Monday, August 03, 2015

In the village, the Internet village, no lion hunter sleeps tonight

If asked to compose a list of the people I would least like to be marooned with on a desert island, trophy-hunting dentist Walter Palmer would be right up near the top. I’d rather take my chances in shark-infested waters than sit under a palm tree with this a-hole. And as for seeing him as a dentist, well…I suspect that I’d be sitting in the chair in his office wondering when the last time he’d used his cross-bow to kill a magnificent animal, or imagining what his trophy den looks like. (Do the animals show their teeth?) Me, I’ll take my mild-mannered, non-great-white-hunter of a dentist, any old time.

I find the entire idea of these well-to-do trophy hunters, paying big bucks to lure, corner, kill and behead an animal who was doing them no harm at all completely – to quote Daffy Duck – “despicable.”

And yet I find the paroxysms of rage directed towards this guy that have been unleashed across the ‘net to be somewhat disturbing.

First, there’s the unhinged level of venom. In random glances at comments on various articles (some of which quoted tweets), I’ve seen quite a few folks advocating for Walter Palmer’s death, in no uncertain – and often quite lurid – terms. Here’s a not atypical example:

Truly. I'd put a cross bow bolt through Walter Palmer then track him from 40 hrs., shoot him, behead him, skin him and sleep peacefully.

Folks are not only screeching for his death, they want to ruin his business, and have been yelping about him on Yelp. Then Yelp decided that, since the “reviews” that were piling up weren’t actually reviews of Palmer’s professional practice, to took them down.

Here’s what Yelp said:

“…reviews aren't the place for rants about a business's employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don't address the core of the consumer experience."

"Our user support team ultimately removes reviews that violate these guidelines," the statement said.

Well, if that didn’t get the high-dudgeon yelpers yelping, and they’re looking for redress:

Another petition seeks to retain the right to flood a Yelp page for Palmer's dental practice with negative reviews — many of which have focused on outrage over Cecil's killing. The petition was started after Yelp removed many of the reviews…"Yelp's autocratic censorship of this this historic, unprecedented outpouring of participation in public debate silenced and disempowered their loyal contributors," the petition reads. (Source: NBC News)

Note to “loyal contributors”: there are plenty of other online forums in which to lob your “unprecedented outpouring of participation in public debate.” And while you’re there, let’s try to make it a debate about the malign practice of big game hunting, and not literal calls for Walter Palmer’s odious head. Because, let’s face it, if Palmer hadn’t unlocked into killing Cecil, the beloved mascot with a name, there would be no debate.

There’s also a petition  - signed by over 100,000 folks – calling for the US to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe. (With respect to this petition, I saw one comment in which someone said that he hoped that Palmer gets gang raped in a Zimbabwe prison. Nice.)

Palmer, in fact, may not have committed any crime. (Which, of course, may not be enough to keep Zimbabwe from giving into pressure to try him.)

Here’s some of what Salon had to say about trophy hunting:

The practice of trophy hunting originated as a way for humans to demonstrate power over large, dangerous animals, but now that modern high-powered weapons can subdue even the largest animals, the trophy hunter’s focus has shifted from animals that are dangerous to those that are rare. Several game preserves in Africa specialize in breeding mutant versions of popular big game animals, such as white lions or the so-called golden wildebeest. Killing a golden wildebeest costs $50,000, 100 times as much as a wildebeest of a typical color. (Source: Salon)

Great. When you think that trophy hunting can’t get any worse, we learn that mutants are being bred for the sole purpose of charging creeps more money to kill them.

Like the “great white hunters” on safaris of the past, today’s trophy hunters are corporate types who may spend tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands to kill a single animal. And the bigger and rarer and more beautiful the animal, the more a trophy hunter wants to kill it: An African lion hunt starts at around $39,000. For $60,000, power brokers can bag a bull elephant.

Which, I believe, was the next animal on Walter Palmer’s kill list.

Trophy-baggers, of course, will argue that they’re helping poor countries attract tourism, and that they’re helping conserve wildlife. So let’s have at the debate that lets them weigh in with their side, and let those actually who know something  about local economies and about wildlife conservation have their say, while also letting those of us whose umbrage exceeds our actual knowledge of the practice articulate what bothers us about it. Which is plenty: there is something pretty depraved and not especially brave about hunting this way, and killing magnificent beasts just because one can. (I’m not talking about “regular” good old American hunting here. It may not be my cup of tea, but if someone wants to hunt deer or duck or whatever, and eat what they kill, have at it. It’s the hunting so that you can taxidermy a head that’s unsettling.)

But why not have the debate without threatening the life and livelihood of Walter Palmer.

He’s nobody I want to know, that’s for sure. But he’s not someone I want to see tortured or killed, either.

No comments: