The death of Cecil the Lion, slain by dentist Walter Palmer earlier this month, provided the media with a weeklong story-cycle, combining genuine outrage over the killing of the beast with the now-standard online witch-hunt targeting the killer.
Several factors combined to make this a portly news story, from animal cruelty to a privileged assassin. The story also tapped into more general concerns about conservation, the environment, endangered species and western, specifically American, indifference towards nature and the fate of the planet. Palmer remains in hiding... but not for long. Anger will fade and the mob will move on. Here are the 10 key stages of this week’s media-led outrage:
- An animal with a human name is killed in a nasty way to sate the bloodlust of a Western trophy hunter.
- Media outlets, knowing animal cruelty equals hits/viewers, jump on the story, employing adjectives such as “beloved” to describe a 420-pound wild animal. Comedian/animal lover Ricky Gervais is conscripted as distributor for the copy.
Artist Mark Balma paints a huge mural of Cecil in Dr. Walter Palmer's parking lot on July 29, 2015 at River Bluff Dental in Bloomington, Minn
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) July 30, 2015