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May 1st, 2009

Point Taken…But You Still Aren’t Paying Attention…

Andrew Sullivan updates his post on Virginia Foxx and Matthew Shepard…

I should be clear: I do not for a minute believe that the bigotry behind the Matthew Shepard murder was a hoax. I think it was murkier and more complicated – i.e. more human – than some want it to be. Of course, if you believe that his murderers deserved the maximum sentence because they brutally murdered someone, and not because they were meth-fueled bigots, it doesn’t matter. I want the same laws against the same acts enforced equally on everyone. If police don’t enforce the law equally, get on their case. But leave the laws alone.

Okay…point taken and granted.  He’s not saying hate had nothing to do with the murder, which is Exactly what the kook pews are saying.  As to his horribly misinformed attitude about anti-lynching laws hate crime laws, I’ll leave that argument for another time.  But this business that the murder of Matthew Shepard was "murkier and more complicated" then it at first appeared is a load of horseshit.

In his confession to DeBree, McKinney had denied using meth the day of the murder, and while McKinney had been arrested too late for the police to confirm this through blood testing, DeBree felt certain that McKinney had for once told the truth.  Obviously it’s unsurprising that the lead investigator would disagree with the defense, but DeBree had some compelling reasons on his side.  "There’s no way" it was a meth crime, DeBree argued, still passionate about the issue when I met him nearly six months after the trial had ended.  No evidence of recent drug use was "found in a search of their residences.  There was no evidence in the truck.  From everything we were able to investigate, the last time they would have done meth would have been two to three weeks previous to that night.  What the defense attempted to do was a bluff."  Meth crimes do have hallmarks.  One, "Overkill," certainly seems to describe what happened to Matt, but no others so seamlessly fit that night: "A meth crime is going to be a quick attack," DeBree pointed out.  "It’s going to be a manic attack…  No.  This was a sustained event.  And somebody that’s high on meth is not going to be targeting and zeroing in on a head, and deliver the blows that they did in the way that they did," with such precision.  "Consistently it was targeted, and even if you’re drunk, you’re going to have a tough time trying to keep your target.  No.  There’s absolutely no involvement with drugs."

Beth Loffreda,  Loosing Matt Shepard.  pg 133 – 134

A week after we met in his office, Rob [DeBree] took me to the crime scene.  As we drove out to the fence in a Sheriff’s Office SUV, he stopped in mid-sentence by the Wal-Mart"  "Here’s where it began," he told me and gestured in imitation of McKinney striking Matt.  We restart the conversation, but he’s made his point: the drive to the fence seems unimaginably long.  It’s not far – no more then a mile or two – but the rutted dirt road they turned on to makes for extremely slow driving.  When I say something to Rob about how long it takes, he agrees.  "They were coming here to finish him."  On that dirt track, it is hard to believe the defense attorney’s claims that the two killers had been drunk or high on drugs or crazed by homosexual panic.  It just takes too long to get to the fence…

Beth Loffreda,  Loosing Matt Shepard.  pg 155 – 156

"I have never worked a homicide with this much evidence," Rob says, all these months later a bit of wonder still bleeding into his voice.  "It was like a case of God giving it to us.  I’m not kidding.  The whole way it broke down from the beginning to the end – it was like, here it is, boys: work it.  It’s almost like it pissed off God, and he says, oh well, come here, let me walk you over here, walk you over there, pick up all this, pick up all that.  It was just a gift.

Beth Loffreda,  Loosing Matt Shepard.  pg 157

There is more.  Much, much more.  But that last paragraph I quoted pretty much sums it up.  There is absolutely nothing murky or mysterious about the death of Matthew Shepard.  It is one of the most crystal clear examples of purely venomous anti-gay murder in the record.  They spent time torturing that kid.  That is not hyperbole, it is the one overwhelming fact at the heart of what happened.  That, and that they made an effort to take him where they did.  Whatever their intent when they walked into that bar that night, when they walk out of it with that kid, they were about torturing and killing a homosexual.

The only confusion regarding this case, is what has been deliberately and maliciously injected into the national conversation about it by the religious right. And to understand why they’ve been so vehement about denying that anti-gay hate was the root of it, you have to consider not only the political context of their opposition to hate crime laws, but the context in which Shepard’s death came to light.

