Hello, I’m Walter Palmer, DDS.
As you’ve no doubt heard, the “Gamergate” controversy has flared up once again, this time because panels at the upcoming South By Southwest festival addressing harassment in online gaming were canceled after threats of violence against panelists were received by event organizers. Now, whatever side of the Gamergate debate you fall on, it cannot be denied that the movement contains a very vocal minority of misogynists and bullies who consistently hijack the dialogue in regard to inclusivity and tolerance in gaming by making abusive threats.
And all I can say about the whole mess is this: I’m just glad Cecil The Lion didn’t live to see how bad things have gotten with Gamergate.
It’s hard to say exactly what sort of grasp Cecil had on the Gamergate thing. I’m sure he knew the basics: that it started in August 2014, when game developer Zoë Quinn released Depression Quest to great acclaim in the gaming press, which led to accusations that she had garnered such positive reviews due to having had a sexual relationship with a journalist—allegations that were quickly shown to be baseless. And Cecil probably also knew about (and was greatly saddened by) the subsequent, horrifying online harassment that Quinn and other women in the gaming industry have been subject to since that time.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t save him from all of that. But I take some small solace that I was able to shoot Cecil with an arrow and then track him through the African bush, finally finishing him off with a rifle before he saw just how out-of-control and rancorous things in the gaming world have become.
Again, whatever your whole take is on Gamergate and gaming journalism, threats of rape and death are never appropriate in any context. Look, I really admire people’s passion about things like gaming—I’m a very passionate hunter myself, so I understand caring about something like this very deeply—but it’s never within anyone’s rights to terrorize someone else just because you don’t agree with what they’re saying. If, for example, someone said they didn’t agree with people paying thousands of dollars to fly to Africa to kill exotic animals, then I think that’s just fine. I believe you’re allowed to have whatever opinions you like, even if I don’t believe the same things as you do.
Poor Cecil, though, bless his gentle soul, he took the weight of all the hate and harassment leveled at Zöe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and the other women brave enough to go up against the misogyny prevalent in video game culture squarely onto his great, regal shoulders. It’s just the kind of lion he was, to have immense empathy for other people’s fear and suffering. I’m just glad I could spare him even one more day of having to see on Twitter or in the news any more of the horrible, unforgivable threats made against these women and their families.
But I think the thing that would have broke dear Cecil’s heart the most is the fact that the South By Southwest organizers caved in to these despicable threats. This just emboldens the cowards who do these sorts of things to continue with this totally unacceptable and unlawful behavior. Cecil may have been gentle and kind, but he also had integrity and courage, and he stood up for what was right—concepts the SXSW event organizers clearly do not understand .
And as I look up to Cecil’s mounted head on my trophy room wall, I once again thank the Lord that this beautiful beast didn’t have to witness such shameful capitulation to a small element of hateful monsters terrorizing women.
So good night, sweet, sweet Cecil the Lion—I raise my glass to you.