Thursday, December 18, 2014

The real world

Lessons from a webcam

The real world

Molly Wei, a star witness at the Dharun Ravi trial, told a New Brunswick courtroom this week that the accused webcam voyeur started "freaking out a little" when they watched his Rutgers University roomate Tyler Clementi's hookup with another man streaming live to her laptop.

"It felt wrong," Wei said, referring not to the same-sex intimacies but to witnessing them with Ravi, whose sentiments about Clementi's homosexuality are a focus of the proceedings. The day after what prosecutors insist was Ravi's second attempt to spy on him, Clementi leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge. The suicide, Wei said, "overwhelmed" her with sadness.

Ravi is not charged in connection with the suicide but could face a 10-year prison term if convicted of bias charges. The defense claims the Middlesex County resident, now 20, was not homophobic but, arguably, sophomoric -- and was worried Clementi's guest might steal Ravi's stuff.

Wei, 19, also testified she was "startled" because she'd never before seen two men kissing.

This itself is perhaps startling, given that Wei, Ravi and Clementi have grown up during a revolution in the portrayal of homosexuality in popular culture.

But enjoying scenes of actors pretending to be gay in a pretend version of Pittsburgh, as on Queer as Folk, is different from watching live video of actual gay men unaware of any audience as they embrace.

A cable TV  show is entertainment; observing private conduct via a webcam would strike most folks as  an invasion of privacy.

The testimony suggests Wei immediately recognized the difference. Whether Ravi did isn't clear.

Kevin Riordan Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

Kevin Riordan Inquirer Columnist
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