- November 10, 1999 at 12:00 am #10983
The tragic murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard drew extensive media coverage in the mainstream media, i.e. CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, etc., even prompting a call to the victim’s parents by the President. But the equally tragic recent murder of a 13-year-old boy in Arkansas by two gays drew scant coverage, in which few of the gay rights organizations even acknowledged the event. Can anyone speculate on the reason for this silence? Is it out of fear of more attacks on homosexuals, or merely that it’s not a politically correct news story? Or is it a little of both? Shouldn’t both tragedies have received equal coverage in the news media? I hope this outstanding forum does not follow the lead of the mainstream media in suppressing this story.
User Detail :Name : Steve B., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 42, City : Warrensburg, State : MO Country : United States, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, November 10, 1999 at 12:00 am #27622
I don’t think that the differnces in media coverage of the two murders has much to do with political correctness or fear of more violence against gays. The media is rarely interested in anything except getting ratings. They will report on the stories that will boost their ratings and ignore other events. Case in point – the Clinton/Lewinsky mess. When that was going on, the media focused on nothing else, even though many much more newsworthy things were going on at the time. Another example is the media coverage of the Jon Benet Ramsey (sp?) murder case. She was not the only child murdered that week in this country. She was not even the only child murdered that day, yet her story was all over the media. I believe that media coverage should be fair and equal, but it is never that way.
User Detail :Name : Jacqueline-C, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 26, City : San Jose, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Engineer, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, November 10, 1999 at 12:00 am #30825
I live in New York and I read all about that crime. This so-called ‘silence’ is typical of the kind of bogus conspiracy that some people like to use to create a false us vs. them atmosphere. I don’t know what a gay rights organization would have to say about this crime. I don’t think the defendants claimed to be acting on behalf of all gay people, as some white supremacists and gay bashers think they speak for others. In any case there’s no ‘suppression’ of this incident, either in the mainstream press or in this forum. Maybe you just need to read the paper more carefully.
User Detail :Name : Andrew, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 35, City : Huntington, State : NY Country : United States, Occupation : Reporter, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, November 12, 1999 at 12:00 am #23703
You make a very good point. Why did the death in Arkansas get so little coverage? On the same token, I asked a similar question a few months ago, a question that was never posted. There was an incident that mirrored the dragging death in Texas involving two American Indians nearly killing a white man. It was also marginalized. I think the answer is a simple one. The media desires readers and viewers, and so they choose the stories that take on a controversial angle to draw in that audience. However, there are a number of politically active movements out there, legitimite and otherwise, that affect the mix as well. It is safer to sensationalize the Shepard case, picking and choosing what information to report or not, depending on what the gay rights activists will tolerate. There were aspects of that incident that never came out in the media (though the result would not have changed). However, to sensationalize the death of a teen by two homosexuals would risk the protest of gay rights activists, and possibly reduce readers or viewers – which is contrary to the media’s goal. The same is true in the reporting of racial, political and religious issues.
User Detail :Name : John K., Gender : M, Age : 27, City : Cranford, State : NJ Country : United States, Occupation : Chemical Engineer, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, November 12, 1999 at 12:00 am #25723
The murder of the 13-year-old boy may not be homosexual in nature. It could merely be a bit of sadistic fun and games indulged in by a couple of rednecks, and the victim might easily have been a stranger of any age and sex. The Shepard murder may also not be related to his homosexuality, but a natural consequence of someone who was looking to hurt and get hurt. Remember the people charged with the Shepard murder ruined their lives and hurt their friends and relatives. The picture of Shepard that I saw in the paper was of a person I would stay very far away from and consider extremely dangerous.
User Detail :Name : joshua goldin, Gender : M, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Humanist, Age : 60+, City : College Park, State : MD Country : United States, Occupation : teacher, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, November 15, 1999 at 12:00 am #37284
And I can’t say it any better… ‘For a variety of reasons, some people insist upon depicting the Shepard and Dirkhising slayings as equivalent. Here at The Post, however, the two are seen as quite different. A hate crime homicide such as Shepard’s and, four months before that, James Byrd’s in Jasper, Tex., is, ‘a special kind of killing,’ The Post has editorialized. ‘It tells a segment of American society that its physical safety is at risk.’ Arkansas authorities have not characterized the Dirkhising death as a hate crime. Matthew Shepard’s death sparked public expressions of outrage that themselves became news. That Jesse Dirkhising’s death has not done so to date is hardly the fault of The Washington Post.’ The whole article is @ http://search.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-11/14/054l-111499-idx.html
User Detail :Name : Michael C., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Methodist, Age : 38, City : Houston, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Intranet Manager, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, November 16, 1999 at 12:00 am #17626
Actually, I can give you a another example, if you like. In NYC, we have Al Sharpton. The general view of Sharpton is that of a racist opportunist. However, whenever there is an incident that is even remotely racial in context, the media will practically act as Sharpton’s mouthpiece. Why? Sharpton will tell you himself. Because the media understands that Sharpton will publicly criticize any media outlet that dares to contradict him, and that would cut into their profit margin because of the number of his supporters. Without the media, how could Sharpton have such a palpable effect on politics, to the extent that Gore, Bradley, Clinton, etc. all feel that they have to have a strategy to deal with him?
