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Cult of Outrage: Anthony Cumia and Violence Against Photographers in Public

My friend Brian* was in Atlanta for business with time to kill, so he was walking around near Midtown and taking pictures with his cell phone. At one point a woman yelled at him for taking pictures of her – she wasn’t in any of his shots – and a man that was with the woman chased Brian down. He punched Brian in the back of the head, shoved him to the ground, and stepped on his cell phone, shattering the screen. By the time Brian was able to stand up, the two people had fled.

I immediately thought of Brian’s story when I read about Anthony Cumia, half of duo Opie and Anthony on Sirius XM, being fired for his rage-filled series of Tweets after allegedly being assaulted by a woman for taking her picture on a New York street.

I also thought of Brian earlier in the day when I saw the video below, in which a YouTube “prankster” did something of a social experiment “in the hood” where he took pictures of himself with his cell phone, but appeared to be taking pictures of others. All but one of the people in the video react angrily, and three of those in the video respond with violence. One man chokes him, another punches him, and another swats the phone out of his hand.

In all of these cases, the actions of the photographer were perfectly legal and yet it seems – from comments on the video to posts like these – that some people think that they “deserve what [they] get.” In a public place – where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, like a bathroom – a person can film or photograph anyone.

Yes, Cumia said some racially-charged things, but so did Brian after his assault. Luckily for Brian, he’s not famous nor did he express his outrage on a public platform like Twitter. Still, it is disturbing to me that story surrounding what Cumia said is absent the context of his being a victim of assault.

This is not to suggest that black people in a general sense respond with violence to having their picture taken or that white people don’t respond this way. A (white) man filmed his assault by a (white) woman after he was flying a remote-controlled quadcopter or drone at the beach. The woman, Andrea Mears, now faces a fine of $2000 and possibly a year in jail. With the racial element removed, it seems as if everyone understands that the person committing the physical assault is in the wrong.

Lately we’ve begun to recognize that victim-blaming is abhorrent, but it seems as if we still impose limits to that if the victim expresses societally undesirable views. Donald Sterling had his privacy violated – illegally, if his claim that he was unaware he was being recorded is true – but that didn’t matter because he’s a racist. Cumia, it seems, has fallen into that same category.

*Not his real name
Image via screengrab

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.