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Caleb Ritchie ’13

A positive experience encourages a budding activist

“I was unprepared for the outpouring of support from the Lexington community,” recalls Caleb Ritchie ‘13 of his recent experience in active civic engagement.

Caleb RitchieRitchie was a force behind a grassroots, Facebook-based campaign entitled “NoMoreMoore” to persuade a local venue to reconsider its choice of entertainment for New Year’s Eve. In only a matter of days, the effort coaxed the venue, Art Bar in Lexington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, to cancel its contract with Hunter Moore, the DJ hired for its New Year’s Eve celebration.

Moore achieved notoriety for providing a web forum for “Revenge Porn,” defined as sexually explicit media that is distributed online, without consent of the pictured individual, for the purpose of humiliation.

In an email interview with Transylvania communications writer Tom Martin, Ritchie relayed how his Transylvania education prepared him to take a leadership role in protesting what in his view, and that of many others, is an injustice.

TM: What brought the Hunter Moore matter to your attention?

CR: I was unaware of his performance in October [in Lexington]. But this time, my roommate brought to my attention that a person named Hunter Moore was performing at Art Bar on New Year’s Eve. At the time, though, I didn't quite understand what revenge porn was, or the extent of Hunter Moore's celebrity. I was also unsure if this DJ performing at Art Bar was the same person, or just a poor guy with an unfortunate name.

After a Facebook friend posted an article about Hunter Moore, completely unrelated to the performance, I was really shocked at the extent of his sociopathy, and the profitability of it. I confirmed that the DJ performing really was the same Hunter Moore. And knowing all that I knew then, it became really unacceptable to me that a business would try to capitalize on that same persona.

TM:  Why did you feel it important to become active in protesting his appearance?

CR: While what Moore does is despicable, he was peripheral to my mind. What struck me was that a local business, in a city as wonderful as Lexington, seemed to be profiting from Moore's celebrity, which was gained only by hurting others. That was the entire extent of his persona, and that's what drew crowds.

For a business that doesn't care about its community, it can seem like a wonderful scenario: book an inexperienced DJ for super cheap, but his celebrity brings in a crowd. I'm pleased to say that Art Bar is not one of these businesses, because they listened to our concerns and ultimately canceled the performance.

When I started, I didn't really see myself being very active at all. It was late Thursday evening, and I just thought I'd start the Facebook group and wait a bit, and then take maybe three or four hundred "likes" as an opportunity to talk to Art Bar about Moore. 

I was unprepared for the outpouring of support from the Lexington community. Many of us are bombarded with initiatives and campaigns and causes on Facebook every day, and it's hard to create one that has immediate reach. After the page got 1,000 likes, I suppose somebody had to become a bit more active. As it turns out, multiple people stepped up to the plate!

TM:  Did your Transylvania experience influence and/or prepare you to take the initiative and lead a protest, and if so, how?

CR: [Sociology professor] Ashley Rondini taught one of the best classes I had at Transylvania: Social Problems. In it, we learned not only the theory behind constructing social problems and trying to make them known so as to create change, but we also broke into groups and began prolonged campaigns on campus to change what we felt were injustices. My group worked on accessibility on campus. We worked on creating logos and branding, catchy phrases, trying to capture our classmates' interest, and ultimately, pitching ideas to the administration. That experience was invaluable, and I had the textbook from that class by my side the whole time I worked on NoMoreMoore.

I also think that being able to perform music regularly helped me. After getting so many likes and so much coverage, I was terrified. It's scary having so many eyes on a cause you care about, and on you—like a sort of stage fright. But I think performing often at Transy in music concerts or in ImprompTU [Transylvania's improv performance group] really helped steel me for this.

Ultimately, Transy uniquely prepared me for this by allowing me to explore all of my interests while I was at the school. I was able to be involved or lead student organizations, perform and create art regularly, take classes about constructing social causes, and participate in activism. Being able to do all of these things was helpful beyond words. 

And Transylvania is also part of Lexington. In Lexington, our community is really engaged and is willing to speak, we have businesses like Art Bar who show their willingness to listen, and we have people like Alli Sehon and Karen Conley who are brilliant strategists well-couched in prior activism experience who were game-changers for NoMoreMoore.  I'm eternally grateful to Transylvania for bringing me here.

TM:  Did the outcome leave you encouraged to assume another leadership role?

CR: The outcome was so positive and encouraging and fast. It certainly makes me want to do more. I've been describing this cause as my "gateway protest." And there's still more to be done with revenge porn legislation and a compassionate business charter. There's a bright community of activists in Lexington, Karen Conley's and Alli Sehon's, and I've already learned so much from them. I'm ready to learn more, and make a difference.

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