This happens with politics all the time. Note the recent media coverage of GW Bush’s ‘world leader pop quiz’ and his unproven drug use. That was covered to an extreme. However, recent proven allegations that Al Gore’s father paid soldiers in Vietnam to act as his bodyguards barely made a dent in the media. Why? Bush is not in power, Gore and his political allies are. So you go with the side that has more clout. It happened the entire stretch of the impeachment mess…note how the tone and spin of the media coverage tended to change depending on which side had the upper hand. You sell papers and gain viewers by going with the winners or the most popular side of the argument among your potential audience.
I will go farther to point out that this changes depending on the overall tone of the media outlet. For example, conversative media outlets will emphasize and sensationalize the conservative viewpoint. If the media outlet is more liberal, then that outlet will go with the liberal viewpoint. When the outlets are somewhat more objective, they will make sure that they offend as few people as possible. But since they still have to make it as sensational as possible to attract readers and viewers, they wind up taking sides to minimize the potential cost.
I could likely come up with tons of examples, but they are in plain sight every day. The New York Times is a good place to start. They certainly have no problem offending conservative groups, since they strongly advocate Democratic agendas. For a conservative outlet, try the New York Post. The same will apply in the opposite manner.
User Detail :Name : John K., Gender : M, Age : 27, City : Cranford, State : NJ Country : United States, Occupation : Chemical Engineer, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, November 18, 1999 at 12:00 am #18796
Intrigued by your question I have done some more research. Contrary to what conservative newspapers and religious groups have reported, the two cases are not the same. Matthew Shephard was killed in an act of violence brought about because he was gay. Jesse Dirkhising was the victim of sexual predators and murderers. The media (news, film and tv) has long since portrayed gays as evil psychotic murderers often preying on children, and perhaps only recently has realized they are committing the same bashing as killed Matthew Shepherd. Remember ‘Basic Instinct’ or ‘Cruising’? How about Jeffrey Dahlmer or John Wayne Gacy? Sexual predators are of all sexual orientations, and those that commit those acts should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, there are no laws against gay-bashing in most states, and Matthew’s tragic death woke the nation to the fact.
User Detail :Name : Doug25623, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : New Age, Age : 36, City : Phoenix, State : AZ Country : United States, Occupation : Administration, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, November 24, 1999 at 12:00 am #15636
While murder–no matter who is the victim or the murderer–is horrible, some murders have ‘meaning.’ Some are perpetrated because the acts ‘mean.’ This is the concept behind hate crimes. Yes, both boys end up equally dead. But in one case, the crime carries a message to two groups of people. To gays: ‘We hate all of you; you live at our suffrance; you do not belong to the human community.’ Or, in short, ‘Death to all queers!’ To non-gays: ‘Gay people do not–and will not–belong to our community.’ In the other case, the murder is not a ‘message’ crime. No one was saying: ‘Strait people beware: you live at our suffrance.’ This does not mean the murder is less horrible, any more than it means that the victim is less dead. Nonetheless, the message matters a lot: Many, many murderers have escaped conviction and any punishment by claiming that their victims were gay and therefore deserved to be killed. In fact, upon occasion judges have even praised the murderer for ridding the community of a homosexual. One of the things that made the Shepard case special was how the mistreatment of Matt graphically represented the way that gay people have been abused for centuries. That’s why it was news: it made people realize something that many of them had ignored for their whole lives.
User Detail :Name : Thom24761, Gender : M, Race : White/Caucasian, City : Washington, State : DC Country : United States, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, December 3, 1999 at 12:00 am #19706
I hadn’t heard that story. The problem the news outlets may have feared was not that the story was less newsworthy, but that it would have set off a round of persecution of a group that is largely a ‘soft target’. A newsworthy issue in the Shepard case was that the victim was killed because of his sexuality. I’m not familiar with the Arkansas case, so the question might be asked whether the accused killed the boy because he was straight. If that wasn’t the case, it might explain why the story didn’t take off as well.
