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Steven Thrasher: Andrea Peyser, social networking didn't kill Tyler Clementi

Despairing Facebook kids need a help app

It’s gone too far. My heart breaks for Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, victimized by a roommate who allegedly streamed video of him engaged in gay sex on Twitter. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death. He announced his intentions, too late, on Facebook.

Who is policing social media? Last week, I wrote about a woman who was locked in a loony bin for a week after writing on Facebook, “I want to kill myself.”

Facebook and Twitter have developed into powerful, worldwide confessionals, wielded as weapons by homophobes and creeps. No one monitors them for pain or cruelty. Scary.

— New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser

Steven Thrasher of The Village Voice had quite a bit to say about the above tidbit of commentary by Peyser, calling it  “crocodile tears” from a person whose “level of tolerance falls somewhere between Rudy Giuliani and David Duke.”

The issue for Steven is the shoving off of responsibility for Clementi’s death on social media, which he believes is preposterous.

It’s easy for Peyser to blame new media for the ills of society. Countless people, of course, are heartbroken that Clementi’s final Facebook posting was not seen before it was too late.

But why does homophobia have to go this far to get attention? And why can’t Peyser see her role, using old media, in creating the environment where bullies feel emboldened, and where gay teens feel like they have no choice but to kill themselves?

He points out her own homophobic writings surely foment the atmosphere that makes those vulnerable even more self-conscious and fragile. She reviewed The Kids Are Alright in this manner:

“These are the life choices presented in Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids,” sort of a cross between “Leave it to Beaver” and “Kittens With Whips.” Choose your lifestyle wisely, moviegoers. For this film is set to go down in history as the first major motion picture to make a family led by gay women — seem not just normal, but close to godly.”

…”The movie industry is doing its best to undermine the American family…Hollywood — we don’t care about the sick lives you lead behind closed doors. Just don’t bring children into it.”

With that in mind, Steven poses some food for thought – what messages is Peyser sending to young people like Tyler Clementi:

  • You are not deserving of equal rights.
  • You are sick.
  • Your life should be behind closed doors.
  • Children shouldn’t be left around you, for you will corrupt them.
  • You don’t deserve to ever get married or have a family.
  • You are not normal.

Now, we wish Peyser could imagine of how gay teens might react when they are bullied — physically or through cyber-space — by someone who has ALSO listened to people like her, and taken away this message: “Beat up the dyke. Bully the fag. They’re not worthy, anyway.”

NOTE: Steven Thrasher will be here at the Blend for a liveblog on Monday to discuss his controversial and entertaining Village Voice piece, White America Has Lost Its Mind.” You can sign up for a reminder and read an excerpt here:

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding