The Matthew Shepard False Narrative
Posted on 14-Sep-2013. Updated on 15-Sep-2013.
Topics: News Media Narratives  Narratives  False Narratives
According to a new book by investigative journalist Stephen Jiminez, almost everything you think you know about the Matthew Shepard narrative is false.
Matthew Shepard was the winsome young homosexual in Laramie, Wyoming who in October 1998 was tortured, killed, and left hanging grotesquely from a fence. He was discovered almost a day later and later died in the hospital from his horrific wounds.
On the night of October 6, Shepard met “two strangers” in the Fireside Lounge in Laramie. The two men offered Shepard a ride home but instead drove him to a remote area, robbed him, beat him with pistols, and left him splayed on a fence.
Cops found the bloody gun along with Shepard’s shoes and wallet in the truck of the two men --- Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.
McKinney and Henderson claimed the "gay panic" defense, that they freaked out when Shepard came onto them sexually and killed him in a rage. They made other claims, too, but were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Thanks to a new book by an award winning gay journalist we now know that much of this narrative turns out to be false, little more than gay hagiography.
As gay journalist Aaron Hicklin, writing in The Advocate asks, “How do people sold on one version of history react to being told that the facts are slippery --- that thinking of Shepard’s murder as a hate crime does not mean it was a hate crime? And how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?”
This startling revelation comes in The Book of Matt to be published next week by investigative journalist Stephen Jiminez, who over the course of years interviewed over 100 people including Shepard’s friends, friends of the killers, and the killers themselves.
According to The Advocate, one of the premier gay publications in the country, Jiminez “amassed enough anecdotal evidence to build a persuasive case that Shepard’s sexuality was, if not incidental, certain less central than popular consensus had lead us to believe.”
Even before Shepard died, two of his friends were peddling the narrative that he died at the hands of vicious homophobes. Within days the gay establishment latched onto what would drive the hate crimes story for years to come; even now, the Laramie Project, a stage play about the killing is performed all over the country. Indeed, it will be performed next week at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC.
But what really happened to Matthew Shepard?
He was beaten, tortured, and killed by one or both of the men now serving life sentences. But it turns out, according to Jiminez, that Shepard was a meth dealer himself and he was friends and sex partners with the man who led in his killing. Indeed, his killer may have killed him because Shepard allegedly came into possession of a large amount of methamphetamine and refused to give it up.
From The Advocate:
What if nearly everything you thought you knew about Matthew Shepard’s murder was wrong? What if our most fiercely held convictions about the circumstances of that fatal night of October 6, 1998, have obscured other, more critical, aspects of the case? How do people sold on one version of history react to being told that facts are slippery — that thinking of Shepard’s murder as a hate crime does not mean it was a hate crime? And how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?
None of this is idle speculation; it’s the fruit of years of dogged investigation by journalist Stephen Jimenez, himself gay. In the course of his reporting, Jimenez interviewed over 100 subjects, including friends of Shepard and of his convicted killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, as well as the killers themselves (though by the book’s end you may have more questions than answers about the extent of Henderson’s complicity). In the process, he amassed enough anecdotal evidence to build a persuasive case that Shepard’s sexuality was, if not incidental, certainly less central than popular consensus has lead us to believe.
In The Book of Matt, Jimenez examines the laudable, if premature, effort on the part of two of Shepard’s friends to alert the media to what they believed to be a crime of hate. At the time, Shepard was still fighting for his life. By the time he died, five days later, the question had been firmly settled, as news reporters and gay organizations like GLAAD rushed in. As JoAnn Wypijewski wrote in a brilliant 1999 piece for Harper’s Magazine, “Press crews who had never before and have not since lingered over gruesome murders of homosexuals came out in force, reporting their brush with a bigotry so poisonous it could scarcely be imagined.”
By several accounts, McKinney had been on a meth bender for five days prior to the murder, and spent much of October 6 trying to find more drugs. By the evening he was so wound up that he attacked three other men in addition to Shepard. Even Cal Rerucha, the prosecutor who had pushed for the death sentence for McKinney and Henderson, would later concede on ABC’s 20/20 that “it was a murder that was driven by drugs.”