User Detail :Name : Ben S., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 31, City : sydney, State : NA Country : Australia, Occupation : Public servant, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, December 10, 1999 at 12:00 am #25027
I understand that the men in the Arkansas case were pedophiles. All communities have their deviants.
User Detail :Name : April, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 39, City : Spokane, State : WA Country : United States, Occupation : at home, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, December 28, 1999 at 12:00 am #37701
There was an article at time.com: http://www.pathfinder.com/time/daily/special/look/0,2633,33788,00.html This article discusses this question specifically (I don’t know if author read this discussion) and states that it is not known if perpetrators were ‘gay’ or simply ‘pedophiles’ — there is certainly a difference, and that the victim was killed to satisfy a sexual desire rather than to vilify him and hold him up to public scorn and ridicule. The unfortunate victim’s name was Jesse Dirkhising. May he, along with all the other innocent victims of all kinds of crimes, not be forgotten.
User Detail :Name : George21660, City : NY, State : NY Country : United States, January 12, 2000 at 12:00 am #43246
I looked up this story and read the scathing editorial in one of the major Little Rock daily papers. They were also complaining about the scant media coverage – especially in light of the brutality of the crime. (The boy was tied face- down on a mattress and repeatedly sodomized.) Published responses from The Washington Post and the Associated Press stated their explanations for such a small media reaction: “This was,” they said, “not a hate crime.” In their eyes, I guess, that made it less newsworthy. The logic seems to be that there are sexual assaults every day but these are not crimes against a minority for no reason other than the dislike for that minority. So apparently the rape and murder of an innocent 13-year-old is just not the crime-of-the-day on the media’s menu at this particular time.
User Detail :Name : Harvey G., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 55, City : Dallas, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Writer, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, January 14, 2000 at 12:00 am #43407
I read about this story on the front page of the local gay newspaper in Atlanta, The Southern Voice, so at least the gay media isn’t ignoring it. The story was covered, however, because right-wing activists have attempted to exploit this story in their attempt to tell the ‘real story’ about homosexuals. This story really tells nothing about homosexuals in general. We are probably just as prone to criminal despicable behaviour as any other group of people. I will say that the kid in Arkansas was targeted by these criminals not because of his sexual orientation, but because he was a convenient and perhaps somewhat willing victim. In all fairness, the Matthew Shephard murder was exploited in much the same way and Shephard was portrayed as something like a teenaged saint. My suspicion was that he was also a somewhat willing victim. Shephard did go with his attackers and must have realized there was some danger in that decision. As someone said about the Shephard case, ‘don’t leave your purse on the subway and be surprised when you come back and find it stolen.’ I am in no way saying that someone who does something stupid deserves to die–I am saying that erring on the side of caution is almost always appropriate.
User Detail :Name : onanov, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Unitarian, Age : 43, City : Iowa City, State : IA Country : United States, Occupation : Graphic Designer, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, January 24, 2000 at 12:00 am #15890
The question could further be posed: where was the outrage over the rape and murder of a thirteen year old child before the right wing had media coverage of a queer-bashing to compare it to? The sudden interest in child murder and– it seems clear that this is a big part of it for you– molestation is clearly not driven by true concern for young Jesse (been reading the National Liberty Journal, have we boys?). The sad fact is that children are raped and murdered daily. Now, most of these young unfortunates are girls being victimized by men, so I could see where it makes for a less exciting story. But it’s appalling and insulting that you take an interest only after the hate driven murder of a young gay man makes the news. Where’s your anger been for the girls who are sodomized and thrown in ditches to die? Why haven’t you been characterizing that as a hate crime based on gender? Why is it that, suddenly, you’re so angry that straight men have been pointed out as perpetrators that you pick one of thousands of sex crimes– this one involving the requisite all-male cast, highlighted be homosexuality– and tout it as singular, particularly horrific, and driven not by the sexual violence at the heart of most rapes but by homosexuality? No, it’s true, the rape of a thirteen year old and a subsequent murder don’t make the news. Because, gentlemen, it’s as common as dirt. Dare not forget in all of this that your daughters have been and are at greater risk, certainly, than the poor boy you’ve eulogized. This is no new crime. Sadly– and here’s where my own irritation with the Shepard case is– neither is gay bashing. It’s just that this time the media found some one young enough, white enough, blond enough, smart enough, male enough, and masculine enough to make a poster-victim out of. Much in the same way you seem to have found someone queer enough to make into poster-perpetrators. All these crimes are horrible; none of them are new, and the really scary thing is that we’re ignoring them all.
User Detail :Name : Scheherazade, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : dyke, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 22, City : Roanoke, State : VA Country : United States, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class,
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