Tyler, Dharun and Molly: One Life Lost, Two Lives Ruined

Ravi Wei.jpg

Police believe they may have found the body of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped to his death after a roommate spied on him having gay sex. Meanwhile, some Rutgers students are saying Clementi’s roommate’s actions were misinterpreted.

Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, turned on his computer’s webcam and apparently spied on Clementi while he was hooking up with another man. After Clementi found out, he ended up throwing himself off the George Washington bridge. [gawker]

Do you remember what it was like to be 18? Most of us consider ourselves much wiser than we were back then; many of us would cringe at what we thought and the asinine shit we did. The problem with being 18, if I may be so blunt, is that most 18-year olds are stupid. Yes, we are brown; we get near-perfect scores on the SAT and take so many AP classes, we can skip our Freshman year of college. Big deal. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about emotional intelligence. Compassion. Wisdom. That last trait isn’t gifted to a teenager because it’s a consolation prize for approaching middle age, for suddenly possessing an underperforming metabolism, greying temples and baggage “life experiences”. When I was 17, I skipped most of my Freshman year of college. I could eat garbage, flip my long, dark hair and stare at everything with the wide-eyed innocence of an idiot who had never even spent the night at a girlfriend’s home, forget alcohol, drugs, relationships or anything else. When I was 17, my three biggest worries were:

a) being forced to live at home and commute to a school I hated because of strict parents
b) my high school best friend judging my outfits because she discovered Islam
c) missing out on college “life” because I had to be home by 6pm every evening.

I knew nothing about real life, common sense or compassion. I was endlessly selfish, because as a South Asian child, I had been coddled until I was barely a solid. My peers were 18 and discovering drugs and sex; I was secretly sleeping with stuffed animals and being treated like a 10-year old. Desi children get babied in a way that many of our peers do not. As a result, I had a dim sense of consequences and whenever I did imagine anything remotely “bad” happening, I assumed my parents would fix it. They always did.

I am so glad I didn’t do anything regrettable or illegal.

I am so glad that I didn’t hurt anyone to the point where they harmed themselves.

I would never have forgiven myself and I doubt that I’d be sitting in some cafe in Washington, D.C., nursing a cocktail after peace-ing from my new, dream job with NPR.

See, if I had done something impulsive and harmful when I was a freshman in college, that sin would have followed me for the rest of my life; depending on what I did, maybe to some of you, that would be a just sentence. To be googled as I applied for a job and then denied. To be shunned. To be judged. To have my family blamed for my thoughtlessness. To have my culture be brought up as evidence of intolerance. To be considered a hateful criminal…a murderer.

But here’s the thing; I see the other side, too. I see it so clearly, it cuts my eyes until they feel like they are bleeding. Reading the news has triggered memories so painful, I have only contemplated them once since my first senior year of college, 15 years ago. That’s when I was bullied so mercilessly (by Desis, no less), that I abruptly dropped all of my classes, thus ensuring that I would not graduate on time, that I would not take the LSAT, that my entire future would be slightly altered. I am not a lawyer, though a love for the law runs in my family, and I had planned to become an attorney since I was in the first grade. I did not finish college in four years. My life veered dangerously off of the track it had plodded along, simply because I could not face them, the people who turned their heads to whisper to each other about me as I walked past. I could not bear the constant humiliation.

A rumor, an ugly, poisonous rumor about me, my sexuality, my tendencies. That’s all it took. I want to prostrate myself on the filthy Adams Morgan cement right now and give thanks that I suffered before the internet and social media made everything far too public. There was no Facebook or Twitter to extend my mortification or amplify my disgrace. There were no web cams. All that existed was Pine and IRC, and thankfully, my tormenters didn’t seem to use either; if they did, I never knew.

And yet, despite the inability for my story to go “viral”, for a few years after that nightmarish quarter in college, in random cities, all over the United States, I’d meet someone who, after being introduced to me, would cock their heads to the side and regard me differently. “Wait– are you the girl who…?”, they would ask and I would want the ground to open and swallow me whole.

I hadn’t done anything wrong, but that didn’t stop the shame or humiliation from being flung my way, years and miles after I had been accused of something I didn’t even do. Fuck it. Even if I did do it, who were these people to attack and diminish me?

So, I get it. I get it to a degree that is so painful, I tearfully downed vodka shots before writing this.

Three lives, ruined.

That is all I can think of, when I read the tips you have sent in, regularly, since this story broke.

I am not apologizing for anyone or justifying anything. I am just appalled, like all of you are. The problem with the Rutgers cyber-bullying story is that it is just like life: complicated. The more I read, the less sure I am of what happened. All we can know is that Dharun Ravi did the unconscionable; he invaded his roommate’s privacy in an outrageous, indefensible way. He invited voyeurs to participate in a virtual, collective humiliation; he is guilty of being an intolerant little shit who apparently had gay friends. He is also a teenager, which may or may not explain a lot of what happened, depending on your point of view.

We also know that Tyler Clementi is gone, forever. He looks like a sweet, sensitive child, coming in to his own. A talented violin player, someone who was exploring life with all the freedom newly-afforded by life at a big, public school. But he knew his roommate was spying on him. He went to an RA and voiced his concerns. He sought advice online from a Gay forum about what Ravi was doing to him. He seemed in control.

Then, he updated his Facebook with a terrifying, tragic status message; he was going to take his life.

