Beating Your Wife is Not ‘Family Turmoil’ and Other Line Edits

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I don’t know Jeff Wagenheim. However, I do know of him, in the sense that I know he wears Hawaiian shirts while covering MMA shows as credentialed media for Sports Illustrated.

I don’t know Brett Rogers. However, I do know of him in the sense that he viciously assaulted his wife in front of his kids and still manages to get signed by MMA promotions after that fact.

I don’t know either of these people. And yet, I still feel comfortable drawing some conclusions about both based on this Wagenheim’s recent article/exercise in moral-dead evenhandedness, which makes Rogers its subject. Most of my conclusions draw from the last graf, in which Wagenheim euphemizes Rogers assaulting a woman half his size as “family turmoil” before granting Rogers a free shot at all the internet haters. You know those internet haters—always hating on professional fighters who assault women and scar their family’s shared psyche for generations. They’re gonna hate.

That Rogers would make passive threats to people with the gall to criticize an unrepentant wife-beater such as himself says a lot. That he made those passive threats while being massaged into a shit-full redemption narrative  of his own also says a lot. Still, Rogers is a known quantity at this point. Dudes who confuse their wife’s face with a heavy bag are not terribly complex despite being objectively terrible people.

As far as I know, Jeff Wagenheim is not a terrible person; I assume he isn’t. However, he did do a pretty fucking terrible thing in being party to Rogers’ narrative hijack. Domestic violence is a crime society would rather not discuss. While the literal silence surrounding it is gut-wrenching and all-too-common, the  broader figurative silence (or minimizing euphemisms) has an especially insidious edge. Case in point: when a writer, that is a person who works with words as a profession and is supposed to understand the power inherent to their existence, uses the words “family turmoil” to describe the act of a 6’4”, 265 lb. mixed martial artist beating his wife to the point that his own daughters try to step in and save their mother from the man who helped bring them into the world. Labeling this turmoil and jogging on to the uplift-y finish is arguably as bad as not mentioning it at all; both serve to obscure an ugly, essential fact.

Or maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I should focus on turning the negative into a positive. Maybe I could be more like Brett Rogers—the man who turned a cowardly and vicious act into fuel for a redemption narrative gleefully divorced from reality. Or maybe we should watch what we write, and be careful when employing inherently vague phrases such as “family turmoil” to circumstances better served by a full description. A suitable substitute for “beating your wife in front of your kids and acting like a defiant sociopath about it even after going to jail” is not kerfuffle, hullabaloo or, in some instances, whoopsie-doodle. We know what this is, and that means we ought to call it what it is.

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