On the Death of Tyler Clementi
Tyler Clementi mustered all his strength to pull his frail body to the top of the steel lattice that separates pedestrians from the fatal 200-foot fall to the Hudson River. It was the evening of September 22nd, 2010; it was the Autumnal Equinox: our planet was on the celestial equator. The sun had set at 6:53 DST and it was darker than usual. Above the towering thunderheads the moon was almost full; none of its radiance would shine on Tyler Clementi.
The New York area had been rain-lashed for hours. Hail was forecast – a sure harbinger of the most violent weather. The wind was gusting to seventy miles per hour. It was the sort of tempest that overturns heavy vehicles on the George Washington Bridge. And there, in the midst of it all, was little Tyler clinging precariously to the top edge of the wet and slippery pedestrian barrier – two hundred feet above the black river.
Whether Tyler jumped or was blown from his rain-slicked perch by a powerful gust of wind we will never know. He was in freefall for fewer than four seconds. His decision to climb to the pinnacle of the slippery pedestrian barrier was his last decision.
Most people who contemplate suicide have a change of heart. Tyler was one of thirteen people who fell from the George Washington Bridge in the year 2010. In any case, Tyler’s life was his to do with as he chose. He was a moral actor who made the choice to end his own life; he even embellished his theatrical exit by broadcasting his decision via the social-media puppet theater called Facebook: “jumping off the gw bridge sorry,” at 8:42 pm DST. Tyler had installed the Facebook app on his phone for this express purpose. His wallet and phone were found on the bridge.
No one witnessed the moment Tyler toppled off the bridge. A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York’s Police Benevolent Association, Robert Egbert blamed the almost two-fold increase in suicides at the bridge in 2010 to the decrease of police patrols: “I can tell you, for the most part, they have entirely ended foot patrols and bicycle patrols on this bridge.” (NY Post, 5/29/11)
Tyler Makes a Splash
No sooner had Tyler Clementi’s floating body been sighted, poetically by a fellow homosexual, than the Outrage Machine of gay and liberal opportunists began to point The Finger of Blame. Long before a jury was presented with any evidence, the liberal media were toiling to shape the public’s verdict that the person to blame for Tyler’s death was Tyler’s recently assigned college roommate, Dharun Ravi. The one thing the liberal media are really good at is lighting torches and handing out pitchforks.
The blame-gamers were hunting for possible “triggers” to Tyler’s self-inflicted fatality. In the absence of all the facts, the liberal witch hunters quickly concluded that Dharun Ravi’s adolescent behavior had made Tyler Clementi’s suicide inevitable.
If embarrassment alone were a sure trigger for suicide, then none of us would have survived high school. The complex emotional chemistry that motivates suicide cannot be instilled in any person by one unpleasant experience. Tyler Clementi came to Rutgers University with his suicide-prone mindset already in place. It is a fact that 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a pre-existing perception-warping mental disorder. Tyler Clementi had admitted in black-letter text that “I have ocd.” – (obsessive-compulsive disorder), a condition in which a person is subject to obsessive thoughts and worrisome compulsions. This would explain his social awkwardness.
In September of 2010, Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi were designated roommates at Rutgers University. They were assigned to Davidson Hall, a cluster of single-story barracks in Piscataway, New Jersey. Before their first meeting each of them had done an Internet search of the other. Dharun had e-mailed Tyler at email@example.com, but Tyler did not reply. Dharun subsequently discovered that keybowvio was a frequent visitor to a gay-pornography website called Justusboys. Tyler had been visiting this website since he was fourteen. In e-mail chatter Dharun told his friends, “Found out my roommate is gay.”
Dharun also discovered that his roommate was pathetic. At the print-on-demand website Zazzle, Tyler Clementi had created a T-shirt that read, “If Opposites Attract Why Isn’t Anyone Attracted to Me?” A second Tyler shirt was emblazoned on the front, “I Love My Mommy …” and on the back, “Do You?” Ravi’s reaction was “I feel bad for him.” Tyler was a mamma’s boy. Family members remember him having more female than male friends as a child.
Tyler and Dharun moved in to Room 30 at Davidson Hall on Saturday, August 28th with their parents’ assistance. While Ravi unpacked, Tyler was on-line with Hannah Yang, a younger friend from his high school orchestra. “I’m reading his twitter page and umm he’s sitting right next to me,” Tyler wrote. “I still don’t kno how to say his name.” Ms. Yang responded, “Fail!!!!! That’s hilarious.” Tyler then mocked Ravi’s parents who, in Tyler’s estimation were “sooo Indian first gen americanish,” and adding the slam that Ravi’s parents “defs own a dunkin” – a Dunkin Donuts franchise. As Tyler would announce on-line, “I got an azn!” – an Asian.
Tyler had confessed his homosexuality to a friend in the spring of 2010 and he was seeking gay sex partners on-line that summer. In September he attended a gathering of the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance at Rutgers and he had told his frequent on-line chat buddy Sam Cruz, “I would consider myself out . . . if only there was someone for me to come out to.” Tyler created his own account at Cam4, a website for exhibitionists to present sexual displays. Tyler employed the gay-sex hookup site Adam4adam.
Within two weeks of arriving at Rutgers, Tyler was telling Cruz about his anonymous tryst with an on-line hookup, “sooo good” he wrote. Clementi told Cruz that he had texted a request to Ravi to have the room to himself and joked that it “would be so awk” if Ravi walked in “while I’m getting fucked.” Then Tyler added: “At the same time I think I would just be like ‘screw it.’” This lies to rest the false reports that Dharun Ravi “outed” Tyler Clementi. In truth, Tyler had been outing himself for four years before he arrived at Rutgers.