“Jumping off the gw bridge sorry”

The human mind, ever desperate to comprehend the senseless, likes to connect dots. “Clearly he jumped because his roommate spied on him!”, our brains conclude. Is it that simple? Suicide is never so obviously explained, not in my opinion, and unfortunately, I have some experience with that specific sort of tragedy. The only things I would say, with certainty, about suicide are:

1) someone has to be in extraordinary anguish to consider or commit it

2) it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Our minds want an explanation. We want to assign blame, to wash our hands of the matter, with a clear sense of whom to condemn, so we can shake our heads sadly and move on. That’s comforting and who doesn’t want comfort after reading about such a heartbreaking tragedy, especially during a month when Tyler wasn’t the only child to take his own life. But none of us, aside from Dharun, Molly and Tyler know exactly what happened or why.

And what about Molly. I have read that she was Dharun’s high school friend, his college girlfriend. She was arrested, too. How much of this was her idea? How much blame do we assign her? How much of her future should be ruined for laughing, perhaps easily, perhaps uneasily at her boyfriend/friend’s tweets and casual homophobia? Are we interested in a witch hunt? Or justice?

Is the latter even possible?

::

You know what is possible? Change. Do you feel awful about what happened to Tyler Clementi? If you do, instead of assigning blame and thinking about something else, challenge yourself to change your corner of the world– it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds, even if it may not always be comfortable or easy.

The next time someone uses “gay” as a synonym for “lame” or “stupid”, say something.

The next time someone is depressed and struggling, reach out.

The next time you are invited to participate in ritual humiliation and baseless gossip, think about how little you know about the vulnerability of the person in whose downfall you are delighting. Even the law says you must take your victim as you find them.

Bullying is never okay. Especially because none of us knows how close someone else is to the end of their rope.

And to people commenting about how this is so awful for our community, ask yourself one question– do white people apologize when one of their own does something regrettable?

You are not responsible for Dharun Ravi’s awful decision to put his roommate’s most intimate moments on blast. All you are responsible for is yourself– and if you feel sick about this, instead of accepting blame on behalf of our community, work within it, to make it a more welcoming place for people who are queer, trans, bi, questioning. We are not all Dharun Ravi. But we can make life for the next Tyler Clementi a little bit easier.

162 thoughts on “Tyler, Dharun and Molly: One Life Lost, Two Lives Ruined

  1. awesome post. you said a lot of what i’m feeling now. it’s a complex knot being reduced to sound-bites. alas, i do believe that the “transparent society” is happening, and we’re not even noticing it….

    don’t have much to add, but mad props on the new job.

  2. Thanks for a very thoughtful post. It is an enormously tragic event, and the burden that the two protagonists have to bear for the rest of their lives is terrible too, however stupid and cruel they were.

  3. wow… great ANNA J is back!

    tragic story… but people are stupid in general not just at 18… however people do grow for the better… and to sound as preachy as i can, we must endure the hate but be KIND as much as we need to be.

    i say it again great ANNA J is back!

  4. I’m a Rutgers alum and this has been a hotbutton issue as far as discussions go on messageboards, alumnus groups and what not .. Last night, this story was on front pages of all major news sites in US and pretty much all widely circulated dailies around the world ..

    While the actions of Ravi and Molly were despicable and stupid (esp. for a honor roll student and what not), this whole issue has been snowballed by a large extent. Lets see .. this has so many factors:

    • social networks
    • bullying
    • voyeurism
    • sex
    • gay sex
    • gay rights
    • suicide
    • criminal justice
    • college life
    • privacy

    The only thing I have to say is I hope the jury and prosecutors treat it with the merit of evidence and not by public opinion (which is easily swayed depending on how media reports the incident) … there are already calls for treating this as a Hate crime (I am not so sure if that warrants the case here) .. The punishment should fit the crime ..

    • I remember when I was in college a lot of the muslim students would spend a lot of time thinking jews, white kids and gay ppl were just the scum of the earth. thats around the same time I decided a lot of this pan south asian fluff was just nonsense…

      Swing and a miss. Not the time, not the thread.

      (esp. for a honor roll student and what not)

      Why is it especially bad for an honor roll student? Does getting good grades bestow some kind of maturity on you?

  5. Thanks Anna for another amazing post. When I first started reading, I was rolling my eyes, thinking this was going to be excuse-making for the brown kid, but you definitely turned it around.

    I do think our culture of pushing so hard for academics that parents turn a blind eye to everything else, is reprehensible. I can’t tell you how many times I heard parents talk about how this or that South Asian boy/girl was so “wonderful” because they had straight A’s, Ivy League acceptance and whatnot, while being oblivious to the fact their kids were on drugs, binge drinking, and doing all sorts of other reckless/stupid/dangerous things. I really wish more parents in our community would take a stronger interest in the people their children are becoming and how they will contribute to our society instead of just their own net worth. I totally agree with you that the coddling is doing no one any favors.

    And I’m sorry about your bullying experience in college. I can’t believe that shit goes on past high school. Ugh.

    I do think Dharun needs to suffer some consequences, whether or not they are linked to Tyler’s actual suicide. But I fear that his parents will hire the best legal counsel that money can buy, and he will learn (yet again) that Amma and Appa (or insert correct terms here) will bail him out so he can continue his all-important college degree on the path to becoming rich and successful. Sigh.

