Every year, America experiences millions of incidents of domestic violence, many of them brutal and some of them deadly. But a shocking video of football star Ray Rice hitting his fiancé with a cruel punch in a casino elevator has provoked unprecedented revulsion and intense public debate.
For the same reason that two ISIS be-heading videos posted on the internet finally awakened Americans to the fact that Islamo-Nazi terrorism remains a serious threat. Visual imagery impacts the emotions at a visceral level that verbal descriptions, or statistics, or thoughtful discussions can’t possibly touch.
Startling videos cut through all distraction to get our attention, but with declining attention-spans public fascination will shift within weeks to some new shocking and disturbing footage. In any event, disproportionate emphasis on impactful visual imagery gives electronic media a dangerously decisive role in setting the national agenda.