Two Tales of Violence

During the Oscars viewers were stunned and (mostly) outraged when actor Will Smith blindsided host Chris Rock by slapping him across the face on stage.

Rock joked that Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, could star in the next G.I. Jane movie in reference to her bald head. Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia causing her hair loss.

Smith tearfully claimed he was defending his wife and since that evening ongoing discussion by other celebrities, comedians and journalists has ensued.

The overwhelming consensus seems to be that it is patently wrong to turn to violence in any form just because one doesn’t like something another has said.

ComedianMarc Maron says Will Smith was ‘f***ing wrong” to hit Chris Rock at the Oscars, calling it “the most profound display of self-sabotage I’ve ever seen.’”

“Maron feels the conversation shouldn’t be about what Rock said or Will defending Jada or anything else. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It was fing wrong. You don’t go up and smack someone in the fing face — anywhere.’”

Will Smith’s actions call to mind another, similar incident in the news not that long ago; that of the altercation at Fusion Cigar Bar on Sept. 17, 2021 in Clearwater, FL involving Aaron Smith-Levin and Pete Anderson.

Smith-Levin, at the time a candidate for Clearwater City Council, called Anderson’s girlfriend “crazy” after the couple tore up his signature cards and ordered him to leave them alone.

Smith-Levin complied and returned to his seat four tables away where he made the comment to his table mate.

Overhearing, Anderson approached Smith-Levin and punched him in the head.

Aaron Smith-Levin’s situation bears a strong resemblance to the events that took place on the stage of the Oscars. Yet in this case it was Smith-Levin who was vilified while Pete Anderson walked away free from any responsibility for assaulting another person.

It is not OK to be disrespectful or rude towards anyone nor is it appropriate to be involved in alcohol fueled cat-calling of women. But does what one says subsequently justify being physically attacked?

Clearly Pete Anderson and his girlfriend were rude in tearing up the signature cards and snapping at Smith-Levin. Would it have been acceptable had Aaron turned around and hit Anderson?

Fodder for headlines during the Clearwater elections, Smith-Levin was accused of “behaving belligerently” .

While wrong, does it justify being beaten?

“‘You could have the guy write out a confession that he punched you in the face, no state attorney will ever prosecute because of the words you said to his girlfriend,’” Officer Justin Hennis said, according to the video.

With this patently irresponsible statement by Officer Hennis, he opened the door to justifying any number of assaults. Further, this adds insult to the injury Smith-Levin already sustained. It squarely places blame for being assaulted on Aaron’s shoulders and flies in the face of the law.

In the end, given this, Smith-Levin declined to press charges.

Judging by the police statement, Aaron Smith-Levin was painted as deserving of being physically and violently assaulted.

Because of something he said.

How many domestic abusers shout “now look what you made me do”?

Chris Rock, like Smith-Levin, declined to press charges. The Academy however is investigating and considering what consequences, if any, Will Smith should face for his actions. Additionally, Smith is having to face the shock and anger caused by his decision to slap someone over their words.

When the T.B. Times article was published outlining a similar assault rather than speaking against Anderson’s attack, the focus appeared to be on Aaron’s rude choice of words.

Smith-Levin “started it” so Anderson was somehow justified for riding in like a knight in shining armor to protect the honor of his girlfriend.

Missing from the article was that this same “hero” had been arrested and charged for drunkenly attacking his partner of 9 years by jumping on her, sitting on her chest and beating her black and blue.

Aaron Smith-Levin’s opponent gleefully took the opportunity to add her voice to the victim blaming and shaming.

To be clear, Smith-Levin did not engage in a fight.

He was attacked.

Teixeira’s disingenuous twisting of the events is every bit as irresponsible as the comment by Hennis. Rather than condemning the violence or at least displaying a semblance of class by leaving it alone, Teixeira lost no time in mocking the victim of an assault. Given her sympathetic support of Scientology, whose leader, David Miscavige, is known for his violent attacks against those around him, perhaps her position on the subject isn’t so surprising.

We are living in a society where assaults happen over a wrong look, missing chicken nuggets or road rage.

Did Chris Rock deserve to be physically slapped because he said something Will Smith didn’t like?

Likewise, did Aaron Smith-Levin deserve to be punched because he said something Pete Anderson did not like?

Will Smith’s behavior has caused many to speak out against crossing the line and resorting to violence. Chris Rock has been praised for his mature handling of the situation with Whoopie Goldberg stating “I think it’s remarkable and wonderful that Chris Rock did not take it to that other place it could’ve gone.”

In Aaron Smith-Levin’s case, he was made out to be the villain.

Most are taught from an early age that hitting is not an acceptable response to anger. When stories air with someone being assaulted over an argument or insult or Will Smith slapping a comedian because he didn’t like the joke the response is, for the most part, a condemnation of the violence.

Aaron Smith-Levin was blamed for “instigating” his being punched then mocked by his opponent as a campaign tactic.

No one has condemned Pete Anderson’s actions for the violence that they were. No one has spoken out against Anderson sucker punching someone who was four tables away, speaking to his own group then walking away unscathed.

Will Smith now waits to see what consequences he may face from The Academy while Anderson was portrayed almost as a hero defending his woman and faces no consequences at all.

Chris Rock is praised for not striking back and escalating the situation while Aaron Smith-Levin, who also did not engage in a bar brawl or escalate the situation but rather calmly walked away, was basically blamed for “instigating” his own attack.

Marc Maron said it best; “‘It was fing wrong. You don’t go up and smack someone in the fing face — anywhere.’”

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