Andrea Peyser's Crocodile Tears for Tyler Clementi
We know that Andrea Peyser has little to no sense of humor, let alone irony. But we hope that even she can see the irony in this.
This week, Peyser opened a segment of her New York Post column with the thought "It's gone too far. My heart breaks for Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, victimized by a roommate who allegedly streamed video of him engaged in gay sex on Twitter." While we are relieved (though somewhat surprised) that she has a heart, it's good that even hers can be broken over this awful, terrible incident.
But her focus is completely off-mark, and she doesn't seem to realize she's helping perpetrate the exact kind of tragedy that makes her feel sad rather late to the game.
Peyser has a segment titled "Despairing Facebook kids need a help app." In it, she writes: "Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death. He announced his intentions, too late, on Facebook. Who is policing social media? Last week, I wrote about a woman who was locked in a loony bin for a week after writing on Facebook, 'I want to kill myself.' "
This is pretty rich coming from Peyser, whose level of tolerance falls somewhere between Rudy Giuliani and David Duke.
Peyser seems to be blaming free-form social media, which she thinks should be monitored. Indeed, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei (Clementi's roommate and neighbor) did use the Internet in about as evil a way as possible. But Peyser's blame is misplaced on Facebook, which captured Clementi's pain too late: "Facebook and Twitter have developed into powerful, worldwide confessionals, wielded as weapons by homophobes and creeps. No one monitors them for pain or cruelty. Scary."
It's easy for Peyser to blame new media for the ills of society. Countless people, of course, are heartbroken that Clementi's final Facebook posting was not seen before it was too late.
But why does homophobia have to go this far to get attention? And why can't Peyser see her role, using old media, in creating the environment where bullies feel emboldened, and where gay teens feel like they have no choice but to kill themselves?
Take a look at her column as recently as this summer:
"Shh! Hollywood is having a teaching moment -- this time in the bedroom, where, if you're straight, chances are you've been doing it wrong," she wrote in "The Kids are NOT Alright," a screed against homosexuals being able to raise children.
"This brazen attempt at trend-setting comes as national polls show Americans oppose gay marriage, half of us strongly. Support for it was at 47 percent in this year's Washington Post/ABC News poll -- but fully two-thirds favored civil unions, in which gay couples enjoy most rights of marrieds without having to stand under the chuppah," Peyser wrote.
She was, of course, OK with gays having "most" civil rights. She was even OK with gays getting together without corrupting the next generation: "Folks are happy with gays living together. But bringing children into the equation is a deal-breaker."
In fact, she seemed to think a family headed by gay parents is downright amoral:
"These are the life choices presented in Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids," sort of a cross between "Leave it to Beaver" and "Kittens With Whips." Choose your lifestyle wisely, moviegoers. For this film is set to go down in history as the first major motion picture to make a family led by gay women -- seem not just normal, but close to godly."
She was fine with Brokeback Mountain, we gather, "whose characters maintained a sense of otherness while shielding the kids from their shenanigans. In ["The Kids"], exposing kids is the entire point. And this is how Hollywood does an end run around morality."
To drove her point home, she quoted these two moms:
"Hollywood has set the stage for the gay agenda, nothing new...Why do you think they did propaganda films in the 1940s? They're setting the new norm."
"The movie industry is doing its best to undermine the American family...Hollywood -- we don't care about the sick lives you lead behind closed doors. Just don't bring children into it."
Now, we won't be so crude as to imagine what was going inside poor Tyler Clementi in his final tortured hours, after his roommate outed him so violently. But we wish Peyser could try to put herself in the mind of a gay teenager, and think of the messages people like her have been sending him:
You are not deserving of equal rights.
You are sick.
Your life should be behind closed doors.
Children shouldn't be left around you, for you will corrupt them.
You don't deserve to ever get married or have a family.
You are not normal.
Can Peyser think about how those messages could affect gay teenagers? Imagine how frightened it could make them -- that they'll never be normal, loved, or worthy of respect? Feel how hopeless, ashamed and scared they could become?
Now, we wish Peyser could imagine of how gay teens might react when they are bullied -- physically or through cyber-space -- by someone who has ALSO listened to people like her, and taken away this message: "Beat up the dyke. Bully the fag. They're not worthy, anyway."
As we have heard repeated over and over again just this week (at a vigil against teen suicide on Sunday and at a community meeting about a gay bashing at the Stonewall Inn (!) last night) gays and lesbians will be subjected to violence, and will continue to be four times more likely to commit suicide, as long as society legally and socially says LGBT people are less than.
Peyser has implied over the years that liberals and Democrats have given aid and comfort to American enemies overseas by not fighting terrorism.
But she is not only giving comfort to the enemies of young gay kids, she is aiding and abetting their destruction by being a homophobe herself. She is the elderly version of the cyber-bully she now seems to disdain -- she just uses old media to do it.
And when she wrote this week that social media tools can be "wielded as weapons by homophobes and creeps," she shows that she knows better.
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