How The Outrage Over Cecil Is Changing Conversation For Worse
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Politics and Activism

How The Outrage Over Cecil Is Changing Conversation For Worse

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How The Outrage Over Cecil Is Changing Conversation For Worse

If you’ve been reading the headlines in the past couple of weeks, you know about the outrage sparked by Walter Palmer illegally shooting and killing Cecil the Lion. The backlash was immediate and intense, and serves as a good case study to examine how people in the United States respond to certain issues as well as how they go about solving them. More importantly, the reaction to Cecil’s death brings to light how Americans are outraged at certain tragedies and not others, even though the tragedies that are ignored can be, and often are, worse.

The typical reaction to a tragic event in the United States is now the formation of a group, or mobilization of a small movement to solve the issue. This reaction is usually intensified with the help of petition websites like www.change.organd social media, and has plenty of momentum to make headlines. While there’s no inherent problem with organizing into a group (many times this has changed US history for the better), or petitions (many of which have changed US law), a problem does arise when the society organizes into an outraged group to bring about “justice” when justice would have been served without it.

The death of Cecil the Lion is definitely troubling. It brought to the attention of the American people and the world the downsides of hunting, as well as the problem with poaching and illegal hunt. Most people would agree that the hunter/killer should be punished for his actions, whether it is through Zimbabwean or United States law. However, because the public organized over social media, an internet mob of sorts was created that punished Walter Palmer to what it saw fit -- something that’s being called "internet vigilantism." The internet made his name equivalent to that of Lucifer, destroyed his business, and went so far as to share the information of his family so that they could suffer for his actions as well. The thing is that Palmer’s case didn’t need the coverage that it garnered. The outrage that everyone saw for Cecil’s death simply distracted from the other more important problems in the world that need an aggressive movement to have attention brought to them. Yes, some are using the Cecil news to bring attention to these issues, but most outrage is genuine. Amidst what some are calling a modern civil rights movement, you would think hunting laws would be farther down the list on the public’s agenda.

Another phenomenon that the death of Cecil drew attention to was selective outrage of Americans. Why is it that people are upset about the death of a lion, yet not another issue? There’s an easy answer for that:

Defending the life of lions is more appealing than defending a less “sexy” of an issue, or even the lives of other human beings. Everyone can get behind lions: they look cool, they’re interesting, and they’re generally harmless. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this -- it happens in politics, news media, and in daily interaction. Humans love talking about these kinds of issues; it’s the easy way out to pat yourself on the back for being a good human being, and move along with your day.

In reality, the most important and difficult problems aren’t attractive or easy to talk about. Anything that disguises itself as an attractive solution is rarely one at all. (See the superficial #dontjudge campaign on Twitter and Vine.) What we can all do as citizens is to make sure that the issues making headlines are the ones no one wants to talk about. That means form an outraged group to address military wrongdoing, police brutality, environmental policy, and global health instead of destroying one man’s life.

The public has the largest say in what’s most important in our world when we congregate. There’s nothing wrong with calling for the justice for Cecil; it’s admirable. Sign the petitions, and write your congressman for new policy, but be conscious of other issues that take precedence.

Make sure that the issues we choose to get this outraged about are theones that need this much attention -- if we do, then maybe we’ll see some real change.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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