Tyler had requested that Ravi vacate their dorm room for three hours on the evening of September 19th, 2010. A high school friend of Ravi’s, Molly Wei (pr. WAY) had invited him to her room for potato chips; her room was across the hallway from Room 30.
When Ravi arrived, Wei recalled, he was agitated and asked, “Why does he want the room all to himself?” Ravi returned to his room across the hall and was there just as Tyler returned with his date, M.B. There was an encounter; Ravi got a look at M.B. “He didn’t acknowledge me at all,” Ravi recalled. Ravi then returned to Wei’s room.
Molly remembered Ravi saying, “It’s a really old-looking guy, like, what the heck, what’s going on?” She added, “He actually was kind of angry. He’s, like, ‘If he steals my iPad I’m going to make Tyler pay for it.’ And he’s, like, ‘Oh, and my roommate’s gay, like what if something else is going on?’” Ravi used Wei’s computer to access his own computer webcam in Room 30.
“We didn’t expect to see that,” said Wei of the screen image of Clementi and M.B. embracing. They seemed to be kissing though their faces could not be seen.
“Now that we did, it was like, ‘Oh, this should not have happened! I didn’t want people to know this just happened.” It isn’t clear whether she is referring to the kiss or their decision to turn on the webcam. Molly described Ravi as “just shocked and kind of surprised at what he saw. He was freaking out a little.” (Newark Star Ledger, 2/28/12, p.5) At trial Molly Wei testified that neither she nor Ravi knew in advance what they would briefly witness. They were taken aback. They were startled by the abnormality of the gay embrace – it seemed odd and unbeautiful. They had averted their eyes. Dharun Ravi wandered off to take a shower.
Under cross-examination, Wei also acknowledged that after Ravi walked out of her room to take a shower, she turned the webcam on to show four of her girlfriends who had entered the room. One of them was Pooja Kolluri, who testified earlier in the day. br> “We all crowded around her laptop and she wanted us to see something on her laptop,” Kolluri said, recounting the incident. “All five of us crowded around her laptop to see what was on the screen.” Ravi was not in the room for that second viewing, Wei testified. (Newark Star Ledger, 2/28/12, p.5)
This is a second account from the Star Ledger of February 19th, 2012:
“ . . . According to a statement Wei gave investigators, Ravi went to her dorm room – which was across the hall from his – and turned on the camera for about five seconds that day in September. As soon as they saw Clementi and the man kissing, Ravi turned it off., Wei said. In a statement to police, she said that after Ravi left her room, she turned it back on to show some of her girlfriends, but Ravi turned it off again when he returned.” [Emphasis added]
Such a brief peep through an electronic keyhole, followed by instant shock and dismay, is not what most people would call voyeurism. Ravi would testify that his motivation for clicking on his webcam was his concern for his thousands-of-dollars-worth of electronic equipment. Only minutes earlier Ravi had been startled by the advanced age and disheveled appearance of the stranger whom Ravi’s new roommate had found on the Internet. Could this stranger be trusted with Ravi’s expensive possessions?
As Molly Wei later told it, “I couldn’t see any faces, and they were just what seemed to be kissing, and then, after literally two seconds, we just turned it off. And we were kind of both in shock, because for me, anyway, I’ve never seen anything like that.” She continued, “At first, we were both, like, ‘Oh my gosh, we can’t tell anyone about this, we’re just going to pretend this never happened.”
An adult would have told them to hang on to that sentiment, but Dharun and Molly were adults in name only and a hot piece of gossip had just landed in their laps. At 9:17 pm Ravi tweeted, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went to molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Ravi had about 150 followers, mostly friends from high school, though anyone searching Twitter for “Dharun” could have read his tweets.
Soon thereafter Molly Wei initiated an I.M. chat with her boyfriend Austin Chung: “OH MY FKING GOD.” Then came the story of the webcam view. Chung wanted to know, “DID YOU TAKE A PIC,” but there was no picture to share. Molly added, “Hah that would be TERRIBLE.” Chung said her news had made him want to “throw up” though he conceded that Tyler was “mad nice.” Molly answered that “He’s NICE but he’s kissing a guy right now / like THEY WERE GROPING EACH OTHER EWWW.” No one hated Tyler; they thought he was a nice person doing icky stuff. Tyler was a nerd who went trolling on the Internet and came home with a dumpy, unshaven, overweight and way-too-old stranger and that creeped them out.
No one ever directed any criticism or disdain at Tyler Clementi personally. All the gossip was bouncing around within friendship groups. Some social young people were privately sharing their opinions of Tyler’s tastes and behaviors. No one had any intention of hurting Tyler’s feelings. In fact, Tyler Clementi would have been blissfully unaware that anyone was sharing an opinion about him if Tyler had not been obsessively snooping into Dharun Ravi’s on-line chitchat. The webcam incident was unknown to Tyler until he ferreted it out. This fact alone makes nonsense of the prosecution’s claim that Ravi intended to intimidate Tyler. At trial, Gary Charydczak, a computer expert for the prosecution, testified that Tyler Clementi had tapped Dharun Ravi’s Twitter page fifty-nine times from September 13th to the 22nd. (Newark Star Ledger, 3/7/12, p.25)
Tyler’s relentless snooping turned up Ravi’s “Yay” tweet within hours. Tyler knew almost immediately that his privacy had been violated and that nothing more shocking than a hug and an implied kiss had been witnessed. Tyler was forewarned and prepared when is gay playmate paid him another visit. On that occasion Tyler simply unplugged the power strip that energized Ravi’s computer; Tyler had literally taken matters into his own hands; he was effectively defending his private life.
Tyler’s mood darkened after entering into an I.M. conversation with Hannah Yang, a friend from his high school orchestra. Most of their long conversation was about Ravi’s brief webcam peep. Yang urged the very non-confrontational Tyler to confront Ravi.
