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Dharun Ravi And Liam Stacey: Online Bias Intimidation Explored



On May 21, 2012 we learned that Dharun Ravi was found guilty by a court in New Jersey of invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, witness tampering, and four counts of bias intimidation following the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay student he had secretly filmed kissing another man in his dorm room at Rutgers University. Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in prison, three years probation, 300 hours community service, a $10,000 fine, and counseling on cyberbullying and alternative lifestyles. While the story of Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi has been rehearsed several times in the media, and while we still have to hear Ravi make an apology that acknowledges his part in a series of events that resulted in a talent young man taking his own life, the question I wish to reflect upon here is, quite simply, what turned this popular and outgoing student into a convicted felon?

In the UK, we have several laws which protect citizens from harassment and have also recently seen such laws put into effect. On March 17, 2012, Bolton Wanderers soccer star, Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during a quarter-final match against rival soccer club Tottenham Hotspur. While doctors fought to save his life on the pitch, Swansea University student, Liam Stacey, posted a series of drunken tweets which were considered grossly offensive and racist. Realising his error (and this bears some remarkable similarities to Ravi’s apology that occurred moments before Clementi’s death), Stacey apologised profusely and claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked and that he had not posted the comments. Stacey eventually pleased guilty to a public order offence and was sentenced to 56 days in prison. Like Dharun Ravi, this was a young man with no history of hate, an educated and well-liked individual who had no reason to embark upon a campaign of racism against a soccer player who had come so close to death.

In trying to understand what turns these young men into criminals, it is important to understand the drivers that encouraged them to express, in public forums, sentiments that ultimately brought them to the attention of law enforcement.

In my research looking at the reasons why young people bully others, I have explored the issue of bias intimidation and looked at the factors that anger those we call “bullies.” Ultimately I found that issues of “difference,” judgements about the relative “value” of those who are different, and expectations or assumptions about those people are key drivers in someone becoming a “bully.” But, what do these three things have in common with Dharun Ravi and Liam Stacey? At face value both chose to abuse people who were different from themselves: Tyler Clementi was “gay” and Fabrice Muamba was “Black.” Perhaps Ravi and Stacey believed that the men they abused were easy targets, and their public humiliation was in some way less meaningful than if it had been a heterosexual room-mate or white soccer star. However what we do know is that both – despite having no overt homophobic or racist attitudes – engaged in behaviours that led them to prison.

So what happened to these two bright young men? In the first instance both were interacting online with others; they fed off those who responded positively and ignored or reacted angrily to those who responded negatively. Secondly, they were engaged in what is, in effect, a solitary activity, with few if any social cues to moderate their behavior. In Ravi’s case, Molly Wei was a willing confederate and thus did not provide Ravi with any physical cues (as far as we know) that would make him think twice. Much more important in understanding their behavior is both Ravi’s and Stacey’s mind set which governed the way they interacted with others online. It was, in essence, solipsistic. Solipsism is a philosophical idea that only one’s own mind truly exists, and that anything existing outside of one’s own mind is questionable at best, or non-existent. In other words, the only “truth” comes from one’s own perspective.

As we become increasingly reliant upon technology in our daily lives, are we too becoming the embodiment of solipsism, acknowledging only our own existence and devaluing or rendering irrelevant the beliefs, attitudes and existence of others? Is this the trap that Dharun Ravi and Liam Stacey fell into? Did they feed off the frenzy of positive reinforcement and ignore those who sought to moderate their behavior? In face-to-face interactions their behavior would have been criticised by their peers, but online we can always find like-minded individuals who are willing, often through the veil of anonymity or pseudonymity, to encourages us to more extremes of behavior. Similarly we should also consider, as social psychologists do, how much a person’s explicit attitudes correlate with his or her implicit ones? Are we more likely to express those implicit attitudes online because our interactions with others are disembodied and thus not “real” (see image above)?

Just how “real” was the hurt experienced by Tyler Clementi in Dharun Ravi’s eyes? Did he truly understand that something watched on a screen, or communicated via Twitter, was not another person’s reality? Did a drunken student, watching a soccer match on a TV really understand how his words could not only hurt the family of Fabrice Muamba but shock online and offline communities alike? Both Ravi and Stacey have lives to build after their sentences, alas Tyler Clementi does not. Fabrice Muamba is well on the road to recovery following his cardiac arrest. We may never fully understand why Ravi and Stacey did what they did and whether they their words and actions online are true reflections of their feelings towards others they perceive to be different. We do know that, despite its prevalence in our daily lives, we do not fully understand how human interact with technology.


Ian Rivers is Professor of Human Development at Brunel University, London. He is the author of ‘Homophobic Bullying: Research and Theoretical Perspectives’ (Oxford, 2011), and has researched issues of discrimination in LGBT communities, particularly among children and young people, for nearly two decades.