  6. Are you a Dharun apologist?

    It’s too bad that you did so little with this post because it had potential to be a much more of a learning moment on responsibility, tolerance, and compassion.

    Being 18 may be an excuse to do some stupid things but being 18 is no excuse for lacking compassion. Dharun must have known his actions were going to cause his roommate anguish. Dharun not only taped his roommate once but he attempted to to do it a second time. He also boasted about it on Twitter. He not only taped it but he invited others to watch it on the Internet. The bottom line is Dharun knew he was humiliating his roommate.

    There are those out there who are making excuses that it was just a prank. A prank is putting shaving cream on someone’s face when sleeping or putting a rotting cheese sandwich under someone’s bed. A prank isn’t invading someone’s sexual privacy then inviting others to view it on the Internet. I won’t go as far as some to say he killed his roommate because that clearly isn’t the case. It’s too bad Tyler Clementi felt his only option was suicide when he had a few other ways to address this situation.

    I hope the law deals with Dharun to the fullest extent possible. Dharun should be an embarrassment to every Indian because he is. Heck, he should be an embarrassment to anyone who is a human being.

  7. This is another GREAT post, Anna! On a personal note, I’m VERY sorry that fellow desis in college treated you SO harshly.

    This student’s suicide is a sad event, NOT just for one group of ppl, but for ALL Americans. Sure, there was the Civil Rights Movement, but how many ppl suffered long after that? We have NOT yet reached the maturity to FULLY protect about 10% of our population (LGBTs). I have little sympathy for the bullies- 18 means your’re an adult and the law is here to stay.

    As a former teacher, I have seen teens pick on/ignore/verbally abuse their classmates for being different- nerdy, chubby, etc. But the kids who suffered MOST were the ones who identified as gay- in NYC no less!

    EMMA

  8. blahblahblah

    Save the obfuscations for the court room. Only one question is relevant here. If you had been in Tyler’s parents’ place, would your blog post sound like this? Din think so.

  9. Anna- Beautiful, heart-felt post. I jumped on d the anti-Dharun bandwagon, but this is a great reminder that there are two sides to every story, and although the fallout and consequences were far different, at one time most of us were just as stupid and insensitive as Dharun in some way or another. I’m also a huge Dan Savage fan, and really happy to see the “It Gets Better” clip on here. Great work. -AR

  10. “Are we interested in a witch hunt? Or justice?”

    Going by the average netizen’s opinion–I think we are interested in a witch hunt.

    It’s just…there’s an awful lack of information of what Ravi and Wei actually did at this point, and yet people are all “give ‘em five years” and “Rutgers MUST EXPEL THEM” before the facts are in (rash actions of course worked out great for Duke a few years back.) As far as I can tell Dharun did two things wrong: spied on his roommate via his webcam, and planned to spy on him a second time, that didn’t actually happen, since Tyler figured out what was going on:

    http://gawker.com/5651659/is-this-webcam-spying-victim-tyler-clementis-last-call-for-help

    (That link strongly suggests one lesson here: if you’re going to talk shit about people you see on a regular basis, you might want to set your Tweets to private and not let the person you’re talking about see your Facebook wall.) I can’t figure out at all what Molly is supposed to have done wrong, other than let her high school friend use her PC. But the media keeps getting basic facts wrong, like there was a sex tape made (no sex acts appear to have been witnessed, let alone recorded) and it was broadcast on the Internet (going by Tyler’s own actions in that Gawker link that did not happen.) It’s annoying.

  11. I have tears in my eyes as I read this. You hit the nail on the head so absolutely. Ever since I heard this story, I walk around with an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach– I feel so much for all involved. I remember what it was like to be a college freshman– naive, trusting, and arrogant. I don’t know that Dharun’s actions are entirely attributable to him being a coddled Desi child, but I know that not all stories are as simple as the media would like to paint them. I don’t know if there was true homophobic intent there, but there was definitely a desire to distance oneself from the ‘other’ so as to belong. Who among us Desi children hasn’t desired that? So, so sad.

  12. Anna, my sister, you’re one gifted writer. This was a remarkable essay, to say the least.

    Here’s what I believe about the very unfortunate death of Tyler Clementi (and the unfortunate societal death of Ravi and Wei): It seems to me that Tyler chose suicide almost as a first resort. He was emotionally fragile to begin with. In spite of interpreting his first week in college as joyous, not finding happiness in his boyfriend, or the joys of living in NJ, which is the richest state in all USA, he quickly became very depressed….but wait a minute. He had the choice of going to a counselor, his RA (which I found out he did, and his RA did a good job, I believe), ask his boyfriend to help him out (dishoum dishoum solution), or even press charges. However, Tyler did none of this, nor did he even confront Ravi/Wei (to my knowledge).

    I’m not condoning Ravi/Wei – they are GUILTY, but only to the extent that they invaded his privacy and bullied him. But NOT to the extent that they killed him or were responsible for this death.

