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The Matthew Shepard anti-gay hate crime narrative may be all wrong

The Matthew Shepard anti-gay hate crime narrative may be all wrong

What difference, at this point, will the truth make?

There are few cultural icons whose life and death story carry the weight of Matthew Shepard.

The story is well-known. A young gay man in Laramie, Wyoming was lured from a bar by two strangers who took him to a remote area and brutally beat him because of hatred of gays, leaving him strapped to a fence barely alive in a virtual crucifixion. He later died of his injuries.

One result of the brutal homophobic murder was the Matthew Shepard / James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, signed into law in 2009. As described by the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign in 2011:

Thirteen years ago today, Matthew Shepard was attacked in a brutal hate crime. Five days later, his young life was cruelly snuffed out by this act of anti-gay hatred. However, the tremendous strength and courage of his parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, together with a galvanized community, did not allow Matthew’s death to be in vain.

After over a decade of relentless work, on October 28, 2009, the Shepards witnessed President Obama sign the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. This landmark legislation, the first federal civil rights law to explicitly protect the LGBT community, provides new tools to law enforcement to help ensure that hate crimes are investigated and prosecuted.

In a companion post, Laurel documents how deeply this story of Shepard’s death has permeated the culture, politics and education system.

But what if the central narrative of this story was false? What if Shepard was not killed out of anti-gay hatred, but by a gay lover over a methampetamin deal gone bad?  What if the “gay panic” defense raised by one of the murderers was just a ruse raised before Shepard was even dead in order to cover up the meth aspect?

At the criminal culpability level, it makes no difference. Murder is murder.

At the cultural and civil rights level, it makes all the difference, as Andrew Sullivan notes:

Twitter - Andrew Sullivan - Book of Matt

The truth about the story, in all its complications, is set forth in a book by Stephen Jimenez, The Book of Matt, which I have had a chance to review.

Book of Matt

Jimenez has a long history of journalistic achievements and credentials.  Jimenez spent 13 years researching the facts, speaking to hundreds of people and reviewing a virtual mountain of evidence.  It should make no difference that Jimenez is openly gay, his research stands on its own, but in such a politicized case, the same book written by someone else may have been met with a different reaction.

As Sullivan’s tweet above reflects, the book has been met with a sobering assessment that the enormity of the Matthew Shepard civil rights narrative may be wrong.  Sullivan conducted a series of interviews with Jimemez, which are here.  Some of them are embedded at the bottom of this post.

In this interview Jimenez explains The Role Of Meth In Matthew Shepard’s Murder. At 4:05 of the video Jimenez details how Shepard was murdered in connection with a Meth shipment deal gone bad:

The book review in Kirkus Review summarizes the findings:

Everyone had something to hide. For Aaron McKinney, one of the two men convicted of Shepard’s murder, it was the fact that he was Shepard’s part-time bisexual lover and fellow drug dealer. For Shepard, it was that he was an HIV-positive substance abuser with a fondness for crystal meth and history of sexual trauma. Even the city of Laramie had its share of dark secrets that included murky entanglements involving law enforcement officials and the Laramie drug world. So when McKinney and his accomplices claimed that it had been unwanted sexual advances that had driven him to brutalize Shepard, investigators, journalists and even lawyers involved in the murder trial seized upon the story as an example of hate crime at its most heinous.

Aaron Hicklin in Out Magazine notes the implications of Jimenez’s research, Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?:

What if nearly everything you thought you knew abut Matthew Shepard’s murder was wrong? What if our most dearly held assumptions about the circumstances of that fatal night, October 6, 1998, had obscured other, more critical, aspects to the case? How do people sold on one version of history react to being told that facts are slippery, and that just because we think of Shepard’s murder as a hate crime does not make it a hate crime.

Scroll through Laurel’s post.  See how deeply the false narrative has permeated the culture.  Song, movies, politics, everywhere.  That false narrative is being taught in schools and colleges.

The false narrative will not be corrected.  Too many are invested in it.  But at least the record has been set straight, by Stephen Jimenez.


