Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Rutgers Suicide

ABC News has the written story and the video from their broadcast.  The stories are dramatically different.  The print story is a reporting of the news, using facts and interview quotes to convey what just happened.  ABC's broadcast, on the other hand, tells another story altogether.

ABC's broadcast team decided to make this an issue on two fronts.  First, they lightly touch on the callousness of kids, and then they go into a much more in depth discussion on persecution of homosexuals resulting from that callousness.  But is this really the issue at hand in this story?

While certainly it will be argued that our general cultural anti-gay sentiment was a driving factor in creating such a level of shame in Tyler Clementi's mind over having his encounter broadcast live online that he would decide to jump to his death from the George Washington Bridge, I don't really feel like this was the proper topic of discussion in ABC's broadcast.  At least not quite so immediately anyway.

Following the facts in the story, it looks much more like Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, intended to watch him on webcam no matter what was happening.  Ravi has a count against him for attempting to spy on Clementi several days before September 19th in the same manner during a different encounter.  This, to me, points much more to the "callousness of kids" discussion, accompanied by a discussion on invasion of privacy and how our ever-more-interconnected electronic lives are eroding our cultural expectations of privacy.

The facts here are that a stupid kid pulled a stupid stunt with his stupid friend and hurt his roommate tremendously.  The fact that Clementi was having a homosexual encounter, while very likely a leading factor in Clementi ending his life due to much much higher level emotional and cultural issues, was not the immediate issue at hand here.  General respect for other people was.  The discussion of acceptance of homosexuality was going to take place around this event, no matter what.  But by making it the lead topic, ABC really overshadowed what needs to be discussed here.

It is an interesting time that we live in right now.  Daily we become more and more connected at a more and more immediate rate.  For people like Dharun Ravi, a young man who has been raised in this culture of interconnectivity, rather than adjusting to it, this interconnectivity culturally means that the people around him have no expectation of privacy.  He likely felt little to no remorse for the act of invading his roommate's privacy, and was acting to invade that privacy no matter the result.  In this time of an ever eroding expectation of privacy, and an ever eroding respect for one another, we should learn from what has happened here that we need to begin working at showing each other that respect.  It's something that used to be a person's default position in life; to respect the privacy of those around him.  It wasn't something we needed to try so hard for.  It seems we need to begin trying just a little bit harder.

No comments:

Post a Comment