Where’s the tape? America responds to video
We only respond if there’s video. That’s one lesson that can be drawn from the belated reaction to football player Ray Rice knocking out his fiancee in an elevator. Rice was arrested back in February, and in July was suspended for two games. But once video of the actual punch surfaced this week, he was banned indefinitely.
Time and again, we are informed of outrages — Rice’s domestic violence; beheadings and rape by the fanatics calling themselves the Islamic State; Donald Sterling’s racism; abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib — but only grow outraged and force action when video or audio or images emerge.
How many injustices get short shrift because nobody’s recorder was rolling?
“It’s frustrating,” said Valenda Campbell, who is in charge of creating video and photo images for CARE, one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations.
Campbell and her colleagues at Atlanta-based CARE call it the “CNN effect”: when TV cameras arrive at a crisis, donations start pouring in.
“We have a responsibility to help one another. Every day we see these emergencies, and nobody seems to be aware of them,” said Campbell, whose organization is now responding to humanitarian crises in South Sudan, Syria, the Central African Republic and Gaza.
She has learned to work within this reality. Her job as senior manager for marketing and creative services is to document images of disaster and injustice — and the healing that follows — which help generate the funds CARE needs to provide assistance.
“It always goes back to the old adage that seeing is believing,” Campbell said.
“We are visual beings, and more and more this is a visual culture,” she continued. “Seeing things provides more information and puts a human face on whatever the situation is, and helps people relate on a much more personal level to what’s going on.”
In the Rice case, video was released Feb. 19 of the Baltimore Ravens running back dragging his unconscious fiancee, Janay Palmer, out of a casino elevator, after what police described as an altercation.
Rice, who married Palmer the following month, was charged with assault, which carried a penalty of up to five years behind bars. Charges were later dropped when Rice entered a pretrial intervention program. The NFL suspended him for two games, there was widespread criticism of the penalty as too light — and we moved on.
Then TMZ.com released video from inside the elevator, of the knockout punch itself. There was an enormous uproar. The NFL suspended Rice and the Baltimore Ravens cut him from the team. Many predict he may never play in the NFL again.