The “Wildfire” After Matthew Shepard’s Murder:

Was Matthew Shepard’s murder a hate crime? If not, how do you explain the brutality of Matthew’s death at the hands of Aaron McKinney?


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What did they say, once? “Print the Legend”. Worked for MLK, didn’t it?

The left has built a narrative and will not step back from it…because they certainly don’t have the facts or history on their side.

I hate “Hate Crimes” legislation. As if we don’t have enough statutes already on the books to take care of just about any crime known to mankind.

After all, aren’t all crimes founded in hatred of one form or another?

Good God. Maybe the gay community will look at how much mileage they got out of this legend and decide to kill one of their own in a “hate crime” every ten years or so, just to keep the ball rolling.

So called “hate” crimes are yet another complication for an over challenged legal system.

Regardless of motivation and if a murder occurs, suitable punishments are already on the books.

The only groups that should receive special consideration as crime victims are the very young and the very old. It’s just that simple…

    “hate” crimes are just one step on the road to “Thought” crimes.

      Juba Doobai! in reply to Paul. | September 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      All crime may be regarded as “thought” crime. As long as the “motive” is sought one is looking for the reason or thinking or state of mind that led to the crime. Therefore, there should be no “hate” crime legislation on the books simply because the motive for the crime is enough.

      “Thought” crime, as you may be meaning it, is what Rush might call “policy differences”. The Communists and Muslims like to make us pay a price in blood for the principles we hold to or the doctrines of faith that we believe. That is a true “thought” crime.

    If Shepard was offed by his lover, was it a love crime?

Oh no! Say it ain’t so. Next thing people might question the gospel of St. Travon.

I just want to say thank you for bringing the truth to light. This one ‘lie’ encapsulates the entire untruth that makes up the homosexual movement in this country.

The motivation for murder does not matter. A man was murdered and those who committed the murder should be held accountable for a crime committed against an individual, society, and humanity.

That said, why can’t people when passing judgment distinguish between the individual and their behavior? Some behaviors have no redeeming value to either society or humanity. This is especially true for dysfunctional behaviors. However, of those behaviors, some can be tolerated, while others should be rejected.

Anyway, I think it is revealing that some people, organizations, government, and our society expend an extraordinary amount of energy to normalize certain dysfunctional behaviors, including homosexual, and, of course, premeditated murder (i.e. elective abortion). Hopefully, these people will one day make the right choice.

In the meantime, respect individual dignity. Acknowledge the intrinsic value of human life. Reject the commodity status of human life promoted by human and civil rights organizations and activists.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to n.n. | September 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    If Shepard was a drug dealer, the best place for him is dead-felon storage.

    Good riddance.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to n.n. | September 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    So, if I find you raping my daughter or son and I shoot your sorry behind stone cold dead, that motive doesn’t matter? If you’re trying to kill me, and I kill you instead, that doesn’t matter?

    Motive always matters. It may be exculpatory. It leads to the uncovering of truth.

    True, the person remains dead; however, the taker-of-life may have had just and honorable reasons for taking the life.

    n.n in reply to n.n. | September 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Now I understand the controversy. This isn’t the first time that I have commented on this class of crime, but it may be the first time when I did not qualify my statement. In this context, motivation refers specifically to the “hate crime” classification. However, motive in general is a less interesting concept than cause. Hate is not sufficient cause to murder someone. Convenience is not sufficient cause to murder someone. Defense is clearly sufficient cause to murder someone, when less lethal options are removed, or when mortality is imminent.

    As for the rape example, I believe that I would respond with something approaching (i.e. untempered) lethal force. However, I do not claim that is the correct response; but, I think that is how I would act.

    Shepard was a drug dealer. He deserved to be held accountable as a drug dealer, which does not entail capital punishment. Our response to crime should be commensurate to the violation committed. In any case, Shepard was murdered by a competing interest. That’s all. He knew the potential and likely consequences of promoting a degenerative behavior or habit (i.e. drug use). He chose his fate.