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‘Whatever Side Bet on Stupid Won Big’: Steve Schmidt Scorches Marco Rubio for ‘Kernels of Imbecility’ on Balloongate



The Chinese spy balloon traversing the United States last week with its intelligence-gathering systems disabled by the Pentagon until it was shot down over the ocean a few days later on orders of the Commander-in -Chief brought out the worst in Republicans, especially U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who serves as the Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee, says political strategist and Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt.

Rubio toured the Sunday shows yesterday, using the balloon to try to paint President Biden as weak over a balloon that multiple reports say posed no threat to the U.S.

Schmidt attacked Rubio’s “silliness and vapidity,” lamenting that, “a serious matter has been taken and twisted into kernels of imbecility by an American politician who routinely lies, dissembles and accuses his opponents of being enemies, while treating adversaries with delusion and disregard.”

READ MORE: ‘Volunteer’ Santos Congressional Staffer Alleges Sexual Harassment: ‘Proceeded to Touch My Groin’

“Marco Rubio believes the balloon was a deliberate provocation aimed at showing the world that America is a decaying superpower that will never meet its treaty obligations and defend Taiwan, Japan, Korea or the Philippines. The proof of this is the helplessness of America as the balloon floated overhead. Rubio’s position seems to be rooted in pretending the balloon wasn’t actually shot down — which of course it was,” Schmidt said in his Substack newsletter, pointing to the Florida Senators appearance on ABC News Sunday morning.

Sen. Rubio also went on CNN, claiming that President Biden should have gone in national television to address the American people to talk about the balloon – which posed no threat to the U.S., especially after the Pentagon minimized its surveillance capabilities.

“I don’t understand why he wouldn’t do that, and that is the beginning of dereliction of duty,” Rubio claimed.

Rubio was part of the GOP attack on President Joe Biden over the balloon, which was not the first balloon to spy on the United States – several did during the Trump years, but that administration either kept it quiet or was unaware, The Washington Post reports.

READ MORE: Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) told CBS, ‘I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to [President] Xi [Jinping] and the Chinese government,'” The Post noted.

On Saturday U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) unleashed a series of rapid-fire tweets, making remrks like, “Was Biden concerned with upsetting his friends and Hunter’s business partners over in China when assessing the Chinese spy balloon?” and, “Almost 48 hours after public discovery, the Chinese spying balloon has been shot down. It makes you wonder, would Biden’s Department of Defense have shot it down if the American people hadn’t found out?”

Observing Rubio had many topics to choose from on Sunday, Schmidt noted he “could have talked about the staggering Chinese naval arms race that has created a fleet with more warships than the US Navy, though with a fleet far less capable. He could have talked about the vulnerability of a US fleet carrier to a precision hypersonic missile, and questioned whether the age of the carrier might be ending, given its enormous capacity for staggering casualties. He could have talked about the Chinese submarine program, or they’re out of control espionage activities in the United States.”

“Rubio chose to do none of those things. Instead, he chose to fearmonger over a balloon.”

Schmidt continued.

“Maybe the ‘decline’ Rubio is talking about is evidenced by Rubio talking. Maybe the ‘decline’ that the Chinese were watching was America’s political and media ‘decline.’ Maybe they wanted to see the stupidity play out second by second like an MRI scanning a body injected with contrast dye. Maybe they wanted to settle a debate between two factions of American observers and predictors who disagreed on how we would respond. One thing is for sure: whatever side bet on stupid, won big.”

“The silliness and vapidity of Marco Rubio and his colleagues were certainly exposed by the balloon. They absolutely demonstrated a lack of capacity to measure up in a real crisis. They also demanded a response that will give the Chinese a chance to reciprocate the favor. That happened in 2001, in the months before 9/11. Like now, the event was regarded as a distraction, but was it?”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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Morning Joe Reminds Viewers of the Last Time the Koch Network ‘Stopped the Craziness’ in GOP Primaries



The powerful Koch network is taking a stand against Donald Trump heading into the 2024 election cycle, and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough examined the historical parallel to the Tea Party insurgency a decade ago.

A memo released by Americans for Prosperity shows the conservative heavyweights will oppose the former president’s GOP primary bid after a lackluster showing by Republicans in the 2022 midterms, and the “Morning Joe” host said that reminded him of the Koch brothers taking on the right-wing Tea Party movement.

“The fact the Koch network, so powerful in the Republican Party, is saying, ‘Hey, we don’t usually get involved in primaries but we’re getting involved now,'” Scarborough said. “It reminds me so much of 2014. I don’t know if you remember 2010, Tea Partiers had a massive time, 2012, more Tea Party type candidates were getting nominated, and Republicans started losing races they should never have lost statewide. In 2014, the Koch network, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, other sort of mainstream Republican outfits said, ‘Enough.’ They started getting involved in early primaries. I remember an Alabama one being a special election very early on where they said, ‘We are going in and stopping this craziness and madness.’ That’s what they did.”

