Robin Williams's suicide is an opportunity to revive the stigma

Even more disturbing is the modern trend of weaponizing suicide as a cultural cudgel. In January, the Grantland blog exposed an Arizona entrepreneur as a con artist, who lied about his credentials, to sell golf clubs. The alleged con artist happened to be transgendered with a history of suicide attempts and sadly killed himself in the midst of the investigation. Following the publication, liberals called for the reporter’s arrest on hate-crime charges.

The reporter escaped prosecution, but not everyone has been so lucky. Bullies, real and imagined, have been charged in connection with the suicide of classmates, as if society could really determine without any doubt what eventually pushed the victim to the point of no return. It may send a strong message to would-be tormentors, but it also creates perverse incentives for anyone entertaining the idea of self-destruction. A teen who feels powerless against grade school bullies in life may see death as the only way to fight back. Martyrdom, as we’ve seen from Islam, can be quite tempting for those who think they have nothing else to lose.

Our current culture frowns on stigma, thinks that any objective judgment of good or bad is itself a sin against our fellow citizens. But no culture crafts stigmas for stigma’s sake. Perhaps our ancestors recognized that suicide harms more than just the victim of the act.

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