Friday, October 1, 2010

Tyler Clementi's Online Postings — Plus, Some Perspective on the 'Hate Crimes' and 'Gay Morality' Debate

There's a lot on this story today, but first at New York Times:
The young man writing on the gay chat site was torn: he had discovered that his college roommate had spied on him from another room with a webcam as he kissed a male friend. Should he complain to the school? Would officials assign him someone worse? Or would he simply risk angering the roommate?

After all, the man wrote on Sept. 21, aside from some occasional bad behavior, “he’s a pretty decent roommate.”

The next night, Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman, walked onto the George Washington Bridge and jumped over the edge; the authorities said his roommate had streamed a live Internet feed of Mr. Clementi’s encounter with another man in their dormitory room. Mr. Clementi’s body was identified on Thursday.

The messages in the forums of a porn site appear to have come from Mr. Clementi, a talented violinist from Ridgewood, N.J. The postings show a student wrestling with his rising indignation over a breach of privacy and trying to figure out how best to respond.

In one of his last messages, at 4:38 a.m. on the day Mr. Clementi took his life, the person wrote in a post that the roommate had tried again to catch him on camera the previous night, and had messaged friends to watch online.

He decided to act. “I ran to the nearest R.A. and set this thing in motion,” he wrote. “We’ll see what happens.”

At the Rutgers campus in Piscataway, N.J., where Mr. Clementi, 18, shared a cramped room with Dharun Ravi, students mourned their classmate on Thursday, and some questioned the accusations against Mr. Ravi and another freshman, Molly Wei. The two students, both 18 and from New Jersey, have each been charged with invasion of privacy for using “the camera to view and transmit a live image” of Mr. Clementi.

Under a leaden sky, students debated whether the surreptitious broadcast was a thoughtless prank or a crime. Gay and lesbian students demanded that the university re-examine its policies on bias and bullying, and called for safe housing and other programs.

On Wednesday night, after the start of the university’s two-year campaign to foster courtesy and respect, demonstrators for gay rights got into a screaming match with residents of Mr. Ravi’s dormitory, Davidson Hall, who objected to some of their language. Several students had to be physically separated.

In Trenton, Gov. Chris Christie expressed outrage over the suicide and the events preceding it, saying, “I don’t know how those two folks are going to sleep at night.” And a spokesman for the state’s attorney general, Paula T. Dow, said her office was consulting with Middlesex County prosecutors to see if the evidence supported bringing bias charges, based on the victim’s sexual orientation, that would raise the potential punishment from 5 years in prison to 10.

Mr. Ravi had made references to his roommate’s homosexuality in Twitter posts. Even before they arrived on campus, Mr. Ravi sent a message on Aug. 22 that he had “found out my roommate is gay,” and included a link to JustUsBoys.com.

On Sept. 19, he told his Twitter followers that he had set up a webcam in their room and then watched from Ms. Wei’s room, adding that he saw Mr. Clementi “making out with a dude.”

The postings on the gay chat site last week, reported Wednesday on the Web site Gawker, appear to show Mr. Clementi’s reactions as he read Mr. Ravi’s posts about the camera, and the apparent disdain for his homosexuality.
Some of the posts, confirmed as Tyler Clementi's, are below (see, "Tyler Clementi Turned To A Gay Message Forum For Help Before His Suicide").

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I'm personally horrified by this. I've been reading around at newspapers and blogs. I haven't seen American Pie, so I can't understand how live-streaming a gay love encounter would be considered funny. Ravi is said to have been offended by homosexuality. I'm not going so far as "hate crimes," since that's simply a tool of leftist agit-prop. (See, "Gay Rights Group Sees Hate Crime Behind Student's Suicide After Sex Video," and "Officials Consider Bias-Crime Charges After Rutgers Voyeurism Victim Commits Suicide"). Still, it's harassment at least, and it's evil. I strongly disagree with Doug Mataconis, who writes:
There really isn’t any big take away from this story, other than the overall sadness of the story.
Young Alex Knepper goes the other way, practically blaming Clementi for being web-cammed live:
Everything about this case is totally preposterous.

First of all: forgive me if my sympathy runs thin for someone who commits suicide over a sex tape. This taping was surely humiliating and shameful — but in the grand, cosmic scheme of things, it doesn’t even begin to rank as tragic. We have got to be realistic when assessing this event and maintain publicly that humiliation is a preposterous rationale for suicide ...
Actually, this is deeply tragic. Alex Knepper needs to grow up a bit (he's only 20, so that explains some of this).

Then there's Vox Populi, "
Gay Rights Killed Clementi":
It was obvious from the start that the orientationally-challenged activists would attempt to blame Clementi's death on his roommate. But the surreptitious filming of sexual activity, while an obvious breach of etiquette as well as the law in some states, is neither uncommon nor tantamount to attempting to destroy someone's life. Nor should the online streaming be considered anything but a joke; American Pie is a comedy, not a horror flick, after all. The problem is not that American university campuses are intolerant of the orientationally challenged, as the subtext of the media coverage suggests, but rather that they are much too tolerant.

