‘Who Is Also a Lion’

How public restrooms explain Twitter and the social internet

Tom Scocca


I find myself thinking, more often than might be reasonable, about Cecil the Lion. It was only two years ago, if you remember. Two and a quarter years. Barack Obama was president; Donald Trump was a distraction before serious election politics began; nuclear war seemed extremely unlikely. The wildfires were burning but not everywhere all at once. No one, least of all Cecil the Lion, knew what was coming.

Not for nothing, a search online now for “Cecil the Lion” leads to a Wikipedia page with the title “Killing of Cecil the lion.” Lowercase L: The Wikipedians want you to be sure that his actual proper name was Cecil, just Cecil, his lionhood merely a clarifying appositive. The subject of the page is not the lion, but the gerund of the action a person did to the lion. It’s not about Cecil.

It never was about Cecil. The subjective experience of Cecil the Lion was inaccessible to human minds and was over, at any rate, by the time he became famous. He was dead. He was a pure representation of famousness — an internet celebrity — a cause and a parable.

Cecil the Lion symbolized the outrageous cruelty of humans toward animals. And the willingness of people to be outraged by people being more outraged about animals than about people. And…