Andrew Shirvell | Bullying | News

Tyler Clementi's Story Unfolded Online, But Offers Real Life Lessons


We've never seen anything quite like the Tyler Clementi tragedy. While anti-gay bullying and taunting are, sadly, part and parcel of contemporary life, 18-year old's Clementi's story includes many dangerous elements that are rarely put together on the national stage, thus helping to illuminate the impact of the 21st century's brand of homophobia. The end result, if we're lucky, will be a revival of a seemingly outdated concept: civility.

"This is a highly rare occurrence," a Rutgers University official said about Clementi, the freshman who committed suicide after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another student, Molly Wei, streamed his hookups with other men across the campus. They have been charged with invasion of privacy.

The events leading to Clementi's suicide unfolded online, starting with a computer camera and Ravi's Twitter account, through which he invited other students to watch, and ending with Clementi's Facebook message, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." There also appears to be evidence of Clementi's anguish at the gay site JustUsBoys.

Gawker posted messages left by a user calling himself "cit2mo," who describes a situation very similiar to Clementi's: "the other night I had a guy over," he wrote, "[My roommate] tweeted I was using the room ...And that he went into somebody else's room and remotely turned on his webcam." The reaction, according to cit2mo, was not good: repulsed people commented on the roommate's profile asking, "How did you manage to go back in there?"

The user cit2mo, whose postings match the time line of Clementi's struggle, goes on to discuss how he felt the entire thing was homophobic: "I feel like it was 'look at what a fag my roommate is'... 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 nothing wrong with this?"

Sadly, too many people would focus on the "negative" aspect of gay sex, rather than the malicious invasion of privacy.

Cyber-bullying remains a persistent problem in America: over 40% of teenagers report being bullied online. As our lives become even more intertwined with the internet, age old homophobia will only continue to fester in virtual realms.

Just look at the Andrew Shirvell case: his own boss, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, calls him a cyber bully, again against a gay person. That doesn't mean, of course, that bullying doesn't exist in the real world, too.

In addition to showing the dangers of cyber-bullying, Clementi's story, rare for all the attention it has received in mainstream media, shows the dangerous repercussions of homophobia, something we all saw this week with the deaths of Asher Brown and Seth Walsh, both of whom committed suicide.

Clementi's life and death come just as Rutger's University launches its Project Civility, a series of lectures and discussions that intends to create a "more charitable campus culture" and provide an "ongoing inquiry about the nature of true respect for others."

In light of Clementi's suicide, unique, yet involving so many ubiquitous, oft-ignored themes - cyber-bullying, homophobia and suicide - Rutger's announced they will incorporate his story into Project Civility's programming. Hopefully all the attention will help spread civility to the general public, too, for they must sit up and realize that seemingly minor jabs or taunts, online or off, are fueling a crisis that's claiming lives.

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  1. If this was an episode of Law & Order, Dharun Ravi would be charged with much more than just invasion of privacy.

    Posted by: Brian | Sep 30, 2010 12:03:00 PM

  2. Gawd, this is the saddest story. For all. Even for those stupid people spying on him.

    I hope this country will finally see that this gay/straight warfare has casualties, as does all warfare. I consider this young man to be a hero, similar to those young men and women who died in Iraq. Those deaths woke people up to that war and caused a change in behavior. I hope his death will do the same in this culture war.

    Just trying to honor him, somehow.

    Posted by: derwood | Sep 30, 2010 12:05:29 PM

  3. a chink and wog killed this nice boy.

    close the border now!!

    Posted by: mike nyc | Sep 30, 2010 12:16:46 PM

  4. Hate = Death, there's nothing more to it. And frankly, our country is boiling over with Hate and our leaders aren't doing enough overall to deal with it.

    Posted by: Tollendyr | Sep 30, 2010 12:19:21 PM

  5. Having a roommate who is an asshole is not the problem. A "lack of civility" on the internet is not the problem. The problem is growing up in a society where people demonize homosexuality to the point where some young man felt he had to kill himself when it was revealed that he was having a perfectly normal little bit of college sex. Just cause it was with a guy. Our culture made it okay to mock Mr. Clementi. Worse, our culture somehow planted the idea in Mr. Clementi that he could be mocked -- that being "caught" and publicly revealed made his life not worth living. That is what I find horrific.

    How can we allow children to be raised like this? Homophobia kills.

    Posted by: Buster | Sep 30, 2010 12:23:47 PM

  6. two minorities going after another minority is nothing but fucked

    all the news is sickening today :(

    Posted by: neverstops | Sep 30, 2010 12:25:30 PM

  7. Very sad. The saddest thing to me, though, is that this would not have ruined his life. This would not have even lingered much longer -- stories like this go away after a couple days or, at worst, weeks. We, as a country, couldn't even pay attention to the worst-ever oil spill, right off our own coast... any 'story' is only 1 Britney Spears rehab story away from being forgotten. Yet, had he decided to report these incidents to the authorities, he a) would have had a new roommate, immediately, b) could have pressed charges, c) could have sued and d) could have turned the story into exactly what it should have been in the first place: about the invasion of privacy. He had nothing to be ashamed of... his loss is tragic.

    Teens need to understand that these sorts of things aren't the end of the world. It *does* get better.

    Posted by: Ryan | Sep 30, 2010 12:26:04 PM

  8. Wow. That JustUsBoys addendum to this story adds a whole new dimension. He seems completely rational and stable and even quite comfortable being gay, not at all like someone horrified at being outed or on the verge of suicide. I wonder what changed between the JustUsBoys posts and his decision to kill himself.

    Posted by: crispy | Sep 30, 2010 12:26:07 PM

  9. @ MikeNYC - Way to prove how much of a douchebag you are in under 15 words. Congratulations.

    Posted by: Austin | Sep 30, 2010 12:31:54 PM

  10. The memorial page on Facebook is getting flamed with a lot of hate posts, incl altered photos of Clementi in hell and fake shots of him jumping off the bridge (the most prolific poster seems to be some idiot named Aldo Gutmann). I encourage everyone to report those posts on Facebook and to also report the profiles of those who are posting the messages.

    Posted by: erik | Sep 30, 2010 12:37:36 PM


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Sep 30, 2010 12:38:31 PM

  12. This is sad, but there are many more suicides per week than we ever hear about. They are rarely the result of something spontaneous. The typical suicide has been contemplating the act for a year and made three "trial" runs. Women practice more than men and are less likely to actually commit. Rarely, if ever, do people contemplating suicide call the various hotlines. They don't talk about it with friends and/or family. The best indication is usually in a diary. There are some medications, though, that have the side-effect of increasing the risk of spontaneous suicide--ironically they are often anti-depressants. Attempting to diagnose the situation online is silly.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 30, 2010 12:43:40 PM

  13. I agree with Crispy. It seems there is more to this story than has been reported. His JustUsBoys posts seem very level-headed. He is pissed off - and rightfully so. But I don't get the sense from those posts that he was completely devastated or on the verge of ending it all over this incident. It also seems that he may have only been filmed making out with a guy, which is not nearly as big a deal as being filmed having intercourse.

    Some have speculated that he was closeted and the exposure is what caused him to kill himself. But he doesn't seem very closeted. If he was bringing back guys to his dorm room, he ran the risk of bumping into any number of his friends and dorm-mates. Someone who is desperate to remain in the closet wouldn't do that.

    The whole thing is very strange.

    Posted by: Sam | Sep 30, 2010 12:44:09 PM

  14. MikeNYC: Thanks for adding nothing of substantive value to the conversation.

    Posted by: Mr. Pinky | Sep 30, 2010 12:45:18 PM

  15. This story is grotesque on so many levels. Those two should be charged with manslaughter and be made to pay for causing this boy's death.

    The fact that people are flaming his memorial page is revolting. That is just as unacceptable as the Westboro Baptist Church showing up at someone's funeral and spouting their hate.

    Where are the consequences for these people? Usually when someone dies in a situation like this, people will sit up and take notice of the seriousness of the situation and express their outrage. When a gay person dies it's mocked and ignored.

    I have never been more disgusted by the state of this country than I am at this moment.

    Posted by: MT | Sep 30, 2010 12:46:05 PM

  16. I've just read the Gawker link with JustUsBoys posts. The author of these posts didn't sound suicidal at all. In fact, he was working with the University to change a roommate. A very rational behavior. Gawker also claims that the same person had a account, so he was rather comfortable with the idea of showing himself naked on the internet. It doesn't make sense.

    Posted by: AG | Sep 30, 2010 12:48:17 PM

  17. It would be interesting to know what his parents felt about his sexual orientation, and how supportive they were of him as a gay person.

    Sad to say, I wonder if they are culpable in this action...we all know how that goes!!!

    Posted by: Brains | Sep 30, 2010 12:57:14 PM

  18. My heart aches for the families of Tyler Clementi and the young teens who recently were subjected to such relentless bullying that they saw suicide as the only way out. There is far too much evidence of a widespread disgustingly bizarre lack of compassion and civility in our society. In our youth, we all do some pretty stupid stuff but what this young man's dorm roommates did to him is so disgustingly cruel in an apolitical way that one can only conceive that these two individuals have devolved into callous, unfeeling misanthropes incapable of truly atoning for their behavior.

    Unfortunately, too many people are wired like this and our society has a tendency to reward them. Look at ABC news media personality Laura Ingraham. In the 1980s, at Dartmouth, she sent sent, as reported by Gawker, 'an undercover reporter to secretly tape a meeting of gay and lesbian students, under the auspices of pursuing a follow-the-money story on where a mandatory $100-per-student activities fee went. [She] then went on to print the names of those students, who had not been made aware a reporter was present.' Her report at the time referred to the students as 'cheerleaders for latent campus sodomites.'

    Later, she tried to make amends, especially when she found out that her brother was gay.

    How well did she learn her lesson? In her recent book, The Obama Diaries, which comprises completely fake diary entries by the President, she laced it with the most disrepectful racist stereotypes of the First Lady. Stephen Colbert called her out brilliantly on his show for this drivel.

    This is a sad, sad day. Apparently, some people are built incapable of truly mature, humane, remorseful feeling. I would hope that everybody here would be able to dignify the memory of those lost with sensitive, respectful comments. We should do everything to ensure that, indeed, it does get better, as in the mission of Dan Savage's important project.

    Posted by: Les roka | Sep 30, 2010 1:01:56 PM

  19. AG,

    I agree with you. Something... something, does not add up!

    Posted by: Brains | Sep 30, 2010 1:02:58 PM

  20. Tyler, we won't forget you and will continue to fight like hell to make this country (and world) SAFER for LGBT people. In the end, we will win this struggle for all the tylers, seths, and ashers in the world.

    Posted by: JoeInSF | Sep 30, 2010 1:19:44 PM

  21. Our privacy laws were written long before anybody had Twitter, Facebook, or any of these social networking tools. Eventually, Congress will have to tighten the penalties for privacy violations of this nature. Because what happened here had the same reach as a television broadcast on a major network. And we are talking about someone who never, ever consented to being a public figure.

    Posted by: John | Sep 30, 2010 1:22:02 PM

  22. This story actually makes me sick to my stomach. For a roommate to be homophobic, malicious, and hateful just doesn't make sense.

    I hope they find a way to charge this guy with a lot more.

    Posted by: Joe | Sep 30, 2010 1:48:01 PM

  23. It is with great alarm that I see bullying and hate spreading, not just in grade school and highschool, but also at the university level. Our campus here in California is dealing with an awful lot of hate speech and cyber bullying right now as well. What needs to be done is to tap in to the reasons why people feel they have the right to bully and intimidate others through anonymous channels. What is motivating the hate? Why are young people using technology to express such hate? Why aren't adults stepping in and researching why our schools are producing such hateful behavior? Is this just the beginning of a national trend, or just a temporary blip in social history; as the LGBT group gains greater acceptance and rights in the public sphere?

    Posted by: Keith | Sep 30, 2010 1:49:37 PM

  24. "What needs to be done is to tap in to the reasons why people feel they have the right to bully and intimidate others through anonymous channels. What is motivating the hate?"

    For what? Existential satisfaction in knowing why it happens? Why it happens isn't going to shed any light on how to stop it. The vast majority of people, including so-called anti-bullying experts, don't know anything how to stop bullying, because they fundamentally don't understand what it is.

    Posted by: TANK | Sep 30, 2010 1:55:21 PM

  25. These two scumbags were not born with hate in their hearts, they were taught it by those who raised them. I hope they are charged with manslaughter and that Clementi's parents sue both families for every penny they have. Money will not bring back their son, but it will send a message to other parents that their is a cost to teaching your children to hate.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Sep 30, 2010 2:22:43 PM

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