Thoughts On Cecil the Lion, People’s Interests and Media Coverage in General

Alright, time for another serious post I think. I feel that I should always preface my actual thoughts with a prologue like this because of the usual dumb crap that people expect from me, and I happen to have a lot of strong feelings on this particular matter. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one.

I’m going to start this post by introducing you guys to something that you may or may not know about already. Google Trends. For those of you who don’t know, Trends is an extremely nifty little tool to determine the general interests of Google’s visitors, which basically covers the vast majority of the, at least Western, internet users at the time. Of course it misses out on the valuable Bing, Ask and Yahoo! demographics, but nothing is perfect. As an example before I continue, here is a graph, provided by Trends, which shows the general interest in cat videos.

Cat Video Popularity

This graph shows the level of popularity of cat videos stretching back from 2004 all the way up to the year that this is written in, 2015. Despite some dips and spikes, the clear fact here is that this graph illustrates a positive correlation, demonstrating that cat videos are enjoying more and more popularity as the years progress, which is actually pretty damn impressive.

Now that everyone should be up to speed on what Trends does, I digress. My point is, when something gets major media coverage, particularly something tragic, with a clear villain that can be shunned, like the aforementioned case of Cecil the Lion and the American dentist, Walter Palmer, the trend is likely to shoot up.

Before I go on, I would like to clearly and concisely state here before people potentially get the wrong idea that I am absolutely against poaching of any nature and would be more than happy to see the the participants punished and the animals protected.

With that said, I’m going to go back to some Trending, because this whole affair has reminded me of something that happened three years ago, that being Kony 2012. There are, I feel, a number of parallels here. Both feature a clear face that the media can latch on to for people to hate, both have a clear victim, or set of victims, that everyone can sympathise with, and both received a sudden, insane amount of coverage, on both traditional and new media. However, here is my problem, as shown by another graph from Trends. This time using the search term “Kony 2012”.

Kony 2012 Interest

This graph clearly shows, as one would expect, a gigantic spike in the frequency that this term was searched during few months in 2012. The problem here I feel though, is how quickly that this particular interest died out. Sure, I understand that the charity behind the infamous video was eventually denounced as untrustworthy among a whole host of whole other things, but before that, during the height of this spike, everybody was on the news, sharing over facebook, twittering etc. about how horrible it was that African children were being taken away from their homes and families and forced to live in horrible conditions under dreadful people. And they were right to do so.

The issue I have is, that stuff still happens, but the interest doesn’t seem to be there in such a degree anymore, for example, on the 14-15th April 2014 276 schoolgirls were abducted in Nigeria by Boko Haram and from what I understand the absolute vast majority still remain to be located and rescued. This, fortunately, also received a great deal of press coverage and even had some help from Michelle Obama with her #BringBackOurGirls campaign. But these sort of things have happened far more than just twice, all over the world;┬ánot just in Africa, which many of us will consider a safe distance away.

As a quick aside, to avoid too much generalizing, I fully understand that some people would have taken these issues very seriously and donated to relevant charities or taken other positive steps to combat these problems. If someone did that, brilliant, and more power to them.

What I worry about is something like this happening again, where a real issue comes to the forefront and everybody gets up in arms about it, yet all in all nothing else is really done in the long term. The following are the Google Trends results for “Cecil the Lion” and the more general “Lion Poaching”, in that order.

Cecil the Lion Interest

Lion Poaching Interest

What I see when looking at these two graphs are one of two things. Either this is an opportunity for everyone to really engage in the very real issue that is illegal hunting/poaching and animal cruelty in order to put more pressure on the idiots doing it to stop, or this is just going to be another Kony 2012 where it’s largely forgotten about as soon as it falls from the public’s attention, and Cecil unfortunately becomes like a martyr for a lost cause.

At the end of the day there are a lot of ways to engage properly in seeing this sort of thing end, be it through looking up organisations like the WWF, (The Wildlife One, not the one where hurly-burly men hug and throw each other around) or finding local charity shops which support animal welfare and helping them, through donating money or things that could be sold on. Additionally, if like myself, you live in the UK, we can make our voices known that a repeal of the fox hunting laws would be an absolutely terrible decision.

We can make a real difference here folks, and with this current media wave, why wouldn’t this be a great place to start?