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Rutgers University Paper Blasts Media Coverage, Activist 'Agenda' Surrounding Tyler Clementi's Suicide


Have the media and activist groups been exploiting Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi's suicide? According to the University's paper, The Daily Targum, "yes."

The editors published a letter yesterday claiming "massive rallies and aggressive news coverage" turned Clementi's death into something it wasn't:

The death of University student Tyler Clementi might have been properly mourned if it were not for the massive rallies and aggressive news coverage that altered the nature of the situation. The truth is that an 18-year-old boy killed himself - he was a student just like the rest of us, someone just trying to receive an education. Yet people's relentless agendas took his death and turned it into a cause based on false pretenses.

The paper goes on to chide "an angry mob fending for their rights turned the death of a young boy into a cause for "safe spaces" for gays across the University," and explains that these spaces already exist on the campus. They continue:

The focal point of Clementi's tragic death should have been a boy's inability to deal with the hardships of life. And yet the news and certain organizations picked this up and carried it into the ranks of general causes for major social groups - for their profit. Did Tyler really feel unsafe after all? Do we know the reason behind his suicide? Do we know if he, himself, would take part in the movement behind his death - the push for safe spaces?

Perhaps the rallies would have been inappropriate if Clementi's death were an isolated incident. He was, however, just one of five gay men to commit suicide last week, and by far provided the most unique story, a story that resonates across our 21st century lives.

It seems to me that activists and media would have acted irresponsibly had we let Clementi's death be turned into a footnote, rather than a rally for change.

Sure, the paper may complain that celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris are "forcing his remembrance into a cause rather than a proper mourning," thus turning Clementi into a "martyr," but they fail to illustrate that these developments have a distinct negative impact, other than the fact that they're inconvenienced by rallies and protests.

To put my criticism of their criticism in academic terms: the paper's staff doesn't support their thesis.

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  1. Yes, he was a student just like the rest of the students, but with one difference - he was hounded and bullied by two of his classmates because he was gay and that led to his suicide. Don't they get it?

    Posted by: Jack M | Oct 6, 2010 8:26:42 AM

  2. I'm not going to lie, I don't think Clementi committed suicide because of the bullying, or at least not solely because of the bullying.
    There must have been something else going on because if it was just about that, he didn't act like it.
    He seemed to handle that problem seemingly maturely (as mature as someone could be in a situation like this of course,) so I'm not convinced that his being gay/homophobia was the main reason why he did it.

    Posted by: Asher | Oct 6, 2010 8:29:00 AM

  3. OH MY GOD.

    Insensitivity, garden variety homophobia, blaming and characterizing the victim, and trolls posting - and all before 9am.

    The Daily Targum editors need a wake up call. How dare they suggest that Clementi's death was hijacked by the gays. Clementi was gay. He was targeted by his roommate for being gay.

    Posted by: yonkersconquers | Oct 6, 2010 8:37:48 AM

  4. Suicidal people who want to "send a message" do so by taking pills, slashing their wrists across, and other things like that to gain attention. They call loved ones and say goodbye and stage elaborate displays with one out: they intend to live.

    Suicidal people who want to die jump off bridges and use guns. They want to do it, and they do it. They also do it because they are beyond reaching out. I firmly believe that when someone has gone that far and really wants to die, there isn't much you can do to stop them in the short run. Tyler was one of these people. He wanted to die. That probably ran a little deeper than the episode with the webcam. And to be honest, the fact that a huge population of people seem to be blaming his suicide on "being gay" seems a little shortsighted and opportunistic.

    More people have committed suicide for "being gay" than we may ever know. But an equal number of unknown persons have done it for reasons that have nothing to do with being gay. The fact that they were gay doesn't mean it fueled their suicide. So let's stop exploiting this young man's unfortunate act by self-righteously claiming we speak for him, because we don't. He died because he wanted to.

    Posted by: Alan | Oct 6, 2010 8:38:41 AM

  5. @ THE DAILY TARGUM, re: "The focal point of Clementi's tragic death should have been a boy's inability to deal with the hardships of life"

    This is the single least sensitive, victim-blaming, most assholish comment I've read in the whole circus.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Oct 6, 2010 8:54:16 AM

  6. When people desire to dismiss your position, they accuse you of having an "agenda."

    Clementi's suicide has resonated b/c of the outrageous insensitivity of his perpetrators and b/c it was #5 in a short time frame.

    This paper's reaction clearly stems from their desire to change the subject and the focus of the discussion from Rutgers. Clearly they have an agenda. :o

    Posted by: stephen | Oct 6, 2010 9:05:37 AM

  7. To the asshole trolls posting here this morning, I suppose the fact that Tyler jumped off of a bridge THE VERY DAY that his roommate video taped and broadcast him in an intimate encounter with another man, which he complained about on-line is just coincidental?

    Fuck you. You are scumbags who are a HUGE part of the problem.

    I'm sure you will argue that the other 5 suicides of kids being bullied for being gay were not related to gay issues and were coincidental too. We should ignore ALL of them and just say "it is what it is".

    Yeah, we've been doing that for decades it doesn't help. It IS part of our agenda to protect our young just as it is EVERYONE'S agenda to protect THEIR young. Only, when it comes to gays, any agenda that we may have, no matter how righteous, is considered nefarious and evil.

    Again I say, FUCK YOU!

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Oct 6, 2010 9:29:34 AM

  8. If the paper has any real interest in academics it will, of course, publish cogent responses.

    Posted by: Daniel | Oct 6, 2010 9:34:18 AM

  9. Its now 6 teens. Apparently this young gay teen had also committed suicide back on September 30th:

    Posted by: Ed | Oct 6, 2010 9:47:08 AM

  10. "The focal point of Clementi's tragic death should have been a boy's inability to deal with the hardships of life.". HUH? He had a video secretly posted of him having sex on the Internet to mock and demean his sexuality. It's not like he just had hard classes or missed his parents. How crass. I hope people respond to this. I tried, but the mobile version of the website doesn't allow comments.

    Posted by: Joe | Oct 6, 2010 9:53:23 AM

  11. Hey, it's not pure trollism to suggest that someone ENDING THEIR ENTIRE EXISTENCE might have more depth than we as people who didn't so much as ever lay eyes on the person could ever hope to know.

    I don't think anyone's suggesting the cruel torment Tyler received at the hands of his roommate had nothing to do with it, but don't expect everyone to be so simplistic as to forge a direct and singular line from that one cruelty to a non-fictional suicide.

    There are even clues, in what appear to be Tyler's postings on JustUsBoys, that he was at least partially able to successfully grapple with the crap his roommate pulled on him. I don't agree with the college paper, of course, that the gay community is simply exploiting Tyler's death. Far from it. But neither is it true that we armchair psychologists can see into Tyler's soul to gage the complexities of exactly why he felt jumping off a bridge to his death was his only option. Think about what that means for a second, and then think about whether other people far outside the situation can hope to know more than a kernel of what might have led to such a horrible mistake.

    Posted by: Zlick | Oct 6, 2010 9:54:40 AM

  12. There's a HUGE gap between what could have been a sensitive, rational response from the Targum, and the piece of shit that they published.

    To attack a community that is trying to turn tragedy into hope is beyond shameful, and yet somehow completely familiar. The rank stench of Virginia Foxx comes unpleasantly to mind.

    Posted by: MammaBear | Oct 6, 2010 10:21:09 AM

  13. Yeah, my college paper, The Daily Nexus (of UCSB) was also a rag of the first order. I'm sure the same can be said of what they publish at Rutgers.

    The editorial was probably written by a pampered 20 year old slacker.

    Posted by: chasmader | Oct 6, 2010 10:23:30 AM

  14. This is typical neocon republican bullshit.
    We've seen it time and time again to justify hate and bigotry. Unfortunately, the gay community is currently under siege nationwide as a result of this con

    Posted by: niles | Oct 6, 2010 10:48:21 AM

  15. "The focal point of Clementi's tragic death should have been a boy's inability to deal with the hardships of life"

    This is the EXACT logic that homophobes use to tell us we don't deserve "special treatment." That we CAN get married and live normal lives if we want to -- but it has to be with a woman. The article puts the blame SQUARELY on the victim. Homophobes treat us like second class citizens and then act like this sort of public humiliation is something everyone faces. That is SO irresponsible and disgusting.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 6, 2010 10:57:17 AM

  16. @Alan: Nobody kills him/herself simply for "being gay," and I haven't heard anyone (other than one or the odd homophobe from an anti-gay group) make it out to be that simplistic.

    To reduce other people's arguments about the reasons he did this to "being gay" would be like saying that a slave ran away from a merciless master for "being black" or that a woman runs away from an emotionally abusive husband for "being a woman."

    Posted by: gregv | Oct 6, 2010 10:59:16 AM

  17. This sentence from the editorial says it all: "The focal point of Clementi's tragic death should have been a boy's inability to deal with the hardships of life."

    They pull the classic anti-gay stunt of completely removing sexuality from the equation and replacing it with the generic "hardships," shifting the blame to Tyler's "inability", as if what happened had no relation to Tyler being humiliated for being gay. Then they use that de-gaying to strenuously argue against the need for more "safe spaces," as if safe spaces are somehow more detrimental to university life than gross invasions of privacy and bullying. They accuse gay groups of making assumptions about the case and using Tyler to advance their own agendas, while in their editorial they thoughtlessly do exactly the same thing, for homophobic purposes.

    There are legitimate questions about how Tyler's death is being used, simplified, and possibly manipulated to suit various agendas, including media agendas, but shifting the blame to "activist" gay groups says more about the immaturity of the editorial writers than it does about the larger significance of Tyler's death.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 6, 2010 11:00:54 AM

  18. I agree with the paper. Tyler was clearly a weak human being which had nothing to do with him being gay. My husband went to Rutgers and they have a large LGBT group that runs a number of programs to help LGBT students and raises awareness. Tyler killed himself because he could not deal - because he refused to ask for help. The media put all the blame on the kids instituting this "prank". But come one! This is straight out of the "American Pie". It was a prank - yes it was tasteless, and cruel. But that's how kids are.

    LGBT youth needs to toughen up. I grew up in Brooklyn and went to public school. I came out when I was 16 and I was bullied too. But I did not kill myself! That experience made me a stronger person. Tyler's reaction was completely out of proportion to the bullying - and that's why I think the media reaction has also bee out of proportion.

    Posted by: Matt Kats | Oct 6, 2010 11:06:51 AM

  19. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei both committed a Hate Crime Period

    Posted by: pauls | Oct 6, 2010 11:14:30 AM

  20. Self preservation at it's ugliest. Rutgers has been trying for weeks to pretend that homophobia doesn't exist on it's campus. The article also fails to mention that Clementi went to the person in charge of the Rutgers dorms he was sharing with Ravi.

    Posted by: Shawn | Oct 6, 2010 11:23:06 AM

  21. The Tyler Clementi situation is actually NOT the same as the other suicides that happened around the same time. For one thing, he's a grown man. More importantly, it's very unclear that homophobia was the motivating factor in his harrassment. I'm a big gay and was the target of a certain amount of bullying when I was young, but I think this particular situation is the wrong one to be rallying behind as an example of the tragic consequences of homophobic bullying. It's not clear cut at all, and I'm not convinced that it wasn't just typical first-month-of-college assholishnes gone terribly wrong. Why aren't we talking as much about the younger kids who committed suicide?

    Posted by: C | Oct 6, 2010 11:34:55 AM

  22. Trolls posing as gay to make disparaging and characterizing remarks about a dead student. It's so obvious it isn't funny.

    "Asher" and "Matt Kats" your agendas are showing.

    Posted by: frwaq | Oct 6, 2010 11:41:40 AM

  23. Wow, MATT KATS, do you realize how arrogant and lacking in compassion your comment is? Sadly, it's not atypical, as the editorial demonstrates.

    Bravo--you're strong. You endured bullying and survived, so everyone else should be measured by your coping yardstick. Round of applause. But maybe some people are more vulnerable than you are. Humiliating a gay person for sport is not "how kids are." Life isn't a movie. Many kids do not taunt and broadcast their roommate having sex and would never dream of doing so, because many kids are sensitive human beings. These kids did it. They are responsible for their actions. Humiliation is not a harmless prank.

    Instead of telling LGBT youth to "toughen up," maybe we should be telling youth and adults alike that intentionally bullying, harassing, or humiliating a fellow human being--and enabling that behavior--has to stop now, or else there could be consequences you'll have to live with the rest of your life. The message isn't: buck up and take it. It's: treat others the way you would wish to be treated.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 6, 2010 11:50:33 AM

  24. He did not kill himself the same day that he was videotaped. But the really odd thing was that he went to full orchestra practice only 3 hrs before committing suicide. Now, this does not suggest he was preparing to commit suicide.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 6, 2010 11:50:36 AM

  25. I kind of wish that this site required you to register in order to post. It really seems like there's one person stepping in here and writing the "opposing" view but supplying different names each time.

    Rutgers may not be a homophobic university (in fact I'm sure it's relatively welcoming place given the Rutgers alum I know) but I've not seen a single anti-Rutgers news headline as a result of this. The target here is bullies and the extreme cruelty that many gay youth experience which is above and beyond what most experience. The target here is the abnormally high suicide rate amongst gay teens.

    The fact that this happened at Rutgers is as unimportant to the world as is the Rutgers university news paper.

    Posted by: Randy | Oct 6, 2010 11:59:47 AM

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