  13. Another thing, I’m watching “50 Greatest Viral Videos” right now. This is so timely. They are showing the Star War Kid (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPPj6viIBmU )

    The background of this story is very similar to the tragedy that fell on Tyler: It was domineering teenagers who discovered a video/facet/media content of an awkward/nerdy type of person. Both sets of teenagers posted the media on the internet. In the case of Star War Kid, his parents won a HUGE law suit, but I don’t know how much, but it may have bee ~$300K. I believe that Ravi and Wei’s family should have been sued for this much, IMHO. In many ways, what happened to the Star War Kids was quite bad in that over 19,000,000 people have watched the video, and heck, even I’m LAUGHING at it. This video severely tormented the SWK, that he had to drop out of his high school for a while.

    Ravi and Wei’s efforts were more sinister in that they were trying to capture a sexual act which would have been societally devastating for an in-the-closet gay. However, Ravi and Wei – by looking at their pics and reading about their background – don’t seem like evil, bullying, or harmful people. Maybe VERY STUPID, EGOTISTICAL, and perhaps bad judgers.

    Wei and Ravi DO NOT BELONG IN JAIL OR RUTGERS COLLEGE. They should pass on $150,000 (which is $300K) each to crisis intervention centers in the form of forced donations, and issue a formal apology to the Clementis.

  14. This is a tragic example of a gay person who was bullied to death. While youthful indiscretion is one likely contributing factor, that doesn’t excuse it. (Consider that it’s also a likely factor for 99% of terrorism and hate crimes.) The abusive culprits here have been charged only with criminal activity that at least one of them has apparently admitted on the internet; this does not feel to me like a “witch hunt.” Supporting the view that Ravi is an ingenuous young person that we can all relate to because of his brown face and his socio-economic position, or that Clementi thoroughly documented his victimization on a message board (and that therefore the police and the district attorney must have their facts wrong, though we don’t know what their evidence is, and this is likely an ongoing investigation), feels to me like a morally flaccid apology for an extremely rotten crime, which does not further any kind of progress or reconciliation. Worst of all here is the musing over whether justice is “even possible,” and that demanding it is akin to a witch hunt, mutually exclusive with constructive goals. That doesn’t sound to me at all like a passion for law; it feels weak and evasive. It also feels like a punch in the gut, because my peer group really seems to be sharing these views and lacks outrage over what has happened. It takes courage to recognize that evil sometimes looks terrifyingly familiar.

  15. we are brown; we get near-perfect scores on the SAT and take so many AP classes, we can skip our Freshman year of college.

    Why do Indians always have to throw such ridiculous self-congratulatory LIES all the time?

  16. [quote]I really wish more parents in our community would take a stronger interest in the people their children are becoming and how they will contribute to our society instead of just their own net worth. I totally agree with you that the coddling is doing no one any favors.[/quote] Completely agree with this; a pattern I’ve noticed with a lot of my (desi) friends’ parents is that if their kids have good grades, they don’t pay attention to how their kids actually behave. A lot of guys I know get smashed three days a week and their parents turn a blind eye because of some “boys will be boys, at least he’s studying medicine” type bullshit. (Daughters seem to get away with less, because “no one will want to marry [them]” if they party hard, get a “bad” reputation, etc. Despicable, but my own parents are hardly immune to this attitude.)

    Even if Dharun Ravi is some coddled college freshman, it doesn’t excuse his behaviour. I find it difficult to believe that any 18 year old who grew up in the internet age doesn’t understand that it’s completely wrong to spy on someone with a webcam and invite friends to tune in; he was old enough to live by at least a basic level of decency. His tweets do make it seem like he thought the whole thing was just a joke, sadly.

    PS: Anna, congrats on your NPR gig! I’ve rarely commented here but have always enjoyed your posts.

    • Wow, a lot of judgmental people out there claiming to know what was in everyone’s mind. Our society seems to be getting more polarized over every issue. Grey is out.

      I find it difficult to believe that any 18 year old who grew up in the internet age doesn’t understand that it’s completely wrong to spy on someone with a webcam and invite friends to tune in; he was old enough to live by at least a basic level of decency.

      Pimms, I found it difficult to believe you made this statement. Shocked would be a better word. We live in a society where being a young Hollywood actress means that there is very likely a sex tape of you out there (it might even be good for publicity). Did you know that one of the top Google searches on a daily basis is “[insert name of Hollywood actress here] sex tape.” And how could you or any of us forget the most memorable scene from one of the seminal comedy movies of the internet age?!? American Pie. Almost exactly this thing happened and all of us and our friends where on the floor laughing hysterically. “God Bless the internet,” says one of the main characters as they spy on Nadia. Need a reminder?

      [NSFW] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6iRV5-FRQk

      So please people, before you convince yourself that these teenagers are sociopaths get a reality check. We live in an age where we’ve seen it is socially acceptable to spy on someone with a webcam. As with all other issues, outrage never solved a darn thing.

  17. My cousin once told me,” its better for kids who can’t take bullying to suicide. People who don’t have the mental strength to deal with unpleasant situations are not fit to live”. There are people in our society who actually condone suicide. I was shocked to hear this. I come from Kerala, a state which has the highest number of suicides in India. I have lost 3 family members and 5 friends to suicide. So what I am trying to say is, kids who grow up in a household with this kind of callous indifference to other’s pain grow up to be selfish. Selfish enough to find entertainment in another’s humiliation.

  18. I have an 18 year old and have been deeply concerned by this whole episode. I cannot imagine what the parents of Clementi must be going through. I am on my way to Parents weekend and this is what they are dealing with. As for the other two people, I cannot imagine that they had no clue what was going on. Wrong morals is just that. It is very difficult to pinpoint to one cause and lay the blame. Spying on somebody is wrong compounded by the fact that they broadcast it. Very sad on all accounts. Very difficult to read and listen to this.

