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New Edition of ‘The Book of Matt’ – Questioning the Matthew Shepard anti-gay hate crime narrative

New Edition of ‘The Book of Matt’ – Questioning the Matthew Shepard anti-gay hate crime narrative

Stephen Jimenez’s 2013 book punctured a formative political narrative resulting in personal attacks on the author. His new edition brings the research forward to the present, and shows why the truth matters.

In 2013, we wrote a series of posts about the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard, a death widely described as an anti-gay hate crime, resulting in federal legislation, The The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. § 249.

The occasion of our series of posts was the publication of a book by author Stephen Jimenez, The Book of Matt, which called into question the narrative of the death as an anti-gay hate crime.

On September 22, 2013, I wrote about Jimenez’s book and research, The Matthew Shepard anti-gay hate crime narrative may be all wrong:

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….

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:

* * *

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.

Whenever a fundamental narrative of a case is questioned — see also Michael Brown and the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement — the reaction can be brutal, based not on the facts but on political necessity of self-preservation.

Jimenez went through a lot of that, as then LI author Laurel Conrad documented, Attacking the messenger to preserve the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Narrative.

Jimenez has a new edition of The Book of Matt, that includes a new chapter which brings the story up to the present. The new edition has a new Introduction by Andrew Sullivan, separately available on Medium. Here are excerpts from the new Introduction:

There’s a phrase sometimes credited to George Orwell or Randolph Hearst (no one quite knows the real source) that most professionals in the newspaper business hold as something of a sacred definition of their trade: “Journalism is publishing something someone doesn’t want you to print; all the rest is public relations.”

If I were to describe this tight, closely reported and engrossing account of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in one word, it would be: journalism.

No one wanted Steve Jimenez to report this story, let alone go back and back to Laramie, Wyoming, asking awkward questions, puzzling over strange discrepancies, re-interviewing sources, seeking a deeper, more complex truth about the ghastly killing than America, it turned out, was prepared to hear. It was worse than that, actually. Not only did no one want to hear more about it, but many were incensed that the case was being re-examined at all. Considerable political forces, including much of the gay and lesbian establishment and mainstream press, attempted to prevent this story from getting wider attention; they targeted Jimenez’s reputation as a journalist; and they insisted that all the myriad details in this book were concocted or invented. All of it was fabricated, they claimed, a “conspiracy theory”, while refusing to refute specific facts or details that Jimenez had uncovered. And Steve as a gay man was subjected to even more calumny: that he was a traitor to the cause, advancing the interests of the antigay haters and bigots by giving them some reason to debunk the heinous crime.

The truth, you see, was already out there. It was crystal clear, and carried a simple message: that hate is everywhere in America, especially in red states, and every member of a minority is under constant danger of being attacked, or even killed. And the narrative was gripping and horrifying, something out of a horror movie…. The message was particularly useful for gay rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign, whose fundraising sky-rocketed in the wake of the shocking murder.

But it wasn’t true. The story, as you will read in these pages, is far darker, murkier and revealing than a classic hate crime. Re-reading this book years later, it seems to me that the murder had absolutely nothing to do with homophobia. It involved rather what was then a growing scourge of crystal meth use among both the rural poor and the gay male community at the turn of the century — and the murder of a young gay man in rural Wyoming was a classic case of where the two meth populations met and overlapped…. For gay men in 1998, meth was a far, far greater danger than redneck strangers. And it still is. But we decided to focus on what was acceptable to speak about, rather than what was staring us, more embarrassingly, in the face….

So we now have the body of Matthew Shepard interred, like a martyr to homophobia, at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. And you begin to understand how saints are indeed made: by legend, and by orthodoxy. What Jimenez has done is to peer behind this facade and tell us the awful, messy, tragic, human truth. It seems to me we can honor the memory of Matthew Shepard by refusing to lie about him anymore. And this book is a start.

I reached out to Jimenez for comment and an update. Here is what he provided.

There are new interviews and videos at:

The conclusive new chapter I wrote, “Ghosts of Laramie,” examines the long-term consequences of the corrosive meth epidemic that began to flourish around the time of Matthew Shepard’s 1998 murder. Since The Book of Matt was first published, key sources have died from drug-related causes. A couple were still in their thirties. What is absolutely certain now is that the Shepard tragedy was a convergence of two devastating crises: a meth epidemic in rural America and a parallel crisis in the gay community. So what did we lose by hiding those truths at the time?

The new chapter also delves into another murder related to Shepard’s — the rape and killing of Cindy Dixon. Dixon was the mother of Russell Henderson, one of the men convicted in the Shepard case. She was killed while her son was awaiting trial — by another meth dealer with ties to Shepard’s killer Aaron McKinney.

With the passage of time, more people have become receptive to the complexities surrounding Matthew Shepard’s murder. But there are still those who cling to the divisive, politically correct mythology manufactured by the media and special interests.

The only real way to honor Shepard’s memory is to tell the truth about his life and the tangled circumstances that led to his death. Anything less is a fable at best — and at worst a form of propaganda.

I don’t claim any independent research on Shepard’s death. But it’s a sad sign of the times that research puncturing formative political narratives results not in debate on the merits, but personal attacks on the author.

The Truth Matters.


