Archive - Jul 30, 2015

Local Zero

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The internet is very, very unhappy with Twin Cities dentist Walter Palmer right now. You see, Palmer is a bit of a big-game hunter, and the big game he ended up hunting was a 17-year-old lion named Cecil, who was being studied by Oxford University, wore a GPS collar, was living on protected land, and had a name.

In the immortal word of Rick Perry, "Oops."

There's a fair amount going on here, but let's start off with the fact that there are people in the year 2015 for whom TROPHY HUNTING is still considered a viable, legitimate hobby. We live in a magical time where your watch will tell you your heart rate and the second season of Bojack Horseman can barely be watched in time for the Wet Hot American Summer prequel to start, but you still think it's "cool" to pay tens of thousands of dollars cut the head and skin off a lion so you can look at it in your den?

There are very few activities from the late 19th and early 20th century you can engage in in 2015 and not be seen as at least a little bit fucking ridiculous. Waxing your mustache. Anything involving the word "fob". But going to Africa and paying the locals so that you can further endanger a species is something that should have died off along with the phrase "What ho, old chap?". GET A NEW HOBBY.

The legality of it is, of course, murky and questionable. It would have been illegal to kill Cecil where he lived, but by luring him away from that area with an animal carcass, killing him became slightly more OK. Or not? The guides who took Palmer there and aided in the hunt got arrested for poaching. Palmer has claimed no knowledge of any wrongdoing. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"To my knowledge everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and is part of a study until the end of the hunt."

Which may well be true, but if it is, it's hardly exculpatory. You wanted to hunt a lion. Hunting lions is AT BEST a tricky legal proposition. To simply trust that the locals you hired would ensure that everything was in order is, to put it lightly, deeply fucking naïve. I will leave it to individual readers to decide just how plausible Palmer's plausible deniability is.

But even if we take Palmer at his word, there's a preponderance of evidence that the guy's a shithead desperately in need of a new, less destructive, less Great White Asshole hobby.

That does not mean, of course, that the animal rights activists and amateur Internet vigilantes get to ruin his business and threaten his life. Mia Farrow gave out his address on Twitter, for fuck's sake. Cut that out. That's what Gamergate asshats do. This is not about ethics in big-game-hunting journalism.

If the bad publicity leads people to choose a different dentist, that's on him. If, however, people harass his business by covering its (currently closed) doors with derogatory signs and stuffed animals, or jeopardize his privacy in the hopes someone will go on a big game hunt of their own, well, you're ceding the moral high ground to a real, fucked-up shithead. Bad show, old boy. Bad show.