Thursday, September 11, 2014

She Can't Handle The Truth

It's too cute by half- and silly- to say Slate's Katie McDonough must be smoking something. It would be an ad hominem tactic and, by the way, untrue.  She would have made more sense if she were high. Instead, McDonough writes

But it’s also disgusting that we needed “proof” — every brutal second of that video — to believe that what Ray Rice did was wrong. That this video is now being consumed, and Janay Rice being victimized anew, every few seconds. That TMZ is making money off of it.

And what will ultimately change? The NFL may do some executive shuffling to deflect a new round of bad press. Ray Rice may end up being booted out of the league. Commentators like Smith may feel chastened for thinking — at least this time — that Janay Rice shared responsibility for the violence committed against her. But our culture’s disregard for women’s humanity — the fact that women can’t have a reasonable expectation of safety and privacy, online or off — remains the same as it ever was.

Janay, who married (now ex-) Baltimore Ravens' star running back Ray Rice without a gun held to her head, is not being "victimized anew, every few seconds."  A cursory review of hard news coverage, sports news coverage, or of talk radio confirms that, following release of the infamous videotape, there has been extraordinary sympathy for Mrs. Rice.  Release of the tape (video, at end) by TMZ has multiplied many times over the sympathy and support for Janay across the board, and across the nation.  (An earlier videotape from TMZ showed only what happened outside of the elevator, after the attack, and hence provoked less reaction.)

Without the visual evidence presented to the public, and the subsequent "consumption" of "every brutal second" (with "every" typically being only about fifteen), Ray Rice's mere two-game suspension would have held.  Five Thirty-Eights' Allison McCann (her chart, below) has found "For the 15 cases of domestic violence that had been punished under the old, nonspecific guidelines, the average number of games suspended was 1.5."  No videotape, little penalty.

McDonough allows that the NFL "may do some executive shuffling."  That "executive shuffling" may apply to Commissioner Roger Goodell himself, who is not a mere executive but the emperor of the most successful sports league in the USA, an individual who pulled down an estimated $44.2 million last year in salary, bonuses, and other compensation.  "Executive shuffling," whatever form- if at all- it may take, is as likely to be a response to dramatic mishandling of a compelling case as it is to "deflect a new round of bad press."  Making major personnel changes would more likely encourage, rather than discourage, a further round of bad press.

McDonough cites the "culture’s disregard for women’s humanity — the fact that women can’t have a reasonable expectation of safety and privacy, online or off."  With increased government spying, and increased spying throughout the non-governmental sector with the expansion of social media, there is an ever-diminishing expectation of safety and privacy.  But the reduction of privacy is not limited to the female gender- ask the Brown family of Ferguson, Missouri. Respect for privacy in the Rice case would not have served the interests of the victim, but of the victimizer.

Inadvertently, McDonough is defending Ray Rice to an extent few individuals are doing so, at least in public.  Certainly, she is not aware of this, and would be horrified were she to realize it.  But shining a light on this attack, which so horrifies the writer, exposes Janay to far less criticism than does it her attacker. The Slate editor is attempting to defend and support a woman (because, it appears, Janay is a woman) and is doing her no favors.

It is unclear, moreover, how transparency in this matter reflects "our culture's disregard for women's humanity." Rather, it demonstrates the perpetrator's disregard for women's humanity.    "The truth will set you free," said Jesus. Even more eloquently, "Crushing truths perish from being acknowledged," Camus (definitely not a disciple of Jesus) wrote.

"Janay Rice isn't a person in this footage" but "fodder for the news cycle," McDonough writes, obviously oblivious (say that five times fast) to the dehumanizing effect not of the footage but of Ray Rice's behavior.  Janay Rice has not been victimized by a videotape but by her boyfriend now her husband. 

Mrs. Rice is entitled to her thoughts and her reasons, whatever the latter may be for her decision to stay with Ray. But it is infantilizing the individual to portray her as a mere object, unable to handle a visual record of an incident in which she was a victim, and which sheds light on a serious problem in the league and the nation. 

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