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January 30, 2012 10:10 AM   Subscribe

The Story of a Suicide: a fantastic array of updates about Tyler Clementi’s death (Previously on MeFi) and Dharun Ravi’s trial.
posted by hermitosis (78 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know you've gone too far with your anti-Gay practical joke/hate crime when even the Republican governor is disgusted by it.
posted by Renoroc at 10:15 AM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Reading the account of how all the people involved (most of them very young) reacted to everything in real-time is so fantastically sad, because it makes me wonder how anyone survives that time in their life, when your knowledge of what's possible in the world is so limited, but your resources are near-unlimited.

I'm still reading the last few pages of this and I am amazed to have access to all this material -- chat records, emails, bits of interviews -- all laid out from beginning to end.
posted by hermitosis at 10:30 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm in the minority, but as I read this article, which writes from a less heated, in-the-moment perspective than when this story broke.... I can't help but feel sad at the world we're becoming. Instant, two-minute hate and calls for ferocious punishment (especially after the recent thread on prisons underscores how cruel and unusual even a few months can be), a mob of angry chimps descending on whomever the fire hose of condemnation is turned today.

Look, what happened was sad, and tragic, but Ravi didn't and couldn't have predicted the outcome, which was entirely on the young man who chose suicide. Not every sad thing requires a villain, and a retribution.

Andy Warhol was a little mistaken: in the future we will all have our 15 minutes of wearing a Scarlet letter.
posted by hincandenza at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, this is very interesting, and as always more complicated than it seems as presented by headlines and sound bites. Thanks, hermitosis.
posted by koeselitz at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2012


Across the Internet, Ravi’s written contributions tended to be unusually careful about grammar, and a little combative—with an element of teasing or insult and, sometimes, self-mockery.

MeFi's own?
posted by resurrexit at 10:41 AM on January 30, 2012


Hincandenza, I'm a bit uncomfortable to find that what you said kind of implies we should go easy on Ravi "because he didn't know what would happen." I'm finding it hard to come to the conclusion that broadcasting your roommate's private affairs out to a wider audience would be somehow forgiveable provided your roommate didn't kill himself.

In other words: I don't think Ravi is getting the scorn "because Tyler killled himself," I think he's getting the scorn because posting a video of your roommate having sex on the internet is a really shit thing to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on January 30, 2012 [23 favorites]


hincandenza: “Maybe I'm in the minority, but as I read this article, which writes from a less heated, in-the-moment perspective than when this story broke.... I can't help but feel sad at the world we're becoming.”

It's not even that simple, sadly. The thing I like about this article is that it also doesn't presume Ravi's innocence. And I think that seems like a good idea; it doesn't seem like he's entirely innocent, even granting that the news coverage of this was very different from the facts.
posted by koeselitz at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sort of agree, hincandenza, though I think that these are just our growing pains, and we learn and correct ourselves faster than at (probably) any other time in history. From the article, for those who may not read that far:
"If prosecutors had been able to charge Ravi with shiftiness and bad faith—if the criminal law exactly reflected common moral judgments about kindness and reliability—then to convict him would be easy. The long indictment against Ravi can be seen as a kind of regretful commentary about the absence of such statutes. Similarly, the enduring false belief that Ravi was responsible for outing Tyler Clementi, and for putting a sex tape on the Internet, can be seen as a collective effort to balance a terrible event with a terrible cause."
posted by hermitosis at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, the fact that Ravi recorded or posted a video online is one of the false impressions that this article attempts to correct. Ravi allegedly intended to do so, but the attempt was thwarted -- possibly by Clementi himself.
posted by hermitosis at 10:44 AM on January 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


That was a depressing read. Good, but depressing.
posted by rtha at 10:46 AM on January 30, 2012


Look, what happened was sad, and tragic, but Ravi didn't and couldn't have predicted the outcome, which was entirely on the young man who chose suicide. Not every sad thing requires a villain, and a retribution.

Yeah, I kind of agree with you in spirit, but I sure do think Ravi is a villain here. Whether he is a murderer or not is a different discussion, but I don't think he's being unfairly pilloried. I think he did something supremely shitty, that tied into larger shitty social constructs and stigmas, and I think he's guilty as hell of being a shithead.
posted by OmieWise at 10:47 AM on January 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't know...that New Yorker article, which seems to be going for a 'revisionist' version of the case, didn't really change my opinion at all. The author seemed to have lined up very strongly on the side of Ravi and Wei, who he presented as teenage victims of technology. Perhaps this is because Tyler Clementi had so few close friends, and none agreed to an interview that could have balanced the article. In the absence of conflicting perspectives, Ian Parker seems to have gone for the ever-popular "young people today, lost in the morass of Twitter, all of them, bullies and bullied alike, poor things," angle.

The article presents a large amount of evidence that Ravi was, in fact, deliberately harassing his roomate, did, in fact, attempt to tape his roomate having sex and broadcast it to as many people as he had access to via Twitter, and did, in fact, do this because he was disgusted by the idea that his roomate was having sex with another man. After he found out his roomate was on to him, he moved to cover his tracks and encouraged Wei to lie to the police. I don't see how the fact that lots of outlets misreported the mechanism by which he did all this - thinking it had something to do with posting to YouTube - as at all relevant.

Unless the unreleased suicide note says "I've been suicidal since I was 11, this has nothing to do with recent events," (which seems unlikely - wouldn't it have been released to Ravi's defence?) the author makes a good case for Ravi's guilt as charged, despite his intentions.
posted by Wylla at 10:51 AM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I didn't think the author was trying to defend Ravi, just humanize him. The classic New Yorker deadpan.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:55 AM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


In other words: I don't think Ravi is getting the scorn "because Tyler killled himself," I think he's getting the scorn because posting a video of your roommate having sex on the internet is a really shit thing to do.

Sure it is. To tell you the truth though, posting video of a roommate getting it on is the kind of funny-in-theory-shitty-in-practice 'prank'* that males in their early 20s frequently pull on each other.

It's all very well to say that Ravi is guilty of being a thoughtless asshole, but the level of vitriol directed at him online is not commensurate with that usually directed at thoughtless assholes.

*Obviously in the wake of Mr. Clementi's suicide that seems like an inappropriate word, but that is how the guilty parties involved seemed to perceive it at the time.
posted by atrazine at 10:57 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see anything revisionist about it, other than the attempt to correct some of the wider misconceptions about Clementi, Ravi, and others in the case -- and in that department the facts now pretty much speak for themselves.

I appreciated the deeper look at Ravi's motivations, and while it certainly does humanize him, I don't think it any way redeems him, especially when you see him scrambling to backpedal or tamper with the other witnesses.
posted by hermitosis at 11:00 AM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


To tell you the truth though, posting video of a roommate getting it on is the kind of funny-in-theory-shitty-in-practice 'prank'* that males in their early 20s frequently pull on each other.

Theft is also something that a lot of people do to each other. Doesn't make it any less of a shit thing to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is humanizing Ravi, sure - the more I'm learning about him here, the more I hate him. On page four right now and he already seems even more of an irredeemable scumbag than the Ravi I read about when this story broke.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:08 AM on January 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


EatTheWeak, my thoughts exactly.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:18 AM on January 30, 2012


Also, the fact that Ravi recorded or posted a video online is one of the false impressions that this article attempts to correct. Ravi allegedly intended to do so, but the attempt was thwarted -- possibly by Clementi himself.

Ravi had succeeded once in streaming video of his roommate having private time with a man, and Ravi's stream of tweets and such make literally no sense if you do not accept the premise that Ravi was intending to arrange yet another viewing party.

...

This bit from the article was especially obnoxious:
In assessing Ravi’s actions on September 19th, one could perhaps mount the argument that sexual contact was not expected, that he did not tape anything, that the transmission was extremely limited in time and reach, and that nobody saw sex or intimate body parts. On the twenty-first, however, Ravi tried to set up a viewing.
I'd love to see the argument that a reasonable person could not expect sexual contact when a gay roommate asks to have the room to himself so that he can have private time with another man.

The fact that Ravi did not literally tape anything only matters if New Jersey's case law does not deem a streaming video feed to be a reproduction. Even if it does matter, then Ravi is still open to the fourth-degree charge, just not the third-degree charge.

The fact that the transmission was extremely limited in time and reach is literally irrelevant. There is no requirement that the transmission be broadcast to the entire world. A peeping tom who records videos for his own private use is still a peeping tom. There is no reason to bring up the limited time and reach of the transmission, unless you are trying to mislead people into thinking that this matters.

There is no requirement in the statute that one actually see sex or intimate body parts. All that is required is that a reasonable person "may" expect to see sexual penetration, intimate body parts, or sexual contact. Once again, there is no reason to bring this up, unless you are trying to mislead people into thinking that this matters.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:19 AM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]



The article presents a large amount of evidence that Ravi was, in fact, deliberately harassing his roomate, did, in fact, attempt to tape his roomate having sex and broadcast it to as many people as he had access to via Twitter, and did, in fact, do this because he was disgusted by the idea that his roomate was having sex with another man. After he found out his roomate was on to him, he moved to cover his tracks and encouraged Wei to lie to the police. I don't see how the fact that lots of outlets misreported the mechanism by which he did all this - thinking it had something to do with posting to YouTube - as at all relevant.


I find it hilarious that the article's author seems to think he's making Ravi seem sympathetic. Instead, we just get an incredibly clear, persuasive portrait of a selfish, vain, prejudiced young man who didn't have the mother wit to appreciate the privileges he had. Honestly, the guy was down on his roommate for being "poor" because his roommate had a merely ordinary well-off middle class family, while himself owning a BMW in high school. He emerges as a much viler human being than I'd assumed - I (though queer myself, though bullied in school, though queerbashed by morons like this clown) was prepared to discount a little bit for ignorant homophobia. I was prepared to assume that perhaps Ravi had faced a lot of racism and was desperate to maintain his social status.

Poor, poor Tyler. What a terrible piece of luck to get a rich, evil monster as a roommate. I expect the monster won't go to jail - rich people generally don't. But thanks to Google and the sheer nastiness of his crime, he probably can't follow the usual rich-miscreant-old-boys'-network path to prosperity in later life.
posted by Frowner at 11:21 AM on January 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ravi comes off as odious as expected, but this is the first time I've seen any details about Molly Wei. The contrast between her words after the fact and the communications with her boyfriend at the time....yuck.
posted by troika at 11:26 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's all very well to say that Ravi is guilty of being a thoughtless asshole, but the level of vitriol directed at him online is not commensurate with that usually directed at thoughtless assholes.

Yeah, bullshit. I skimmed the article and never found the part where he wasn't a raging homophobe, so excuse me if I find it hard to file this under "joke gone bad".
posted by P.o.B. at 11:44 AM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


P.o.B., I'm not defending Dharun, but you should take a closer look at how teens talk today. His patterns and casual use of terms (that I would personally deem unacceptable) are sadly fairly commmon. Just go to any Internet chat room or any site commonly frequented by teens and you'll see what I mean.
posted by jasonhong at 11:53 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


jasonhong: "everybody's saying it" is a really, really bad defense. Like, just the worst. Please save us all the trouble and don't use it anymore.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd strongly implore anybody here to please read to the end of the article before commenting. The author's pacing is a bit odd, and he seems to take turns humanizing, then demonizing Dharun page by page.

Concluding that the author took Ravi's side, and wrote the article in an attempt to humanize him flies in the face of almost everything written on the last two pages. He specifically addresses the argument that, in spite of fairly clearly being a terrible person, we still haven't figured out how many laws Ravi actually violated. The American legal system does not exist to enable witch-hunts or retribution, and although the case for that is fairly strong here, I do think that Ravi deserves a fair trial.
If prosecutors had been able to charge Ravi with shiftiness and bad faith—if the criminal law exactly reflected common moral judgments about kindness and reliability—then to convict him would be easy.
When I was reading the article, I was struck by the fact that, although Ravi's words and actions were completely abhorrent, they weren't necessarily all that different from something you'd expect to hear from a 16-20 year old guy in similar curcumstances (or from Regina George; that movie is a terribly accurate portrayal of the ways that teenagers are horrible to each other). This needs to be taken into account during the trial, and subsequently addressed at a much higher level [and I'm heartened to see that New Jersey is making a good-faith effort to do just that].
posted by schmod at 11:57 AM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


The thing that bugs me the most about this article is that I don't think this is an isolated case, in terms of how teens talk and act. The article captures this pretty well, in using American Pie as an example, where the protagonist does essentially the same thing that Dharun did, got lots of lulz, and suffered no serious consequences.

As I mentioned above too, just go to any forum frequented by teens, and you'll see lots of this same behavior. We really need better ways of teaching empathy to people, as well as the fact that actions have consequences.

On preview: Help... I'm not saying it's a defense... I think I explain my position in this post better.
posted by jasonhong at 11:58 AM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jasonhong, you're barking up the wrong tree. He was literally referring to Clementi as having been a gay person. His use of the word "fag" and such was not being used in the generic 4chan sense, where it's a a either a term for "wusses" or just as a deprecatory term for guys in general.

He specifically addresses the argument that, in spite of fairly clearly being a terrible person, we still haven't figured out how many laws Ravi actually violated.

The author completely overstates the ambiguity in the charges against Ravi, in order to create the false impression that he's in any more of a legal limbo than any other defendant. The author misreads the Peeping Tom statute in such a way so as to downplay the certainty with which Ravi's actions violated it. This is not to say that the jury couldn't return a not guilty verdict, but it's not out of a lack of possible charges to file against Ravi.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:04 PM on January 30, 2012


13 years ago, in the dawn of widely-available high-speed internet on college campuses, I was a freshman in a dorm with a rich, selfish, vain, prejudiced roommate. I wasn't out, and wouldn't come out until the summer after my freshman year. Having access to the internet away from my family for the first time meant I was freely exploring what that might mean to a horny 18 year old. I was relatively computer-literate, but probably naive socially so I never cleared my browser cache or locked my computer.

My roommate would ask for the room to himself so he could have pledge meetings for his pledge brothers (including one of my best friends at the time, and two hallmates). I later found out that he had decided it would be funny to show all of his pledge brothers the browsing history on my computer, so they all knew I was gay (and what kind of porn I liked to look at, as a slightly less horrifying-at-the-time revelation) well before pretty much anybody else knew. His whole frat (and eventually even guys from the frat that I briefly pledged, since that wasn't something they were likely to keep secret) and a bunch of my friends apparently knew I was gay, and I had no idea. Except my roommate would occasionally drop variations of the websites' names that I frequented into conversation. I knew something was up, but not the level of the betrayal.

When my good friend told me about this the summer afterwards, I felt incredibly betrayed. Even once I was out, and completely comfortable with myself and my sexuality. I can't imagine what I would have felt if he'd been braying it to anybody and everybody that would listen on twitter. Or if he'd been actively attempting to spy on me and, essentially, humiliate me in front of all of his friends. I still actively dislike my roommate from my freshman year, almost exclusively from this betrayal of privacy and trust. 13 years later I'm still annoyed whenever I think about what he did, even though it has literally no bearing on me today as a fully-functional out gay man with a great partner and a great job.

Dharun doesn't (didn't?) seem to get how odious his behavior was. I was open to thinking that the media has misrepresented what had happened, or his intentions during the whole fiasco. But he comes across so poorly even in an article that seems ready to give him a pass. And I can't echo the sentiment from the article enough:

Ten minutes later, Ravi wrote again, in a less weaselly way. This message is something that one wishes had been written three weeks before: “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it. In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, it’s adding to my guilt. You have a right to move if you wish but I don’t want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation.”
posted by This Guy at 12:04 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd like to see a summary of the suicide note. I don't want to read it, that seems an invasion of privacy, but it would be interesting to know whether this was just the final cherry on a shit sandwich, or part of a larger struggle.

I don't have any sympathy for the antagonists, but, christ, teenagers can be the worst. I find it disheartening that anyone would ding a roommate for being poor as a negative personality trait. Especially when "poor" was relative.

(At that age or this age, the last thing I want to do is see friends or acquaintances getting intimate with anyone. WTF?)
posted by maxwelton at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


That’s where police found the handwritten note, inside Clementi’s backpack. (The note’s contents have not yet been disclosed to the Clementi family.)

Really? Not disclosed to his family? Why would that be so?
posted by JanetLand at 12:10 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Frowner: "Honestly, the guy was down on his roommate for being "poor" because his roommate had a merely ordinary well-off middle class family, while himself owning a BMW in high school."

No. I'm pretty sure he was just an idiot.

If I'm reading the article correctly, the only thing that Ravi knew about the Clementis' economic standing at that point [after some surprisingly thorough cyberstalking] was that they lived in Ridgewood.

You don't assume a person is poor because they live in Ridgewood. That's nuts. Although Bergen County has a fairly sold working-class contingent (the Clementis as a case in point), if you're even vaguely familiar with the area, you'd know that Ravi's assertion was crazy and misinformed. It's one of the wealthiest towns in the country.
posted by schmod at 12:10 PM on January 30, 2012


Janetland, that was my thought too. What possible reason can there be for not allowing the parents to see their son's suicide note? I'm also surprised the reporter didn't address that in the article by asking the Clementi's how they felt about that and sharing their answer with us.

And now, M.B. gets to have his life fucked up, too.
posted by mediareport at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure he was just an idiot.


One thing that it's easy to forget, especially if it's been 10 or even 5 years since college, is how young college freshmen are. I teach freshman writing at Rutgers, and I remember being shocked the first time I walked into my classroom. They're children - they don't really turn into what you think of as college students until the end of the first year.

This is not to excuse anything - I was, and still am, disgusted by what this asshole did (and I should say, obviously, that I speak only for myself and my characterization of this asshole as an asshole in no way represents the official Rutgers position). But sometimes kids will behave with shocking, thoughtless cruelty toward one another. We need to be having a conversation about homophobia, but we also need to be having a conversation about kindness and empathy in general.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:21 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I'm reading the article correctly, the only thing that Ravi knew about the Clementis' economic standing at that point [after some surprisingly thorough cyberstalking] was that they lived in Ridgewood.

From the article:

Two minutes after the Justusboys discovery, Ravi was making a new observation, perhaps based on Keybowvio’s worry about fixing his computer. “He’s poor,” Ravi wrote, adding a frowning emoticon.

Apparently, Ravi initially thought he was poor based on the fact that he was concerned about his hard drive being screwed up. Ravi felt that the concern about fixing your property as opposed to hiring someone else to fix it or just buying something new were class markers indicating poverty.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:22 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's interesting to me that the author of the article didn't address Dharun's statement that one of his closest friends is gay. You would think that said friend would be someone you'd definitely want to interview for a piece like this--that he would have a very interesting, important perspective on the whole situation.

Also, of course, because when someone who has been called out for being homophobic says, "Some of my best friends are gay" it typically deserves a bit of scrutiny.
posted by overglow at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


overglow: "It's interesting to me that the author of the article didn't address Dharun's statement that one of his closest friends is gay. You would think that said friend would be someone you'd definitely want to interview for a piece like this--that he would have a very interesting, important perspective on the whole situation.

Also, of course, because when someone who has been called out for being homophobic says, "Some of my best friends are gay" it typically deserves a bit of scrutiny.
"

This caught my eye too. As far as I can tell, Ravi wasn't actually a homophobe. He mocked and exploited his roommate for being gay, because it was easy, and because it scored him some social points.

Perversely, this unsavory bit of information makes Ravi look even worse, but also could get him off of the hook for Bias Intimidation.
posted by schmod at 12:47 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


This caught my eye too. As far as I can tell, Ravi wasn't actually a homophobe. He mocked and exploited his roommate for being gay, because it was easy, and because it scored him some social points.

Perversely, this unsavory bit of information makes Ravi look even worse, but also could get him off of the hook for Bias Intimidation.


Schmod, you are mistaken that this would get him off the hook for bias intimidation. Read the pattern jury instructions for bias intimidation in New Jersey.

For bias intimidation against gay people, the State does not require that you actually personally loathe gay people, but rather that the victim himself reasonably believed that the defendant either intended to intimidate the person because they were gay, or that the defendant had selected that person for intimidation as a result of their being gay.

This means that exploiting Clementi's gayness would be bias intimidation even if this was done to "score social points", and not out of Clementi's own personal distaste, or lack thereof, of gay people in general.

As for Ravi not actually being a homophobe, I don't know what to tell you. The guy repeatedly calls him a fag and wonders aloud about being raped by the guy, by what fucked-up things the guy would dare do with another guy, and so on and so forth. That is what homophobia is, whether it's done to fit in or it's done because Ravi actually vomits into a bucket every time he thinks about gay people.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:55 PM on January 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


People--especially 18-19 year old, partially formed people--can be really terrible. Reading about Tyler made me like him. He comes off as the sort of person who would have eventually grown into himself, and gotten more socially comfortable being who he was and liking what he liked, violins and turtles and whatnot.

Dharun, of course, comes off terribly, but I sort of feel bad for him too. He was definitely in the wrong--there's no question--but he'd be in a completely different situation right now if Tyler hadn't killed himself. I'm usually not of the belief that anyone can make someone else commit suicide. It's tricky, of course, and it's not black and white, but non-suicidal people don't suddenly commit suicide because someone they aren't even especially close to does something mean to them.

The case has now become the case of the gay kid killing himself because his homophobic roommate spied on him and outed him, and I don't think that's really the heart of what happened. There was a part of the article that mentioned something about how Dharun may have found a female companion of Tyler's equally mockable or something, and that rang true to me. Dharun may have been a homophobe, but I don't think Tyler's homosexuality was really the CRUX of why Dharun spied on him. I think Tyler came off as extremely socially awkward, as Dharun noted early in the story, his complete opposite. There's something hilarious to "normal" people about nerdy, awkward, strange people having any sex lives whatsoever, I think, especially at that age. I think if the Tyler that lived with Dharun had been the OTHER Tyler in the article--a more outgoing, socially adept person--the spying incident may not have taken place. A request for the room may not have been so hilarious or odd from a louder person, so the reaction would have been different, perhaps, and the whole thing wouldn't have snowballed.

Oh god. I'm so glad this technology was only in its nascent form when I was a freshman in college. I totally would have set something up to spy on my crazy roommate who always ate all my Wheat Thins any time I left the room, and then would proceed to stridently deny it when accused. But instead of catching her eating my Wheat Thins, I would have gotten a video of her sucking her own toes or something and I definitely would have made everyone watch it and now I'd be in prison.
posted by millipede at 12:58 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I mentioned Ravi’s comment about “poor people,” Mainardi was a little shocked. “He said that?” he asked. “The family is not well off, but they’re certainly not poor.”

Heaven forbid the readers of the New Yorker be asked to feel sympathy for poor people! The entire elaborate class deconstruction from which I've excerpted the above quote was remarkably distasteful.
posted by winna at 1:26 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think there is a possibility that Tyler would have killed himself if he had a roomate talk shit about him on twitter, watch and mock him as he hooked up, and was such a dick, even if he has been straight.

I also think Ravi would have pulled the same shit if Tyler had been straight. Some people are just assholes.

Really, the issue isn't "asshole guys always do asshole things" so Ravi should walk. The issue is that asshole guys have been getting away with this shit for too long.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:29 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


On the one hand, I tend to think that putting Ravi in jail for 5-10 years would not be a net positive for society because revenge is useless, etc etc. But:

A second [plea bargain] offer was made in December: no jail time, an effort to protect him against deportation, and six hundred hours of community service. This, too, was rejected.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? It's obvious from the evidence that he's guilty, hopefully beyond-a-reasonable-doubt obvious. That is a generous offer. Screw that dude.
posted by lewedswiver at 1:30 PM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


I want to address those who are asking for sympathetic consideration of Ravi's immaturity. I'm sorry if this has been addressed more succinctly by others while I was writing this screed.

The age of majority is an arbitrary dividing line and it varies a bit from place to place. But it exists for a reason and does a fine job of separating well-defined legal categories of people. People younger than the age of majority carry a reduced burden of legal responsibility and people over that age carry the full burden.

Crossing this line is momentous, and its significance should be emphasized. It's more than just being able to buy cigarettes legally. Starting at that age, the law can come down upon you with full force. All of the heartless pranks and cruel jokes are now crimes. That thought should be terrifying.

If there is tacit agreement that individuals as old as 18 are still "half-formed," careless babes, we should up the age of majority rather than extend a special understanding to a particular few. What I see developing is a strange, counter-intuitive pattern in which the meaner, more spiteful and premeditated the behavior, the more likely it is to attract claims that it's just "kids being kids." Even if those kids can, e.g., enlist in the armed forces and potentially kill or be killed.

There exists a simplistic and pernicious mythology that people go through phases and experience dramatic personality changes as they get older; that we can overlook a college freshman's mean and profoundly creepy act with the expectation that in a few short years he would know better.

I'm not sure that's how it works. Behavior and personalities can shift, but not like clockwork. Personal epiphanies do happen and mutual respect can result from going outside your comfort zone. But there's no guarantee. It's not a natural law. There are lots of people who leave high school as cruel, heartless creeps, enter college as cruel, heartless creeps, and, after four years of pluralism and multicultural exposure, graduate as cruel, heartless creeps, and go through life that way. I've known plenty.

We have a criminal justice apparatus. And unless we think it's unusably flawed, it should be applied to all cases where fault can be apportioned. It's counterproductive to spend time on the what-ifs and if-onlys. The line has been drawn, and these are the rules. Let's play by them.
posted by Nomyte at 1:35 PM on January 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think there is a possibility that Tyler would have killed himself if he had a roomate talk shit about him on twitter, watch and mock him as he hooked up, and was such a dick, even if he has been straight. I also think Ravi would have pulled the same shit if Tyler had been straight.

The college roommate who picked up my diary when she had a bunch of friends over and showed them the entry in which I discussed losing my virginity was gay, and I was straight. Who is what sexuality doesn't make any difference -- you don't blab people's personal business, particularly their sexual business, around without their permission because it's a dick thing to do.

Some people are just assholes.

Exactly.


I'm really, really tempted to link to that wench's blog or NPR profile, but that would be catty....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm really, really tempted to link to that wench's blog or NPR profile, but that would be catty....

Uh...
posted by joe lisboa at 1:47 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think Nomyte makes an important point: We have to declare a group of people adults at an arbitrary age; we've chosen 18 and I don't think it's a bad age to have that line drawn. (People should legally be able to go off to college or get a job without having to seek their parents permission. Obviously, an 18-year-old is less mature than a 28-year-old than is a 58-year-old, but no one is going to seriously suggest we set the age of majority at 30.) And once they're adults, they need to be judged as adults, if, hopefully, with a bit of compassion for their naivete.

We should be a bit more forgiving of idiocy by 18-year-olds than idiocy by older people, but part of being an adult is behaving responsibly, and as I've mentioned before our schools and some parents really do an awful job of teaching any actual life-skills to high school kids. This ranges from finances to contracts to more touchy-feely social constructs and how to function in society.

If you do think of 18-year-olds as "kids," the armed services becomes one of the most horrific institutions imaginable. Who sends kids off to kill people, and be killed?
posted by maxwelton at 2:00 PM on January 30, 2012


Well, now I don't think that Dharun Ravi is a "homophobe," but I also think I had more sympathy for him when I thought he was one.

I think he's getting the scorn because posting a video of your roommate having sex on the internet is a really shit thing to do.

If you read the article, absolutely no one claims he "posted a video" of Clementi "having sex."

Despite her ugly comments, Molly Wei deserves some sympathy here. She had the unfortunate of knowing Dharun Ravi from high school and he really screwed her over. (She just may get the chance to screw him back.)

The thing I like about this article is that it also doesn't presume Ravi's innocence. And I think that seems like a good idea; it doesn't seem like he's entirely innocent, even granting that the news coverage of this was very different from the facts.

Wait, wait, wait. It's pretty clear that, at the least, he tampered with evidence, no? I don't know anyone could see him as "innocent." At all.

The author seemed to have lined up very strongly on the side of Ravi and Wei, who he presented as teenage victims of technology.

I didn't read it that way at all. It seems like a pretty scathing portrayal of Dharun Ravi.

A second offer was made in December: no jail time, an effort to protect him against deportation, and six hundred hours of community service. This, too, was rejected.

Little psychopath has a big set of balls. But then they usually do.

But he comes across so poorly even in an article that seems ready to give him a pass.

Again, I really don't see how anyone gets that impression. I thought the article was extremely neutral.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:06 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think he's getting the scorn because posting a video of your roommate having sex on the internet is a really shit thing to do.

Yeah, did you read the article?

Oh and he's getting much more than scorn, and it's because Clementi killed himself.

I'm definitely not saying it isn't deserved, but let's get our facts straight.
posted by Avenger50 at 2:16 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see a summary of the suicide note.

I, too, think there is something big missing from this story. From Clementi's reactions with Yang, he doesn't seem that upset over the violation. And he was actively taking steps to get a new roommate.

And despite knowing that he had been seen via his roommate's webcam, he set up another date in the same room two days later ... so we have to assume it was the widespread viewing party that Ravi's tried to initiate (and Clementi ruined by unplugging the computer - why didn't he just do that after Ravi left the room?) that triggered his suicide? I'm sure that could be right, but it seems like some factor is still missing.

M.B. likely has some relevant information to share, but yeah, some motivation here is missing for me.

What was most interesting was how unaffected Clementi was after the initial offense ... I know that victims tend to do that (as explained in the article), but nothing Clementi did before disappearing indicated he was going to do something drastic...

Perversely, this unsavory bit of information makes Ravi look even worse, but also could get him off of the hook for Bias Intimidation.

Yeah, I read it the same way. I'm no lawyer, but I would have a hard time convicting on bias intimidation as well. I agree he seems less like a homophobe just a complete and utter douche who used his roommate's geekiness and orientation to try to score cheap popularity points with stupid frosh. That sort of jackass is on every campus and in every class.

If Clementi had been Picone, Ravi never would have acted that way.

Wei replied, "He’s NICE but he’s kissing a guy right now / like THEY WERE GROPING EACH OTHER EWWW."

Note to Molly Wei. I must be ... at least 20 years older than you. When I was 12 (almost 30 years ago), that is how my friends acted ... in seventh grade. And I still told them they were being childish.

That said, I still do find it hard to explain why I feel more sympathy for Homophobic Molly Wei than to do for General Douche Dharun Ravi.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:24 PM on January 30, 2012


I want to address those who are asking for sympathetic consideration of Ravi's immaturity.

Just to be clear, I wasn't asking for sympathy on this basis. My point was that Ravi's behavior is characteristic of how a lot of 18-year-old treat each other, and that this is a huge problem that desperately needs to be addressed.

If you do think of 18-year-olds as "kids," the armed services becomes one of the most horrific institutions imaginable. Who sends kids off to kill people, and be killed?

As someone who regularly teaches 18-year-olds, I can confirm that I do, in fact, find it horrifying that people that age can serve in the military.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:33 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]



If there is tacit agreement that individuals as old as 18 are still "half-formed," careless babes, we should up the age of majority rather than extend a special understanding to a particular few. What I see developing is a strange, counter-intuitive pattern in which the meaner, more spiteful and premeditated the behavior, the more likely it is to attract claims that it's just "kids being kids." Even if those kids can, e.g., enlist in the armed forces and potentially kill or be killed.


You know what? I was once a teenager, and Not A Very Nice Person. And yet it would never have occurred to me to spy on someone and to parlay their private sex life into social points. Nor would it have occurred to me to mock someone for something that I knew made them socially vulnerable. I had those opportunities, and I didn't use them, ever. Even though I was actually arrogant and insecure and thought poorly of people who hadn't had my educational advantages. And I know many, many teens who were actually Nice People - some of them extended friendship to me even when I was a jerk.

This whole "oh, the teens all use vile, homophobic language and cruelly mock each other on Twitter and try to shame each other using video, so we as a society just need to downplay that behavior because it's so average" routine seems to me to suggest that there aren't plenty of perfectly decent teenagers out there. I knew a rich asshole a lot like this Ravi kid, yeah, but I also knew the popular, blond captain of the football team. He wasn't a buddy of mine or anything, but he sure never stooped to pick on the weirdos either.
posted by Frowner at 2:43 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I totally would have set something up to spy on my crazy roommate who always ate all my Wheat Thins any time I left the room, and then would proceed to stridently deny it when accused. But instead of catching her eating my Wheat Thins, I would have gotten a video of her sucking her own toes or something and I definitely would have made everyone watch it and now I'd be in prison.

I hear you, but at the same time, the suicide and the homophobia aren't just surface details here. They're major parts of the story which differentiate this situation from a hypothetical where you had set up a camera to catch your weird roommate who steals your Wheat Thins. Unexpected toe-sucking might not be covered under a Peeping Tom statute anyhow, and even if your weird roommate had killed herself after having been caught sucking her own toes, the incident would have lacked the cultural context of gayness, ostracism, depression, bullying, etc.

Is it possible that Tyler could have killed himself later, with little or no provocation? Okay, but Ravin is not on trial for homicide. He's not even on trial for IIED. Could it be somehow construed as Ravin's bad luck that Tyler killed himself, which is why the book is getting thrown at him? Okay, but it doesn't take away from the charges against Ravin.

Ravin is probably not so different from us in a lot of ways, but then again, none of us are probably all that different from all kinds of people who are in prison.

...

I'm no lawyer, but I would have a hard time convicting on bias intimidation as well.

Read the pattern jury instructions for bias intimidation in New Jersey. The jury is almost certainly receiving instructions almost exactly like these.

If it could be proven that Clementi, the victim, had reasonably believed that Ravin was picking on him for being gay, or if Clementi had reasonably believed that he had been singled out for being gay, then Ravin would be found guilty of bias intimidation. It does not matter that Ravin was picking on Clementi's orientation in order to score points with his peers, as opposed to picking on Clementi's orientation out of some deep-seated hatred of gay people. The distinction is totally irrelevant. For the requirements of bias intimidation in New Jersey, it does not matter whether or not you commit the act in order to impress your friends.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:54 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that, in cases of suicide, it can be really tempting and really frustrating to find the 'trigger.' I have no personal doubt that Clementi was probably having suicidal ideations for a long time even if he wasn't talking about it with anyone. To be blunt, no one 'in their right mind' takes the train to a specific bridge in another city to commit suicide because their roommate humiliated them.

But most importantly, Clementi's mental state does not excuse Ravi's actions. And honestly, to me Ravi's weaselly justification and blatant coverup is the most telling part of this whole thing - he knew he had done something terribly wrong, and yet he had no conscience telling him to confess and make amends. I've met a lot of people like Ravi in my short existence. Heck, when I was 15 in high school I tried to cover up a transgression (completely not harmful to anyone in any way) in a similar manner.

Is it likely that Ravi would not have been charged if Clementi hadn't died? Sure, but I think that's a problem not with the charge, but with our system.
posted by muddgirl at 2:57 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should have said 'solely because' in the first paragraph.
posted by muddgirl at 2:58 PM on January 30, 2012


Also, this bit of the article struck me:
“As a parent, what it says to me is that what you think you know, you don’t know,” Joseph Clementi said. “And that’s a hard thing, because we all think, I know what my kid’s up to. You don’t.”
The parents of Dylan Klebold (one of the Columbine shooters) say something very similar about their own son - they knew he was getting into a bit of trouble around the neighborhood, but he had seen or was seeing a therapist. They had no idea he was depressed or suicidal.

It really makes me re-contextualize my own relationship with my parents (I was a very secretive kid, for no good reason) and worry about my own (hypothetical future) kids. Are most parents just wishing and praying that their kids exit their teenage years alive and massacre-free?
posted by muddgirl at 3:08 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I found it dispiriting that none of Ravi's peers or friends seemed to discourage him, and may even have egged him on. Why weren't they saying "You actually want to spy on someone dude? You're the perverted freak here, pity your poor roommate. "
posted by madamjujujive at 3:15 PM on January 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


A haunting portrait of chilly and selfish 18-year-olds. You gotta understand about this type of nonfiction: the writer's mission is accomplished when his reporting makes you hate the guy, while his tone makes you think you just read a sympathetic article about him. One reason the New Yorker has its reputation is that its editors are 31337 masters of this ironic style.
posted by steinsaltz at 3:37 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


muddgirl: "Is it likely that Ravi would not have been charged if Clementi hadn't died? Sure, but I think that's a problem not with the charge, but with our system."

Right, but to fix the system, we need to make sure that it's done in a manner that is fair, consistent, and even-handed. Handing a huge sentence to one guy in a high-profile case does not meet any of those criteria, regardless of how dreadful the guy might be.

The cold, sad truth is that this is not a unique or unusual case, except perhaps for the fact that the prosecutors have more-than-sufficient evidence to convict Ravi on the (kind of unrelated) 'Peeping Tom' charges. Otherwise, I'm not sure that this would have even made it into the courtroom.*

*And it might not have, had Ravi accepted the extremely-generous plea. Does he actually still believe he's innocent?

Am I saying that we shouldn't convict Ravi? Of course not. However, we're in one hell of a pickle, and I could imagine this potentially setting a bad precedent for future cases. If the article is to be believed, Ravi's behavior borders on sociopathic (he really still believes he's innocent, doesn't he?), and I certainly think that this needs to be taken into account. However, I'm not sure that future cases would be quite so cut-and-dry, and I'm honestly not sure where we need to draw the threshold for getting these cases into the courtroom.

Putting strong anti-bullying regulations into our schools and colleges is a great start, and we need to instill that bullying and homophobic behavior are completely unacceptable from a very young age. However, how should we treat those who were already raised in an environment without those norms and measures present? Is it fair or just to criminalize behaviors and patterns of speech that the vast majority of American teenagers engage in (no matter how terrible they might be)? Solving the bullying problem while keeping civil liberties intact and preserving the consistency of the justice system is going to be a huge problem to solve.

Even if we ratchet up enforcement and convictions, will it really change anything? Throwing people into prison en-masse hasn't really worked for the War on Drugs, nor have the MPAA/RIAA's heavyhanded tactics curbed music piracy. Although there are very different forces at play here, I'm really not sure how much it's going to help to start giving prison sentences to bullies.
posted by schmod at 3:48 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


As others have pointed out, that refusal of what seems on the surface an extremely generous plea bargain is nuts, I can't imagine his attorney advising refusing it unless there is a part of it not being reported, like being added permanently to a sex offender list or something.
posted by maxwelton at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Putting strong anti-bullying regulations into our schools and colleges is a great start

I think the fact of the matter is that, even with anti-harassment and anti-bullying regulations, colleges and university's have a huge incentive to cover these kinds of cases up - we see this much more often with cases of rape or sexual assault, but it's even more true for less 'cut-and-dry' cases. It's unfortunate that Clementi's suicide was the impetus for such a case to get high-profile, but if it convinces colleges and universities to start taking these incidents seriously rather than worrying about how it looks to prospective parents, maybe future cases won't have to go to trial.

Throwing people into prison en-masse hasn't really worked for the War on Drugs

At the end of the article, Clementi's parents say
“What we want to see is justice,” Joseph Clementi said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the punishment has to be harsh.”
Again, if I had any power, we'd start to recognize that jail isn't the only tool at our disposal.
posted by muddgirl at 3:57 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


However, how should we treat those who were already raised in an environment without those norms and measures present?

Oh come on, really? Ravi and Wei know what they were doing was wrong - their later cover-up is perfect evidence of this. Although this behavior may be normalized, that's only evidence that people assume such behavior will have no consequences, not that they think it's acceptable.
posted by muddgirl at 3:59 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


So "Dharun", which appears to be a Tamil rendering of the Sanskrit Tarun, is the kid's name; Ravi is his patronym,

And I can't echo the sentiment from the article enough:

Ten minutes later, Ravi wrote again, in a less weaselly way. This message is something that one wishes had been written three weeks before:


This a thousand times. That's one reason why this was all so disturbing to me, the possibility that things may have been different had the kids talked to each other. Such a solid waste all over, Tyler with his talent for music, Dharun with his apparent ease with technology.

As others have pointed out, that refusal of what seems on the surface an extremely generous plea bargain is nuts, I can't imagine his attorney advising refusing it unless there is a part of it not being reported, like being added permanently to a sex offender list or something.

This is complete conjecture, but if the family's apparent spokesman's (the dad's business partner) comments about Dharun facing this for the rest of his life even with an acquittal are any indication, the family might be feeling they have nothing to lose and are going for broke, so to speak.
posted by the cydonian at 6:51 PM on January 30, 2012


I can't imagine his attorney advising refusing it unless there is a part of it not being reported, like being added permanently to a sex offender list or something.
My guess would be that it's the immigration stuff. "An effort to protect him against deportation" doesn't sound like a guarantee, and I wonder if a criminal conviction could cause problems if he ever decides to apply for citizenship. He really doesn't sound like a kid who would be excited about the prospect of spending the rest of his life in India, where he hasn't lived since he was a toddler.

Mostly, that article made me want to hug Hannah Yang.
Such a solid waste all over, Tyler with his talent for music, Dharun with his apparent ease with technology.
Oh, for fuck's sake. Tyler because he was a fucking human being.
posted by craichead at 6:58 PM on January 30, 2012


I was a freshman in college a decade ago, but this stuff was not uncommon in my year experience. We didn't have the easy webcam thing but it was less happy hijinks and a healthy dose of often thinly veiled hostility behind 'jokes'.

I wasn't really bullied, but some people on my floor definitely were. My roommate was pretty similar to Ravi only much, much stupider.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:05 PM on January 30, 2012


Oh, for fuck's sake. Tyler because he was a fucking human being.

i don't think he was saying anything to the contrary. sheesh.
posted by Avenger50 at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2012


Oh, for fuck's sake. Tyler because he was a fucking human being.

i don't think he was saying anything to the contrary. sheesh.


I generally like to list minor, inconsequential details when I talk about (usually dead) people; I often find those the heartbreaking bits. I find that a better way of acknowledging them than with overall personality traits; after all, as the article itself makes as a meta point, there's always a sudden, unfathomable depth in people, one that takes lifetimes to realize.

I just wanted to acknowledge Tyler by thinking of him as "a kid who could have lived and could have been discovering himself (may be through music)" rather than "a kid who could have lived". Seemed like the decent thing.
posted by the cydonian at 8:17 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


"If a student references the Student Handbook, consider an antipsychotic..."

Is suicide the result a biological diathesis, whether it be some other mental illness or specifically suicide (e.g. is suicide genetic?) Or can one be "driven to suicide?"

I'll say at the outset I have absolutely no idea why anyone in this story did anything. I will only offer, for contemplation, the possibility that a person who commits suicide in reaction to another's behavior may be sacrificing their own life solely to punish the other person. That the suicide isn't an act of desperation, but of aggression.

I can't imagine how painful this is for the parents. Maddeningly painful, where you wake up every morning and for a split second try to will it all to be a dream, and as long as you can maintain that half-sleep/half-awake, that quantum uncertainty, maybe maybe maybe maybe it can have all been a dream.

And then it's not.

Not at all surprising, in 66 previous comments no one other than muddgirl considered the parents.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 9:35 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it a bit curious that, to all appearances, the only time Mr. Ravi ever sent a pleasant message concerning Mr. Clementi was five minutes after the latter had just announced
“Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”
to all of his Facebook contacts.

Mr. Ravi, who was obviously at his computer (or smartphone) at the time, claims that he didn't see the message until the following day. That he would be able to see the message at all seems to indicate that he and Clementi were Facebook friends. And yet he says he saw nothing.

The message he sent to his only-just-departed roommate stinks of pre-emptive PR ass-covering to me ("...one of my closest friends is gay..."), especially in light of the way he would later try to change history by whitewashing his Twitter feed (“Everyone ignore that last tweet. Stupid drafts.”).
posted by blueberry at 11:45 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


all I know is, tomorrow, all my gay students get string cheese and hugs.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 12:27 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the requirements of bias intimidation in New Jersey, it does not matter whether or not you commit the act in order to impress your friends.

Good point, but the evidence provided in this article doesn't seem to indicate that Clementi felt intimidated because of his sexual orientation. Just my perception there. I agree it could go either way with a jury.

Are most parents just wishing and praying that their kids exit their teenage years alive and massacre-free?

Totally.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:25 AM on January 31, 2012


also, talk about burying a key detail of the alleged perpetrator's background. on page 8:
Jason Tam told me that he’d never known Ravi to have a girlfriend.
I know the self-hating homophobe is an overused cliche, but couldn't that be what's going on here? Perhaps then
"In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship."
might be taken in a different context, i.e. Ravi coming to terms with his own, possibly confused orientation. Just a thought. Or he could simply be lying, as said friend doesn't seem to exist (or is a secret sex partner?)

Alternately, sexual repression and/or frustration is a bitch. That doesn't excuse but could possibly explain Ravi's curiosity about his new roommate's private activity in their shared room.

And finally, to be fair to Ravi, who may be more of an arrested juvenile than a sociopath, to ask your roommate to leave your shared room from 9-12 is kind of douchey, especially if your partner is a non-student with his own place. "Got everything you need for your shower? OK, see you tomorrow." ... "Um, OK ..."

The response and resultant behavior was completely inappropriate, offensive, and seemingly illegal, but the very best explanation for Ravi is that he was pissed at Clementi for exiling him from his own room twice in a week and got back at him by spying and gossiping. And when the shit hit the fan, he tried to hide his tracks like he's probably always done with his parents/school.

When the original story came out, I remember Ravi being described as this All-American, student-body-president good-guy type and thinking he's gotta be some Eddie Haskell figure who pulls the wool over dim administrators.

Not at all surprising, in 66 previous comments no one other than muddgirl considered the parents.

Gee, thanks for the casual condescension. ;)

I think all of us (especially those of us with kids) are thinking about the parents all the way through. The truth is that they don't have much to do with the story, other than not being ultravengeful, which is nice. Although the impression conveyed is that Clementi's family was supportive, there's not a whole lot of detail about his family life to know what effect it had on his decision.

The truth is, although Ravi had an abhorrent attitude about his roommate from the very beginning and acted like a shit, there wasn't a period of continued harassment around Clementi's sexuality. There were 2 (very problematic) events and no direct threats at all from Ravi toward Clementi. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but, based on the jury instructions linked above, intimidation bias still seems like a stretch.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:48 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or he could simply be lying, as said friend doesn't seem to exist

That's exactly the impression I got. It fits right in with all the other harmless, self-serving lies attributed to him elsewhere in the article. Like, he knows the right sentiment to express, but has no way to convincingly utter it, so he just spins a quick lie that makes it SEEM extra true.

Mainly this contributes to the portrait of Ravi as being incredibly immature, however intellectually gifted.
posted by hermitosis at 12:29 PM on January 31, 2012


Well, "two incidents" if we don't include the fact that Ravi was talking openly about Clementi's sexuality all over Twitter and Facebook before they even met, and it looks like before Clementi was even out of the closet to his parents. Clementi was aware of this speculation (the New Yorker auther paints it almost like an obsession).

Being sexiled sucks - my now-husband was constantly sexiled his freshman year (we are talking 3 times a day). We bitched about it, we engaged in 'room wars' where we would stalk their schedule and I would conveniently show up right before their usual sex time, BUT we didn't set up a hidden camera to watch him and his girlfriend fucking, and to our knowledge none of our sexiled friends did either.
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course not, because you, me, and 99% (95%?) of people are not sociopathic. ;)

There's definitely much more to this case. Ravi was obsessed with Clementi's sexuality and posted about it to social networks (though publicly unidentifiably for Clementi?), but he doesn't seem repulsed or violent or mad about it.
In one exchange, he wrote, “I’m not really angry or sad idc.” The friend replied “What if he wants you, won’t that get awk.” Mr. Ravi answered, “Why would it be awk.
Perhaps a rare letdown of his public veil, but the homophobes I know (and I know plenty) would never say that, even in private.

So why did he care so much? I suppose he was constantly lying, so you can't take anything he said at face value ... Honestly, sociopathic is a strong word, but there's something weird going on here. It just doesn't seem like other public cases of harassment.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:03 PM on January 31, 2012


But again, Ravi's state of mind when he was posting that stuff doesn't really matter. It's all part of the puzzle.

I mentioned before that I was an intensly private kid. Thankfully there wasn't Facebook or Twitter at the time! If I had a crush on some guy and I shared it under a pseudonym on Metafilter, and someone I knew IRL read that and shared it with their entire network (even if it was just in a gossipy way) I would have been devastated. Absolutely ruined.

But only on the inside.

Perhaps a rare letdown of his public veil, but the homophobes I know (and I know plenty) would never say that, even in private.

According to the New Yorker profile, that's part of the character that Ravi is playing. Of course his gay roommate would be sexually attracted to him - he's a superfreak. I also know a lot of homophobes and most of them are pretty subtle - on one hand they will play up their homoerotic relationships with their 'bros', while on the other hand vehemently shunning anything that's actually gay (like actual sex between guys).
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2012


Or really Ravi's character is a 'Stud.'
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2012


I also know a lot of homophobes and most of them are pretty subtle - on one hand they will play up their homoerotic relationships with their 'bros', while on the other hand vehemently shunning anything that's actually gay (like actual sex between guys).

Absolutely. I don't see that here, though.

We're working on limited info, of course, but I read him actually as the exact opposite. He doesn't seem like a guy who would be comfortable making homoerotic jokes with his friends (the tone of his discussions with friends seems to be more of the "you know how i know you're gay" variety).

In fact, that's what seemed to tip off the whole debacle: Ravi's vanity. He didn't want a poor, gay roommate because he himself didn't want to be associated with poor or gay people and risk himself as ever being suspected of being poor or gay by some girl ... although he never had a sexual relationship with a girl and is probably a virgin. Let's agree his sexual orientation is undetermined.

Ravi's state of mind when he was posting that stuff doesn't really matter.

I think motivation absolutely matters and behavior/comments during that time are totally applicable. That's what hate crimes are all about. The "hate" here is complicated, though.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:31 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


he himself didn't want to be associated with...gay people and risk himself as ever being suspected of being...gay by some girl

If that's not homophobia, it's close enough.

That's what hate crimes are all about.

From what I understand, not in the case of the NJ statute for bias intimidation.
posted by muddgirl at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2012


Letters to My Brother: written by Tyler Clementi's older brother, James, who is also gay.
posted by Tin Man at 12:14 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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