A man called Ray Rice

So, a colleague was annoyed that I tweeted an animated gif earlier today of former Baltimore Ravens football star Ray Rice beating his girlfriend unconscious.

The image accompanied a story from our own Jon Green, calling for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to be fired over the incident.

The outraged-friend assumed that I tweeted the image in a callous attempt to get “hits” to my blog. (As if trying to get traffic, which equals ad revenue, which equals keeping the blog afloat and paying the mortgage, is somehow a dirty pursuit for a venture that lives and dies based on whether it can earn enough monthly income).

The thing is, I didn’t tweet the image solely to get traffic. I tweeted it because you don’t win civil rights battles by playing nice, and you don’t stop domestic violence by soft-pedaling the crime.

You win by getting in people’s faces and making them uncomfortable. You win by making the offense personal, unforgettable, and ultimately unacceptable.

Baltimore Ravens runningback Ray Rice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2012. Photo by 1ravenscowboysnflfan.

Baltimore Ravens runningback Ray Rice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2012. Photo by 1ravenscowboysnflfan.

I’d seen snippets of the Rice domestic violence video on TV yesterday, but hadn’t been paying attention to the story, so wasn’t aware of what it was all about. Then last night, I was editing Jon Green’s story, and after reading the shocking details, I wanted to see this video for myself. And there it was — a pro football player knocking a woman unconscious, and then dragging her seemingly-lifeless body out of an elevator as if she were some inconveniently oversized rag doll.

It was shocking. And horrible. And it made me want to know even more about the story.

And that’s why I tweeted the images this morning.

Jeff Gannon, posing on his off-hours Web site.

Jeff Gannon, posing on his off-hours Web site.

I remember, back in February of 2005, when I faced a similar dilemma about whether to publicly share shocking images associated with another graphic story. The story was about a man called Jeff Gannon, a conservative “journalist” covering the Bush White House. Gannon was more stenographer than reporter; tending to regurgitate the far-right line on the issue of the day, including gay rights. It turns out that while staunchly anti-gay by day, during his off-hours Gannon (working under a pseudonym without the requisite White House background check) was actually a seriously-in-debt gay prostitute — something decidedly at odds with a conservative Republican White House that had just launched a campaign to enshrine anti-gay prejudice in the US Constitution.

My dilemma was whether to publish the photos I had discovered on Gannon’s prostitution Web sites. He was nude, they were graphic, and I wasn’t sure whether the images were too salacious for the story. I talked to Mike Signorile, another gay writer, about it, and Mike ultimately swayed me to publish the photos (though I put PG versions on the site, while permitting the readers to click through to the unedited ones).

Mike’s logic was simple: People won’t fully appreciate the shocking nature of the story unless and until you shock them with the full truth of it. Mike had an even more nuanced point as well. By pulling the photos, or at least editing out the naughty bits, I would in fact be complicit in underselling the story. In a very real way, my own reticence about the images risked changing the story for the worse, and ultimately watering down Gannon’s offense in the eyes of the reader.

And that’s why I included the animated gifs, and entire video, in Jon Green’s story this morning.

As Jon reports, neither the NFL nor the Baltimore Ravens took decisive action against Ray Rice until the second, more graphic, video went public this week. The NFL already knew about Rice’s crime, the player had already admitted to hitting his girlfriend, and we’d already seen an earlier video of him dragging her unconscious out of an elevator. Yet, it wasn’t until we saw a video of Rice actually hitting his fiancée in the face that the NFL acted. The brutal reality of the crime didn’t hit home until we witnessed it first-hand.

And such is the nature of successful civil rights activism.

Oh that we lived in a world where you could simply and logically explain a problem — be it racism, homophobia, or violence against women — and the public would rise to redress simply based on the underlying merits. But, for better or worse, life is more visceral, and people more emotional.

