While the story of Cecil the lion is tragic and controversial, this NPR article shows us how social media can quickly lead to public discourse and government action. The social media exposure surrounding the death of Cecil helped a “We the People” White House petition to extradite dentist Walter Palmer to Zimbabwe surpass 100,000 signatures. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Twitter account took a stance, urging Palmer or his representatives to contact the organization to investigate the matter. According to a pinned tweet from USFWS from July 31, Palmer’s representatives reached out, and the investigation is ongoing.
Palmer expressed a measure of remorse in his statement. “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he said.
“Nearly a century ago an estimated 200,000 lions roamed across Africa,” National Geographic‘s Brian Clark Howard reports. “Now there are less than 30,000, and they are considered highly vulnerable.”
The influx of harsh reviews of Palmer’s dental practice on Yelp since the outcry has brought Palmer’s dental practice down to one out of five stars. “KILLER!! Dr. Palmer is a disgusting human being consistently showing new lows by killing majestic animals like Cecil. I hope your children will know your evil nature,” user Marcio D. wrote in a review on Yelp. Yelp works to remove these type of reviews, but when the internet is in “angry mood,” even they can’t keep up with deleting the negative reviews.
While you may agree or disagree with how the internet descended on the man who killed Cecil, or how social-media users have gone into overdrive in an attempt to shame the man who has admitted to killing Cecil, or with the global outcry, the power of one photo being posted to social media should not escape us. How it can unite people behind causes and be a force for good and sometimes, bad. Its immediacy and accessibility has allowed it to contribute to everything from the Arab Spring to animal conservation, and to Palmer facing public ridicule for a long time to come.
My advice, #ThinkThriceBeforeYouPostThat.