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The real punishment for the Clementi pranksters

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:30 pm - October 1, 2010.
Filed under: Academia,Gay America

Sonicfrog‘s comment to my post on the Tyler Clementi suicide merits a post of its own:

Concerning the suicide and aftermath? I think it’s a waste of time and money to press any hate crime charges against the two. Kids, especially those in college, do stupid things without thinking ahead to the possible consequences. There doesn’t seem to be any real malice involved. They, or more likely Rutgers, will get sued by the parents. But, more than that, these two are going to have to carry with them for the rest of their lives that their unthinking actions cause another human being to take his own life. That is a pain that to me would be unbearable. That is a pain for which there is no relief.

Those who recorded him did indeed do stupid things.  But, did they intend to hurt?  Did they even know the harm they were caused?  Sometimes people cause pain without meaning it.  And Tyler Clementi’s pain was greater than any of us can fully imagine — at a particularly vulnerable time in his life.  It’s never easy being a college freshman, starting in a new environment, concerned about fitting in, finding your place.

These two may not have intended to hurt the young man, merely sought to share in the sport of mockery, as if they were watching an actor portraying a human being rather than a human being himself.  That said, as Sonic notes, they are going to have to live with his suicide on their consciences for their entire life.  I believe it was Dostoyevsky who wrote about the real punishment they’re about to endure.

What really makes me wince is the amount of sympathy generated for the young man after his death.  If only he had known how much good will there is out there for individuals in his situation, in a situation many of us once found ourselves.

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40 Comments

  1. If these two were callous enough to have pulled this sick prank in the first place, what makes anyone think that that either has a conscience to begin with?

    One might wish that they would regret their actions, but that’s a faith I don’t share.

    Comment by alanstorm — October 1, 2010 @ 12:46 pm - October 1, 2010

  2. Alan: They may not have much of a conscience about this at their age, but I do believe the deep shame and regret will develop over time as the reactions of everyone around them becomes clear. This will hang over their heads for the rest of their lives. Any employer, potential mate, etc. who Googles their names will find out about this and most will be equally repulsed. Imagine having to explain your actions in this for the rest of your life. I can’t see how they can be charged with murder or manslaughter, since Clementi unfortunately took his own life, but I do hope they get all 5 years in prison for invasion of privacy at least. As far as this being a hate crime, it certainly seems like one but the facts that come out during an investigation will determine that better than my emotional reaction to their actions.

    Comment by John — October 1, 2010 @ 12:51 pm - October 1, 2010

  3. I am strongly against hate crimes, it looks like they will only be charged with invasion of privacy. I wish it could be more than that, but I am unwilling to go the hate crime route.
    As to it simply being a stupid prank, I don’t buy that either. Unfortunately we have been brainwashed for years now that sharing the secrets, especially the sexual secrets of others is elevated to the level of art or entertainment – look at reality TV. Yet I doubt the roomie would have taped any of this if Tyler were hetero.
    What gets me in the gut is that it is very possible that this is the way his parents found out about his gayness – so there is a whole level of pain and destruction that was visited upon his family as well. They now have additional guilt that had they known, they would have been there for moral support.
    One thing I completely disagree with Sonic is that the roomie and girlfriend will carry this unbearable pain all their lives. I’m not sure about that at all. If that were the case there would be no need for courts legal punishment – since it would be obvious to everyone that if you commit a heinous crime – your suffering will be greater than imaginable.
    I want society to punish – because until God intervenes in the afterlife – this may be the only punishment these people ever deal with on this earth.

    Comment by Leah — October 1, 2010 @ 12:55 pm - October 1, 2010

  4. This incident makes me so sad I can’t stand it.
    The two pranksters were kids being so stupid. The victim…when will we get to a point where a gay act, isn’t punishable by death? Where the guilt of such things doesn’t end a life. We’ver made progress but we’ve still so far so far to go. I’m so sad.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — October 1, 2010 @ 1:28 pm - October 1, 2010

  5. My heart was broken when I read this story….

    Yes, those 2 students will have to live with what they did, but I think they should be tried on the invasion of privacy charges. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they contributed to the death of another person – they ought to have to go through the criminal justice system. That said, I’m not sure if a prison term is appropriate punishment if they are found guilty.

    BTW, I am totally opposed to hate crime laws that result in additional charges and punishment for several reasons:
    1. It punishes individuals for their thoughts
    2. It de facto puts more value on the person in the victim class than people not in the victim class
    3. There are already laws to deal with assault, murder, etc
    4. (Apologize for this being so cold) If the roommate did have prejudice/bigotry/hatred for gay people, is poor Tyler any more dead?

    Comment by Roger Sherman — October 1, 2010 @ 1:49 pm - October 1, 2010

  6. Dan, the nuns taught us that there is, indeed, a lot of evil in the world. This case proves they were right. The two Rutgers students knew what they were doing was wrong, it was done to inflict shame and humiliation, it dehumanized a fellow student they should have been trying to help, not hurt. Shame on them and the ill-suited parents who raised such evil, hateful spawn.

    It is absolutely not valid to argue an excuse because “college kids do dumb things”. This was an evil act with evil intent and the laws aren’t even able to properly exact justice for this evil. College kids get drunk and drive and kill others and they often go to prison; this case calls for nothing less than at least that.

    The nuns had another saying, too… stop padding the kneelers for those who deserve to endure proper pain and hardship for their sin. Life is too good a sentence for these evil students; justice isn’t served and society won’t be protected by padding the kneelers for them.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — October 1, 2010 @ 1:54 pm - October 1, 2010

  7. Don’t get me wrong. As per my first post on the matter, I do believe the perpetrators should be punished and serve a prison term.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 1, 2010 @ 1:59 pm - October 1, 2010

  8. These young people are surrounded by “Real World, Jersy Shore, real wives of yada yada.” The real world has real consequences. These two found that out in a very horrific way. Like doing meth the very first time. Stop, look, think. Our young people still die from binge drinking. THere’s no explaining it sometimes.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — October 1, 2010 @ 2:13 pm - October 1, 2010

  9. Interestingly,

    I can’t see how they can be charged with murder or manslaughter, since Clementi unfortunately took his own life,

    Somehow I wasn’t aware we had it but here in Florida, you can be charged with that. A few weeks ago, four kids decided to break into a man’s home. Two made it in through a window and were shot by the homeowner. One survived and was released the same day. The other was in critical condition and eventually life support was terminated.

    Now, the other three kids are being charged with (I believe) Felony Murder. So far, one will be tried as an adult. They didn’t pull the trigger, but their actions contributed to the death of the other. The homeowner won’t be charged for that, but he was arrested for possession of cocaine found during the investigation.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 1, 2010 @ 3:13 pm - October 1, 2010

  10. I am so opposed to hate crimes that my brain has spasms when I try to understand the concept. The same politicians who test the wind and favor hate crimes waffle on concealed weapons permits and other issues that are not clear winners in the polls.

    The kids who pushed this poor soul to take his life have a plate full of guilt to digest. Slopping a hate crime charge on top of it all will only serve to make them defensive and drag a bunch of lawyer pimps into their lives who will try to catch the John Edwards stardom and treat the kids like meal tickets.

    If there is ever a time for parents, rabbis, priests and thoughtful people to sit with these kids and help them understand that eggs can not be unscrambled, this is the time.

    We do not need either a rush to judgement, or a piling on. I doubt these kids are tweeting about their “prank” gone horribly wrong. More than forty years ago, a neighbor child killed himself playing with a loaded pistol. His parents still suffer and carry the burden of blame. No one needs to remind them of their carelessness.

    Comment by Heliotrope — October 1, 2010 @ 3:17 pm - October 1, 2010

  11. Fitty Cent sees things differently:

    “If you a man and your over 25 and you don’t eat p***y just kill yourself damn it. The world will be a better place (sic).”

    Comment by V the K — October 1, 2010 @ 3:34 pm - October 1, 2010

  12. Let’s put it this way.

    I knew a guy in HS who tried to kill himself because his girlfriend broke up with him and cheated on him. Thankfully, he failed in his attempt. But, if he would have succeeded, should she have been charged with murder, because her actions led to the suicide?

    PS. He shot himself in the stomach. If you decide to off yourself (please don’t) don’t do it that way. If you fail, the recovery is quite painful.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 1, 2010 @ 3:59 pm - October 1, 2010

  13. Damn sonic…it’s not the same. But you ‘re still pretty cold.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — October 1, 2010 @ 4:08 pm - October 1, 2010

  14. Dan: “Don’t get me wrong.”

    Sorry, I originally wrote “those who argue it’s ok to excuse them because they’re just college students”… my 2nd and 3rd paragraphs were more generally applied –sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — October 1, 2010 @ 4:13 pm - October 1, 2010

  15. I wonder if the two Rutgers students who engaged in this evil can even feel shame or remorse –much less “carry around this guilt for a lifetime”?

    My hunch is that young sociopaths like this aren’t interested in accepting the burden of blame for their conduct… they’d be well past guilt before the ink dries on the next exam.

    Does anything good every come out of New Jersey?

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — October 1, 2010 @ 4:18 pm - October 1, 2010

  16. Sinatra, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes, Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons, the classic Monopoly game board, Campbell’s Soup, RCA, Edison….yes, some good things come out of New Jersey. :-)

    I don’t know that these kids are sociopaths…at least, I wouldn’t go that far just yet. They’re part of a generation that thinks fame for a sex tape is okay, and broadcasts every bit of their lives online in one form or another. It narcissism that unfettered access to the internet while growing up has allowed to go unchecked. Mark Zuckerberg was probably right when he said “privacy is dead” (or whatever the exact quote was).

    I think these kids are a product of that environment coupled with a disturbing lack of respect for others. Which is a colossal parenting failure. We can hope they do regret this forever.

    Comment by Neptune — October 1, 2010 @ 4:31 pm - October 1, 2010

  17. These three students are not children; “kids”, indeed. At their ages, I was a soldier in the Vietnam War, at the age at which they’re likely to graduate, I was an acting platoon sergeant in that war. Children? I think not. The two with the hidden camera are childish, immature, thoughtless, cruel as children are. Yes, but that offers them no cover and should gain them no sympathy. Will they suffer in the future from the memory of their cruelty? One may hope. On the other paw, one might take this suicide as an example of how too much sheltering makes children into adults who are unable to cope with ordinary realities of life: the cruelty of other people, that at some point the truth about us will be exposed for others to see and comment upon, that life (and love) is sometimes painful beyond belief, that some of our beliefs and/or actions are considered deviant by others and, most of all, that we must have the fortitude to deal with the “…slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…” to quote The Bard. Do you suppose, were he not gay, that he might not have committed suicide? If so, consider whether one ought to raise one’s gay children to be as “tough” as one ought to raise one’s straight children. If being gay is truly to be accepted, then gays must be strong, not weak; forthright, not cowering; honest, not liars. Acceptance, as opposed to mere toleration, requires the strength, honor and loyalty shown by the many fine soldiers who are also gay, despite the betrayals, dishonor, and weakness of seeming friends.

    Comment by Ike — October 1, 2010 @ 4:35 pm - October 1, 2010

  18. One thing that should be considered: a closeted individual fears being put into the spotlight. the shame, fear, anguish, embarassment, sense of being alienated and all the other ugliness that comes with the closet paralyzes, confuses, and even cause disjointed-irrational thinking and decision making.

    When closeted folk are pushed up against a wall, those pushing understand this fear, they understand that there may not be any repurcussions/consequences for ‘ who is the person going to tell?’

    Many LGBT folk who have been harassed often feel powerless to report the attacks/the harassment for it could lead to futher disclosure.

    Who was Tyler going to tell about a viral video without having to disclose more information. and report about the ‘romantic-private encounter’

    Comment by rusty — October 1, 2010 @ 4:44 pm - October 1, 2010

  19. “If you a man and your over 25 and you don’t eat p***y just kill yourself damn it. The world will be a better place (sic).”

    Clearly a radical, right-wing fundamentalist Christian.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 1, 2010 @ 4:51 pm - October 1, 2010

  20. I think it also comes down to the kind of society we have due to “reality TV”. We have a whole generation now that thinks it is completely normal to broadcast every nuance of people’s personal lives out there for public gawking and/or entertainment, whether it be their own or someone else’s. 20 years ago would 18 year old kids think to do this? Maybe, but I really don’t think so. I certainly don’t feel that these kids were trying to drive him to suicide but tragically, this is what happened. It is a sad and awful story all the way around.

    Comment by Leslie — October 1, 2010 @ 4:57 pm - October 1, 2010

  21. I am terribly upset by this. Tyler by no stretch of any imagination deserved to be treated this way. I am also opposed to hate crimes, but I do think that this sort of “bullying” for whatever reason is totally out of control in our schools. I read that Rutgers was going to start classes to teach their students “civility.” Please, if an 18 year old doesn’t understand the immorality of what they did to Clementi, a “civility class” isn’t going to change that. This is why I home schooled one of my sons. He had learning disabilities and was constantly hounded. Even by some of his teachers. What is needed here is a criminal charge for the perpetrators who drive others to such despair they are willing to take their own lives. I literally cringe when I think of him standing there on that bridge, alone, scared and jumping. If these “kids” can commit this act then they should be punished in a way that sends a message to others that this type of evil will not be tolerated. I fear they will receive a slap on the wrists…hope Clementi’s parents sue the hell out of everyone they can.

    Comment by Linda Strickland — October 1, 2010 @ 6:00 pm - October 1, 2010

  22. So what 50 Cent is saying then, V the K, is that he prefers twinks?

    Comment by John — October 1, 2010 @ 6:13 pm - October 1, 2010

  23. A terrible turn of events. Unless Ravi and Wei are total sociopaths, it’s hard to think that guilt won’t haunt them for the rest of their lives.

    Given what I’ve read so far, this sounds like a prank – evil and stupid – but a prank nonetheless. Now these two should learn that actions have consequences and I believe some prison time is appropriate.

    But these two are a product of the culture: lacking empathy and brought up on media voyeurism and cheap thrills.

    Kids and college students (who are adults) have done stupid and tasteless things forever but the “Girls Gone Wild” culture, along with unforgiving technology (as Dr. Phil said – the bell can’t be un-rung) have amplified stupid stunts into calamities.

    After all the hubbub and chest-beating have died down – it will all be back to normal. No matter how often these things happen – we just don’t seem to learn.

    I ache for the friends and family of Tyler Clementi. A dear, sweet friend of mine (who vaguely resembled Tyler – really) killed himself on Valentine’s Day a few years back. He’d called me a few days earlier, sounding fine, wanting to know if he owed me any money (I’d made him a loan sometime earlier). Not a penny, I replied and we chatted a few minutes. A few days later – the awful news.

    We lived in different towns but if he’d only told me what was going on (to this day, I still don’t know), I could have gone and tried to help. Tyler’s friends and family are now going through the same, horrible, desperate “process” (the grief his parents must feel would be off the charts – I don’t know how they will cope). Why? Why? Why?

    I hope they can find peace.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — October 1, 2010 @ 6:37 pm - October 1, 2010

  24. And those of you labeling the two perverts as evil, I would just like to point out that there is a difference between thoughtlessness, youthful stupidity, and evil. I tend to reserve the “evil” designation for those who deserve it, like those who capture and torture cats to death, or people like Mao, Stalin, and Hitler. Now, THAT is what I call evil.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 1, 2010 @ 7:38 pm - October 1, 2010

  25. Sonic – like anything else, there are degrees of evil.

    Were these two Stalin-evil? No. Were they animal-torturer-evil? I doubt it.

    Surreptitious video broadcasting for the purpose of humiliating someone is a bit beyond what we once called hi-jinx. It’s cruel.

    I actually have a little sympathy for these two… I doubt they would have done this if they’d had any idea that it would result in death.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — October 1, 2010 @ 8:01 pm - October 1, 2010

  26. I actually have a little sympathy for these two… I doubt they would have done this if they’d had any idea that it would result in death.

    Exactly, and that’s why I separate them into the stupid and callous crowd as opposed to “evil”. Now, if you can show that, after they knew Tyler had realized his life was exposed, and they started taking bets on if he would off himself, then you have my permission to put them in the evil bracket.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 1, 2010 @ 8:37 pm - October 1, 2010

  27. Sonic, In Judaism, public humiliation is equated with murder – they set out to publicly humiliate him. Now Judaism does not call for the death penalty for public humiliation – but they are trying to teach a lesson here.
    Looks like they be charge with invasion of privacy – if that is as far as the law in NJ will go, so be it. But I would like then to be accused and brought to trial on that without the press immediately jumping to their defense that it was only a prank.

    Comment by Leah — October 1, 2010 @ 10:01 pm - October 1, 2010

  28. [...] Such a tragedy, such a waste. Our prayers go to Tyler’s family and friends during this time of grief and shock. [...]

    Pingback by Rutgers Student’s Suicide Linked to Secret Webcast Broadcasting by Roommate of Him Having Gay Tryst with Man (video) « Frugal Café Blog Zone — October 1, 2010 @ 10:28 pm - October 1, 2010

  29. I’m still not jumping on the “hate”, “bullying” and “he was outed” bandwagon.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 1, 2010 @ 11:13 pm - October 1, 2010

  30. The unfolding story is a tragedy (especially for the people the young man left behind). But I think it was very opportunistic for some groups to use this case as a political football (and so early!). Do they have a suicide template on their computers? It is vulgar. The Left do this with war dead too.

    Suicide divides people. Is it selfish? Think of the people responsible for cleaning up a suicide mess. Is it linked to mental illness? There are conflicting studies. Is it a cry for help? I note that here in Australia, some in the press were very reluctant to report on suicides for years, because it was suggested (wrongly in my view) that reports only encourage copycats.

    Suicide is also political tool with political narratives. And it is interesting to note how quick some media organs are to hide some suicides while promoting others. At this point in time, I’m reserving judgment until more facts are revealed. Is now really the best time to call for jail sentences?

    Comment by Ben (Australia) — October 2, 2010 @ 12:03 am - October 2, 2010

  31. Sonic, In Judaism, public humiliation is equated with murder – they set out to publicly humiliate him. Now Judaism does not call for the death penalty for public humiliation – but they are trying to teach a lesson here.

    I appreciate the sentiment, but they don’t punish it the same, therefore, it is not the equivalent.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 2, 2010 @ 2:23 am - October 2, 2010

  32. Is it selfish? Think of the people responsible for cleaning up a suicide mess.

    Been there, done that.

    I think it is selfish, to an extent, but I guess it’s not a conscious effort.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 2, 2010 @ 2:41 am - October 2, 2010

  33. Is it selfish? Think of the people responsible for cleaning up a suicide mess.

    Yes, think of all the jobs created!

    Maybe that’s what they were going for in their gory 10:10 video! Job stimulus! Just the kind of stimulus plan that envirowhackos worried about overpopulation and pollution can get behind!

    Yes, yes, highly inappropriate, I chastise myself! Shame on you AE!

    Comment by American Elephant — October 2, 2010 @ 6:02 am - October 2, 2010

  34. To That Gay Conservative: In answer to my question you said, “I think it [suicide] is selfish, to an extent, but I guess it’s not a conscious effort.” You might be right. I’m still thinking this one through. Of course, every individual case, would share differences and similarities. And we can all agree that Tyler’s death was heartbreaking.

    But back to the question of narrative. The gay establishment’s activist template appears to be crumbling already.

    As my fellow Australian, Peter Wales states: “But actual events do not support that interpretation of Tyler Clementi’s death. He was aware he had been taped, and didn’t seem that bothered by it. Remarkably unbothered, in fact, compared with how I would feel if someone had surreptitiously made a sex tape featuring me.” Could there be underlying mental issues here?

    (Link: http://www.qohel.com/2010/10/02/approved-narrative-unwinds/)

    Comment by Ben (Australia) — October 2, 2010 @ 6:05 am - October 2, 2010

  35. Anyone who has been through bullying at school feels a certain amount of despair and depression.

    The two college students who did such a dastardly thing were acting as cyber bullies. They should receive some form of punishment for being cyber bullies.

    I do not believe in this hate crime stuff. That includes Matthew Shepherd where it was claimed to be a hate crime but that was not entirely true.

    As a child and a teenager I was bullied at school and in the home. I did get to the point that I wanted to commit suicide. This is what happens when one is not able to cope with so many emotional things.

    I would suspect that Tyler had quite a few emotional issues to deal with and that in the end he just decided to get out of it all by ending his life. How sad because he should have had the confidence to be able to go to a senior person for help. From what I understand the administration refused to change his dorm arrangements.

    Comment by StraightAussie — October 2, 2010 @ 6:52 am - October 2, 2010

  36. I think this is the link, Ben.

    http://www.qohel.com/2010/10/02/approved-narrative-unwinds/

    I remember reading somewhere that a suicide impacts, at least, 5 or six other people. So I’d say that it is selfish, in a sense.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 2, 2010 @ 2:51 pm - October 2, 2010

  37. Hmmm. The link is the same, but the link you provided sent me to another post.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 2, 2010 @ 2:52 pm - October 2, 2010

  38. Ben, you have to do better than that. Note that the link TGC provided, assuming that is the one you wanted, has NO LINK to any source that confirms “He was aware he had been taped, and didn’t seem that bothered by it. “.

    I know from personal experience that, during a severe crisis in life, you may not behave the way you, or others, might expect. I’m kind of thinking I’m not the only one who can put up a decent front in front of the rabble but still be tormented and torn apart on the inside.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 3, 2010 @ 2:57 am - October 3, 2010

  39. I just found the link on the page, Sonicfrog. Kinda hard to see at my end.

    http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/10/rutgers_student_commits_suicid.html

    so the other night i had a guy over. I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy. given the angle of the webcam I can be confident that that was all he could have seen.

    so my question is what next?

    I could just be more careful next time…make sure to turn the cam away…
    buttt…

    I’m kinda pissed at him (rightfully so I think, no?)
    and idk…if I could…it would be nice to get him in trouble
    but idk if I have enough to get him in trouble, i mean…he never saw anything pornographic…he never recorded anything…

    I feel like the only thing the school might do is find me another roommate, probably with me moving out…and i’d probably just end up with somebody worse than him….I mean aside from being an asshole from time to time, he’s a pretty decent roommate…

    the other thing is I that don’t wanna report him and then end up with nothing happening except him getting pissed at me…

    Hmmmm.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 3, 2010 @ 3:51 am - October 3, 2010

  40. [...] The real punishment for the Clementi pranksters [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Pranksters or Tormentors? — October 3, 2010 @ 3:57 pm - October 3, 2010

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