While there’s a role for facts in swaying public opinion, I’ve learned through more than 20 years of (rather successful) gay rights activism that few things are as effective at educating the public as a swift punch to the gut.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • walterhpdx

    You win by getting in people’s faces and making them uncomfortable. You win by making the offense personal, unforgettable, and ultimately unacceptable.

    This! Exactly this! If we stayed in our comfort zones, we’d never progress!

  • BarbaraJFitzgerald

    my Aunty Emily recently got a 9 month old Land cruser just by parttime work online… look at more info googlepay.com

  • John, this is one the best from your posts. Website

  • Ooh I loved that book as a child.

  • Play it John. Play it over and over again until it is finally realized that it is not the playing of this terrible event that anyone should be angry at but the event itself. Nobody I believe should be given an out to this sort of brutality. “Well I don’t want to see it.” Bullshit. Look at it over and over and become angry and disgusted at the right thing for the right reasons.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    This sounds tacky, but my husband and I really enjoyed the Gannon/Guckert investigation. You did good John, you did good.

    BTW John – the people who produced “Frozen” have begun work on bringing A Wrinkle in Time to the “silver screen”.

  • You’re right, John. I had forgotten a lot of that.

    *sigh* The media is still reluctant to “out” anyone and covering this story would have required that. I’m convinced that plenty of WH reporters know full well who pulled the strings to get him in (and who he was there to fuck) and just won’t say because back in the day such things were not discussed. If equal means equal then gay sex scandals should be the same as the straight ones and a prostitute being given press credentials is a story, male or female, gay or straight, but the press corps still has a rather old-boys-network feel about covering anything sex related until they can’t NOT cover it and that is increased exponentially if it’s a gay story.

  • So what do you know — against my better judgment, I changed all the animated gifs to a finite number of repititions (cuz you asked me to), and did the same for Becca’s new post (I took her comment here and made it a post), and what do you know? The images all time out before you even get to the most of them. Which is what I feared would happen if I made the reptititions finite.

    Heh.

    They’re no longer finite on the new story :)

  • Can I post this as a post on the site?

  • Wow, I hadn’t seen it until now.

  • wow, I had no idea.

  • All ya had to do was ask :) Just made them loop a finite numbe rof times.

  • Wow, I know that women in India, for example, have a hard time getting the cops to prosecute rapes, but I actually didn’t remember (or didn’t know) that domestic violence was treated like almost a stigma here. Wow.

  • And even worse, you’re trying to make money and stay alive?! What’s wrong with you, man!

  • Thanks!

  • Oh, it’s even better than that. To this day, no one has explained how a male prostitute, using an assumed name, who was in hock to the govt of Delaware for $20k (meaning, he was potentially vulnerable), got regular access to the White House WITHOUT HAVING UNDERGONE THE REQUIRED BACKGROUND CHECK. In order to go several times a week for years, you have to get a background check. He never got it. Which means, he couldn’t get access to the White House unless someone let him in, over and over again. Who let the pseudonymous male prostitute in to the Bush White House, and why? There was a story there, and the media’s own homophobia made it drop the ball.

  • Ugh, I know how to spell his name, not sure why I did that!

  • mark_in_toronto

    Someone who is paid millions of dollars a year to play in a violent sport, totally spoiled by the “good life”, treated differently because of his fame and thinks nothing of bopping a woman in the face because she pissed him off deserves not only the public exposure but also incarceration.
    Posting the video of his horrific act (and Jeff Gannon) was a journalistic duty.

  • judybrowni

    Dream on, bet they get him back, on a technicality.

    Countdown, 10, 9, 8…

  • Jade

    *Signorile

    And this seems very much like those who want trigger
    warnings for everything. I wouldn’t worry about it. You made the right
    choice both times.

  • Exactly. Not sure what the penalty should be but he’s on film committing a felony.

  • A few things:

    1) We have a saying of late: pictures/video or it didn’t happen. That’s not always fair. It seems like there’s always a camera of some sort everywhere but it’s gotten to the point that we usually don’t have to take someone’s word for it. Rice might have gotten away with this if it had just been an eyewitness account. But as we can see what happened, something had to be done and they couldn’t simply attack the credibility of the person who witnessed this. A word to the wise: if you see something like this, pull out your camera and start recording. Then no one has to take your word for it. It will be what you recorded.

