Before I begin this article, let me make a few things clear: I agree that the death of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi is tragic. His privacy should have been respected, and the world lost someone who could have contributed something spectacular.
That being said, if Dharun Ravi is charged with anything other than a privacy crime, and if Molly Wei is charged with anything period, the justice system has over-reacted.
Yes, Ravi screwed up big time. He set up a webcam and filmed his roommate having sex with another guy and posted it on the Internet. It was a stupid idea to share someone’s intimate moments in the bedroom with the world. It’s inappropriate no matter who is in the bedroom, and no matter what they are doing.
Dharun Ravi violated his roommate’s privacy. But he did not commit murder.
This situation is barely an issue of bullying, as much of the media would have you believe. Other than a few Facebook status updates, there is no conclusive proof of bullying. It was a prank, meant to embarass a roommate. It just worked too well.
Legally, collecting and transmitting sexual material without consent is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison sentence of five years. That’s all Ravi deserves. In everything I’ve been reading about this case, there was no call for Clementi to kill himself.
In the case of Molly Wei, her only involvement was being mentioned by Ravi in a Facebook status. I believe in “guilt by association,” but that is absolutely ridiculous.
Too many people want this to be a national thing. Too many people want Clementi to be an example of “cyberbullying” and hate crimes. But the only crime that occurred was someone took a tape of two men sharing an intimate moment and putting it on the Internet.
In fact, it upsets me a little bit when people compare Clementi’s situation to that of Matthew Shepherd, a young man from Laramie, Wyoming, who, in 1998, was taken by two men, beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.
Shepherd’s situation is tragic and blatant. Clementi’s situation is exploitative and tragic, but ultimately boiled down to a personal decision.
I’m blaming Tyler Clementi’s suicide on Tyler Clementi, because he chose to jump off that bridge. The circumstances leading up to that decision is the fault of Dharum Ravi, because he illegally filmed Clementi and his partner and posted it on the Internet. Molly Wei was just unfortunately wrapped up into the whole situation purely by being mentioned by Ravi.
The whole situation is a privacy issue. Not a gay rights issue, not a cyberbullying issue, not a hate crime issue. Someone’s privacy was violated, and they made the unfortunate decision to kill themselves rather than better themselves.
I usually have a lot of sympathy for those involved in tragedy, and this is no doubt a tragedy. However, the major players in this tragedy are only 18. They’re still stupid kids. They had been in school for a month. Real world consequences for their stupid actions are falling down around them, and it’s up to them to grow up and deal with it.
Ravi’s punishment will be five years in prison for his privacy crime, and the ever-lasting guilt of knowing his actions lead to someone’s suicide. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyone who tries to make it something more is guilty of their own form of journalistic bullying.