Ray Rice & the Photographic Depiction of Violence
I for one was not particularly shocked by the Ray Rice video that emerged last week—the one that was taken inside the elevator and led to both his dismissal from the Baltimore Ravens and his indefinite suspension from the NFL. We’d already seen the outside video, after all. We already knew that Ray Rice had hit his fiancée in the face so hard that she’d been knocked unconscious. We’d already seen him dragging (not carrying!) her limp body out of the elevator. Shouldn’t that have been enough to reasonably ascertain what went on inside the elevator?! Apparently not.
When NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, was asked why the emergence of the second video completely changed the league’s response to Ray Rice—when the substantive details of the case were already known—he responded this way:
[W]hat we saw on the first videotape was troubling to us in and of itself. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, it was extremely graphic and it was sickening. And that's why we took the action yesterday.
A quartet of editorials in this week’s TIME magazine all weighed in on the significance of the second Ray Rice video. The first, from journalist David Von Drehle, had this to say:
Written accounts of violence against women—like the police report in the Rice case—are too easily ignored, but images rivet attention. The exponential difference between reading about a violent encounter and actually seeing it happen cannot have been a surprise to the NFL… But in this case, reading about Rice and actually seeing him go monster was a difference that caught the NFL off guard.
Vice President Joe Biden authored the second piece—a mere six paragraphs long that was almost entirely devoted to the self-promoting celebration of his own efforts to protect vulnerable women and children from abuse. He emerged from his personal love-fest just long enough to declare:
Domestic abuse of any kind is ugly, and today there is rightful public outrage over it… The American people have sent a message: You’re a coward for raising a hand to a woman or child—and you’re complicit if you fail to condemn it.
Video of Ray Rice’s violent attack on his fiancée changed everything, even though the fact of the assault itself was always the same… The video of the Rice assault is a rare document. Domestic abuse is seldom captured, just as rape almost never is. Yet you can bet that seeing women who have been beaten or raped is a lot more significant … than the normalizing discourse around these kinds of assault. Violent torment, laid plain to see, cannot be justified or downplayed… Without seeing what horror transpired, it is easy for the culture to erase the seriousness of such assaults—to diminish them as a private matter… The abuse that comes our way most often … is nearly invisible, easy to trivialize and all too often impossible to get justice for. Unless an audience happens to witness it live.
The final editorial, by retired NFL punter Chris Kluwe, can be rightly surmised from its title, “The Tape Never Lies.” Borrowing a longtime NFL mantra, his basic assertion is that if Roger Goodell had seen the second video prior to its public release, he should no longer have a job. The only acceptable response to violence like that—violence that is caught on tape—is to throw the book at whoever is responsible. And that, of course, brings us to abortion. Surprise, surprise. I’m sure you saw this coming from the very start. Like the attack on Janay Rice, abortion is a private act of domestic violence. Unlike the attack on Janay Rice—who suffered no longterm physical damage—abortion is almost always fatal.
Sadly, as the media universally celebrates the exposure garnered by the release of the second Ray Rice video, the same support is not afforded to the depiction of abortion violence. Abortion videos—which are equally rare though far more violent—are considered manipulative, disrespectful and inappropriate. As Joe Biden self-righteously condemns the domestic abuse of women and children, he simultaneously champions an industry that violently kills thousands of tiny human children every single day and leaves untold numbers of women a shell of their former selves. While lamenting the “traditional male ownership of women” that is seen in the cultural tolerance for domestic abuse, Naomi Wolf—one of the most prominent abortion defenders in the country—misses the fact that abortion too is wielded as a tool of male ownership.
Though I don’t know Chris Kluwe’s position on abortion, I do know that he is an outspoken gay-rights advocate. He was furious when Michael Sam—the first openly gay NFL draft pick—fell to the seventh round, and he believes his own support of so-called same-sex marriage cost him his job in the NFL. In light of Kluwe’s efforts to make the NFL a more gay-friendly league, I couldn’t help but wonder what the public reaction would have been if—instead of Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend—it had been Michael Sam knocking out his boyfriend. It seems fairly certain that the public outrage would have been far less severe. Number one, Michael Sam is a media darling. More importantly, we simply have less sympathy for a man who is punched in the face than we do for a woman who is punched in the face. Why? Because generally speaking, women are smaller and weaker than men. They are more vulnerable to violence and less capable of defending themselves. The same goes for children.
If Ray Rice had gotten into an argument with his brother and knocked him out in an elevator, would it have even been a story? Would anyone bat an eyelash? But what if Ray Rice had been caught punching a young daughter in the face?! It wouldn’t be a question of how long before he can play again in the NFL. It would be a question of how long before he gets out of jail. The simple fact of the matter is this. The more helpless the victim, the more hideous the assault. As a society, we know this to be true—except when it comes to abortion. Suddenly, the helplessness and vulnerability of the victim becomes a means of justifying the assault—which may be the greatest perversion of justice the world has ever known. Joe Biden is right about one thing. Domestic abuse of any kind is ugly. And if we fail to condemn the violence being done to the weak and helpless, then we too are complicit.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.