Further questions on the Rutgers suicide case

The Wikipedia article on the Tyler Clementi suicide reports:

It is a fourth degree crime in New Jersey to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that person’s consent; it is a third degree crime to transmit or distribute such images. The penalty for conviction of a third degree offense can include a prison term of up to five years.

The article is written entirely from the point of view of Clementi. From the beginning I have said that Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei did a very evil thing when they put on the Web images of Clementi engaged in a private sexual act. But is there another side to this that we need to understand? In our long discussion of the case the other week, Dean Ericson suggested that Clementi, far from being a tortured innocent driven to end his own life, killed himself for the cold purpose of wreaking revenge on the people who had embarrassed him.

Dean wrote:

The NYTimes has this article in which we learn of last messages from Clementi posted to a gay porn site which seems to have been a hangout of his, called “just us boys .com,” including this message,

“Revenge never ends well for me, as much as I would love to pour pink paint all over his stuff … that would just let him win.”

I’m thinking young Clementi, outraged and wounded and immature, settled on jumping off the GWB as his best revenge against Ravi. It would, in one dramatic coup-de-theatre, establish him as the Victim—the supreme moral rank in his liberal milieu—and convict Ravi of a heinous hate crime, homophobia, and murder. That would unleash a tidal wave of opprobrium against his tormenter and cause a simultaneous wave of pity and concern and anguish for poor little Clementi. It’s the ultimate passive aggression. That kind of vengeful thinking, coupled with his immaturity, and having no source of guidance and authority to consult beyond liberalism and a gay porn site, led to the unfortunate young man’s death.

I’ve just gotten around to reading the Times article, which is about the messages Clementi posted in the days leading up to his suicide, and one must say that nothing indicates that he was tormented or humiliated by the broadcasting of the images of him with a male student, which apparently included only kissing. Yes, he was clearly annoyed and angry at what his roommate had done, but he seems calm and thoughtful about the situation. He gives no indications of an unhappiness large enough to drive him to suicide.

As I said, the Wikipedia article gives the straight Clementi-as-homosexual-victim line. So I’m wondering, are there are other sides of this story that have been brought out in the media but which we haven’t heard? Why did Clementi commit suicide? And is there further evidence supporting Dean’s theory?

- end of initial entry -

Josh F. writes:

One homosexual plus jumping off a bridge under one’s own accord equals self-annihilator. A self-annihilator is one who takes his radically autonomous existence to its logical endpoint, i.e., final LIBERATION. In death, Clementi is “free” while his living “oppressors” are forever shackled by the consequences of CLEMENTI’S ultimate act of radical autonomy. Even after his death, WE (society) are under the assault of Clementi’s radical liberalism.

Dean Ericson writes:

You wrote:

He gives no indications of an unhappiness large enough to drive him to suicide …

And is there further evidence supporting Dean’s theory?

I’ve not heard anything new. But let’s say for the sake of argument that before he jumped Clementi left a note saying he’s jumping because evil awful monstrous Ravi humiliated him beyond endurance and so he just had to kill himself. Even if there were such a note, I would say that Clementi’s suicide could not be blamed on Ravi. Clementi chose to kill himself, he wasn’t forced to do it. Being outed as a homosexual on a liberal college campus these days hardly qualifies as death-worthy shame. What Ravi did to Clementi might have been handled as little more than an unpleasant prank by a student made of stronger stuff. But what Clementi did to Ravi and Wei is truly horrific—he laid a lifetime of guilt, recrimination, and suspicion on them, ruining their young lives. Clementi is the monster in this case; a manipulative, wicked little monster. And he’s being treated as some kind of saint. It’s a crime.

Sophia A. writes:

Clementi stated that he was out to get Ravi in trouble. See below, an e-mail I sent you on October 7 that was not posted. The NY Times article leaves the damning quotation (“enough to get him in trouble”) out.

Sophia to LA, October 7:

The plot thickens.

Clementi was apparently trying to entrap Ravi, to get Ravi in trouble. He knew that Ravi was filming him, and he exposed himself purposely. “cit2mo” is Clementi.

This is from article, “Did Tyler Clementi Reach Out for Help Before Suicide?” from AOL News:

“So the other night I had a guy over. I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him,” cit2mo wrote. “I checked his twitter today. He tweeted that I was using the room … and that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy.”

Cit2mo added: “So my question is what next? I could just be more careful next time … [But] I’m [kind of] p——at him … It would be nice to get him in trouble but [I don’t know if] I have enough to get him in trouble.” (emphasis added).

Note the headline said that Clementi tried to “reach out.” How? By having sex with another guy in a shared room? He should have complained immediately.

A lawyer will seize upon this at trial. Wei and Ravi will probably plead. (In fact, it seems that Wei is probably not guilty of anything except being the person Ravi went to while he was webcamming.)

The gay lobby will explode when the truth comes out. It’s all so predictable.

