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Friday, October 8, 2010

Homophobia Claim Hides Real Danger of Technology

A community meeting in northern New Jersey Thursday night became the latest example of the shameless exploitation of Tyler Clementi's suicide by those pushing the cause of, for lack of a better phrase, gay empowerment.
The suicide may have a connection to Clementi's sexuality -- whatever it was, considering he was barely 18 years old and hence presumably more vulnerable to emotional manipulation.than most adults. Despite the reports that he was engaged in romantic encounters that were recorded and transmitted by means of a webcam or other recording device, it is not clear that Clementi was gay.  It is possible that he was "experimenting," or that he was pressured into an activity that did not reflect his inclination.
These theories -- which must be explored and fleshed out, because any hate crime prosecution of roommate Dharan Ravi and fellow freshman Molly Wei requires that the crime victim, Clementi, be gay -- will not be entertained by the gay liberation / gay empowerment crowd which, despite the less than conclusive evidence, rushed to claim Clementi as one of their own. Many empowerment movements, especially those whose members are connected by membership in a shared protected class (or victim class), love to embellish their claims that "there are many of us." Never mind that these people were nowhere to be found when Clementi was allegedly seeking solace and support, before he allegedly ended his life.
The real issue with the Rutgers webcam suicide tragedy is not sexuality, or homosexuality.  Not by a long shot.
The true issue is our society's growing tolerance of technology and its misuses, whether by government authorities, major institutions such as colleges and universities, corporations or fellow citizens. The misuse of technology has eroded our privacy and encouraged those in power to push for further erosions of our basic Constitutional rights.
The powers that be will not mind all the commotion over sexuality and the claims of homophobia.  It serves a role, as a diversion, a distraction.  The more people talk about Tyler Clementi being gay (or not), the less people will be talking about why computers come equipped with all sorts of eavesdropping and surveillance technologies and are making our grade-schoolers into little Inspectors Gadget.
Eric Dixon is a New York small business lawyer and member of the New York City Bar Association's Science and Law Committee and its subcommittee on Technology and Regulation, which are hosting a symposium on technology and privacy scheduled for November 2010.  For more information on the symposium, contact the New York City Bar at or Mr. Dixon at  Mr. Dixon writes regularly on issues involving technology, privacy, regulation and civil and constitutional rights. 

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