    Congratulations on NPR. We support it annually.

  19. This story is so shocking, sad, and absolutely tragic! I really feel that the universities are NOT doing enough to help their gay and lesbian students. Why couldn’t the officials help this kid? He took the proper steps to getting assistance yet nobody really cared. I wonder why did Ravi do this? Why did he attack this poor innocent kid? I think Ravi’s behaviour is of a sociopath.

  20. Thanks for sharing, Anna. This is really sad and angering and as a non-straight South Asian, I’m glad you highlighted it.

    I work in education (at a labor union). One of the key things I’ve learned is that you can simultaneously say that bullying is not okay and that ALL people who are involved (bullier and bullied) need support, and I’m glad you did.

    The problem here was threefold:

    the ease with which technology allows the stupidity and thoughtlessness of people to do things that they don’t want having the ramifications that eventually result.

    how to deal with bullying. that the response to something that was definitely wrong and had (i would guess inadvertently) really dramatic effects is not to ‘choose’ whether you’re going to sympathise with the person engaged in homophobic bullying or the person who engaged in it (or any other kind of bullying) -it’s to provide support, like I said, to all involved. I’m sad beyond belief that someone could end their life so quickly. I’m angry that two young people who have been raised in a homophobhic society are being criminalized rather than the circumstances of the event being acknowledged and someone thoughtful devising appropriate remedies.

    how to focus attention on where the problem is. and that openly, blatantly homophobic or racist f”£ks (or worse – people who cynically use homophobia or racism or islamophobia or sexism or…) are allowed to walk around and pretend that the messages they spout and the political ideas they promote don’t damage real human beings. Why does it always have to come to this – it’s always a death (Matthew Shepard when I was in college), or a suicide, or something dramatic. I’m sick of politicians and the media playing with our lives like they don’t matter. More than what language we use, I think what matters is that we learn more and more to treat each other like human beings – not perfect human beings – I am not perfect – but human beings. And that we look at institutions like schools, universities, the police, social services, the government at all levels, the military, and look at the ways in which cultures in institutions and in society allow things like this to happen.

    The best proof that there’s widespread homophobia is exactly that these two children (and they are children in my eyes) did something that caused someone else to kill themselves and are, for lack of a better word, quite stupid. Acted stupidly.

    I don’t know what their motivation was, but I don’t see how one child’s life being destroyed should be remedied by two more children’s lives being destroyed, or why we can’t distinguish between an active promoter of homophobia or someone who engages in physically assaulting someone and someone who did something awful, stupid, emotionally abusive etc. The specifics need to be dealt with as such – as specifics – rather than staying in the realm of law and order, justice and morality, and all that jazz. There are people here, and one is already dead and two more might be driven to suicide too :(

  21. Beautiful post. I’m sure many of us know how painful and traumatizing bullying is, for having experienced it. Also, just wondering, why couldn’t you write the LSAT? Is there some requirement stating you cannot get into law school if you take more than 4 years to complete college?!

  22. I have to disagree with Abhi, Spying on someone naked and putting it up on the internet is a crime absolutely NOT OK. This goes well beyond teenage pranks and hints at a dangerous lack of empathy. The sex tapes you speak of are leaked on the internet by the stars themselves for publicity. And laughing at a prank in a movie does not make it OK to do the same thing in real life. Just as it is not OK to imitate the violence on the screen. Anyway having their own photos plastered all over the front pages is sweet justice. A taste of their own medicine. Unless they are sociopaths, they will learn from this and no further action is required.

  23. “So please people, before you convince yourself that these teenagers are sociopaths get a reality check. We live in an age where we’ve seen it is socially acceptable to spy on someone with a webcam. As with all other issues, outrage never solved a darn thing.”

    I don’t think they are sociopaths, but just because we live in an age where it is socially acceptable to spy on someone with a webcam doesn’t mean it really is acceptable, especially under the circumstances of this tragedy. Accepting the facts of the case, there are many 18-year-olds out there who are not spying on their roommates’ sexual lives and broadcasting it or gossiping about it on twitter because not all 18-year-olds are oblivious to the fact that — in a world that actually has some sense of decency and standards — this is not acceptable behaviour. One should have a sense of what is ok to broadcast as a joke and what is not ok. In my school days it was bad form to even read your roommates’ diary, although it frequently did happen. But there was a sense of taboo about it, a code of honour of some sorts. These are, by all accounts, fairly well-adjusted 18-year-olds who can vote, who can drive, who can live on their own in college etc. If they felt that there really was nothing wrong with broadcasting/poking fun at the sexual activities of a gay teen, even in this day and age, then they either really are the most naive children or something else……unless we find out that he didn’t really intend to broadcast it or didn’t really invite others to watch it with him, he is at fault. Why not just turn off the webcam once you see what is happening within the privacy of a person’s room?

    I’m not familiar with the exact laws they have broken that ended in their being criminally charged, but if they violated laws then they should suffer the consequences of those law. No, they shouldn’t be burnt at the stake or be the victims of outsized moral outrage, they didn’t physically kill the victim, but neither should they be seen as equal victims in this case, because they are not.