“I guess,” Tyler responded. “But it’s not like he left the cam on or recorded or anything / he just took a five sec peep lol.”
Tyler was shrugging off his roommate’s loutish behavior. Clementi told Yang that Ravi had been “just curious.” But Hannah Yang wouldn’t let it go. Suddenly Yang became a scolding Tiger Mom:
Yang: I would feel seriously violated.
Clementi: When I first read the tweet I defs felt violated
when I remembered what actually
happened . . .
Clementi: doesn’t seem soooo bad lol
Yang: not only did he peep
he told the entire world about it
Yang: you okay with that?
[Note: idk – I don’t know; lol – laughing out loud]
Minutes later Yang tossed in, “I really don’t like dharun.” She was pushing the notion that Tyler was a wimpy loser if he didn’t get angry. Their conversation had begun at 11:30 p.m. and by 1 a.m. Tyler’s viewpoint had become Yang’s viewpoint. She had turned him. Tyler asked Yang if he should lodge a complaint that just might get Ravi expelled from Rutgers.
Suddenly Yang realized that she was triggering an explosive chain of events. She hesitated and then she pushed Tyler to re-imagine himself as the central figure of a hate-crime drama, a vision of himself that the exhibitionist in Tyler found very seductive.
Yang: i’m not encouraging this . . .
Clementi: why not?
Yang: b/c you said you didn’t feel violated anymore
I feel like …
I’ve tried to be nice to him
and he hasn’t
it could be interpreted as a hate crime
the development of
Clementi: hahaha a hate crime lol
Clementi: that would be so fun
white people never get hated
you’re gay . . .
Tyler loved theater; he contributed to on-line discussions about musicals and opera; his computer desktop was festooned with Playbill covers. Now, suddenly, Tyler had the opportunity to be the star of his own hate-crime opera. He never looked back. Hannah Yang had completely turned Tyler around.
After his conversion by Hannah Yang, Tyler sought advice from other homosexuals at Justusboys:
I could just be more careful next time . . . make sure to turn the cam away . . . butt. . . I’m kinda pissed at him (rightfully so I think, no?)
and idk if I could. . . it would be nice to get him in trouble
but idk if I have enough to get him in trouble, i mean. . . he never saw anything pornographic he never recorded anything. . .
I feel like the only thing the school might do is find me another roommate, probably with me moving out. . . and i’d probably just end up with somebody worse than him. . . I mean aside from being an asshole from time to time, he’s a pretty decent roommate.
Clementi understood the risk of inflating a few awkward moments into a full-blown public scandal. He had a lot at stake: a life away from home, a new-found love interest and his bigger public reputation. Tyler had been far from discrete by escorting his shabby-looking Internet hookup through the Davidson dormitory, under the gaze of security cameras and past the gaze of dozens of quizzical teenage freshmen. To his peers Tyler’s date looked like a cradle-robbing pederast and Tyler looked desperate.
Tyler Clementi was far from the only smart and sensitive homosexual at Rutgers; with a little patience he could have found a soul mate. Instead, bolstered by the encouragement of “helpful” do-gooders, Tyler embarked on a course of action that would blow his promising future to smithereens. Tyler’s obsessive monitoring of Ravi’s Twitter and Facebook sites left him in a pout because none of Ravi’s friends had criticized Ravi’s behavior. In Clementi’s words, “other people have commented on his profile with things like ‘how did you manage to go back in there?’ ‘are you ok’” Ravi’s friends were reacting as though “my making out with a guy as a scandal whereas i mean come on. . . he was SPYING ON ME. . . do they see nothing wrong with this?”
It was an interesting question. Would Ravi have persisted in his loutish scheme if he’d had no willing audience? Would a single voice of disapproval have averted Tyler’s subsequent decisions? In the age of social media the buzz never ceases; friendship groups gossip around the clock. Sharing and electronic eavesdropping are the order of the day and the concept of personal privacy seems quaintly antiquated; keeping secrets is derided as being “withholding.” Completely lost on Tyler was the irony that he only knew of Ravi’s webcam peep because Tyler had been obsessively spying on Ravi’s every tweet and chat.
Things Fall Apart
In short order, Tyler contacted Rutgers resident assistant Raahi Grover and requested a new room assignment. Tyler was indignant and angry. Tyler flashed Grover an e-mail on September 22nd:
“I feel that my privacy has been violated and I am extremely uncomfortable sharing a room with someone who would act in this wildly inappropriate manner.”
Tyler had taken charge of the situation; he had every expectation that his request would be granted. After all, the reason universities have co-ed dormitories today is because so many male homosexuals requested female roommates rather than genuine men, who made the gays feel uncomfortable. Rutgers also has a program that grants socially awkward autistics dorm rooms without roommates. Tyler was rid of Ravi. Mission accomplished. And yet, he killed himself anyway.
Just before heading uptown to the George Washington Bridge, Tyler went to the Rutgers food court and pounded down a big hamburger. He had an appetite! He was not behaving like someone who was despondent; he was still behaving like someone on a mission. Tyler had his cell phone with its newly-installed app; he had left behind screen grabs of Ravi’s tweets as incriminating evidence against Ravi. He had left a handwritten message in his book bag in Room 30, which the prosecution would later withhold from Ravi’s attorney and from Tyler’s parents.
Tyler Clementi’s family endured a few stressful days after being informed of Tyler’s final Facebook message. People who knew Tyler wondered whether he was just being his theatrical self; they clung to the hope that his posting was a fake.
Jane Clementi’s cousin, Paul Mainardi, recollected his conversation with a state investigator, “when we were still waiting for his body to be discovered, exploring the various possibilities: what if he didn’t jump? What if he’s living with some guy in New York City, and it’s the only way he can find a way to do it? And I said, ‘If he did that, I’m going to kill him!”
On September 29th, Jim Swimm was taking a lunchtime walk in Inwood Hill Park in northern Manhattan when his eyes alighted on a body floating in the Hudson. Swimm, who is gay, alerted the police, who dispatched a boat that retrieved Tyler’s body
Tyler’s suicide became international news; countless fretful special-interest pleaders immediately sought to exploit his death to further their agendas. For everyone who was anxious about teenage sexuality or teenage computing or teenage unkindness there was a liberal news outlet eager to tweak those anxieties. Telling the truth was not even an afterthought.
ABC News, among others, falsely reported that Ravi had posted a video of Tyler’s gay “sex” on the Internet. CNN falsely declared that Tyler’s room had “become a prison” to him during his final days. The half-wit lesbian Ellen DeGeneres falsely announced that Tyler had been “outed as being gay on the Internet and he killed himself. Something must be done.” They were all whipping up lynch-mob hysteria. People whose minds had been inflamed by the liberal media began demanding that Ravi and Molly Wei be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Ravi’s home address and phone number were broadcast on Twitter. Once again, the liberals were lighting torches and handing out pitchforks.
The keepers of liberal folklore “just knew” that a deeply closeted student at Rutgers had committed suicide because a secretly recorded video of him having hot pumpin’ anal intercourse had been splashed all over the Internet, none of which was true. There was no observed sexual activity; there was no video; Tyler had been outing himself on gay pornography websites since he was fourteen; he had disclosed his homosexuality to friends. Everything liberals “just knew” was a lie.
Dharum Ravi was indicted during this tempest of liberal hysteria. He was charged with invasion of privacy as a sex crime, bias intimidation as a hate crime, witness tampering and evidence tampering. The “bias intimidation” attachment is a prison-sentence booster that is rarely used when the underlying crime is not violent. In this case it was thrown in because the prosecution was pandering to a well-heeled and politically influential gay voting bloc. Under New Jersey’s murky bias statute Ravi would be guilty if he either 1. Intended to harass Clementi because he was gay, or 2. If Clementi imagined that he was being harassed. In the first case Ravi would be guilty of a thought crime and in the second case he would be guilty because of Clementi’s state of mind. As written, this bias statute is grotesquely Orwellian; it is a thought-crime statute. In this case the prosecution exploited a statute meant to curb violent crime for the purpose of criminalizing obnoxious teenage behavior. Because of the zealous misuse of this bias statute Dharun Ravi is facing ten years in the slammer.
The Tangled Roots of Suicide
No suicide has a simple explanation; far too many aspects of circumstance and personality must be present for a successful suicide to occur. Far more suicides are attempted than succeed because not all of the necessary aspects were present – the fateful constellation was incomplete.
Every year about 37,000 people kill themselves, which is a trivial number compared to the number of Americans who endured emotional distress. Women attempt suicide more often than men; men are more likely to be successful suicides.
To bring the puzzle of suicide into sharper focus I returned to Dr. Karl Menninger’s Man Against Himself, first published in 1938, which has shaped my perception of human behavior since I read it almost half a century ago.
Dr. Menninger observed that three wishes working in concert were the formula for a successful suicide. They are, the wish to kill, the wish to be killed and the wish to die. I offer a few exerts. On the wish to kill:
“It is not difficult to discover in the act of suicide the existence of various elements. First of all it is a murder. In the German language it is, literally, a murder of the self (Selbstmord), and in all earlier philological equivalents the idea of murder is implicit.
But suicide is also a murder by the self. It is a death in which are combined in one person the murderer and the murdered. We know that the motives for murder vary enormously and so do the motives for wishing to be murdered, which is quite another matter and not nearly so absurd as it may sound. For since in suicide there is a self that submits to the murder and would appear to be desirous of doing so, we must seek the motives of this strange submission. . .” (p.23)
On the wish to be killed:
“We come now to the second element in suicide, the obverse of the killing motive, namely, the wish to be killed. Why does anyone wish, not to die or to kill, but to be killed?
Being killed is the extreme form of submission just as killing is the extreme form of aggression. And the enjoyment of submission, pain, defeat, even ending in death, is the essence of masochism, i.e., the reversed or inverted reaction to the pleasure-pain principle.” (p.45)
Tyler Clementi was an extremely submissive personality. Tyler’s father, Joseph, said that his son was physically slight, and that if someone wanted to hurt him “he would have absolutely no idea how to defend himself.” (The New Yorker, 2/6/12)
Hadn’t Tyler joked that it “would be so awk” if Ravi walked in “while I’m getting fucked”? This is an expression of submission – no genuine man talks of “getting fucked.” Then Tyler added, “At the same time I think I would just be like ‘screw it.’” In other words, Tyler wouldn’t have been troubled by someone seeing him “getting fucked.” Here Tyler is revealing his inner exhibitionist. Hadn’t Tyler created his own account at Cam4, a website for exhibitionists desirous of presenting sexual displays?
Dr. Menninger observes:
“One of these devices for increasing the pleasurable satisfactions in submitting oneself to the attack of others or in submitting oneself to a self-inflicted attack depends upon what we call exhibitionism. Exhibitionism is a morbid satisfaction in showing off before people, and while it is usually interpreted as an aggressive act toward people and is resented on that account, it is in the deepest analysis a passive pleasure. It represents, as it were, an extreme and dramatic submission to the eyes of the beholders – not aggressively, but masochistically. ‘For the thrill and satisfaction which my surrender to death may give you, I submit myself thus.’ And so the need for punishment is gratified dramatically and accompanied – softened – by the narcissistic pleasure of showing off and affecting other people’s emotions.” (p.60)
I submit that Tyler’s suicide, among other things, was very much a work of stylized exhibitionism intended to affect other people’s emotions. As Dr. Menninger explains:
“The explanation of the wish to suffer and to submit to pain and even death is to be found in the nature of the conscience. Everyone knows for practical purposes what conscience is. We have an intuitive recognition of it; we are aware of it just as we are aware of the police system in a city where we do not actually see policemen. But such knowledge of the conscience is not very scientific. It has now been quite definitely determined that conscience is an internal, psychological representation of authority, originally and mainly parental authority but fused in later life with prevalent ethical, religious, and social standards. It is largely formed in infancy and childhood and seldom keeps pace with the changes in external environment. We all know that it sometimes makes us do things which we see no sense in doing and prevents us from doing other things which we should like to do and from which there is no good reason for our refraining. The conscience is often a good guide but it is sometimes a bad guide; and, good or bad, it is always to be reckoned with. . .” (p.46)
The towering moral authority in Tyler’s life had been his mother, Jane Clementi, a nurse, devout Christian and a devoted member of her local Grace Church, which is affiliated with the evangelical mega church Willow Creek outside Chicago. It was her moral vision that shaped Tyler’s conscience. They were very close; they spent much time together; it was for her that Tyler created his “I Love My Mommy” T-shirt. They would end their telephone conversations with an infantile ping-ponging of “I love you,” “I love you more,” “No, I love you more,” etc.
When Tyler’s mother expressed understandable dismay upon hearing Tyler’s confession of his homosexuality, the infantile Tyler experienced her mild regret as a total rejection.
Dr. Menninger explains:
“What is characteristic of a very large number of suicides is the apparent inadequacy of the precipitating event. We have already seen that these cannot be taken at their face value, but let us look at some of them. A girl killed herself because she became depressed after bobbing her hair; a man killed himself because he was forced to quit playing golf; a woman committed suicide after missing two trains; a boy took his life because his pet canary died. This list could be extended indefinitely. Every reader will be able to think of some examples.
In these instances the hair, the golf, and the canary had an exaggerated value, so that when they were lost or when there was even a threat that they might be lost, the recoil of severed emotional bonds was fatal. . .
And just as a suckling child resents weaning and feels that something is being taken away from him that it is his right to possess, so these people who are predominately infantile and ‘oral’ in their personality development cannot stand thwarting. It is, therefore, really not an exaggeration to say that for such individuals the over-evaluated objects in the cases illustrated above – the hair, golf, the canary, etc. – are equivalent to the mother’s breast. The child feels he will die if it is taken away from him, as of course he would actually if something were not substituted for it. But not only that, he feels angry at the person who has deprived him. A study of the fantasy life of children, as has been made, for example, by Melanie Klein, and the study made by Roheim and others, indicate without doubt that suckling at the breast is not far from cannibalism and that the child would, if he could, drink up not only the milk but the breast and the entire mother. He would do so partly for the same reason that the man killed the goose that laid the golden egg, namely, his insatiable and imperative craving. But an equally strong motive is the hostile one, already discussed, some pages back, which is reflected in the fact that the child bites the nipple when the mother tries to withdraw. To believe this, one needs only to think of how a dog acts if one attempts to take his bone from him; he will certainly not hesitate to bite the hand feeds him. Biting is only the first step to devouring, which the savages actually carry out. . .”
I submit that the infantile Tyler Clementi felt rejected, abandoned and deeply angry. One final citation:
“One frequently reads in the newspaper (for example, in one which I hold in my hand as I write this) that a young boy who had been scolded by his father for some minor dereliction hanged himself in the barn a few hours later. We are accustomed with intuitive accuracy to explain such actions on the basis of revenge. Every reader will be able to recall similar instances in his childhood which provoked similar feelings but which, fortunately, were gratified in imagination rather than in action. We imagined how sorry our parents would be for having mistreated us as they did. But this boy went further. His hate was so great that he was willing to sacrifice his life to vent it. To be sure, the act hurt his father but not nearly so much as it hurt himself. It must have been his father whom he really wished to kill. We know that some boys do kill their fathers under just such circumstances but evidently this boy couldn’t do that; perhaps he loved his father too much to kill him; perhaps he feared him too much; perhaps he feared the consequences; at any rate, he couldn’t do it. What he could do was kill the father that existed within himself, technically, the introjected father. Every boy introjects his own father to some extent over the period of years that pass while he is growing up; probably many a man who is reading this can consciously recognize that he carries his father about with him in his heart. In the primitive thinking of the unconscious this is not a mere figure of speech.” (Man Against Himself, (p.31)
I submit that in this instance it was Tyler’s deeply internalized mother whom he sought to kill as a punishment for her rejection of him. The elephant in Tyler’s head space was his mother.
Tyler’s brother James, who revealed his own homosexuality after Tyler’s suicide, said this:
“I feel like, just being his brother and being close to him, I always sort of intuitively felt he was gay and it wasn’t something we really spoke about for most of our lives together. I mean, we grew up in a very conservative, very religious family, and I just dealt with my own shame and my own baggage, and I wasn’t really able to be there for him as I wanted to be, as a brother.”
In a 45-minute conversation Tyler, near tears, revealed to his mother that he was a homosexual, that he doubted the existence of God and that he believed himself to be friendless. Jane Clementi recalled, “I was very surprised, very much like someone had kicked me in the stomach.” In a text message to friends Tyler lamented that “mom has basically rejected me.”
Had she rejected him? Or was Tyler being a Drama Queen playing the part of the Gay Martyr? As his brother James recalled, “He loved to be the center of attention. He would do anything to have the attention on him.”
I submit that nothing captures everyone’s attention better than a theatrical big splash from the George Washington Bridge. I believe that Tyler’s plunge was motivated by aggression and frustration stemming from his passive nature; it was an act of revenge and lurid exhibitionism.
Buddhist monks, Muslim radicals and political dissidents set themselves ablaze to shame their opponents. They imagine their self-immolations to be affirmative acts of self assertion. The Kamikaze pilots were not depressed – they were on a mission. The Japanese creditor who kills himself on the door step of a debtor is shaming the debtor. Tyler Clementi was highly intelligent, very imaginative, felt things deeply and was very angry. Smart, but cowardly, people are masters of passive aggression.
None of the insights and perspectives that I have just presented could be discussed during the trial of Dharun Ravi. Because Ravi was not charged with Tyler’s death, all discussions of Tyler’s motives for killing himself were placed off limits. This worked to the advantage of the prosecution: while the jury was repeatedly reminded that Tyler had killed himself soon after Ravi’s brief peep, Ravi’s attorney was prevented from presenting any alternative reasons why Tyler might have been distressed enough to jump from a bridge. In truth, no juror could forget the close proximity of Ravi’s peep and Tyler’s leap. In truth, Ravi was on trial for the death of Tyler Clementi and the rules were rigged to Ravi’s disadvantage.
Dharun Ravi was charged with a 15-count indictment. He pled not guilty to all fifteen charges. He was charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for his 5-second peep at Tyler and M.B. hugging, two counts of attempted invasion of privacy for his wiseass attempt to peek again on September 21st, the attempt that failed because Tyler had been stalking Ravi’s tweets and chats and knew exactly what Ravi was up to. Tyler had pulled the plug on Ravi’s juvenile prank. The worst Ravi had to fear from convictions on these counts was probation
The big-hammer charges were the four counts of bias intimidation that could inflict a punishment of ten years in prison. The underlying statute is a monster because guilt or innocence depends upon either the state of mind of the perpetrator or the state of mind of the victim or the states of mind of both the perpetrator and his alleged victim at the moment the crime was committed or at some later time or at different times. In other words, Ravi could spend ten years in prison if Clementi felt intimidated but he would not be guilty of a bias crime if Clementi just brushed off Ravi’s loutish behavior. Guilt or innocence depends on the “victim’s” feelings.
Under this lunatic statute the designated victim gets to destroy the designated perpetrator’s life by feigning torment and weeping like a Drama Queen. This statute gives abnormal people the power to ruin any normal person who becomes overly curious about the abnormal person’s abnormality.
Tyler could have snuggled with M.B. at a nearby motel or at M.B.’s digs, but noooo. . . he had to parade his scruffy Internet catch all the way from the dormitory front door, through the crowded hallways of Davidson Hall, to Room 30. Lots of teenagers noticed and they were all, to some degree, creeped out by Tyler’s taste in sex partners.
Under the statute their unease or disgust could be interpreted as a hate crime if they dared to express their opinions openly. Under the bias statute, the feelings of creepy abnormal people are given special protection; the opinions of normal humans are secondary and suspect.
The giant front-page headline in the Newark Star Ledger read, “Jury: It was hate.” The subtitle was “Ravi convicted of spying, bias against teen.” Dharun Ravi had been convicted in a first-of-its-kind mash-up prosecution that linked invasion of privacy to a hate crime. The second-degree bias intimidation felony conviction is anchored in the belief that Ravi targeted Clementi because he was a homosexual and also knew that his actions would hurt Clementi. But Clementi wouldn’t have known that he had been glimpsed for a few seconds if Clementi hadn’t been obsessively snooping into Ravi’s every tweet and post. In truth, Tyler could only have intimidated himself. In any case, Tyler told Hannah Yang, well after the event, that he did not feel violated by Ravi’s peek.
The prosecution had indulged in a bit of experimental jurisprudence by charging Ravi with bias intimidation, a hate crime almost exclusively associated with violent crimes or threats of violence. This was the first time that bias intimidation had been bonded to invasion of privacy in New Jersey.
Ravi wasn’t motivated by hatred; Ravi was a hyper-social P.T. Barnum always on the lookout for something novel to share with his peer group. Tyler was a teenager who was attracted to a much older person who looked like a hobo. To Ravi and Ravi’s friends, that was provocative and weirdly entertaining. It offends homosexuals that heterosexuals see homosexuals as weirdly entertaining, but it’s a fact. Privately sharing the opinion that homosexuals that weirdly entertaining is not a hate crime. Any knowledge that Tyler had that he had been spied upon was knowledge that Tyler acquired by spying on Ravi and Ravi’s friends. Therefore, calling Ravi’s behavior intimidation is preposterous. He is facing ten years in prison and deportation to India, though he has lived in New Jersey since early childhood.
Curiously, Ravi was acquitted of invading Clementi’s privacy with the intention of intimidating him, but he was convicted of bias intimidation because Clementi believed that he had been selected for observation because he was a homosexual. In other words, Ravi could go to prison, not for something he did, but for something that Clementi imagined. Ravi was convicted of a thought crime
The Aftermath: Waiting for the Sentence
Early reporting of the verdict was chaotic as broadcast anchors struggled to understand the weirdly parsed subcounts. In no case did the jury find Ravi guilty of “targeting” M.B. because of his sexual orientation.
All the guilty verdicts for all of the bias intimidation counts rested on the jury’s belief that Tyler believed that he was selected for observation because of his odd sexuality. Not a single witness testified that Ravi had ever expressed hostility toward gays. It was all about Tyler’s state of mind even though Tyler had told Hannah Yang that he did not feel violated and it was Yang who persuaded Tyler that he should imagine himself to be a victim.
