»  National Review Online

October 13th, 2010

  "The Plague That Is Killing Our Youth"


The Tyler Clementi case has been illuminating in several respects. Clementi was a freshman student at Rutgers University, sharing a dorm room with another 18-year-old, Dharun Ravi. Clementi asked for sole use of the room until midnight on September 19. Ravi obliged and went to his girlfriend's room, but not before activating his webcam. With Ravi gone, Clementi brought a man to his room and had some kind of sexual encounter with him. Ravi filmed it via the webcam and shared the film with a network of friends on iChat. Three days later, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

It's a sad enough story, though key details are extraordinarily hard to find. For example: Who knew Clementi was homosexual? His parents say they had no idea. Ravi says he did know. Since the parents had been closely acquainted with their son for 18 years, while Ravi had known him only for the three or four weeks they had been rooming together, this seems odd. Did the college know? Is it usual, when assigning rooms to students, to pair a homosexual with a heterosexual? To just ask?

Again, we are not told — not in any of the internet news stories I have just spent half an hour trawling through — whether Clementi's sex partner was a longtime boyfriend or some random pickup, an older man or a coeval, rough trade or the Professor of Assyriology. Nor are we told who was doing what to whom — not an irrelevant matter, given the very different attitudes Western society (and, I believe, every other society known to anthropology) has customarily taken towards the dominant and submissive roles in homosexual congress.

I can't even recall any precise linking of Clementi's suicide to the broadcasting of his tryst. Are we quite sure this isn't just an instance of the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc? Clementi seems to have been chronically unhappy for some time. The New York Post reported:

Robert Righthand, who had been friends with Clementi since grade school, said his pal had been holding that in. "I can tell you that whatever state he was in, he had it in reserve for a very long time," Righthand said while choking back tears. "You never thought he was depressed. You just thought he was quiet. He wasn't the person to open up to a lot of people."

Reading the news stories, I get the impression that Clementi was a sad and nervous person living near the edge who was driven to desperation by a fairly trivial incident. The result was of course a tragedy for Clementi, his family, and his friends; but it was not any very extraordinary kind of tragedy. Most people who kill themselves have been on the edge for a while; most are pushed over that edge by some tiny failure, loss, or humiliation.

If I am right about this having been a wretchedly commonplace event, you would never know it from the follow-up commentary. By the time the corpse of poor Tyler Clementi had been fished from the Hudson, whole swathes of the commentariat were lost in shrieking hysteria. "Homophobia: the plague that is killing our youth" keened the Huffington Post at the head of an overwrought article lamenting Clementi and four other teens nationwide who had committed suicide in September "after enduring severe harassment and bullying for being gay or perceived to be gay."

Given that over a thousand persons aged 15 to 19 die every month in the U.S.A., about one-sixth of them from suicide, the word "plague" seems a bit hyperbolic. One would of course prefer that there were no deaths at all in this age range. As the father of two Americans aged 15 to 19, I should prefer it very much indeed. This is a fallen world, though, and death is part of the package. That some fraction of one percent of our dead teens were driven to self-destruction by shame at being "gay" (was ever a word more inapt?) is not, it seems to me, something a rational citizen should dwell on if not directly affected.

Newsweek joined in the general chorus of ululation with a piece titled "Is the 'Bullying Epidemic' a Media Myth?" They left readers in no doubt about their opinion.

The Clementi case in particular is sure to become latest potent symbol for why, in the digital age, schools need bullying policies and states need legislation to punish bullies.

Of course they do! Our moronic politicians, fresh from their exertions at debasing our currency and wrecking our economy, are eager to oblige — to bring forth new laws, new regulations, new policies to arrest and reverse the plague that is scything down our youth in hecatombs. Senator Frank Lautenberg will introduce national legislation that "would require colleges and universities that receive federal student aid to adopt codes of conduct that prohibit bullying and harassment of students." Congress will act! Obama will act! Holder will act! The U.N. will act! Armies will mobilize! Fleets will be dispatched! Aux armes, citoyens!

Before we set about turning the world upside down to eliminate all meanness, spite, practical joking, and mockery of personal quirks, let's at least ponder the following curious fact. I'm going to assume here that the causal link between Tyler Clementi's Skyped humiliation and his suicide has been established by all those media stories that take it for granted.

The question then arises: Why did he feel his humiliation so keenly? Or at all? How can it be that forty years of relentless homosexualist propaganda has had so little effect? After all those Gay Pride parades, how is it that Clementi didn't feel proud? Should not we all, at this point, be unanimously agreed that Gay Is Just As Good As Straight? Or, even if heartless, benighted old fools like myself are not so agreed, shouldn't hip 18-year-old college undergraduates like Dharun Ravi and his girlfriend be?

The essence of humiliation is being mocked when you know your mockers have a point. The implication of Clementi's suicide was that he agreed with those who were mocking him. But how could that be so after all the decades of propaganda — which has nowhere been more intensive than at our residential colleges? If he had been filmed engaging with a female instead of a male, would he then have felt humiliated? Would the girl? If his polarity (dominant/submissive) in the filmed encounter had been reversed, would he still have felt humiliated? Or less, or more humiliated?

Ah, when will the New Jerusalem at last arrive? It seems to have been just around the next corner for all of my longish life. When will class, sex, and ethnic rancor cease? When will our schools raise up every child to his full potential? When will the blight of "homophobia" be lifted from the human heart? When will human nature come home at last, cleansed from all blemish and fault, all meanness and mockery, washed in the blood of the lamb? When, oh when, will everything at last be equal to everything else, as we have so long been promised, and as we all so ardently desire? Perhaps Senator Lautenberg's bill will do the trick.