  24. Bit surprised at the sympathy for Dharun. What he did was likely a felony in most jurisdictions, but more importantly he displayed cruelty to his fellow man. With a good lawyer and a clean record, he probably gets probation/community service, goes to a community college and rebuilds his life.

    As a dad with a young son, this reinforces for me more than ever that teaching him to be good is more important than teaching him to be good at academics.

  25. Sept. 19 tweet. “I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay”

    watay joke

  26. “Ok, thanks for disagreeing with something I did not even say. Read people. Geez.”

    You don’t say it directly. But you said “So please people, before you convince yourself that these teenagers are sociopaths get a reality check”. I think some of us do feel that Ravi was a sociopath with his callousness….. Moral relativism is a slippery slope.

  27. Some of comments reiterate what I was saying. You can see that many people that leave a comment believe you have to be in the “Hang Them” camp or the “Set Them Free” camp and if you aren’t in one you must be in the other. Our society (maybe our world) is becoming bipolar. If you care about exploring the steps A, B, and C that led to D then you are a dirty moral relativist. And we wonder why it is in decline. Teaching moments are reduced to sanctimony.

  28. I think it is obvious by some of the comments on this board some straight people just don’t understand what it means to be gay or lesbian. There is so much homophobia and anti gay prejudice in society. The deceased teen wasn’t even out to his own parents! I think Ravi is a sociopath and his behaviour is not only unacceptable it is just so cruel to have such a disregard for another human being. The American justice system needs to punish this kid. If I was a judge I would charge Ravi with second degree murder because he is the one to blame for the gay teen for ending his life.

    I think some straight people do not understand what this kid went through and the kind of ridicule he experienced. Imagine being gay which is still a social stigma and being young and in university. This kid probably felt so humiliated that his private sexual experiences was being broadcasted all over the place. I don’t think comparing the Rutgers university student invasion of privacy to a Hollywood sex tape is the same.

    First, in Hollywood those celebrities sex tapes are controlled they set it up and they plan to disseminate to them media and social media websites. This was a clear violation of an intimate act and it is so cruel and sad that it happened.

    I read that other gay teens recently have also committed suicide as well due to bullying. I believe this kid Ravi is a sociopath yes he is eighteen years of age but he had no regard for the feelings of his fellow student. I sincerely hope that Ravi is punished by the justice system. The problem for the gay teen was due to homophobia I read he isn’t even out of the closet to his own family!

  29. Reading about this sordid happening gives me the impression that everyone is willing to see it as a problem in the abstract. The perpetrators are from model minorities and are being given the grace of “mistakes were made”. Does anyone else see this? Shouldn’t there also be some light shed on the irresponsible two?

  30. at long last another anna post ! as usual, heartfelt and poignant. the world really doesn’t need another lawyer. are we sure this poor kid killed himself because of this harassment? i read somewhere he had caught ravi at it and was planning to go to the ra –i wonder if he ever did report this and if so what was the response.

  31. But we can make life for the next Tyler Clementi a little bit easier.

    The best way to do this is to make an example out of Dharun Ravi. As a desi, I find it a complete joke to try and bring up Dharun’s upbringing into the equation. Throw the book at him.

  32. if you are doing something so shameful that you have to jump off a bridge because someone caught you in the act…geeshh maybe you should be doing it in the first place..

  33. orville douglas: i think it’s a bit of a stretch to call this dharun KID a sociopath. he’s not exactly ted bundy. if you cry “homophobia” enough, you’ll be the gay community’s al sharpton. don’t turn into that.

    also, is it wrong that i don’t see this as a hate crime? it seems like a prank on a roommate that went horribly wrong. as anna said, dharun simply had no idea about the consequences of his actions. the suicide made dharun’s actions seem so much worse to us, but i’m not sure he deserves to go to jail for this. it wasn’t directly dharun’s fault. it sure doesn’t seem that way.

    also, doesn’t suicide seem a bit too extreme? it doesn’t seem like the webcam incident was the only thing that led the kid to kill himself. i wouldn’t be surprised if he was generally mentally unstable.

    ..and i sorta disagree with anna because i think desi parents do a great job of teaching their kids about consequences and about what is “good” and “bad.” the kids just blatantly ignore them when they’re in college.

  34. fob-dad, I can’t agree more with you. I’m surprised at all the sympathy for Ravi. (Not Molly isn’t mentioned at all). I also think that perhaps Anna shouldn’t have downed so many shots before writing her piece.

    Here’s some food for thought, Sepia Mutiny folks. Reverse the situation. Imagine Dharun was gay and that Tyler had been webcaming him instead, and imagine that today it was Dharun who had jumped. I think the posts on SM would be quite different. As it is, it all sounds rather defensive to me. I’m not sure why everyone feels like they should be Dharun’s defense attorney. If anything, this is a case of, lets step into Tyler’s shoes and walk about in them. You guys all seem to be doing that for Dharun.

    I’m guessing that I know as much about this situation as the rest of you, which isn’t much. I’m not recommending any punitive action against either Dharun or Molly since I don’t know all the details but I think we’re missing out on the critical difference between an act of stupidity and an act of cruelty. A prank is one thing but to know and understand – as 18 year olds in 2010 certainly do – and then to intentionally want to humiliate and hurt someone is not only a sign of cowardice, it’s also the work of a bully. I don’t think Dharun Ravi deserves much sympathy and frankly I don’t know what the debate is about. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that he should be charged with Tyler’s death but its quite disappointing to see all you folks going out on a limb to try and explain (and in some cases, justify) his actions.

