Reach Out and Touch Someone

Tyler Clementi’s roommate, Dharu Ravi, whose webcam intrusion into Clementi’s private life precipitated his suicide, recently was indicted by a grand jury on 15 counts, including a hate crime, which carries five to ten years in prison.

I also read that Justine Williams, a 14-year-old cancer survivor, had been receiving threats online from an anonymous tormentor who turned out to be her best friend.

Often, the perpetrator—the article on Williams scrupulously avoided any word indicating gender—Skyped with her, while sadistically watching her reactions to the threats typed through a different source.

Hate, sex, race, religion—nearly anything—may be a factor in bullying, but in my opinion, the biggest motivator for this kind of potentially-lethal activity is power.

Ravi may or may not have hated gays, but he certainly knew his victim’s most vulnerable spot, and exploited it. Clementi, a shy young man and talented musician, was out to his parents, but having his intimate life made public fodder for his classmates and the rest of the world was unbearable.

These days, one is not supposed to use the “N” word in comparisons—and by “N,” I mean “Nazi,” not the other—but, scale aside, I believe the comparison is valid.

Both then and now, a mechanism in place allows predators tremendous, unlimited power over their chosen victim—the ability to inflict damage with no consequences or personal responsibility for the resulting physical and emotional wreckage.

The possession of power, the ability of affecting another’s life in a God-like, unrestrained way, seems to act as an aphrodisiac today as in the past, creating a legion of sociopaths—which I define as individuals incapable of seeing other people as human beings, but only as pawns in a game in which these abhorrent persons make the rules.

Perhaps greater than whatever part hate played in these two examples, the indifference of the perpetrators to the feelings of their victims, along with their absence of empathy and their inability to put themselves in another’s place, are indicative of a frightening and growing Internet trend.

As the “reach-out-and-touch-someone-with-impunity” model replaces the “don’t-do-to-others-what-you-would-not-have-done-to-yourself” ethic, more such cases will continue.

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