“In no uncertain terms I will stand by my view that the backlash against the article was more disgusting than the crime it discussed,” says Rutgers University student Patrick Danner in his Daily Targum column. Without any irony. Danner is reacting to the response to the newspaper’s editorial that lambasted gays and celebrities for making Tyler Clementi‘s death their cause célèbre — and thus tarnishing the memory of their fallen student. I guess college really is the best time in your life to make mistakes, because Danner (and the folks he’s defending) keep making them.
So what, exactly, is more disgusting than two students pointing a webcam at another one during a private moment, live webcasting it for the world to see, inviting friends to mock him and his homosexuality, and then laughing about it … until he feels such shame he jumps off a bridge to his death? Tell us, Mr. Danner:
Several posts have called for the resignation of the entire Targum board and one anonymous post went as far as to say of one board member, “send this russian peasant back to russia where he can write communistic editorials like the Kremlin likes.” A few alumni have even reported shame of being associated with the University and one called for the editors of the paper to leap off the George Washington Bridge themselves. Again, to me, that’s more disgusting than the crime committed.
Name calling? Yeah, that’s pretty childish crap, and it is tantamount to bullying. But legitimate criticism of the Targum‘s irrational and inside-baseball response to the outpouring of support for LGBT kids like Tyler? That’s reasonable. And responsible.
I feel for the Clementi family and my heart goes out to them – I have no idea what it is like to be in their situation, nor in their son’s. But if we are to resort to the type of name-calling, threats and insults, all of which can be found in full on the Targum website, then are we not resorting to a breach of rights ourselves? If we are to demonize anyone, let alone an entire University, for the expression of their opinion, then that to me is evidence that we are doing exactly what the editorial has accused us of, which is failing to see and failing to listen.
The editorial was controversial. There is no doubting that. And in its efforts to expand a deep and meaningful discussion of Clementi’s death, all it has produced is an outpouring of hateful attacks and comments from disappointed mothers and alumni. For this neither the writer, nor the Targum, is at fault. Those at fault are the ones who, upon disagreeing with the editorial as I did, failed to note the larger implications and engage in a widespread discussion of the events – not one restrained to one cause. Not one with a single scapegoat.
So, while ultimately and profoundly disagreeing with the editorial, I applaud the Targum staff for this – making it known that the death of Clementi should be discussed not only as an issue of homophobia but also an issue of privacy. It should be seen not only as an issue of sexuality but also of technology and the implications of media coverage in the wake of tragedy. We at the University are a center of higher learning, why does it seem we can’t handle at least that much?
You’re right, Danner. Tyler’s death is representative of so many problems without solutions. It’s also emblematic of the continued tolerance of bullying LGBT people simply because of who they are attracted to. His death needn’t be in vain. It can be used to show what happens when parents, administrators, and peers continue to ignore an epidemic of intolerance. The Targum editorial — the one you are defending — claimed such actions are irresponsible. And that, frankly, is irresponsible.