It is obvious that Clementi didn't kill himself simply because his actions were made public; as a musician, no doubt he had been filmed before and some of those films may have even been put online. He killed himself because he could not live with the shame of knowing that everyone would be aware of his submission to what he apparently believed to be evil desires. While giving in to our desire for evil is something that we all do from time to time, it is also true that some desires happen to be more shameful or humiliating than others. For example, a man's desire for his neighbor's wife is sinful, but few consider it to be as appalling as his desire for his neighbor's child.
There's more, but you get the gist. Folks should check the whole link, in any case. These are the most offensive comments I've read. And note something here: I'm a long-time opponent of gay marriage, blogging that issue ad infinitum in 2008-09. Yet I've never attacked gay Americans themselves as evil or fundamentally immoral (although the gay hookup culture is bad news, but that's socially behavioral and not intrinsically personal). I've just argued that same-sex marriage is not a civil right. Beyond that I've argued for expansive civil unions and for state-level referendums on marriage equality. There is a consistent minority of gay individuals of between 3-5 percent internationally, so I normally don't go with the "being gay is choice" line. What I do despise is the neo-communist movement that supports the activist gay policy agenda. And that's primarily what I oppose. So when I read stories like Tyler Clementi's --- which reminds me of Matthew Shepard's --- I get angry at the sheer reckless disregard for others, and I'm calling out Dharun Ravi for his evil premeditation.

There's a symposium on this at New York Times --- and I think
this, from Daniel K. Gelb, strikes something of the tone I'd adopt:
The victim of cyberbullying cannot escape the Internet such a major part of modern life, and the technology affords the bully more tools for harassment (email, instant and text messaging, social networks and mobile media, etc.). Worse, bullies can exploit social networking platforms to gang up on victims. Abusing on these forums can lead to extreme emotional stress and mental anguish, even culminating in the victim committing suicide. The law must evolve to address how our society communicates, promoting proper conduct, and deterring future bullying with a legal means to punish those who cause harm.
See also Ellen DeGeneris, "It's Time to End Teenage Bullying":


6 comments:

repsac3 said...

Not bad, Dr Douglas...

If I can keep my head up long enough (nasty change-of-season cold), perhaps I'll do a longer post on this myself, offering credit where credit is due.

Nice show of compassion, and breaking with the pack, as well...

Donald Douglas said...

Does this mean you're takin' down American Nihilist now? Cuz I really am truly a good guy, and have been all along, despite the umpteen times you've told me to fuck off out of hate and spite?

Dana said...

You know, somehow something doesn't really add up. When you read the messages Mr Clementi posted on the 21st, you see someone offended, somewhat angry, and trying to figure out a rational course of action. And the next day, he jumps off a bridge.

That doesn't make much sense to me. His last know writings don't show the utter torment you'd expect from someone suicidal.

It sure seems to me like something else must've happened. Or, when we get an autopsy report, we'll find that Mr Clementi was on some serious drugs.

IrishCicero said...

It's a meaner world all the way around, but a hate crime?

No.

There are those who take delight in ridicule, plain and simple.

Maybe some of the dead boy's friends need to pay Ravi a visit.

Not that I'm advocating vigilantism. People just need to be held accountable when they pull stunts like this.

Our prayers to the deceased young man.

repsac3 said...

You wrote a post I mostly agree with (one of only a few, in the last several years)... Let's not get ahead of ourselves...

And Donald, I don't believe I've told you to fuck off more'n a few times in that same period of time; (surely less often than you've said the same to me, by a long shot. (And yeah, "f**K off" counts). That just isn't my style...

I think you can be a good guy, but you let your sociopolitical beliefs get in the way. Rather than disagree with someone, you demonize them. To you, folks aren't wrong, they're evil. I'm certain you can be a better man, but I'm not so sure that you want to be. (Let's not forget, while your compassion in this post is notable, you're also the guy who uses accusations of homosexuality as a slur against men you disagree with, and questions the masculinity of gay men, just because they're gay--(recall the "knitting" post, for one).

That, my friend, is not compassion. That's treating gay folks as lesser people than straight folks. And as we discussed the other day in the "gangsta Obama" post, treating whole social classes of people as lesser men than the rest because they're somehow different than others--or different than you--is the very definition of bigotry.)

I really do appreciate that you found it in your heart to be on the right side of this one, but that doesn't wipe away the posts you've written--including posts about gay folks--where the compassion and sense of decency you displayed in this post was nowhere to be found.

The best I can do is offer you credit for doing a good thing this time--and I will-- and keep telling the truth as I see it. The rest, Dr Douglas, is up to you.

FredA said...

What is unlikely to be discussed in our PC world is that "Mr Ravi" is likely an indian and indian culture is extremely intolerant of homosexuality.