      Juba Doobai! in reply to n.n. | September 23, 2013 at 2:24 am

      You never know what you will do until the moment is upon you, no matter how high minded and principled you think you are. Every time I hear someone saying “I can’t believe XXX did this or that” or “I would never do that” I want to laugh. Under the right circumstances, anyone can do anything, including kill. We pray God we won’t.

      Motive is cause. When you are asking the motivation for a crime, you are essentially asking what caused the person to do it. If you read Shakespeare’s plays, you will find some pretty interesting motives, the most dangerous and disturbing being that of Othello’s Iago, who destroyed lives because he could.

      You are asking us to distinguish between primary and secondary cause when you assert that “hate is not sufficient cause”. I beg to differ, but it is; Jim Crow era was rife with black men hanged because of hate. Today, a lot of Obama voters are inspired by hate; ask the people who have been killed just because they were living while white. Under every crime there is hate of the Creator who made us and against whom the crime is an act of rebellion.

      mzk in reply to n.n. | September 23, 2013 at 4:37 am

      If you are not doing it during the act, to prevent it from occurring, then you should be executed.

Why do people insist on telling stories? You can frame an issue legitimately, but the time for constructing and retelling narratives should be constrained to childhood. There should be a difference between early human development and adulthood, and a key difference should be that we are capable of addressing issues on their merits. The journalists in particular need to be wary of corrupting their profession and losing credibility.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to n.n. | September 22, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Journalism is uncorrupted?

    Journalists have credibility?

    Wow! Who knew!?!?!

      It’s possible for someone to investigate and present information without bias. It’s not easy. It requires a conscious effort. It requires unambiguous principles.

        Juba Doobai! in reply to n.n. | September 23, 2013 at 2:27 am

        Who you talking ’bout, Willis? Sharyl Atkinson? Megyn? You gotta say so cuz outside of those two, I can’t name or think of a single journalist who lacks bias.

      It also, ironically, requires an individual to acknowledge their motives. The old adage “follow the money” is actually a metaphor with a much larger scope. It is typically about money, or specifically what it can purchase, but it is generally about material, physical, and egoistic things.

I remember reading at the time that Shepard’s murder may have been gay-on-gay violence, but of course no one wanted to hear that, since he was being treated as a martyr.

    Observer in reply to tarheelkate. | September 23, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Last week when a couple of articles about this book were published, I looked at some gay web sites to see how the commenters were reacting. Most of them said that it had long been well known within the gay community that one of Shepard’s killers was a gay hustler with whom Shepard had previously been sexually involved. They said this hustler was a regular in the Laramie gay scene.

    The narrative sold to the general public about how this killing was a homosexual hate crime was total bunk, and the gay community apparently knows it but does not care, because the narrative accomplished the goal (of getting new hate crimes put on the books).

I forwarded Aaron Hicklin’s article last week to some people, and got back the response from a progressive that these are all old facts, and it’s just book promotion. I looked at some older media articles that supposedly outed the facts, and they were written to mention some of them vaguely, but in a way that would diminish their credibility. For example, this ABC news article.

I’m so tired of the lies.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to janitor. | September 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    The homosexual community knew it was a lie, but they prefer to practice taqqiyah. They always do.

    Remember when they asked just for tolerance? That was taqqiyah, too.

    Today, anybody who does not laud homosexuality from the mountaintops must be drummed out of the military or forced to close their business.

    The words of Paul in Romans 1:18-32, with special emphasis on Ro 1:32, are worth re-reading.

During the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communists pointed to Lei Feng as the model citizen. The American Cultural Revolution has spit up Matthew Shepard. The Left have always been creative liars, if nothing else

When can we stop saying the Narrative “may not be true” and “may not be what it seems?” Do we need double secret permission? Because from what I can tell, the Narrative is definitively NOT true and absolutely never was.

The whole concept of “hate crimes” is based on “politically correct” thinking. It is antithetical to our Constitutional system. It seeks to punish thoughts instead of actions. The only way to prove a person’s thoughts is through their own testimony (of course even that may not be true), which cannot be lawfully compelled, and the thoughts themselves must surely be “protected speech” especially insofar as they remain unspoken!

