Abuse In The Public Eye

Today new video surfaced of NFL player Ray Rice hitting his now-wife. Dara Lind provides the backstory:

In February, TMZ posted a video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his apparently unconscious then-fiancée (now his wife Janay Rice) from an elevator at the Revel casino in Atlantic City. The incident led to Ray Rice’s arrest for domestic violence, though he was assigned to a pre-trial diversion program rather than being charged with a crime. It also led him to receive a two-game suspension from the NFL. League commissioner Roger Goodell, after facing harsh criticism for the relatively light punishment (first-time marijuana offenders generally get suspended for more games), he announced a new, much stricter league domestic-violence policy in August.

But the original video didn’t show exactly what had happened inside the elevator, leaving an opening for Rice supporters to assume that he was acting in self-defense. Janay Rice apologized for her role in the incident, which seemed to confirm this suspicion. Now, TMZ has released a second video (warning: it’s very graphic) from inside the casino elevator. It shows Rice punching Palmer — and makes it clear that what happened wasn’t a “fight,” but an attack.

After the release of this new video, Rice’s contract was terminated. Jonathan Cohn hopes some good comes from this episode:

The footage is not easy to watch, but it shouldn’t be. Domestic violence is violent. Maybe if more people realize that, more people will take it seriously.

Dave Zirin disagrees with that line of reasoning:

[I]f no one is going to talk about the welfare of the person who is actually subjected to the violence on that tape, let’s talk about it here. I spent the morning communicating with people who work on issues involving domestic violence and violence against women nearly every day of their lives. They all said the same thing, without dissent: releasing this tape to the world is incredibly damaging to Janay Rice. Just as we would protect the name of an alleged rape victim, just as we would not show a video of Ray Rice committing a sexual assault, we should not be showing this video like it’s another episode of Rich People Behaving Badly. If Janay Rice wanted to show this tape to the world, in other words if she had offered her consent, that is a different matter. But showing and reshowing it just because we can is an act of harm.

Josh Marshall is not settled on the ethics of showing images of domestic violence. But he does “have a general stance against those who think news reporters should be in the business of not reporting certain things to advance various purportedly good ends”:

Two examples. Recently we have used still photos from the videos of the beheadings of the two American reporters by ISIS. Not stills of the actual killings but from the parts before that happens. Like many other press organizations, we’ve never published the videos themselves. In recent days I’ve heard from a number of readers who’ve said we should not be publishing any of these photos, even in stories which directly relate to the videos themselves because this is somehow too upsetting or doing ISIS’s work for it.

Similarly, I know there’s a move afoot to refrain from publishing the names of mass shooters on the theory that this just gives them the notoriety they crave and which led to their atrocities. I disagree. These killings are facts. The ISIS beheadings are facts. There’s no reason to publish imagery of mutilated bodies. But within certain bounds, these things happened. And withholding critical information about what happened just doesn’t make sense. I’d go further and say that it’s actually wrong. Ugly things happen. We shouldn’t play games about reporting them. We shouldn’t get into mind-games about what a mass murderer might or might not have wanted. Journalists should just focus on doing their jobs.

Meanwhile, Coates thinks the “idea that it took today’s release to understand the gravity of things is insupportable.” He feels the NFL is simply in damage control mode:

The league suspended Rice for a meager two games for knocking his wife unconscious. The league now propose to suspend him indefinitely for….the same thing. This suspension only indirectly relates to the protecting women. It mostly relates to protecting the shield.