The verdict was read on March 16th, 2012. Two days after the verdict the Newark Star Ledger published an editorial that was remarkable for its common sense. It began:
“What Dharun Ravi did was creepy and childish. He used a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kissing another man in their dorm at Rutgers. He invited other students to watch and wrote about it on his Twitter feed. He was a geeky freshman trying to show off.
But that’s not enough to put him behind bars, in the company of rapists, muggers and killers – as allowed under the state’s sloppy hate crimes law. We hope the judge makes the exceptional call not to give him jail time – a decision that’s within his power.”
The case against Ravi had depended on the testimony of Ravi’s high school friend Molly Wei whose cooperation was won by threatening her with a prison sentence. Molly took a deal to testify against Ravi.
The editors continued:
“He deserves the same punishment as Molly Wei, the other student charged with spying on Clementi: counseling and community service. Chances are, Ravi didn’t take a plea deal because he was afraid he’s be deported to India. He’s here on a student visa.
Now, he’s looking at possible deportation and a state prison sentence. He’s certain to appeal, and the appellate judges should find this vague, confusing bias law unconstitutional. It’s a huge overreach in this case. What Ravi and Wei did was beyond mean. But it’s not clear they did it specifically because Clementi was gay.”
Ravi’s family gave another reason for rejecting the plea deals, the first of which was offered in October of 2011 and required Ravi to plead guilty to bias intimidation.
“The family wanted no part of it,” recalled Ravi’s attorney Steven Altman. “They didn’t believe their son acted with hate, or bias, and they didn’t want him labeled like that for life.”
“There is a principle here,” said Ravi Pazhani. “My son was not raised to have hate in his heart. We are not fateful people.”
The second offer came in December and was identical to the first but offered Ravi only probation and no jail time. Again Ravi’s parents recoiled.
“This is a very principled family,” observed Altman. “Ravi [the father] told us Dharun never expressed any bias against Tyler or even discomfort with him as a roommate. He understands his son did things that were immature, but they weren’t done because of hatred or bias toward Tyler because of his sexuality.”
The editorial continued:
“Yes, they treated him like a sideshow curiosity. But lascivious pranks aren’t uncommon in a freshman dorm, and you get the impression the same might have happened if the shy violinist had brought home an extremely obese or particularly unattractive woman he met online. How uncool – easy target.
Remember, while Ravi made fun of Clementi for being gay, Clementi made fun of Ravi for his Indian heritage. Both accused the other of being poor. These were two roommates who didn’t know how to talk to each other, so they wrote petty jibes online. They were immature, not trying to instill fear . . .”
The editors added that,
“This case shows the danger of having such a broad statute. Legislators need to rethink this law and tailor the punishments to fit the severity of the crime and the clarity of the threat.”
Good point. Within a week of the Ravi verdict a Boston College football player was caught distributing audio recordings of a teammate having sex with his girlfriend. The jerk jock was suspended from school, but not arrested. The Ravi case would never have gone to trial if Tyler Clementi hadn’t chosen to kill himself. Ravi wasn’t convicted for what he did; he was convicted for what Clementi did three days later. Without Clementi’s death there would have been no headline-grabbing gay-culture-war angle. It was a chance for politicians, activists and eager-to-please prosecutors to “send a message.” It was a chance to take the radical leap from criminalizing behaviors to criminalizing feelings.
This from the Newark Star Ledger of March 18th, 2012:
“At the start of trial, [First Assistant Prosecutor Julia] McClure appeared to stumble when several students who testified against Ravi also acknowledged on cross-examination they had never heard him say anything derogatory against homosexuals or Clementi. But she gained ground and pressed ahead, calling still more friends to the stand, including one who testified he felt Ravi was ‘uncomfortable’ with Clementi being gay… Another read from a text message that said, ‘keep the gays away.’”
The clueless Julia McClure couldn’t grasp the fact that feeling “uncomfortable” is not hateful. I am perfectly capable of feeling uncomfortable at the thought of eating dogs and not feeling hatred for the Chinese. Heck, even our beloved President Obama has admitted to chowing down on dog meat when he lived in his beloved Indonesia. The Maori of New Zealand eat beetle larvae; I want to gag, but I don’t hate them either. Anal intercourse (sodomy) is an outrageously unsanitary indulgence; in the Age of AIDS, sodomy is tantamount to flirting with suicide. Sodomy comes with a big burden of ick. And yet, somehow, millions of normal people manage to “hold their noses” and be cordial to gays every day.
Dharun Ravi was raised to be a man and Molly Wei was raised to be a woman. Suddenly and unexpectedly they were confronted by a glimpse of two human males indulging themselves in a behavior that is utterly alien to the culture of genuine manhood. It may be that the children of immigrants from ancient cultures that have not been corrupted by newfangled Western notions of what is acceptable behavior are especially shocked at the sight of two males groping one another. The cultures of India and China come to mind, the very cultures from which the parents of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei emigrated. Let us never forget that it was the New York Times that single-handedly terminated the adoption of Chinese orphans by childless American heterosexual couples by stupidly filling page after page of its Lifestyles section with warm and fuzzy broadsides about what wonderful adoptive parents homosexuals were.
Memo to the New York Times: the Chinese in China monitor the Internet. The news from America that Chinese orphans were being given to homosexuals shocked their sensibilities. Because American adoption agencies were enjoined from showing “bias” against homosexual couples or even single homosexuals, the Chinese were compelled as a matter of self-respect to stop sending Chinese orphans to America. No doubt First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure would love to charge the People’s Republic of China with a hate crime.
Julia McClure’s allegation that Ravi wanted “to brand Tyler as gay and put him up for ridicule” contrasted sharply with testimony from the first witness who took the stand. Austin Chung, a high school friend who had known Ravi for years, testified that Ravi “actually told me Tyler was a nice guy.”