Frankly, the whole “gay rage” story never made much sense. It could explain a spontaneous reaction, but there was clearly a series of conscious decisions being made by the perps in this case. There had to be more to it.

It seems to me there were some on the internet who claimed it was a drug deal gone bad at the time, but they were dismissed as insensitive and prone to conspiracy theories.

    platypus in reply to Estragon. | September 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I got into a raging series of emails with some “journalist” in Australia at the time. I tried to tell him that homosexuality was very little peaches-and-cream and a whole lot of whips-and-chains. But he was having none of it. I finally gave up.

    My basic premise was that tying him to a fence in freezing weather wasn’t what gay rage would produce; it was more like serial killers who pose their victims’ bodies.

I would like to answer the questions posed prior to the last video:

Was Matthew Shepard’s murder a hate crime? If not, how do you explain the brutality of Matthew’s death at the hands of Aaron McKinney?

All murder is “hate crime.”

You don’t murder another human being, torture, maim, then kill (or leave for dead) because you LOVE them. It’s hate. Evil.

ALL murder is “hate crime.”

The pro-choice movement was also rationalized by a false narrative. This has been known for a long time and has yet to be addressed. It is unbelievable that a civilized, advanced society would fail to recognize the terms of reality, choose to reject responsibility, and commit crimes against humanity under the deceptive rubric of “rights”. And to do it for material, physical, or egoistic benefit is truly degenerate. Ultimately, it serves no one’s best interests to misrepresent the issue through the propagation of false narratives.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to n.n. | September 23, 2013 at 2:31 am

    Let’s stop fancying up the language and speak plain words with no bark on them. They are not “false narratives”; they are L I E S.

    RKae in reply to n.n. | September 23, 2013 at 4:40 am

    The pro-choice movement is all about deflection: “Don’t look at the abortion!” “Don’t call it an ‘abortion’; call it a ‘choice’!”

    It’s a movement awash in euphemisms and out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitudes.

    Killing for sexual pleasure. It can’t go unanswered forever.

    creeper in reply to n.n. | September 23, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I have read all your comments here and, for the life of me, I still cannot figure out what you are trying to say.

Ned Flanders comes in handy again:

“There are things we don’t want to know! Important things!”

NC Mountain Girl | September 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

The story innocent gay, evil red state homicidal homophobes always seemed too pat.

At the time I remember getting into a huge fight with a gay acquaintance over the issue of hate crimes in general. I also pointed out that no one would be interested if the narrative had been about a young woman brutally murdered after she left a bar with two strangers because the very act of leaving a bar with two strangers would mean she couldn’t have been all that innocent. Picking up one strangers at a bar is inherently dangerous, after all, for members of wither sex. Picking up two seemed plumb crazy to me. I wasn’t excusing a murder but I was trying to point out there may be a lot we didn’t know about what had happened.

It certainly appears that Matthew Shepherd invested his whole life in homosexuality. Between HIV, Meth and living in dangerous scenarios (and he is not the only homosexual doing this) it would seem that he had no control over himself or his behavior.

I would never encourage anyone to become involved with homosexuality. You can’t be out and proud about sexual addictions like this.

    Oh so his life was of really no value because he was gay which you assume because of this he was drug dealer. That in no way ever makes this crime less acceptable than other hate crimes.

Groups or people the left feel it is okay to hate.

The rich
The Roman Catholic Church
Fundamentalist Churches
Any religious groups that bring their values to the marketplace of ideas
The Tea Party
Anyone who doesn’t believe in gay marriage, abortion, wealth redistribution, etc.
Patriotic groups
The military
Climate “deniers”
Anyone who believes in the “phony Obama scandals”
Anyone who held a position in the state or defense departments in the Bush Administration
George W. Bush
Fox News
The Wall Street Journal
Ann Coulter
Sean Hannity
And the list goes on

I can’t believe you people. A young man was murdered for no reason and all you people can do is dictate what value is life had only because he was gay. How sad and pathetic is that?