The Rutger's Verdict
By now, anyone who reads the news even occasionally knows that Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his Rutger's roommate Dharan Ravi decided to post Tyler 's sexual encounter online for the amusement of Ravi 's friends. Fewer folks have followed the case to find out that Ravi was found guilty of a "hate" crime and other charges for his actions. Jurors apparently didn't believe Ravi's claim that this was a one-time action and he wasn't targeting Tyler for further invasions of privacy or that he wasn't targeting Tyler because Tyler was gay.
One news item also indicated that jurors weren't told that Ravi's action led Tyler to kill himself (although everyone knew the case probably wouldn't have come to anyone's attention if Tyler hadn't taken his own life) and Ravi wasn't charged for Tyler's death, but the implication is that Ravi was convicted for causing Tyler to take his own life anyway. Defense attorneys are reportedly now attacking the bias law that Ravi was charged under as being too vague, poorly written and that the jury selection was rushed so the proper impartiality of a juror couldn't be established.
I believe Ravi was convicted for causing Tyler Clementi to commit suicide. I also think Dharan Ravi and his nasty little friend Molly Wei didn't target Tyler just for being gay. I think they targeted Tyler for being white, blue-eyed, fair-haired, awkward and a scholarship kid -- and assigned to Ravi 's room, which made him fair game. The fact that Tyler was gay was just the angle Ravi used to break a little geek and webcams, Twitter and the Internet were the tools Ravi employed to crush him.
I don't think the real issue in this case was about gay-bashing. I think the real issue in this case is the loss of privacy and respect for others. I think it's a clear message that we've armed youngsters of all ages with some of the most emotionally and socially destructive weapons ever devised and we've sent them out sans armor to combat armies of like-weaponed, conscienceless contemporaries.
We wring our hands about the damage done by kids, impulsive and with no concept of real consequences, when handling guns, knives, bats -- weapons of all kinds -- but we don't seem to see the bloodless but vicious warfare being waged between kids on social media with technological gizmos. They slice each other's reputations and self-esteem to ribbons with words, images. They destroy futures, their own and others, with sexting, the electronic equivalent of "poison pen" letters, defamation and out-right criminal threats.
If parents had to pay as much in civil and criminal damages for the harm their children do for slander, assault, defamation of character, voyeurism, pornographic or implicit imagery as they routinely shell-out for their children’s IPads, cell phones, laptops and Internet access, they’d be a whole lot more motivated to supervise their child’s online activities, and if necessary, to shut it down entirely.
If anything comes of this verdict, it’s that Ravi and Wei are reaping what they sowed with humiliation, loss of prospects, reputation and self-respect. And hopefully the message is getting out to the rest of the cyber-bullies that it’s not a joke, it’s not a game, it’s not funny to harass and deride others online. It’s destructive, mean-spirited, cruel and criminal –and you won’t think it’s still funny when your every move is being scrutinized by that same merciless public armed with appropriate legal authority to put everything you thought was private, secure and personal up for the most casual of onlookers. Ravi ’s getting the message. Are you?