John Derbyshire on Thought Crimes

Every time a young gay person kills himself, you can practically hear the champagne corks popping in the gay rights organization’s boardrooms.  “Hooray!!  Another pretext we can use to remove people from their constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of thought and freedom of religion!  One step closer to victory!”  This is because for some of these organizations, it really seems that the issue is not about gays, it’s not about suicide.  It’s about conquering religion and freedom.

This is the theme of Bias Incident: The World’s Most Politically Incorrect Novel in a nutshell.

Don’t believe me that this stuff is being used to take away your freedom?  Well, witness this awful case from New Jersey:

This one has me really steamed, I must admit. You might want to turn down the volume on your iPod here; I can’t guarantee I won’t break into uncontrollable screaming at some point in this segment.Next Tuesday the trial of 19-year-old Dharun Ravi opens in New Brunswick, New Jersey. If found guilty, Mr Ravi could go to jail for ten years.

What did Dharun Ravi do? Well, he was a freshman roommate at Rutgers University with a chap named Tyler Clementi. Clementi was homosexual, and not a closeted one — he didn’t make much of a secret of it. Why would he? Our young people are taught from kindergarten on that “gay is just as good as straight,” that Heather has two mommies, that homosexuals should be “proud,” and so on. My local high school has a club for homosexual students. Anyone who’s embarrassed or ashamed about being homosexual hasn’t been paying attention for about thirty years. And in fact, Clementi wasn’t: in those first three weeks of his freshman year, he attended at least one meeting of the Rutgers students Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance.

Well, a year last September, Dharun Ravi and another freshman, Molly Wei, used a webcam to secretly watch Clementi kissing a young man Clementi had picked up. After watching the video, Ravi gossiped about it on Twitter, quote: “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Three days after that, Clementi committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. Whether this had any connection at all to the webcam incident, is not known. That Dharun Ravi thought his prank might drive Clementi to suicide is preposterous; that he intended that result is preposterosity squared.

The homosexualists were up in arms none the less, and every damn fool politician in New Jersey joined in the hue and cry. Chris Christie, who I think less of every time he opens his fat mouth, quote: “I don’t know how those two folks are going to sleep at night, knowing that they contributed to driving that young man to that alternative.” They don’t know that, Governor, and neither do you, and neither does anyone. They played a trivial prank; Clement killed himself; cause and effect are not obvious, certainly not established to any fair evidentiary standards.

The even more dimwitted Senator Frank Lautenberg has introduced national legislation that, quote, “would require colleges and universities that receive federal student aid to adopt codes of conduct that prohibit bullying and harassment of students.” So now it’s going to be a federal crime for students to pull pranks. What the hell country is this, North Korea? What’s going to be the next federal offense on the statute book — forgetting to feed your goldfish?

The New Jersey prosecutors are not actually charging Dharun Ravi in connection with Clementi’s death. How could they, since you’d have to be even stupider than Chris Christie and Frank Lautenberg to think that any such thing was in his mind. The actual charges are: invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and evidence tampering. The last two items are just b.s. Invasion of privacy is a reasonable description of what Ravi did, though you need to be borderline insane, which apparently New Jersey is, to think that it’s a suitable matter for a full court trial with multi-year sentences in the balance.

The truly poisonous charge is that second one, “bias intimidation.” This is basically a charge that Ravi had Bad Thoughts: that he looked down on homosexuals and invaded Clementi’s privacy on those grounds. It’s a charge of Thoughtcrime.

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office actually offered Ravi a plea deal back in May: if he’d plead guilty they’d give him five years in the slammer. If not, he’d go to trial and face ten if found guilty on the Thoughtcrime charge. Ravi turned down the deal, and the trial starts next week.

Once again, here’s what Ravi did: He used a webcam to film his roommate kissing a guy. Then he tweeted that, quote, “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” And for this, we’re talking fives and tens of years in jail — not really because of the trivial thing he did, but for having bad thoughts.

This is the most horrible, most shameful prosecution I’ve heard of for a long time. Homosexuals are less than four percent of our population, perhaps only one percent; and rather than face down the shrieking hysteria of this tiny minority, we are turning our jurisprudence upside down and wrecking the life of a harmless young man in an effort to appease the mob.

From all that I’ve read — and I’ve read a good deal about this case: Ian Parker’s report in the February 6th New Yorker is a good starting point — Tyler Clementi was a chronically unhappy young man. He killed himself, for reasons not known. That’s an awful thing: I speak as the father of two teenagers.

It is not the purpose of the federal government to try to prevent unhappy people from killing themselves though; nor is it the purpose of the judiciary, when such a thing happens, to hunt out a scapegoat and drag him through the courts at the behest of rich, noisy nuisance lobbies.

“You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking,” went the old song. In New Jersey, you can, if you’re thinking unkind thoughts about homosexuals. This prosecution is a disgrace to New Jersey, a shame on the people of New Jersey and on their gibbering, pandering, fool politicians. The charges against Dharun Ravi are nothing less than totalitarian.

Now I’m going to start the uncontrollable screaming; but it’s OK, I’ll do it off mike.

You can bet your bottom dollar on this:  when the Supreme Court decides that the First Amendment is unconstitutional (yes, I know, it’s a contradiction in terms, but they’ll use artful language to express their point), it will use the suicide of youths as the fig leaf for that step into totalitarianism.  Mark my words.

That said, the death of Tyler Clementi is a tragedy.  I wish his family the ultimate comfort of being reunited at the Resurrection.

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