  35. Hello deep, I disagree this was indeed a hate crime. He was attacked specifically because he was gay. How can someone not see this as a hate crime? The social stigma that exists against homosexuality due to heterosexism is very real and very serious. We live in an anti gay culture that the discourse is, gay people we should be punished for being gay. Ravi attacked the Rutgers student specifically because he had no respect for gay and lesbians. This is not just some random prank this is homophobia and this kid is a murderer! He should be charged with second degree murder he pushed the poor innocent kid to his tragic death! He is to blame for this and it is his fault!

    I believe some straight people do not understand the seriousness of this tragedy. Straight people may have empathy but the homophobia gay and lesbians experience and ridicule is very real.

    • I believe some straight people do not understand the seriousness of this tragedy.

      I predict a reference to Nazis within the next five comments.

      • I predict that the would be several incidents of violence against the S.Asian community by ignorant whites and gays due to this incident. SM should have an article whining about the violence in advance. Coin a new word – Indiophobia?

  36. heh. You should have seen the sepia mutineers cry and beat their breasts about some comedian writing some dumb article on the Time mag. Oh the outrage and the pain. Not so much when somebody actually died over what they call a “teenage prank”.

  37. The reason I made the statement is because I believe some straight people are trying to downplay the seriousness of this tragedy. If this was the reverse, and Ravi was the gay victim and not the accused would some people on Sepia Mutiny have more compassion? I am not white but I am gay and even I can see this is not just some “prank” this was a deleterious and egregious act against another human being. Where is the compassion?

  38. The reason I made the statement is because I believe some straight people are trying to downplay the seriousness of this tragedy.

    that’s fine, but you act like what you believe about what other people believe is what other people really believe. there’s a lot being misconstrued here.

    i’m not a fan of the idea of “hate” crimes personally, so i’ll set this aside. this was an asshole crime. but who here has never been an asshole? is it really sociopathic to be an insensitive dick?

    yes, there’s a lot of homophobia in society. yes, those of us who are not gay will never really “get it.” no, i don’t think dharun ravi is a murderer. no, i don’t think it is trivially obvious how to apportion responsibility here. he obviously has some major responsibility. but total responsibility? his behavior is not excusable, and i find the fact that some of his friends had sympathy for him for having a gay roommate instead of condemning him for his actions in videotaping his roommate on FB execrable. but, nor do i think a reasonable person would have an expectation that tyler c. would commit suicide. sure, part of it is that straight people don’t get the privilege their sexual orientation has, and probably don’t understand how a gay person would take such an “outing.” but that just means there needs to be more proactive education in earlier years. it doesn’t mean that dharun ravi is a murderer.

    the fact that people are throwing matthew shepard’s name out there shows how people are going low to win arguments here. matthew shepard was physically tortured and murdered.

    • “but that just means there needs to be more proactive education in earlier years. it doesn’t mean that dharun ravi is a murderer.”

      Maybe it means both. There’s been a fairly large upsurge in suicides due to cyberbullying one only has to read the headlines to see. I think the fact that we all have camera ready cell phones with internet connections means we all have TMZ like damage potential at our disposal. With that potential comes greater responsibility.

    • “, nor do i think a reasonable person would have an expectation that tyler c. would commit suicide”

      and you know that how? I am assuming that you knew Tyler C personally to have a reasonable expectation of whether he would commit suicide or not.

    • @Razib “the fact that people are throwing matthew shepard’s name out there shows how people are going low to win arguments here. matthew shepard was physically tortured and murdered.”

      i really hope you weren’t referring to me in this comment.

      If so, please go back and read what I wrote. The point about mentioning Matthew Shepard was a) personal – it was what affected me when I was in college and b) was meant to tie with another death, both of which were directly or indirectly produced by widespread homophobia and are over 10 years apart. It upsets me a lot that we have to wait until people die before these issues become important enough to discuss widely and even then not enough is done.

      @Orville -

      This is not just some random prank this is homophobia and this kid is a murderer! He should be charged with second degree murder he pushed the poor innocent kid to his tragic death! He is to blame for this and it is his fault!

      I know this is a really emotive topic, but I think it’s important to say that I don’t trust the same legal system that is racist, sexist, homophobic and violent to save me. I think it’s only going to make things worse to insist on punishment/revenge, and not look at the wider circumstances and ALL the people who ought to feel responsible for this.

      For example, this is some of what I found in Google News just now: http://www.kxlh.com/news/montana-gop-policy-keep-homosexual-acts-illegal/ http://michiganmessenger.com/42298/assistant-ag-sparks-controversy-with-anti-gay-tirades http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20101002_Churches_that_don_t_acknowledge_homosexuality_build_a_difficult_barrier.html

      This is the reality. Insisting on a prosecution won’t stop this: http://www.8newsnow.com/story/13249824/suicide-a-growing-problem-among-homosexual-teens. It will just let us get on with things, ignore the issue, and wait for the next news story that’s drawn to our attention…

  39. Where is the compassion?

    there’s plenty in anna’s post. there’s plenty in the comments. you just want to argue against a strawman. if you turn a complex issue into a black-white narrative all you’re going to do is shut down discussion. people are just going to withdraw. they’ll pretend to agree with you to get along, but in the end people will just “keep to their own kind.”