Absent Tyler Clementi’s decision to kill himself, Dharun Ravi would be facing a temporary suspension from school, not ten years in the slammer. Ravi’s trial was all about assigning blame. Tyler was dead; Tyler was a homosexual; homosexuals are victims, therefore someone is to blame for victimizing Tyler. Dharun Ravi was an easy target, but Ravi never bullied Tyler, never said an unkind word to him, he only gossiped about Tyler within Ravi’s friendship group.
Would the legal community be in a flutter if Tyler Clementi had been glimpsed embracing a female freshman? Of course not! This prosecution was driven by two facts: Tyler Clementi had chosen to kill himself and Tyler was a member of an identifiable group of people whom the legal community had been persuaded were a vulnerable victim class deserving of special consideration.
Any truly equal application of the law would have dispensed justice in two days under New Jersey’s privacy laws, but Ravi’s trial became a circus because of the biased notion that the violation of a homosexual’s privacy is more offensive than the violation of a heterosexual person’s privacy. In the minds of politically-correct prosecutors, the rights of normal people are inferior.
By suppressing Tyler’s suicide letter and crushing any opportunity for the defense to offer the jury alternative motivations for Tyler’s decision to kill himself, no juror could see Ravi’s prankish peep as anything less than a death sentence for Clementi after the trial judge repeatedly reminded the jurors of the narrow time lapse between Ravi’s peep and Tyler’s leap. If the jurors understood how much Tyler’s recently damaged relationship with his mother was weighing on him the case against Ravi would fizzle. That could not be allowed to happen because these prosecutors wanted a show trial. They were hell-bent on criminalizing rude behavior and impure thoughts.
After Ravi’s conviction the legal talking heads were calling the verdict a “message sender” and a potential “culture changer.” It was a warning against “expressing any bigoted views about certain groups of people, like homosexuals,” as the Newark Star Ledger put it.
In other words, the verdict was a threat to the free-speech rights of American citizens and a warning against expressing your true feelings, even among friends in private communications. Henceforth, if you have any objection to homosexuals bursting into Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, showering parishioners at prayer with condoms and urinating in the pews, then you had better keep your bigoted opinion to yourself. If you are taken aback by the sight of homosexuals dressed as Catholic nuns simulating anal intercourse atop a float in a Gay Pride parade, then you had best not voice any criticism lest you be tarred as “a hater.” If you believe that anonymous communal gay sex romps from coast to coast led to a self-inflicted epidemic that killed countless people, then you should keep your hateful beliefs to yourself. If you think that anal sadism and excrement eating are creepy and disgusting, then you are begging to lose your job or be expelled from school. These are the implications of the Ravi verdict. Heterosexuals are being taught to fear expressing anything other than approval for even the must depraved aspects of gay culture.
My vision of suicide “victims” as calculating and rational doesn’t sit well with many people. Gay activists insist that every gay “victim” be portrayed as weak, innocent, passive and overwhelmed by straight-guy bigotry. In the gay-activist scenarios gay victims never contribute anything to their unhappy predicaments. In my vision of Tyler Clementi he emerges as a sad but self-possessed moral force at the heart of his own personal psychological drama. He is angry and frustrated by his inability to escape his predicament.
Tyler’s older brother James, who revealed his own homosexuality only after Tyler’s death, said this: “I’ve always – all my life I’ve dreamt of being open with my parents. And this is not the way in which I would have wanted that to come about. I feel a lot of guilt about the sacrifice that was made just so that I could be accepted by them [Tyler’s parents]. I don’t think that that’s the right way that that should have happened.”
Tyler and his mother had taken trips to bridges around New York City. Tyler had kept photos of the George Washington Bridge as a memento of their time together. Recalling the evening when Tyler confessed his homosexuality, his mother said, “I told him not to hurt himself.” Clearly, Jane Clementi had an intuitive sense of her son’s troubled nature. Tyler was intelligent and talented, but timid. He was hungry for approval, eager to please, but fearful of criticism. He was also a bubbling cauldron of emerging desires who had no clue how to start a conversation. To fulfill his fantasies Tyler went to that marketplace where dweebs who can’t make eye contact put out feelers for other dweebs who can’t make eye contact – the Internet. It was all downhill from there.
The raging infant at the core of Tyler Clementi’s personality could not do anything but rage at the unfairness of not being able to enjoy both his religious mother’s unqualified love and the masochistic ecstasy of submitting to anal penetration by a disheveled older guy who still didn’t know Tyler’s full name, even after reaming Tyler’s anus on three occasions in Room 30. Tyler hated having to choose between Jerusalem and Sodom, between Saint Jane and the Marquis de Sade.
In his final hours Tyler Clementi chose to take revenge on those who were less than accepting of his minority sexual appetites: his mother, whose values had shaped his punishing conscience and Dharun Ravi whose only role in Tyler’s death drama was to heighten Tyler’s awareness of just how alien his appetites were to the 97% of humanity who are not homosexual.
Tyler’s self-scripted death drama was childishly simple, but airtight. Within the hermetically-sealed chambers of liberal group-think everyone would simply assume that just because Tyler’s self-imposed death came soon after Ravi’s Twitter bits that Ravi was responsible for Tyler’s death. The liberals would predictably fall prey to every idiot’s first fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning: the fallacious belief that just because one event follows another, the second event must have been the consequence of the first. And that’s what happened. The well-heeled gay radicals tasted blood in the water and the eager-to-please left-leaning prosecutors were eager to gratify their feeding frenzy. Their scapegoat would be Dharun Ravi.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 21st, 2012. If Dharun Ravi gets prison time, then we should all fear for our liberty.
April 23, 2012