Clearly Clementi’s suicide was as a result of multiple personality disorder issues but that’s not convenient for Ellen [DeGeneris?] to talk about.

LA replies:

First, I wonder why the words “kind of” preceding “pi**ed” had to be inserted editorially.

Second, So he’s pi**sed, he’s angry. He’s not in despair. He’s not in horror. He’s not in unbearable humiliation at having his sex life shown to some people on the Web.

Third, he gives no reason for the suicide. It does create the impression that he killed himself out of anger at Ravi rather than out of having been shattered by Ravi’s act of exposing him. But we don’t know.

Sophia continues:

I was struck by something in the Wikipedia article, so I looked it up.

“Henry Klingeman of Newark, N.J., a former federal prosecutor, questioned why Wei was charged in the first place.

“There’s no evidence of Ms. Wei doing anything,” he said on Monday. “I’m very curious as to why the prosecutor is holding her responsible in any way shape or form simply because Mr. Ravi was using her computer.”

It strikes me that the person being bullied here, by the authorities, is Molly Wei. Perhaps morally she should have scolded her friend and told him to, as the kids say nowadays, “man up,” but what did she do wrong legally?

I am positive that if Ravi had (equally evilly) transmitted sexual images of Clementi and a female, she would not be legally persecuted now.

Jonah O. writes:

It seems that it is hard for traditionalists, or at least VFR commenters, to separate their anger at the cultural mainstreaming of homosexuality from the events surrounding the death of this young homosexual man. It is very tempting to portray the one character in the story who was perpetrating the vice that we so commonly discuss here as anything but its embodiment.

This may be one of the slight downsides to be aware of when leaving the liberal “everything comes down to the individual” tent.

LA replies:

You’re wrong. I and several commenters in the previous discussion placed the main emphasis on condemning Ravi’s behavior, which we described as “evil.” I deliberatedly started this thread in order to try to understand Clementi’s behavior and see what the other side of this story might be. This entry is providing the balance to the previous entry. So you’re the one who is operating under a prejudice here.

Jonah O. replies:

I was not referring to your previous comments, which you characterize correctly, but rather Dean’s. It did provide the requisite contrast though, I suppose, in that it is one of the only characterizations of Clementi as a monster to be found out there.

It did occur on a site where many commenters strongly disapprove of homosexuality, though. I doubt that the balanced view is find-able, given the polarizing nature of this element.

LA replies:

Well, maybe there’s something to Dean’s view. Maybe this story is the opposite of what most people think. That’s what I’m trying to determine.

And what we have, based on the still incomplete evidence brought forth in this entry, is a prima facie case that Clementi did not kill himself because he was shattered or wounded, but because he was “pi**ed,” and wanted to get back at Ravi. That he was not driven to suicide, but chose suicide. That is a very different picture from the mainstream picture.

Do you think it’s legitimate and worthwhile to present that different picture, and say that it may be possibly the truth, rather than the mainstream picture?

Jonah O. replies:

To respond to your last comment, yes, I do think it is vital to offer all available points of view for consideration. Am I skeptical or even cynical about the construction of certain views? Yes as well—and this includes the “now we need to make the world Safe For The Tyler Clementi’s view.

LA replies:

You feel it’s “vital” to have views presented about which you are “cynical.” This is getting too ACLU-ish for me.

I want views presented because I’m interested in getting closer to the truth. Apparently you want views presented because you feel that having views presented, even if they’re false and motivated by bad motives, is worthwhile in itself. You’re interested in a diverse process for its own sake. I’m interested in the truth.

Josh F. writes:

Jonah O. doesn’t believe that free men should be angry at a self-annihilator who burdens us all (makes us less free) by a death perpetrated BY HIS OWN HANDS.

And what is this burden?

That we feel guilty for not embracing Clementi’s self-annihilation when he was merely a closeted homosexual. It is truly perverse.

LA replies:

It’s not at all clear that he was closeted. To the contrary, from his messages, he seemed to be entirely frank and comfortable about his homosexuality.

Several things need to be determined:

  • Was Clementi closeted? If he wasn’t, then the act of videotaping him was much less harmful than if he was.

  • What was the nature of the behavior that was videotaped? Was it a sexual encounter, or a kissing session? If the latter, then the act of videotaping him was much less harmful than if the former. Also, if the encounter involved only kissing, then the videotapying would appear not to be a violation of the New Jersey law quoted at the beginning of this entry, which concerns “images depecting nudity or sexual contact.”

  • What other statements did Clementi make prior to his suicide that would indicate his motivation?
October 14

Ed L. writes:

I can’t fathom any explanation for the suicide other than that Clementi was genuinely distraught and mortified. Much more mystifying, I think, is the partner, who has managed to evade media scrutiny entirely. Can we infer that he’s a much tougher skinned individual? How does he feel about the suicide or what Ravi/Wei did? For that matter, do we know for a fact that he was another student (rather than an outsider) or that he was not part of the setup?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 13, 2010 03:23 PM | Send

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