When Does a Joke Go Too Far

January 14, 2011
By RoySutton BRONZE, Virginia Beach, Virginia
RoySutton BRONZE, Virginia Beach, Virginia
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The FBI defines a hate crime as “an offense like vandalism, murder, or arson.” The FBI’s definition does not cover special circumstances when someone commits a crime which causes the same emotional damage as a hate crime, but lacks the physical damage required to be called a hate crime. If someone causes intentional harm towards a person, and that damage drives the person to suicide, as is the case of Tyler Clementi, then that crime should be defined as a hate crime. The FBI also states “Hate itself is not a crime,” but when hatred causes harm towards other, repercussions are necessary. If a crime can only be defined as a hate crime because of the direct physical damage done to a person, then how can we ever stop the emotional hatred that many must deal with? Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student, killed himself because of irreparable damage done to him by his roommates. A new definition, similar to any crime intended to bring physical or mental harm to others intentionally, will be prosecuted as a hate crime” should be introduced.

Internet users abusing the internet, many people become hurt by the abusers’ harsh content and the consequences of this hurtful content can be as severe as suicide or cause irreparable damage to the viewer’s psyche. The Internet is making hate crimes an everyday thing, and there is little that can be done to stop these crimes; however, we can, as Kathleen Parker says, “Add an urgent call to renew respect for privacy.” We can give each other the respect that we expect to receive from others and give the best effort that we can to think about our actions and the consequences of these actions. Another idea is to stand up against the kinds of jokes and pranks that can lead to these tragedies and to think whether something could be considered hateful, hurtful, or morally wrong. Parker questions whether the Tyler Clementi incident was “a hate crime or just a stupid prank.” She is correct in saying that most terrible incidents that lead to suicides like Tyler’s could be prevented by thinking about the repercussions of our actions before we perform them. If people can make a simple effort to think completely through all of their ideas and pranks, and focus on making the world better instead of hurting others, then we could take a huge step toward preventing and spreading hate crimes.

The author's comments:
A response to the death of Tyler Clementi. A brilliant student plagued by the cruelty of bullying.

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