And no intention.
You remember the story: Rutgers student Tyler Clementi asked roommate Dharun Ravi for exclusive use of their shared dormitory room. Ravi agreed, but then spied on Clementi using his webcam. (He had previously outed Clementi.) Later he attempted to do it again, inviting others to watch as well.
Clementi committed suicide.
But of course Ravi did not mean to hurt Tyler Clementi in any way. That’s what Ravi’s attorneys are arguing. All he did was out Clementi through twitter, announce Clementi’s use of the room for a romantic interlude, turn on his webcam to spy on the couple, announce what he saw and send out tweets inviting others to watch.
*Regular readers know this is sarcasm. This footnote is provided for the angry hordes who will comment about what an asshole I am. Which I sometimes am, but probably not right at this moment.
The power of the systemic -ism is such that when Ravi’s attorneys argue that of course he didn’t mean anything by it, many people will nod along.
The intention argument is used all the time by people trying to evade responsibility for their actions. sinoangle once told me that I worked too hard trying to get people to understand racism. What this made me realize was that I typically explained concepts, and people would just spout back their learned, knee-jerk responses without ever engaging their critical thinking.
So here’s how I address these situations now:
What does it mean to disclose another person’s private information when you know that person hasn’t shared it with many people? Is it okay to use a camera to watch somebody else during a romantic interlude? Should you additionally invite other people to watch and stream the video on the internet?
The answers here seem obvious.
But the responses to Ravi’s announcements indicate that the obvious is not so obvious. Here’s what Clementi wrote on an online forum after this happened:
I feel like it was “look at what a fag my roommate is” –other people have commented on his profile with things like “how did you manage to go back in there?” “are you ok?”
and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy as the scandal whereas i mean come on…he was SPYING ON ME….do they see nothing wrong with this?