It says something about the crimes committed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer that I have no issue with the internet going after him full bore. I’ve spent years decrying the trend toward internet vigilante justice, mostly because the revenge it exacts always seems to be disproportional to the offense committed by the person it’s targeting. If you make a comment or a joke on Twitter that a bunch of people think is offensive, that’s not reason enough to have your life burned to the ground by a torch and pitchfork wielding mob on social media. Get the ball rolling on any campaign for “justice” on the internet and things will quickly get way the hell out of control.
But while all that may be true, it’s tough to look at what’s happening to Walter Palmer and think that he isn’t entirely getting what he deserves. Palmer didn’t make some off-color crack that upset a few people — he paid $55,000 to hunt and kill a lion in Zimbabwe that was so culturally treasured that it had a fucking name: Cecil. He and his expedition lured the lion off a reserve so that he could put a crossbow bolt through it and when that didn’t kill it they tracked it for 40 more hours so he could finally shoot it to death. They then skinned it and took its majestic head so that he could both have a trophy he could boast about and hide his crime from authorities who were tracking the creature. And this wasn’t the first time Palmer had done something like this: he has a long history of violating laws to snag big game both here and abroad. All because he’s a nobody dentist in Minnesota with a dick that doesn’t work and he needs something in his life to help him convince others that isn’t the case.
This guy deserves to be shamed until he literally can’t stick his head out of the house without someone calling him a douchebag. He deserves to be extradited to Zimbabwe and put on trial for his crimes. He deserves to have his life sifted through and every sordid detail of it exposed — like, say, the fact that he was accused of sexual harassment back in 2009 and had to settle a lawsuit over it in the amount of $127,500. I’m not generally a fan of buying into media narratives of people because I think it’s unfair to judge someone based on one horrible thing he or she did; we all have skeletons and none of us would stand up to absolute scrutiny. But that grotesque and unconscionable act that set off this chain of events for Walter Palmer kind of earned him all the shit he’s getting right now. Still, there’s a place where all of this has to stop — and that’s with threatening Palmer’s life.
Maybe you feel so strongly for Cecil the lion that you believe his killer deserves the same fate. But the fact remains that threatening to kill Palmer makes you on no better moral ground than Palmer himself. PETA, predictably, says that Palmer deserves to be hanged in public. Twitter has been lit up with trolls doxxing Palmer and suggesting somebody pay he and his family a little visit. This is the problem with the internet mob: once the ball of outrage starts rolling downhill, it can easily spiral out of control and do a hell of a lot of damage. It’s up to each and every one of us to help ensure that doesn’t happen. If you’re furious at Walter Palmer for what he did to Cecil the lion, you happen to be on the side of the angels. Best to keep it that way. He deserves to pay for what he did — and hopefully the punishment of the justice system and being the most despised person in the world right now will be payment enough.