We are an emotional species. Certain things catch the zeitgeist, and certain things fade into obscurity. When we read that Stephen Fry was under investigation for blasphemy we entered a collective secular outrage. The irony that the investigation was dropped due to a lack of outrage wasn’t, I hope, lost on us all.
This website was the target of a popular outrage for publishing a link to a video. The scorn poured forth was enough to get Broadsheet to remove the link. For my part, I did not view the video. I had read pieces by the woman in question and can only say I found her pieces beautifully written and brutally honest.
People who knew her were, and continue to be, rightly upset. I understand the outrage and find myself in agreement with much of it. Yet I am uncomfortable with the decision to remove the link. Let me explain my reasons.
Ray Rice was a Super Bowl winning running back with the Baltimore Ravens. He is the team’s second all-time leading rusher behind Jamal Lewis, and is also second in rushing attempts and touchdowns, and third in combined touchdowns. All this is to say, Ray Rice was very, very good at football.
But Ray Rice is also a perpetrator of domestic violence. In February 2014, he assaulted his wife (then fiancee) in a casino elevator he was arrested and charged with aggravated-assault. The incident was a scandal. The video, released by TMZ, showed him dragging his unconscious partner from the elevator. The NFL waited until July to act. Ray Rice was suspended for 2 games.
I’ll say that again, 2 Games.
The criminal charges were dropped after Rice agreed to undergo court supervised counseling.
I’ll say that again, the charges were dropped.
The Baltimore Ravens accepted the punishment and said they were satisfied Rice was getting help and that he was “part of the Ravens family”.
I’ll say that again, part of the Ravens family.
Then in September, TMZ released the video from inside the elevator. The video shows Rice punching his fiancee in the face. It is a sickening blow delivered by a terrifyingly powerful man. The video went viral and the outrage, belatedly, exploded.
Ray Rice had his contract terminated by the Baltimore Ravens. The owner of the team made a public apology. The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also apologised and changed the entire league’s Domestic Abuse Policy. The NFL even appointed a former FBI Director to investigate the debacle.
As saddenning as it is to admit it, it was the video that jarred people into outrage. It was the video that drove everyone to demand a change in policy and an end to tokenism. It was the video.
I’m not condoning Broadsheet’s publishing of the link. I’m certainly not condemning people for feeling it was the wrong thing to do. I am asking whether, in the age of 140 characters and 4 second vines, if we need to open our eyes to horrible truths sometimes, no matter how uncomfortable and upsetting they are?
I’m asking does a over-sanitising of events allow culprits slip away relatively unpunished? I don’t know. I know I’m outraged that a good woman is dead. I’m outraged that a rare diamond will no longer shine.
Again, I did not watch the video. I feel I don’t need to in order to know a despicable thing occurred. I’d love to harness the outrage. I’d love to aim it towards a government that has slashed the Mental Health Budget. I’d love for all of us disgusted by these events to email our local TD and tell him we are outraged about the state of our Mental Health Support Services, I know I am.
But that’s not how outrage works. In order for outrage to work effectively it needs a zeitgeist. Outrage needs a focus and a goal. But sometimes outrage needs a video.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld