Cecil The Lion’s Murder Confirms Stalin’s Perception Theory
Hundreds of lions are killed by poachers and thousands of people are murdered by terrorists and dictatorships* every year in Africa. So why did Cecil’s assassination have such an impact?
The explanation lies in the precept attributed to Joseph Stalin:
“The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.“
Indeed, this rule is one of the pillars of journalism: Tragic events are always narrated by reporters through personal stories of victims. Journalists use these testimonies to capture the attention and emotions of the public. Individual stories are far more engaging than a cold statistic.
In performance management, we learn that “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not data,” as British physician and author Ben Goldacre once said. In journalism, the opposite is true: An anecdote can give meaning to a statistic.
It happens that Cecil the Lion had the essential characteristics of a popular hero who could embody the tragedy that is the killing of protected wildlife:
- Since 2008, he was part of a research program and wore a GPS tracking device on a collar.
- He epitomized natural beauty and had charisma. That’s why he became the star of the Hwange National Park where he lived and was so beloved by tourists.
- Last but not least, he had a name, which gave him a unique personality and contributed to his fame.
* Such as Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, the country where Cecil was killed.