Matthew Shepard’s story is a tragic one. In case you don’t remember, in 1998, the gay freshman was attending the University of Wyoming when he met two men in a bar. He accepted a ride home from them, and when he made sexual advances toward them, they tied him to a fence, beat him into a coma, and left him to die in the cold. The heinousness of the crime and the apparent anti-gay nature of it led to a strong movement for hate crime legislation which was signed into law by President Obama in 2009 as The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Matthew Shepard became (and remains) the poster boy for anti-gay hate, and the crime inspired several films and a play, as well as the creation of The Matthew Shepard Foundation, an educational, outreach, and advocacy organization run by his parents.
Stephen Jimenez, a veteran journalist and producer, set out to write a play about Matthew’s story, which was to him and most of the world “an open and shut case of bigoted violence.” “As a gay man, he felt an added moral imperative to tell Matthew’s story. But what Jimenez eventually found in Wyoming was a tangled web of secrets.” Despite what the media have been telling us and what many of us have believed for years, Matthew’s case was much more complicated than simple anti-gay hate, or, as the defense described it, “gay panic.” Jimenez claims in his book, The Story of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, that there was more to the story of Matthew’s murder, including drug use and dealing and the possibility that Matthew knew and was even sexually involved with his attackers. According to Jimenez, Matthew’s murder was the result of an attempted robbery as well as the fact that his attacker (one of them) was coming off of a methamphetamine binge.
Of course, this revelation has caused shockwaves to reverberate through the media, triggering story after story about how Matthew’s murder has been misinterpreted all these years and how our hate crime legislation is based on a lie … well, not really. Conservative bloggers and Fox News have reported it and discussed the book–but from the mainstream media … crickets. As of press time on September 24, according to the Media Research Center, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, the Associated Press, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post all had neglected to mention Jimenez’s book or its revelations. How can we explain such an oversight?
It’s very simple. Matthew Shepard’s story fits the popular media narrative that gay people are frequent victims of heterosexual hate and bigotry (usually committed by white, Christian men). If the new information about Matthew’s murder is true, it contradicts the narrative, so it will not be reported. Remember the death of Trayvon Martin? The mainstream media portrayed him as an innocent kid who was tracked down and murdered by a racist “White Hispanic.” Unless one watched the trial one would not have known that Martin attacked George Zimmerman who then shot the teenager in self-defense. It is conventional wisdom in the media that our society is full of white racists just looking for the opportunity to shoot black children. Media outlets are still trying to prove that Zimmerman is a bad guy, breathlessly reporting every misstep he makes, while they ignore stories about black on white violence. Whites are evil racists; Blacks are innocent victims.
The media is very quick to report those stories that fit their narrative and very slow to correct their mistakes. For example, notice the reaction when guns are used to commit an atrocity, like the Sandy Hook school shooting, or the recent shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard. We get wall-to-wall reporting from the mainstream media, including all kinds of speculation about the person and how he was able to get his gun(s). Guns are bad, and we need to find a way to keep them out of the hands of people who might commit such an atrocity – right wing nuts, of course. But when an off-duty deputy uses a gun to stop a mass shooting, we get silence. It is not worth reporting because it shows a gun being used for good.
When these shootings do occur, the media focus on the guns and the need for more gun control. But we don’t need more gun control; we have plenty of laws on the books regarding guns, their purchase, and their use. Often, changes in gun laws would have done nothing to prevent a particular shooting. As a popular meme on Facebook points out, we don’t need more gun control, we need more “crazy control.” Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter, was clearly mentally ill, likely paranoid schizophrenic. He even had encounters with police who knew he was hearing voices! Why not question why police are not trained to deal with such psychiatric issues? Why don’t we have more options for putting away people who are a danger to themselves and others? Oh, right, guns are bad. We need to have better gun control.
Similarly, one must consider the fact that many mass shootings (or stabbings) are committed by people who are on psychotropic medications. There have been 22 international drug regulatory warnings issued on psychiatric drugs causing violence, mania, hostility, aggression, psychosis, and other violent type reactions. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, which is usually treated with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which have been linked with violent outbursts. James Holmes, the Aurora “Batman” shooter was also taking a mix of prescription drugs, including one of the same ones that Columbine shooter Eric Harris was on. Yet the media want to restrict guns, not the prescriptions drugs that are driving people crazy. Guns are bad–bad, bad, bad. Drugs? Yawn. They don’t fit our narrative.
Oh, and what are some calling people who think we should look more closely at the Matthew Shepard story? Truthers. That’s what we call people who think the “truth” of 9/11 is that it was a government-sponsored inside job. If you think there might be more to the Matthew Shepard story than anti-gay hate, then you are now deemed a Truther, as if wanting the media to tell the truth, to be willing to tell the whole story, is something to be ashamed of.
Don’t trust the mainstream media to tell you the whole story. They have an agenda, and they are dedicated to following it. They will tell you what they think you should know and no more. Do your own research, and ignore them. They are useless.