The tape has been played over and over again: Ray Rice knocks out his now-wife, Janay, and drags her unconscious body out of an elevator.
It has run continually on cable networks, played in the background as people discuss the fallout from the Rice scandal. It's been featured on the front pages of newspapers. TMZ, the outlet which first released the video, helpfully made a GIF of the moment Janay Rice is punched in the head and falls to the floor, ensuring that the brutality never ends.
There are obviously sound editorial reasons for showing the Rice video, if sparingly — it is news, after all, and there's a case to be made that people should be exposed to the horrors of domestic violence (though that raises the question of why, exactly, we needed video like this to understand that such abuse is a problem). But the relentlessness of the footage, the eagerness with which it seemed to be repeated, troubled me.
No network or newspaper would ever have shown the images of Sotloff and Foley beheaded, of course, but there was a fierce debate about whether any portion of the ISIS videos was appropriate to display. Newspapers that ran pictures from the video on their front pages were roundly condemned.
But there seems to be little discomfort from many outlets in playing the Rice video—all of it—over and over and over again. Surely, though, Janay Rice deserves the same kind of editorial caution granted to other victims. After all, what is being shown is a crime committed against her, a deeply traumatic event being played out in public on a humiliating scale. Every choice of hers is being mercilessly dissected. Isn't it important that she be treated with all possible empathy?
It's easy to think that the images of Sotloff and Foley kneeling before their captors were worse in some way than the images from the Rice video, but it's also worth asking how much, exactly, that is true. Is video of Janay Rice being knocked unconscious, of her being dragged around like a rag doll, that much better or simpler to deal with than video of Steven Sotloff reading a statement while a man stands over him with a knife?
Janay Rice has already said she feels like she is living through a "nightmare." No matter what we think of the situation she is in, hopefully we can agree that it serves no purpose to gratuitously extend that nightmare, even when any news value has long since disappeared.