Virtual Voices
Matthew Shepard
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Matthew Shepard

Don’t confuse me with the facts

Media

Thumbing through a neighbor’s college textbook on human sexuality titled Our Sexuality, I stopped at the chapter discussing “Implications of Bigotry” and “Causes of Homophobia and Hate Crimes” and came across the Matthew Shepard story. It said:

“Public awareness of hate crimes against gays rose sharply after the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was an openly gay, 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who hoped for a career in diplomacy and human rights. After two 21-year-old high school dropouts pistol-whipped Shepard, crushing his skull, they tied him to a fence outside town and left him to die. Most people were horrified by this crime; 700 mourners came to his funeral. But outside the church, other people carried signs with such messages as ‘No tears for queers’ and ‘No fags in heaven.’”

It ain’t necessarily so. A year and a half after the trial, Stephen Jimenez, himself openly gay, went to the scene of the crime in Laramie, Wyo., to research the incident for the purpose of writing a television screenplay about the incident. After eight months of digging, the former ABC, CBS, and 20/20 journalist began to uncover evidence that the story was more complicated than the slam-dunk hate crime it had been hastily portrayed to be—a sordid tale involving sex and drugs and contents of a police report that never came out in the open.

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 In 2013 Jimenez wrote The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.But you have likely never heard of it. NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard wrote last September:

“The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard is considered one of the nation’s most notorious hate crimes. Yet when a new book comes out by a gay author contending that Shepard was not killed because of his sexual orientation, American’s media appear disinterested in reporting the new revelations. … This murder was pivotal in sparking the gay rights movement, with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres leading the charge. Yet despite revelations from the book first being leaked a few weeks ago, a LexisNexis search identified very little attention paid to them. At press time, there has been not one mention of Jimenez’s book or the new revelations on ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or NBC. Not one word. … As for print, I could find nothing about the book or the new revelations at the Associated Press, The New York Times, USA Today, or The Washington Post.”

In 1978 Alexander Solzhenitsyn said this about the modern press:

“There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to the readership or to history? If they have misled public opinion by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, even if they have contributed to mistakes on a state level, do we know of any case of open regret voiced by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No….”

Yet this is the textbook my neighbor, and our children, are reading. The Matthew Shepard case is a hate crime, period, and don’t confuse me with the facts. What kind of society this concealment of truth will produce has only begun to be seen.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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