    2) I don’t like the videos that play automatically. In addition to sometimes causing page load errors, please remember that some abuse survivors suffer from ptsd and might be better off not viewing such images. I feel the same way about the 9/11 videos. Post them, but label them correctly and those who want to view may and the rest can choose not to.

    3) By doing something in public you have waived your right to privacy. The pics stolen from the cloud were private. Reposting those is a violation (and hopefully actionable…shame on everyone involved). But if you are doing something in a lobby or on the street, you know that people can see you so that is not in any way private. Reposting that video was not a violation of anything. If he hadn’t wanted anyone to see video of him beating up his partner, then he shouldn’t have done it. The same goes for Gannon/Guckert. He posted those pics on the internet. It was only a matter of time before someone linked those together. And btw, to this day no one has explained how a prostitute got WH security clearance. No one knew? Bullshit. So which of his clients was working there and got him in? I won’t speculate but it’s a fair question and one that ought to have been answered at the time. Just another example of what spineless weasels the press corps was during the Bush years.

  • pricknick

    I have to say, this is one of the best posts I’ve ever read of yours John.
    Bravo!

  • HereinDC

    http://boston.barstoolsports.com/random-thoughts/the-video-of-ray-rice-knocking-his-fiance-out-has-been-released-and-its-more-sickening-than-you-thought/

    John……He’s looking at his cell phone….you can see the lit screen of his phone……..just watch……..

    Why is no one talking about a GROWN MAN SPITTING on a woman?????

  • HereinDC

    Yes. Everybody keeps saying she spat on him in the elevator and that’s what made him mad.
    You have to see the whole clip……….He’s standing there against the column,,,,,,,then she gradually appears in the video…..he leans forward and spits on her…….and then she tries to slap him while she keeps walking toward the elevator…..

    Everybody keeps focusing on what happened in the elevator………but don’t get me wrong……but the spitting on her…REALLY sets the tone of his anger.

  • Lifetime ban from the NFL? Uh Huh, how about 20 years in the big house.

  • PeteWa

    wait… what kind of monster writer wants people to read their words?
    I’m deeply ashamed of you, John, now leave that poor man alone so he can knock his sack of potatoes wife out in private!

  • judybrowni

    Thanks John, I remember when it wasn’t considered polite to speak about “wife beating,” except as a joke.

    It’s was considered a private “family matter” — something a woman should be ashamed to admit, and something the police wouldn’t be bothered to be involved in, until or after someone, say the wife, was murdered.
    I broke up with a boyfriend in the early ’70s — who seemed like the nicest guy in the world, for the first year — because he escalated arguments about getting married — he was ordering me to marry him, I wasn’t interested — from screaming arguments to shoving, to the physical, once, but that was enough.
    I’d never encountered anything like it before, didn’t understand what was going on, but I ran away from my own apartment. The police wouldn’t help — asked if he was my pimp (he was an engineer, in computer programming.)
    The apartment was in my name, so I changed the locks while he was at work (I’d warned him he’d have 3 days to leave) piled his stufrf in the hall, and locked myself in, trembling, while he and his three brothers pounded on the door.
    Later, his mother called to ask why I wouldn’t marry him, and I told her why.
    A deep quiet on the other end of the phone, and she admitted something she’d probably never admitted to anyone before, “His father beas me, and it’s ruined my life.”
    They were Catholic, they had four children, and she’d always been told it was her fault.
    This all before the term “domestic abuse” had been invented by feminists, who brought wife-beating out of the “private, family” closet so they could fight for legal sanctions.
    And that’s the point, if you’re polite about it, hold back the details, you can’t activate against abuse.

  • Speaking as someone who experienced domestic violence first hand, I concur with John’s decision to post the gifs and video footage.

    One of the reasons abuse and violence happens and is allowed to continue to happen is because people don’t see it happening in front of them. “He hit her. He punched her. He dragged her unconscious from the elevator and then acted like it was no big thing.” — these are descriptive but ultimately abstract statements. People will analyze them in a subjective way. Most people haven’t actually witnessed such things happening, and so in nearly every case the mental image they’ll come up with won’t be nearly as bad as the reality.

    The video…well, it doesn’t lie (although the quality really sucks…). They’re having an argument. (Yes, the clearer video before they got onto the elevator does appear to show him spitting on her, and she responded with a rather lame backhand slap). In the elevator, he shoves Janay a few times (I think it shows him spitting on her a second time), she shoves back trying to push him away, he decks her with a punch so hard her head appears to bounce hard off a metal railing in the elevator. And then — this is the part that gets me — he spends the next several seconds just standing there, waiting for the elevator to stop. Doesn’t bend down to check on her, doesn’t show the least concern she’s unconscious. And then when the doors open, as John remarked, Ray Rice dragged her out like a rag doll, not caring that her dress was hiked up, and even at one point shoving her leg to one side with the toe of his shoe.

    The important thing as we’ve learned isn’t that Ray Rice was accused of assaulting his fiance (now his wife and about-to-be-statistic). It didn’t matter that there was incontrovertible proof the assault happened. The NFL and the Ravens didn’t particularly care about more than a token gesture — a suspension shorter than if he’d been caught smoking grass — until the video came out and Rice (in their eyes) committed the far more serious offense of embarrassing the league. According to their standards, you want to beat your girlfriend, fiance, or wife, sure go right ahead, it’s no big deal — just don’t be SEEN doing it, and most of all don’t be video taped doing it.

    So yeah — this stuff needs to be seen. It needs to be experienced and witnessed, or else people will continue to talk themselves into believing “he assaulted her” or “he punched her” can’t possibly be as bad as some might describe it. Once you see the punch and see Janay’s head bouncing off the railing, Rice’s utter indifference, and his disdain for her condition — you can’t unsee it.

    That all said, I do wish however that John didn’t let the animations just keep looping forever. Even more, I do wish the playing of said videos was behind a button one has to explicitly click to see it, with a caution that the material is graphic, violent, and could be disturbing. It’s also ironic that such violent and disturbing material apparently has no affect on John’s advertising, but certain crude words trigger the cut-offs.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Wait you mean not every reads Deadspin and ESPN obsessively?

  • Well, he was more of a friend until he tweeted that publicly ;-)

  • Thank you :) And, as I’ve also harped on before, it’s not JUST about getting in people’s faces. It’s also about NOT getting in their face sometimes, about knowing when the soft touch is needed, when education is needed etc. But sometimes it really is about shocking people. IMHO, this is one of those times.

  • Wow, I missed that – really?

  • HereinDC

    How about posting the gif of Rice spitting in her? When he was outside the elevator leaning against the column…..she comes into the picture frame……he leans forward…..and SPITS on HER.

  • cambridgemac

    Great post, John and great action you’ve taken by posting the video. Thanks for reminding me of Jeff Gannon and your role in exposing him. Can’t believe I’d forgotten!

    One of the things that makes AmericaBlog special and remarkable is your role as advocate and educator about advocacy. “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

  • dcinsider

    A colleague but not a friend.

  • I only saw it last night, and only because I was editing the story. I’ve learned over the years never to assume that people are familiar with a story just because you are.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Had people not seen the video by now?

    It’s coming out that the NFL had actually seen the entire video months ago. That’s rapidly changing the conversation because it means that NFL officials were not as moved by the footage as, well, every other person who saw it, and still stuck with a wrist-slap suspension. It also means bad news for others like Peter King who committed journalistic malfeasance to help protect the NFL. Heads are still gonna roll.

  • Right on John! Don’t worry about such nit picking critics. The real outrage is domestic violence. Good work!

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