Twitter-assisted suicide

Last weekend a media friend was gossiping to my wife and me about Bobby Kennedy’s girlfriend’s tweets in the weeks before his estranged wife Mary Richardson Kennedy committed suicide. If you read this tabloid story, it seems that the girlfriend, actress Cheryl Hines, was flaunting her relationship with Kennedy and encroaching on other relationships that the late wife saw as hers, for instance with the actress Glenn Close and with the Kennedy children.

I don’t know whether Mary Kennedy saw those tweets. I bet she heard about them. But testimony in the Dharun Ravi trial said that Tyler Clementi checked his then-Rutgers roommate Ravi’s twitter page 37 times before he jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Here are some of Ravi’s vicious tweets about Clementi’s gay explorations.

One of the first things that happened after both suicides is that Ravi and Hines took down some tweets. 

Leaving aside the possible malice/stupidity of the tweeters, these cases make me wonder about the social engine that is at work here. Both tweeters were communicating with a community, a cohesive social world, or a world they were trying to form with social media. Both suicides surely felt alienated from those communities.

I’m not calling for the end of twitter, far from it, but to recognize the power of social media for good and ill. One of the great things that came out of the Dharun Ravi trial was Richard Kim of the Nation saying that communities have to take more responsibility here. Communities have to make the young alienated Tyler Clementis of the world feel greater acceptance. He surely felt transparent because of social media. But of course transparency can be empowering.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 3 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    Well, gee, curb your enthusiasm. What does Larry David have to say? It’s not here: link to thedailybeast.com

    Perhaps Larry could do a skit for Seinfeld that would give his stratum POV, as if we don’t already know from his past history. “Goys, who can figure?” The only salient bent is they are subhuman.

  2. REGARDING DHARUN RAVI (from ABC News, 5/21/12):

    (excerpts) Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail by a New Jersey judge today for spying on his roommate’s gay tryst. Ravi’s freshman roommate Tyler Clementi committed suicide days later. . .
    . . . Ravi, 20, must report to Middlesex Adult Correctional Center on May 31 at 9 a.m. for his 30 day jail term. He was also sentenced to three years probation, ordered to complete 300 hours of community service and attend counseling programs for cyber-bullying and alternative lifestyles. . .

    SOURCE – link to abcnews.go.com

    I REMEMBER SEEING THIS ON ‘COURT TV’ NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO: Man Sentenced in Killing Of Suspected Kidnapper, Associated Press, 8/28/85

    BATON ROUGE, La., Aug. 27— A father who fatally shot a man suspected of kidnapping and sexually assaulting his son was given a suspended prison term today and sentenced to five years of probation.
    The man, Leon Gary Plauche, 39 years old, had pleaded no contest to manslaughter in the death of Jeffrey Doucet, 25, who was shot in the head in the Baton Rouge airport in March 1984.
    The shooting occurred as deputies were returning Mr. Doucet in handcuffs from California, where he had been arrested on a charge of kidnapping Mr. Plauche’s 11-year-old son.
    Judge Frank Saia of State District Court sentenced Mr. Plauche to undergo treatment for substance abuse and perform 300 hours of community service work.

    SOURCE – link to nytimes.com

    VIDEO (01:33): Father of Kidnapped Son gets Revengelink to youtube.com

  3. marc b. says:

    I’m not calling for the end of twitter, far from it, but to recognize the power of social media for good and ill. One of the great things that came out of the Dharun Ravi trial was Richard Kim of the Nation saying that communities have to take more responsibility here.

    i know you practice your art on the internet, but what is with this devotion to technology? ‘communities’ don’t have the slightest understanding about the underlying purpose and impact of these technologies, yet there is an unequivocal belief that technological advances are indicative of social progress. that’s pure ideological horseshit bordering on the religious. twitter, skype, etc. aren’t enhancing anything, they’re replacing something. one admittedly withered part of traditional social intercourse is being hacked off and replaced with a prosthetic. you’d think that people would take the time to reflect before submitting to the procedure.