthy white American, which is currently about as relatable and sympathetic a group of people as ISIS. But of course, in the era of making your mark on the world in 140 characters or less, everyone had to get in their personal story of mourning and rage about this. Personally I had about 20 or 30 Facebook friends who proudly and unsarcastically called for Palmer’s extradition to Zimbabwe, one of the worst and most barbaric violators of human rights worldwide, or even more simply, his brutal murder. Things escalated from “What a tragedy, what a jerk…” to “That lion was my personal spirit animal, let’s go murder Palmer with our bare hands and tap dance on his entrails…” with heretofore unseen quickness.
• Let’s step back and remember that there’s a lot less science and logic involved in wearing sackcloth and ashes over one animal (just because it’s “majestic”) while quite literally being surrounded on a daily basis by the killing, consuming, and trophy-hunting of a host of other animals, then people are letting on here. This is not to say that you shouldn’t feel bad or sad or angry about Cecil’s killing, just that sometimes perspective helps. But of course, not always…
• Yeah, too much perspective can be really annoying. Almost as quickly as people went completely overboard with their desire for revenge (including Mia Farrow’s almost unbelievably imbecilic posting of Palmer’s home address on Twitter), other people with ostensibly more pressing grievances started the competitive belittling of each other’s issues. If you’ve seen friends on Facebook posting their revenge fantasies about Palmer, then there’s almost no chance you haven’t also seen the pat and pithy meme of “There’s wars, racism, rape culture, etc. And all you soulless a-holes care about is a lion.” Which of course is nonsense. If we use this metric, then the only thing we can ever grouse about is war, because all other things pale in comparison in terms of seriousness. Or perhaps we can all stop shaming each other on social media. And let people disturbed by the killing of Cecil be disturbed without shaming them with our superior brand of moral outrage.
• Nobody cares what you think. This should really be our biggest lesson here. If you’re truly outraged about Cecil’s killing, get involved in the debate about hunting, and big game trophy hunting in particular. You may discover impassioned and intelligent people on both sides. Or maybe you’ll find all your preconceived notions confirmed. But at least you won’t be wasting your time and my patience. Unless you’re a professional personality, whose opinion means anything to anyone, spinning your wheels on Facebook does nothing other than make you feel better. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel better and using cheap surrogates for actual action to get there. But perhaps since we know conclusively this sort of thing has consequences in the real world, maybe you think twice about how deadly important it is after all for your 634 Facebook friends and 29 Twitter followers to know who’s angriest about the situation. You win, you care the most, nobody is challenging you.
Of course, the Internet always wins in the end, because it’s one of those rare things in life that is the antidote to its own pernicious side effects. The only way to end the shame-feedback loop that could actually end in the physical harming of Palmer is to create a shaming of the people bloodthirsty enough to actually call for his head. To wit, this week’s new most popular story about Cecil is in regards to how much we’re ruining his memory in our zeal for his killer to meet the same fate. So there. My moral outrage trumps yours. For more info on how to properly feel about things, be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @sidne- you know what? I may not be helping here…
So Age Is Just a Number?
For those with incredibly short memories, one of the bluntest campaigning instruments used by the Democrats in the 2008 election was that Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, was 72 and statistically unlikely to survive one, let alone two terms in office. The argument didn’t carry much weight with red state voters, but who can forget Matt Damon’s pseudo-intellectual ramblings and disingenuous trolling on MSNBC about how it was just common sense not to elect an oldie as our president because we need someone who was likely to stay alive. Fast forward eight years and times have… changed.
If I were to tell you one party had an all-white field with an average age of 66, whose front-runner is the same old hack who couldn’t win the nomination eight years earlier, who would you guess I was talking about?
This age conversation is of course stoked by the news that Joe Biden is once again heating up as a potential threat to Hillary. This is greeted with exaltation not just in the Republican camps (because please believe, they view Biden as just as much a liability and loose cannon who can’t help but open his mouth and step on his own d*ck as the Democrats view Trump), but also in the Sanders HQ. For an unapologetic socialist who has an uphill climb against an establishment-anointed vet like Hillary, what he really needs is someone to eat from her base and not from his.
Could anyone embody that blessing more than Vice President Biden?
The serial mouth-pooper has certainly achieved more than anyone with his propensity to come off as a creepy old goon could reasonably hope to. And it’s not like his nearly weekly faux pas have actually damaged the office of President or VP in any measurable way. In short, he has just enough baggage to make him an appealing opponent for both Sanders and the Republican field, and just enough accomplishments and experience to make him a handful for Hillary.
Throw in the fact that he’s so old he actually makes the ancient Sanders seem like he’s in his prime, and you have the perfect storm brewing for a populist candidate to sneak through…