There are few things that can galvanize our national attention like an American trophy hunter in Africa. It's right below "What Color Is This Dress" but above "This Woman Wrote a Powerful Message to Her Haters on a Receipt."
Good luck camping out on cable news this week, Donald Trump. Don't try to make a comeback now, Rachel Dolezal. Caitlyn who?
This summer's latest top story is Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, accused of killing Cecil, a famous lion in Zimbabwe. The story might not be discussed in campaign stump speeches or in a congressional hearing (we repeat: might not), but it's a story that incites outrage and gets airtime on news shows that otherwise spend their days discussing Iran and 2016.
It's not explicitly politics, but it's inherently political. It's more than a story about a man who killed a lion; it's about gender roles, gun culture (or bow culture), values, America's place in the world. And now, all manner of politically interested folks are seizing upon it for their own purposes.
The reactions include Geraldo Rivera's, who called Palmer a "jailable criminal."
The jerkoff that killed the lion is a jailable criminal. Plus, isn't it weird that @HillaryClinton does not have a position on Keystone?
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) July 29, 2015
Marco Rubio wondered why attention was being paid to the lion and not the undercover video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing the procurement of fetal organs. Chris Christie told Brietbart the story wasn't a "front burner" for him.
Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 29, 2015
Jimmy Kimmel should be a top contender for the 2015 John Oliver Award For Excellence for "destroying" Palmer during a monologue that was embedded and shared across the Web on Wednesday.
We saw a similar reaction in 2014 with Kendall Jones, a Texas Tech University cheerleader, and in 2013 with Melissa Bachman, a Minnesota TV presenter. Both posted photos of big-game hunting online that went viral, including photos with lions. They quickly became flash-in-the-pan culture warriors, defending hunting from angry coastal progressives, flashing their ready-for-Fox-News smiles in photos next to fish and wildlife, and not backing down.
His gender might have something to do with it. During Kimmel's monologue, he questioned Palmer's manhood, asking, "The big question is, why are you shooting a lion in the first place?"
"I mean, I'm honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that," he added. "How is that fun? Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill things that are stronger than you?"
For some, Palmer acts as a stand-in for disgust at macho American gun culture and imperialism. He's been characterized as a coward with a firearm who went to a foreign country to kill a rare animal for nothing more than a little fun.
"I'm not against hunting," Kimmel said. "If you're hunting to eat, or to help keep the animal population healthy or it's part of your culture or something, that's one thing, but if you're some A-hole dentist who wants a lion's head over the fireplace in his mansion mancave so his douchebag buddies can gather around it and drink scotch and tell him how awesome he is, that's just vomitous."
Another thing that separates Palmer from the women who also went viral for big-game hunting is that what Palmer did might have been illegal. His tour guides face poaching charges, and in a statement, he said he "had no idea" the lion was a "known, local favorite," and was under the assumption it was a legal hunt.
For that reason, we might not see opinions over him break down over traditional cultural and political lines. It could be a bit like what happened with Dolezal; basically, everyone was upset with her, but for different reasons, depending on their politics.
These cultural flashpoints can become blank canvases for people to draw comparisons with other issues — be they white privilege or unconventional personal identification (in the case of Dolezal) or abortion ...
What’s the difference between the Minnesota Dentist and Planned Parenthood? The dentist only harvested the head and skin.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 29, 2015
... or police officers killing black people.
What the activists say is true. People care about a lion vastly, and a dead black person barely. How shameful and sad and disgusting.
— umair (@umairh) July 29, 2015
some day it will be as socially unacceptable for police to kill black men as for a dentist to kill a lion
— Tim Dickinson (@7im) July 29, 2015
Mitt Romney was even dragged into it when the Hill found Palmer donated $5,000 to him in 2012, according to FEC filings.
Politics is always more than just politicians and things Congress or local governments are voting on. It's whatever moves voters and people — and sometimes, that can be a lion that was killed an ocean away.