  40. The two people who streamed live video of this young man’s private moments over the internet essentially killed him for their own entertainment. If that isn’t murder, what is?

  41. here’s clementi: And so I feel like it was ‘look at what a fag my roommate is,’ ” he wrote on Sept. 21. “Other people have commented on his profile with things like ‘how did you manage to go back in there?’ and ‘are you ok?’ and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy as the scandal whereas I mean come on … he was SPYING ON ME … do they see something wrong with this?”

    [my emphasis]

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/nyregion/01suicide.html?sq=dharun%20ravi&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=print

    this is why i think dharun ravi just isn’t a sociopath. he had friends who saw what he was doing, but perceived tyler c. as being the sick one. that’s the sick aspect of this, and i totally am revolted and shocked by this reality. i’m a little bit surprised too…the 18 year olds i know seem more conscious of, or accept that, being gay is not an evil or wrong thing. but perhaps i know the wrong 18 year olds. according to the general social survey 50% of americans still think homosexual sex is “always wrong.” it drops to 40% for those who are 18-25.

    throwing dharun ravi in jail for decades for murder isn’t going to change those statistics. what about all his co-conspirators? his friends whose moral calculus was out of kilter? what’s going to happen to them? are they going to just fade into the woodwork while he takes the fall?

    ravi should be punished for his alleged crimes. the laws he did violate. but i think it’s objectionable that he take the fall for views which broad swaths of american society hold. broad swaths that do make the lives of gay teens miserable. to really change the lives of gay teens those of us who are straight and think that being gay is no different than being straight in a moral sense need to talk to those who disagree. i don’t necessarily believe that i can convince people who think it is morally a wrong course of behavior that it is OK, but i think that we can agree that it’s wrong to taunt and torment innocent kids. focusing on ravi, and especially molly wei (who seems like a bystander at this point), lets us all get off.

  42. There’s been a fairly large upsurge in suicides due to cyberbullying one only has to read the headlines to see

    since cyberbullying is conditional on there being a cyber that’s almost tautological from human nature and the spread of the internet. there’s nothing new about taunting and bullying. and i doubt it’s gotten any worse since i was a kid, though i’d be curious for statistics and not headlines (the media doesn’t make a claim to representativeness).

  43. Abhi, go back and read all of your Comments (conveniently highlighted). If your job is just to shoot opinions down, could you do everyone a favor and not comment?

    This isn’t even your post….sheesh!

  44. could you do everyone a favor and not comment?

    didn’t know that “everyone” (excepting abhi) had a representative tribune to speak for them! why not just be straight-up: if you disagree with Charanpreet don’t bother and leave a comment. cramping his/her style.

    • Abhi happens to have the gift for irrelevancy with gems like

      “I predict a reference to Nazis within the next five comments.”

      “Murder is what you are doing to a discussion that once had the possibility of being intelligent”

  45. focusing on ravi, and especially molly wei (who seems like a bystander at this point), lets us all get off.

    But, but… what you are saying would take like work Razib. That would mean that we need to become part of the solution. That would mean I can’t just make a judgment and move on to the next outrage. Screw you Razib. You moral relativist! Burn them all I say :)

  46. “ravi should be punished for his alleged crimes. the laws he did violate. but i think it’s objectionable that he take the fall for views which broad swaths of american society hold”

    He’s not taking a fall for his views he’s taking a fall for what he did. Any attorney worth their salt could argue criminal harrassment without breaking a sweat. A case could be made for manslaughter due to malicious intent.

  47. If your job is just to shoot opinions down, could you do everyone a favor and not comment?

    My “job” is to encourage conversation. When I see people doing drive by’s and hurling outrage grenades through the window before driving on, I will always call them out. I like a good debate though so always feel free to make a counter-argument and explain why you think anything I have said is off.

  48. He’s not taking a fall for his views he’s taking a fall for what he did. Any attorney worth their salt could argue criminal harrassment without breaking a sweat. A case could be made for manslaughter due to malicious intent.

    let’s set aside the legal issues. what’s going to happen is going to happen in that arena, and i don’t know enough about the law to speak intelligently.

    do you, or do you not, think that dharun ravi is a sociopath? some particularly sick individual who behaved in an exceptional manner? i happen to not believe that he’s a sociopath. he reminds me of a lot of kids i knew, and i think he emerges out of a social context. i don’t think putting him in jail will deter the next dharun ravi (or joe smith), because their values are shaped by their social context, and those of us who find that social context objectionable need to tackle it.

    • do you, or do you not, think that dharun ravi is a sociopath?

      That is the central question Razib. If you think he is a sociopath then he becomes an isolated case and all we have to do to fix the problem is hang him. If you think he is not a sociopath, but a very average kid that made a stupid decision (and this is what I think), then that means that the problem will be a lot more difficult to fix and requires all of us to help. Sexting blackmail, Facebook bullying, casual homophobia, all of these things are rampant and many people are working to make progress in changing how kids view the acceptability of each of these problems. I feel “our” energy would be better utilized in education in these areas (especially as related to the South Asian American community) then in being shocked. If any of you reading this run or are affiliated with organizations that work in one of these areas I’d love it if you’d post the details in this comment section.