Are those plotting the demise of Cecil the lion’s killer any better than ISIS?

A lion called Cecil has been shot and killed in Zimbabwe by an American dentist. Apparently this is big news for the media, well, bigger at least than the banking fraudsters, the ghastly European Union and the extension of Islamic State’s caliphate. So, how about them Jihadis?

Since ISIS’ rise from an angry mob into something resembling a coherent threat to our civilisation, we have been witness to some of the most despicable acts humanity has ever seen, something which is only amplified by round-the-clock news broadcasting – a luxury past terrorist organisations have never been afforded.

We have, almost unanimously, been left in shock at such acts. Beheadings, burnings, mass killings and the bulldozing of history across Syria and Iraq has hit home and touched a nerve in a way never before, as has been shown in the public’s shift in opinion on whether Britain should partake in military action. The unthinkable of getting tangled up in another war now looks somewhat inevitable.

Hence, as we are so clear in our thinking that ISIS are wrong, you would think that we may have learned a few lessons. For example, how we should treat our fellow human beings. Sadly not.

Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, has found himself situated at the eye of a storm surrounded by a baying mob of vigilantes, who can often be found behind their keyboards harping on about social justice.

Granted, he doesn’t come across as much of a chap. While the hunting of animals should not be the business of the state, murdering some of the world’s most beautiful creatures for sport is rather sickening, and a world away from the hotly-debated issue of fox hunting. There is little to be gained from this activity, bar from a selfie of course (although I can’t imagine it would get many likes).

There are two outcomes of such hunting. Outcome one: the hunter has acted lawfully and has committed no crime in indulging in his pleasure and, Outcome two: the hunter has illegally killed and must face the justice system. On the evidence, Palmer falls into the latter category and therefore the correct course of action is for he, and those who commissioned the hunt, to go through the due legal process. That is how a civilised society operates.

The vigilantes, however, are unable to leave things to the justice system. In their world (Twitter, mainly), they sit on a self-styled virtual Supreme Court making their own decisions – woe betide anyone who gets in their way. They tend not to be in the brightest bunch either. Back in 2000, a paediatrician was driven out of her home after vigilantes mistook her for a paedophile – her case was not a lone one.

Alas, in this scenario, they have at least managed to pinpoint the shooter correctly. Unfortunately, their desired punishments seem like something that would be found in an ISIS textbook. A skinning, a ball-nailing and even a spot of Palmer-hunting – a suggestion from the irremovable Piers Morgan – have all been considered by the online crusaders. The equally irrelevant Sharon Osbourne took to Twitter to label him Satan, while actress Mia Farrow, in her great wisdom, thought it would be a good idea to tweet the work address of Palmer to her 656,000 followers, before predictably using the whole incident to have a pop at Donald Trump. Heavy stuff.

Name-calling and sadistic plans aside, things have taken an either darker turn. Not content with plotting Mr Palmer’s virtual demise, the mob is proactively trying to ruin his life. Posting his personal details across the internet, attempting to destroy his career and just generally paint him as an evil even greater than Jihadi John. What is more amusing is that this clan are supposedly pacifists. But when it comes to suiting their agendas, the “eye for an eye” concept is happily permitted.

Internet warriors are hypocrites. Sorry, that isn’t exactly insightful stuff as anyone who flits in and out of the 140-character universe will be well aware, but it is true. When it comes to racism, sexism or pretty much any “ism”, pointing at white, overprivileged men and painting them all with the same brush – something we are told vehemently not to do – happens regularly. It’s different when it’s the other way around, apparently. I digress.

It is that hypocrisy which allows people to point and stare at ISIS’ brutality yet simultaneously cook up callous plans for a lion killer without even a flicker of irony. And, with the knowledge of the paediatrician story, it’s not mindless exaggeration either to suggest Mr Palmer could face similar trouble. Already, fully grown adults have been prancing around outside his home with water-cannons and stuffed lions as if they have nothing better to do.

The outrage for the death of a lion is also mystifying. Human lives are taken on a daily basis, some naturally; others by force. But no one bats an eyelid. Yet, for a four-legged creature, who would almost certainly not need asking twice if a portly figure such as I was put in front of him, there has been an astonishing outpour of emotion. I am genuinely at a loss as to why we collectively have more concern for animals than we do for our own.

I hope, through proper process, that a suitable punishment for Walter Palmer and the others involved is found and, in the theoretical scenario that they are all totally innocent, that those who should be are acquitted – as unlikely that seems. From first glance, he looks set for his comeuppance, although the point must be made that his past hunts were legal, if nothing else. The law is more important than what someone thinks is right or wrong.

Those involved or supporting the mob are helping nobody. Vigilantes are inherently dangerous and no good can come of them doing their so-called service, in fact, things taking an ugly turn are not uncommon – just look at the case of Brenda Leyland. Those endorsing violence or even wishing death upon Palmer because they consider it “justice” are no better than the man himself or, dare I say it, ISIS.

Extreme? Provocative perhaps. But the parallels are clear. Think about it if you’re one of them. You have your own ideology, and support taking the law into your own hands to achieve your own ideals. Keep telling yourself it’s different.


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