What happened was that Shepard’s death brought to a grinding halt, their brand new nationwide 600,000 dollar anti-gay ad campaign.  That summer, starting with a full page ad in the New York Times that proclaimed "I’m Living Proof That The Truth Can Set You Free", a group called "Truth In Love" sponsored by fifteen arch right anti-gay groups began a national campaign to roll back the gains gay activists had won, using ex-gay therapy as their ruse, not to talk about curing homosexuality, but to demonize homosexual people.  Wayne Besen in his book, Anything But Straight, documents the brutality of that campaign.  Behind the smiling faces of people who were now free, free at last from the loathsome taint of homosexuality, the campaign was peppered with lies about gay recruitment in schools, child molestation, the spread of AIDS, and how homosexuality leads to drugs, disease, and death and many biblical condemnations of homosexuality.  Don Wildmon, whose group was one of the sponsors, was busy telling people that…

Since homosexuals cannot reproduce, the only way for them to "breed" is to RECRUIT!"

In the midst of this propaganda onslaught, comes the news that a gay college student was practically crucified on a deer fence in Wyoming…that the kid who found his dying body thought a first that it was a scarecrow.  And then a couple days later, news that Fort Collins Colorado fraternity revelers during their homecoming parade, entered a float that bore a scarecrow with a sign that read "I’m gay"  And disgust swept across the nation.  The ad campaign now seemed less an outreach to homosexuals in the public mind, and more like what it really was, an attack on their lives.

Almost Immediately the religious right set about blaming Shepard for his own death.  It’s not hard to understand why.  They deliberately created the climate of hate toward gay people that made that both kid’s death and the mockery of it in Fort Collins not merely inevitable, but intentional.  Desired.  The homosexual monster must be feared.  The homosexual monster must be eliminated from our midst.  The very last thing they wanted was that the climate of hate would be held to account…that terrorizing homosexuals would be considered criminal. 

For generations the act of beating, and even murdering, homosexuals was considered less a crime and more a distasteful consequence of homosexuality in society.  Randy Shilts related how a young gay man who was raped sought medical help, telling a doctor what happened, only to have the doctor look at him and say "Well you’re a homosexual aren’t you?"  Matthew Shepard put a human face on all that…the face of anyone’s kid…and suddenly it seemed as if for once beating and killing a homosexual wouldn’t just be swept under the rug as par for the course…no more then what you got, and probably deserved if you were a homosexual.  Instead, the nation was appalled at what happened to that kid.

And that made the religious right livid.

They began Immediately to smear and slime that poor kid’s memory.  What ABC News and 20/20 did by taking that smear campaign and elevating it to the level of "respectable journalism" is unforgivable.  ABC News ground another cigarette into a dead gay kid’s body so they could get some ratings.  At least the hatred of Fred Phelps is genuine.

There is nothing murky about what happened to Matthew Shepard.  Nothing.  The evidence leaves absolutely no doubt that a 112 pound gay college student was tortured and murdered by two thugs because they thought homosexuals were human garbage and their contempt for them justified anything they did to that kid that night.  They had FunThey enjoyed themselves.  Anyone who cites that 20/20 hit piece is in about the same category as William Bennett, citing Paul Cameron on the shortened lifespan of homosexuals.  You are dispensing bullshit that even Baghdad Bob would laugh at.

"I have never worked a homicide with this much evidence," Rob says, all these months later a bit of wonder still bleeding into his voice.  "It was like a case of God giving it to us.  I’m not kidding.  The whole way it broke down from the beginning to the end – it was like, here it is, boys: work it.  It’s almost like it pissed off God, and he says, oh well, come here, let me walk you over here, walk you over there, pick up all this, pick up all that.  It was just a gift.

Take a wee stroll around that lonely prairie grass field of evidence sometime.  It’ll rip your comfortable 20/20 myths…and then your heart…to crying pieces.

The footprints and the tire tracks were perfectly etched; Matt’s watch, his student ID, and a quarter were laid out by the fence like props.  All that told DeBree a pretty clear story about what had happened there, including something I’d never heard in all the reporting of the crime – that Matt had made a run for it that night.  First, he had desperately "tried to stay in the truck," Rob believes.  Once out, he tried to escape.  "Henderson had made a statement to Chasity Pasley that she told us about, that Matt was able to break free and tried to run.  And according to what we were able to see at the crime scene, we could pretty well put that together.  His wristwatch was located twenty-three feet or so from where he was tied up, and I think that’s essentially what he was trying to do, was just to run.  He was tackled down; then he was drug over to the fence and tied by Henderson."

Beth Loffreda,  Loosing Matt Shepard.  pg 156-157

3 Responses to “Point Taken…But You Still Aren’t Paying Attention…”

  1. Denise Says:

    *sending you a hug & wishing you a Happy May Day*

  2. Bill S Says:

    Have you heard this? Virginia Foxx is now claiming to have received death threats. But there has been no police investigation into the matter, which leaves room for doubts that she’s telling the truth.
    Could those claims be…a hoax?

  3. Bruce Says:

    Kinda like Sally Kern’s death threats was what crossed my mind.  As I recall the Oklahoma State Police didn’t know anything about those either…

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