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Sometimes I just get tired. It seems like every damn thing the left says is just a lie.

    n.n in reply to Paul. | July 18, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Beginning with the Twilight Fringe (i.e. everyone has a right to define reality), progressing with the Pro-Choice, selective, opportunistic religion, and diverging with liberal license when politically congruent. From feminism to transphobia to diversity… cooling, warming, changing, round and around.

    Remember the days when the Soviets published Pravda? Did we complain it was propaganda? Did we complain about Tokyo Rose?

    Don’t complain. Just ignore. And mock.

    Dusty Pitts in reply to Paul. | July 19, 2020 at 8:20 am

    Seems like.

    That’s because everything the left says is a lie. Or, at least, it’s safest to assume so unless and until the statement is verified.

Meth then, Fentanyl today. The primary transmission mode of HIV/AIDS was another. Unfortunately, the transgender spectrum is politically congruent (“=”), and, after exhausting other strategies and tactics, exploiting trans/homophobia projections in particular are useful to create sociopolitical and even economic leverage. It’s ironic that the symbols of transgender pride are exclusive and do not coexist with other movements with similar motives (e.g. some, select, Black Lives Matter) in social justice adventurism.

healthguyfsu | July 18, 2020 at 8:34 pm

“There’s a phrase sometimes credited to George Orwell or Randolph Hearst (no one quite knows the real source) that most professionals in the newspaper business hold as something of a sacred definition of their trade: “Journalism is publishing something someone doesn’t want you to print; all the rest is public relations.””

Well, that quote can be taken in a lot of ways. For example, based on their trust and favorability polling, I think the MSM does this every day!

Boy, you’re really going to hear it from Cornell and your law school colleagues now.

It does not matter what Jimenez finds or how much evidence he uncovers, or how often he and Sullivan genuflect towards the Altar of Sacred Homosexuality. Jimenez has blasphemed Saint Matt, and one day the Red Guard will come for him.

I don’t buy anything from Amazon anymore, but I would not be surprised if the book gets yanked for “promoting hate” (so far it is still there).

A shame the truth didn’t come out sooner. It would have made a really good episode of Law & Order. Imagine the seen where Jerry Orbach tells Sam Waterston “Well we were thinking this was a gay bashing but now we’re thinking it’s something else.”

    hrhdhd in reply to Dennis. | July 19, 2020 at 11:45 am

    IMDb says season 5, episode 8 of L&O SVU was about this case. The write-up focuses on the gay angle but nothing about the drugs.

The drug angle was present in contemporary reporting as I recall, but the narrative had already been decided.

We know it’s all bullsh*t.

Our problem is we have – collectively, anyway – sat back like saps and allowed it to be perpetuated. Now we have armies of insane rioting young people trying to take our country off a cliff and into the arms of their fascist handlers.

Don’t be so comfortable – or you’ll shortly wind up very uncomforable: like in a Soros D.A.’s prison.

How ironic that while the cultural left tears down the statues of founding fathers and destroys the reputations of American historical figures they fight so desperately to protect “one of their own”.

Just ANOTHER example that the left despises the truth. Anything that defies the social programming -opinion, faith, fact, logic, history, truth, personality, reason, science, psychology must all submit to whatever the marxist orthodoxy of the moment is.

I have an idea. Why don’t we just make murder illegal? Regardless of reason?
Something like “Thou shall not murder”?

Stop naming legislation after victims. Emotionally driven laws are bad laws.

    Kepha H in reply to Anchovy. | July 19, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Again, as someone else wrote, it’s a case of jounralism being publishing something someone doesn’t want published, and all else being public relations. Putting a human face, oops, name, on a law gives it more punch than say, “HR-171” or whatever.

    At the same time, I do not think “hate crimes” should be a category. For the life of me, I do not know what a “love crime” or “simple respect” crime would look like.

Tommy Two Gears | July 19, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Mr. Jimenez’s work here is highly laudable. He first started out on his journey to document a story and book based on what the conventional wisdom of the time really was. Soon into this process he saw what the truth was telling him. I’ve heard Mr. Jimenez interviewed on radio several times and he comes across as extremely believable. There is too, so much more to this story, much of it spelled out in his book but it is far beyond speculation that Matt Shepard was a drug mule moving meth from Denver to Cheyenne & Laramie. His killer (likely Matt’s bi-sexual occasional lover) used Matt as a source for his meth needs and was as well a dealer. A deal gone bad is what got Matt killed, not that he was gay. Matt was a part of the young male gay escort scene in Denver. There is more than anecdotal evidence (see link below) that he at least knew or was tied to the disgraced former sheriff, Patrick Sullivan of Arapahoe County on the south side of the Denver area. Sullivan was a nationally recognized sheriff (anti gun as well) whom fell from grace after he was caught being involved in “meth for gay sex” schemes with young men in the Denver area.

Matt’s parents have the Matthew Shepard Foundation and that foundation is built on the convenient theme that Matt was murdered because he way gay. They have financially capitalized on Matt’s murder to build this foundation to have a “feel good” income for themselves. I understand their grief, but I do not understand their willingness to promulgate such a lie. I guess they just cannot accept their “little boy” was a drug addled male prostitute with a hankering for life in the fast lane.