READ MORE: GOP faces ‘potentially catastrophic problem’ if Trump loses nomination: conservative

“Looks like that’s what the Koch brothers or the Koch network is looking to do now,” Scarborough added. “It’s one thing when politicians say Donald Trump shouldn’t run again. Explain how powerful and how important the Koch donor network is to the Republican Party in deciding who is going to be the next nominee.”

Watch the video below or at this link.


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‘Volunteer’ Santos Congressional Staffer Alleges Sexual Harassment: ‘Proceeded to Touch My Groin’



A man who says he was hired by U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) as a congressional staffer, told he had to be listed as a “volunteer” until his paperwork was processed, then subsequently told his job offer had been “rescinded” nine days later despite having worked several days during that time, is now accusing the embattled New York GOP congressman of ethics violations and sexual harassment. He is calling for both a congressional and a police investigation.

In a two-page letter to the House Ethics Committee dated Friday requesting an investigation, Derek Myers alleges Rep. Santos invited him to a karaoke club on his second day of work, then “proceeded to take his hand and move it down my leg into my inner-thigh and proceeded to touch my groin.”

He says Santos then told him, “My husband is out of town tonight if you want to come over,” and told him where he lived.

READ MORE: ABC Host Pops Marco Rubio’s Balloon Rant: It ‘Happened Three Times’ Under Trump

Myers is also asking the congressional investigation examine his being told he had to work as an unpaid volunteer while being offered a full-time job, which he says is a violation of House ethics.

He says he has filed a police report.

In his letter (above) which he posted to Twitter, Myers says was interviewed by Santos, offered the job on Monday, January 23, asked by Santos’ chief of staff to come into the office the following day.

“On Wednesday. January 25, I was alone with the Congressman in his personal office going over mail correspondence from constituents and making my recommendations for which letters we should respond,” Myers’ letter reads. “The Congressman earlier in the day had asked me if I had a Grindr profile, which is widely-known as an LGBTQ+ social networking app, more commonly used for sexual intercourse. The Congressman shared with me that he, himself had a profile.”

Myers says Santos called him “buddy” and “insisted I sit next to him on a small sofa.”

READ MORE: Burn Bags and Use of Personal Email: Justices’ Security Practices Even Worse Than Leak Investigation Showed

“I proceeded to move forward with the discussion about the mail, but the Congressman stopped me by placing his hand on my left leg, near my knee and saying, ‘Hey buddy, we’re going to karaoke tonight. Would you like to go?’ I kindly declined the invitation by telling the Congressman I was not a fan of clubs and bars and that I was not a good singer,” the complaint reads.

“The Congressman proceeded to take his hand and move it down my leg into my inner-thigh and proceeded to touch my groin. He proceeded to look at me and say, ‘My husband is out of town tonight if you want to come over’ and went on to tell me where the Congressman lived. I quickly pushed the Congressman’s hand away and grabbed the mail from the table and proceeded to discuss the topic of constituent correspondence. Shortly thereafter, I left the personal office and returned to my desk.”

He alleges the following Monday, one week after being made the offer of employment, he was asked about his background as a journalist. He says on Wednesday, February 1, “I was informed that my job offer was being rescinded.”

The New York Times reports, “Mr. Myers’s account could not be corroborated, but a spokeswoman for Representative Susan Wild, ranking member of the House Ethics Committee, acknowledged that his letter had been received by her office.”

“There’s no corroborating evidence whatsoever,” Myers told CNN. “It’s simply going to be his word against mine.”

Santos is currently facing at least three federal investigations, including for allegedly absconding with thousands of dollars raised to save a veteran’s dying service dog, and for campaign finance issues.

Myers was in the news last week after sharing what he says were conversations with Santos he recorded. Talking Points Memo published some of that audio and reported some of Santos’ statements to Myers, including, “Stop going to Colombia for your diluted Botox.”

Santos claimed the recordings “violated the trust that we had” in Myers.

TPM also reported on Myers’ background, which Santos allegedly used to terminate him.

“A local news reporter from Ohio, Myers faced unusual criminal charges last year after he published surreptitiously recorded audio of courtroom testimony that he said he obtained from a source. The criminal case, which is in limbo, sparked a national outcry from press freedom organizations who rushed to his defense,” TPM says.

“It was quite a mesmerizing feeling to be in that proximity to power,” Myers told TPM. “Not only was I working with a sitting congressman, but I would see all these other U.S. senators and congressmen and women who I would only see on the news walking through the basement.”

He also told the news outlet of the “dream that drew Myers to Santos: a potential book or Hollywood project.”

“George Santos is making history,” Myers told TPM. “There’s gonna be a book about it. There’s gonna be a movie about it.”

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