29 July 2015

Cecil’s death was not a tragedy. He was only a lion


It is obviously a matter of regret that Cecil the Lion is dead. He looked like a terrific lion and he had many fans in the lion-supporting community, but I fear I cannot join the hysterical chorus of complaint online from those attempting to portray the foolish dentist who killed Cecil as the worst person on earth since Adolf Hitler.

The furious row raging has so many quintessential characteristics of what the Marxist journalist Paul Mason calls late-period post-capitalism (and what the rest of us call life) that I won’t even attempt to list them all here. Other than to say this has been the ultimate post-modern story, involving a wealthy man paying a fortune to shoot stuff in a country which sells licenses to shoot stuff; the rapid spread of the news of the death of Cecil via social media; outrage galore; and childish anthropomorphising without end, all followed by the shaming of said dentist on an epic scale. Adults, grown men and women, are demonstrating outside the American dentist’s surgery dressed as lions. Soon, leaders will no doubt start being asked for a statement about Cecil:

President Obama: “When Cecil woke that morning… (pause) stretched his legs, yawned, like lions do, and set out to spend another day on the savannah, just minding his own business… he could have had no idea… (pause) no idea… that he would end up being…” (continue for half an hour)

David Cameron: “Hunting and shooting wild animals is totally mostly unacceptable, unless it happens in a Scottish glen.”

Ed Miliband (shaking head): “I was out for a walk on Hampstead Heath and I bumped into Cecil the Lion… and do you know what he said to me? He said… David Cameron… just… doesn’t… geddit. ”

Tony Blair: “Cecil was the People’s Lion… He will live on in our hearts, for ever.”

Jeremy Corbyn: “Who is Cecil?”

As James Kirkup pointed out, in a superb piece for the Telegraph, if you care that much about Cecil – and I repeat, he should not have been shot, and I’m sorry he was – then understand that governments are making a terrible job of managing the big game business.

The idiocy spooned out elsewhere by parts of the western media and newspapers on these occasions is now so cretinous that one wonders if they think their readers are stupid, or whether they know their readers at all.

On Radio 2 earlier (I was passing a radio) a non-animal killing dentist was telling the host of a phone-in that the death of Cecil was a “tragedy.” No, the Second World War was tragedy. The deaths on 9/11 were the stuff of tragedy. The genocide in Rwanda, which took place on the same continent where Cecil did his stuff, was a tragedy. Events in Calais, involving thousands of refugees only 21 miles from the English coast, are tragic.

It got worse on Radio 2. I know what can happen when you’re on the radio. You burble on trying to fill the time (I know I do) and afterwards think, what did I say? But the man on Radio 2 really did describe Cecil as a “loving lion.” Loving? I’m sure Cecil fathered many cubs, but I don’t imagine he was very loving towards the zebras or antelopes he encountered.

Taking an hour off writing earlier, and unwilling to watch any Cecil coverage on the news, I watched episode two of Band of Brothers instead, the ancient Spielberg masterpiece on the liberation of western Europe. In episode two, Easy Company of the 506, 101st airborne take out a heavily dug-in German position. Having jumped out of planes in the early hours, and landing miles from their drop zone, they have their first proper foray in combat in defence of freedom. It is a brutal introduction. Many people are killed and great acts of bravery ensue. This happened. Lt Winters who led the assault got the Distinguished Service Cross (one of his 14 medals) and the action knocking out four German pieces of artillery that were raining death on the men landing on Utah beach, is still taught as a model operation.

At the end of the episode, though, Winters is so stunned by the experience, and the careless killing of people that he resolves that if he ever gets out of the war alive he will go home, find a strip of land to farm and live in peace. Which is the mistake the dentist made. He should have lived in peace, stayed in America and left Cecil alone. I bet he wishes now that he had done exactly that.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX