The Anatomy Of A Suicide

Feb 5 2012 @ 8:52pm

Ian Parker has an extensive account of the series of events that led to Tyler Clementi's suicide at Rutgers in 2010:

It became widely understood that a closeted student at Rutgers had committed suicide after video of him having sex with a man was secretly shot and posted online. In fact, there was no posting, no observed sex, and no closet. 

Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, did spy on him with a webcam while Clementi had a lover in the room:

Ravi was indicted on charges of invasion of privacy (sex crimes), bias intimidation (hate crimes), witness tampering, and evidence tampering. Bias intimidation is a sentence-booster that attaches itself to an underlying crime—usually, a violent one. Here the allegation, linked to snooping, is either that Ravi intended to harass Clementi because he was gay or that Clementi felt he’d been harassed for being gay. Ravi is not charged in connection with Clementi’s death, but he faces a possible sentence of ten years in jail. As he sat in the courtroom, his chin propped awkwardly on his fist, his predicament could be seen either as a state’s admirably muscular response to the abusive treatment of a vulnerable young man or as an attempt to criminalize teen-age odiousness by using statutes aimed at people more easily recognizable as hate-mongers and perverts.

Jacob Sullum has updates about New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, enacted after Clementi's suicide. Rod Dreher sees a lesson about jumping to conclusions:

I too thought that Clementi had been outed after Ravi filmed him having sex. As Parker shows, Clementi was not closeted, and he wasn’t filmed having sex. And yes, Dharun Ravi is an ass. But he is not facing criminal trial for being an ass.

This is what moral panic does. I’m as susceptible to it as anybody. It is hard for me to hear of cases of priests accused of molestation and to think that they are innocent until proven guilty, because I already have a particular narrative in my head. It is hard for me to be fair in these particular cases, but it is necessary to fight against my own instincts in this case and in every case. You too.

TNC's take-away:

I don't know if he "bullied" Clementi, or not. The label isn't so important to me. What he actually seems to have done–thoughtlessly making an exhibit of a troubled young man in a cruel quest to ingratiate himself to his peers–and the fact that that deed ended in a death, strikes me as bad enough.

Out Magazine has published a selection of letters that Tyler's older brother, James Clementi, wrote to him after his death. Brian Moylan thinks James' message is the one we should be concentrating on:

While it was necessary for the New Yorker to set the record straight so that the public has the facts, what James, and Out, has done is even more important. It is letting the public know that—after this becomes a question of prosecution and defense, of lawyers and motions, of pleas and courtroom regets—that what is at the center of this whole case is a young gay man who killed himself. There is nothing we can do to bring him back, but James shows us all that there is something we can do to honor him.