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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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Debt Ceiling: McCarthy Faces ‘Lingering Anger’ and a Possible Revolt as Far-Right House Members Start Issuing Threats



As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continues to negotiate a deal to avoid a debt crisis, members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are growing furious with him over broken promises he made to them.

According to MSNBC political analyst Steve Benen, with a slim GOP majority in the House, McCarthy is walking a tightrope to get a budget deal passed and may need help from House Democrats if members of his caucus refuse to go along with him.

As Benen points out, in order to win the speakership McCarthy agreed to an easier path for a motion to “vacate the chair” which could end his tenure as Speaker. That could come into play if the Freedom Caucus stages a revolt.

“… as the negotiations approach an apparent finish line, the House Republicans’ most radical faction is learning that it isn’t likely to get everything its members demanded — and for the Freedom Caucus, that’s not going to work,” he wrote in his MSNBC column.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump in danger of heightened espionage charges after bombshell report: legal expert

Citing a Washington Times report that stated, “[Freedom Caucus members] want everything from the debt limit bill passed by the House last month plus several new concessions from the White House,” Benen suggested far-right House Republicans are now issuing veiled threats.

In an interview, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) stated, “I am going to have to go have some blunt conversations with my colleagues and the leadership team. I don’t like the direction they are headed.”

With Politico reporting, “The [House Freedom Caucus] was already unlikely to support a final bipartisan deal, but lingering anger with Kevin McCarthy could have lasting implications on his speakership,” Benen added, “If this is simply a matter of lingering ill-will from members who come to believe that GOP leaders ‘caved,’ the practical consequences might be limited. But let’s also not forget that McCarthy, while begging his own members for their support during his protracted fight for the speaker’s gavel, agreed to tweak the motion-to-vacate-the-chair rules, which at least in theory, would make it easier for angry House Republicans to try to oust McCarthy from his leadership position.”

Adding the caveat that he is not predicting an imminent McCarthy ouster he added, “But if the scope of the Freedom Caucus’ discontent reaches a fever pitch, a hypothetical deal clears thanks to significant Democratic support, don’t be surprised if we all start hearing the phrase ‘vacate the chair” a lot more frequently.”

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Prosecutors Tell Trump They Have a Recording of Him and a Witness: Report



Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial have notified the ex-president’s attorneys they have a recording of him and a witness. The notification comes in the form of an automatic discovery form, CBS News reports, which “describes the nature of the charges against a defendant and a broad overview of the evidence that prosecutors will present at Trump’s preliminary hearing or at trial.”

CBS reports prosecutors have handed the recording over to Trump’s legal team.

It’s not known who the witness is, nor are any details known publicly about what the conversation entails, or even if it is just audio or if it includes video.

READ MORE: ‘Likely to Be Indicted Soon’: Trump Might Face Seven Different Felonies, Government Watchdog Says

According to the article’s author, CBS News’ Graham Kates, via Twitter, prosecutors say they also have recordings between two witnesses, a recording between a witness and a third party, and various recordings saved on a witness’s cell phones.

Trump is facing 34 felony counts in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case related to his allegedly unlawful attempt to hide hush money payoffs to a well-known porn star by falsifying business records to protect his 2016 presidential campaign.

See the discovery form above or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock


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‘Likely to Be Indicted Soon’: Trump Might Face Seven Different Felonies, Government Watchdog Says



It’s no secret the U.S. Dept. of Justice is investigating Donald Trump for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and for his likely unlawful removal, retention, and refusal to return hundreds of documents with classified and top secret markings.

Earlier this week Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal reported, “Special counsel Jack Smith has all but finished obtaining testimony and other evidence in his criminal investigation into whether former President Donald Trump mishandled classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort.”

And while it’s unknown if or when Trump will be indicted, a government watchdog says the ex-president who is once again staging a White House run is “likely to be indicted soon.” The organization is offering details on what it claims could be seven felony charges he might face.

“The next criminal charges former President Donald Trump may face could well come from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump’s possession of nearly 300 classified documents — including some marked as top secret — at his Mar-a-Lago residence and business in the year and a half after he left office,” Betsy Schick and Debra Perlin of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) state in a lengthy report published Friday.

READ MORE: DeSantis Slammed by Former High-Level FBI Official After Declaring How He Would Treat Bureau’s Independence

“While Fani Willis’ Fulton County, Georgia investigation into election interference continues, as does a federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and Alvin Bragg has already indicted Trump in New York for his role in false statements connected to hush money payments to Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) during the 2016 presidential campaign, an indictment by Smith in the Mar-a-Lago investigation would yield the first federal charges against the former president,” CREW notes.

“Trump may face charges ranging from obstruction of justice and criminal contempt to conversion of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.”

Here is a list of “possible crimes” Trump might be charged with, according to CREW:

Obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. § 1519)

Criminal contempt (18 U.S.C. § 402)

False statements to federal authorities (18 U.S.C. § 1001)

Conversion of government property (18 U.S.C. § 641)

Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material (18 U.S.C. § 1924)

Removing and concealing government records (18 U.S.C. § 2071)

Gathering national defense information (18 U.S.C. § 793(e))

READ MORE: Republican Complaining It’s ‘Almost Impossible’ for Straight ‘White Guys’ to Get Appointed by Biden Has History of Bigotry

CREW also offers that Trump’s attorneys may try to argue several different defenses, including:

No “knowing” removal

Deference to the intelligence community

Challenging the constitutionality of the Special Counsel regulations

Additionally, several reports this week also appear to suggest an indictment might be coming, and soon.

Citing a Washington Post report published Thursday, several top legal experts are predicting DOJ will charge Donald Trump, and those charges will include obstruction and violations of the Espionage Act.

Earlier this week NYU School of Law professor of law Ryan Goodman said Dept. of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith had struck “gold” after obtaining the contemporaneous notes of a Trump attorney who counseled the ex-president on his possibly unlawful handling of classified documents.


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