Friday, October 1, 2010

Rutgers Gay Suicide Reality Check

It's easy to assume that anything unpleasant happening to members of a readily-identifiable group happens because they're members of that group. Sometimes it's true, sometimes not - and sometimes it's hard to tell. (July 5, 2009)

Rutgers Violinist Death: What's Known, What's Assumed

Some celebrities seem to think it's 'obvious' that a Rutgers student killed himself because he was gay and had been bullied for years and had endured an awful lot of hateful treatment because he was gay and had been bullied for years.

Maybe so, maybe not.

Tyler Clementi, former violinist and student at Rutgers is dead. That much is certain, judging from news coverage.

He fell from a bridge into water. That also seems to be certain.

He probably committed suicide. There's an online suicide note: and it seems a likely explanation for his fall from the bridge.

He was homosexual? Well, he had one high-profile sexual encounter with another man. That's as much as I know about the matter.

Excerpts from an op-ed piece in Discovery News, from someone who seems to have my preference for dealing with facts:
"Rutgers Suicide: Sex Columnist's Simplistic Solution"
Benjamin Radford, Human News, Discovery News (October 1, 2010)

"The recent suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi made national news because of what preceded it: Clementi's roommate secretly broadcast over the Internet a video showing him having sex with another man in his dorm room. Several days later Clementi jumped off a bridge.

"In the wake of the tragedy, popular advice columnist Dan Savage began appearing on the news to promote a suicide-prevention video titled 'It Gets Better.' Savage's project was recently highlighted on ABC Nightly News, with anchor Diane Sawyer reminding viewers in a closing comment to 'Tell your friends it gets better.'..."

"...Savage is certainly knowledgeable about relationships and sex, but his grasp of effective suicide prevention-and indeed of the facts surrounding Clementi's death-is shaky at best.

"Savage is assuming, without facts or evidence, that Clementi was driven to suicide because he had been bullied (or, in Savage's words, 'had endured years and years of abuse'). While that is a possibility, so far there are no reports of Clementi being assaulted, bullied, or abused at Rutgers University or anywhere else. The facts of the case have yet to be established, and Savage, in his eagerness to co-opt the Clementi tragedy to promote his project, got ahead of the story.

"Furthermore, Savage is simply wrong when he states that gay teens kill themselves because they can't picture a life of joy, family, and pleasure. In fact, teens-both gay and straight-kill themselves for many reasons. There are several recent cases of heterosexual teens who killed themselves following embarrassing sexual revelations..."

I'm Catholic: So I Hate Homosexuals, Right?

Wrong. I'm not allowed to hate people. I've discussed that before. (March 13, 2009) Several times, actually.

Loving someone and assuming that whatever they do is okay are not necessarily the same thing. An extreme example would be seeing someone you love walking toward a cliff while reading a newspaper. Is it 'loving' to stay silent?

Or a more common, if somewhat controversial, example: someone you love is taking illicit drugs and the person's health is clearly deteriorating. Is it 'loving' to feel that you have no right to interfere in that person's personal choices, and wait for your friend's death?

I think the answer is 'no' in both cases. But I've got a somewhat counter-cultural notion about concepts like responsibility and free will. (June 4, 2010, January 28, 2009)

My hat's off to the writer for Discovery News, pointing out alternatively-factual aspects of conventional response to the Rutgers student's death.

Related posts:

2 comments:

The Expatriate said...

This is arguably the stupidest blog post I have ever read. Although I don't want to fall into post hoc, ergo prompter hoc, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if a person commits suicide right after a sex tape of them is posted without their consent on the Internet, the tape probably had something to do with it.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

The Expatriate,

Under the circumstances, I'll take "arguably the stupidest blog post" as a sort of compliment.

I suspect that the reason for the violinist's suicide was connected to the unanticipated broadcast of his sex act. But that's an assumption. I don't know that.

Thanks for the comment.

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