Despite the many interviews, Jimenez does not entirely resolve the true nature of McKinney’s relationship to Shepard, partly because of his unreliable chief witness. McKinney presents himself as a “straight hustler” turning tricks for money or drugs, but others characterize him as bisexual. A former lover of Shepard’s confirms that Shepard and McKinney had sex while doing drugs in the back of a limo owned by a shady Laramie figure, Doc O’Connor. Another subject, Elaine Baker, tells Jimenez that Shepard and McKinney were friends who had been in sexual threesome with O’Connor. A manager of a gay bar in Denver recalls seeing photos of McKinney and Henderson in the papers and recognizing them as patrons of his bar. He recounts his shock at realizing “these guys who killed that kid came from inside our own community.”
From Lee Stranahan:
The blockbuster story that the facts in the Matthew Shepard murder case have been distorted in order to promote a political agenda is another example of the power of the left's narrative mythmaking. Gay journalist Stephen Jimenez presents a new argument as to the details of Shepard's murder in The Book of Matt, but he's up against 15 years of storytelling and inverted reality.
A piece in the gay culture magazine The Advocate by Aaron Hicklin lays out the facts about the Shepherd mythology, but it also contains a line that is the Rosetta Stone to understanding how leftist narrative mythology is so pervasive in both the arts in journalism. Despite the clear evidence that the story that Shepard was done in by deadly homophobia was inaccurate and that Shepard was instead killled in a meth-fueled bender by another man who was bisexual, Hicklin states:
There are valuable reasons for telling certain stories in a certain way at pivotal times, but that doesn’t mean we have to hold on to them once they’ve outlived their usefulness.
Take a moment and read that quote again, because it's one of the clearest statements ever written on how the left sees "the narrative." It's moral relativism applied to epistemology and metaphysics. There is no such thing as truth to the left. There are "certain stories" that can be told "a certain way." The story tellers, whether they are artist or journalist, simply pick and choose which story they will tell which way depending upon whether it's a "pivotal time."
This philosophy explains why in so many cases you get a story that is heavily hyped in the culture at one point and then later the real story comes out. While trying to drive a gay rights agenda, the myth of Matthew Shepard was useful, so that's what ended up getting reported. If it's useful to say that Shepard was killed by homophobic good ol' boys in Wyoming, the news media and the arts go all in on that story.
Because the means of cultural production--the mainstream press, the entertainment industry, and academia--are all held by progressives, fables like the one told about the tragic death of Matthew Shepard are told, retold, and regurgitated in a thousand different form and formats, from new stories that get the facts wrong to protests based on those false facts, stage plays, movies, and HBO specials all ultimately ending up in a legislative or activist ground fundraising effort.
There are myriad examples. Why did the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman story become a wall-to-wall media event? Why has the left done countless stories and even two movies--including "Informant," which is in theaters and on iTunes now--about Breitbart News writer Brandon Darby?
And so the media – entertainment/journalism industrial complex delivers us well packaged fables with great production values, where the facts have been twisted to fit the moral of the story. The Matthew Shepard case proved that America was so homophobic that gay men could be crucified by straight men just for being gay. Except the story we were sold wasn't true.
The Trayvon Martin myth proved that America was so racist that young black men can't walk the streets without fear of being racially profiled and murdered. Except it wasn't true.
The Steubenville myth proved that America is so sexist and sports-obsessed that a small town covers up a brutal rape. Except it wasn't true.
The Brandon Darby myth proves that America uses entrapment to make up stories about a terrorism threat that doesn't really exist. Except it wasn't true.
In all of these cases and so many more, the facts about the actual people at the center of them hardly matter. Don't make the mistake of blaming Trayvon Martin or Matthew Shepard. Neither of those young men had anything to do with how their stories became entwined in the myth machine. Attacking either Martin or Shepard only serves to distract from the people who use their deaths to promote an agenda. Those activists are the ones who rightly deserve to be criticized. The antidote to the progressive media command-and-control structure is to follow the Andrew Breitbart legacy of truth telling; harness the power of technology and new media to research the facts and use social media to share the truth with the world.