Monday, September 16, 2013

Media Matters calls out and destroys 'Matthew Shepard Trutherism'

By now, a lot of you are aware of a vile book coming out in October which will smear Matthew Shepard's name.

Openly gay author, Stephen Jimenez, is claiming that not only was Shepard's murder the result of a drug deal rather than because of anti-gay bias, but also Shepard and one of his murderers, Aaron McKinney, were lovers.

You can practically hear the religious right squealing and the concern trolls on our side of the spectrum rising up to defend this piece of hokum, even though Jimenez makes these assertions without an ounce of concrete evidence.

So it is again that I say THANK YOU to watchdog group Media Matters who reveals several facts about Jimenez's work which the religious right will deliberately omit and the mainstream media will probably accidentally omit.

I'm just going to give you some pertinent parts:

Right-wing media outlets are already celebrating a forthcoming book that claims that brutal 1998 murder of gay Wyoming teen Matthew Shepard - which became a rallying cry for LGBT activists - was actually fueled more by drug use than anti-gay bias.

In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez argues that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson bludgeoned Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Jimenez minimizes the role of anti-gay bias in the murder, writing that Shepard and McKinney had previously had sex and done meth together (an assertion that McKinney himself denies).

Although his report of a sexual history between Shepard and McKinney is new, Jimenez's central thesis - that drugs were the motivating factor in Shepard's murder - has been called into question before.

In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a piece on the Shepard murder for ABC News' 20/20.  GLAAD highlighted key shortcomings in 20/20's report, including the lack of hard evidence that drugs were a factor and its failure to point out that McKinney himself had cited ant-gay bias as a central element in the case, even attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial. Shepard's mother also condemned the report, criticizing its selective reading of evidence and accusing ABC of taking her comments out of context.

The 20/20 report neglected to mention another crucial detail: that Jimenez was a friend of Tim Newcomb, Henderson's defense attorney.

Most disturbingly, email correspondence revealed that the Jimenez had already decided that Shepard's murder wasn't an anti-gay hate crime before 20/20 even started its reporting. As Gay City News reported in December 2004:
Roughly two months before reporting began for a "20/20" piece on the Matthew Shepard killing, [Stephen Jimenez,] the freelance producer who sold the story to the ABC program had decided that methamphetamine motivated the murder and not anti-gay bias.
And barely two months into a six-month span of reporting on the piece, a "20/20" producer wrote in an e-mail that the "'hate crime' motivation of Shepard's death" was a "flawed theory."
Sean Maloney, a senior attorney at Willkie, Farr and Gallagher who represents the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said of "20/20"'s apparent prejudgment of the story, "This strikes us as bad journalism. There is a significant body of evidence that says that anti-gay bias played a role in Matt's death."
The November 26 story said that Aaron McKinney who, along with Russell Henderson, murdered Shepard on October 6, 1998 was fueled by meth. [emphasis added]

Media Matters goes on to detail the number of religious right groups and spokespeople who are now exploiting Jimenez's book to demonize the lgbt community at large.

I dare anyone to give me any crap about this book being written because of a "need to get the truth told."

 It's about money, pure and simple. And a group of hateful folks masquerading as Christians eager to besmirch the memory of a young man who cannot defend himself.

Where the hell is the decency in that?

'Religious right continues to lie about 'anti-Christian persecution' in military' and other Monday midday news briefs

As false horror story I posted about this morning about "anti-Christian" persecution in the military isn't enough, leave it to Matt Barber and Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel to create a new one.

 In other news:

  Fox's Erickson Complains That Media Outlets Aren't Anti-LGBT Enough - Poor baby. Heavy on the baby part.  

Pro-LGBT Tech Executives Back Anti-LGBT Candidate For Virginia Governor - With all due respect, Northern Virginia Technology Council’s political action committee , y'all stupid.

Nigerian Student Uses Magnets To 'Prove' Gay Marriage Is Wrong - Say what?

Religious right pushing a false narrative about anti-Christian persecution in the Air Force

Conservatives and the religious right are under the sad impression that they have found of story of anti-Christian discrimination in the military so juicy that the Family Research Council, the Liberty Counsel, entities of Fox News, and even Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association are teaming up to talk about it.

Let me give you the gist of the story via the words of FRC's Peter Sprigg:

Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk told Todd Starnes of Fox News Radio that his openly lesbian commander at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio,Texas had essentially forced him into taking leave rather than completing his assignment. (A Lackland spokesman denied that Monk was punished, insisting to Starnes that he was simply at the end of his assignment.)

Monk was caught in the middle of a situation which involved an instructor who was subjected to an investigation for having told trainees that he opposed homosexual "marriage." Investigators sought to determine whether the unnamed instructor had slandered homosexuals and created a "hostile work environment."

Monk's job was to advise the commander on disciplinary action. According to Monk, however, the commander said from the outset that "we need to lop off the head of this guy." Monk concluded that the instructor's remarks were innocuous, and suggested instead that the incident could teach everyone - on both sides of the debate over homosexuality - about "tolerance" and "diversity."

In the end, the instructor was disciplined with a "letter of counseling" in his official file. The commander, however, demanded to know from Monk "if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don't agree with homosexual marriage." Monk refused to answer because, "As a matter of conscience I could not answer the question the way the commander wanted me to." Instead, he "said that perhaps it would be best if he went on leave," and the commander agreed.

Monk said to Starnes, "I'm told that members of the Air Force don't have freedom of speech. They don't have the right to say anything that goes against Air Force policy." However, if the homosexual Air Force officer involved in this case thinks that "Air Force policy" requires rejecting the policy choice of three quarters of the States to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, she should think again.

But according to Equality Matters:

Try as Starnes might to depict the investigation of Monk as an all-out assault on conservative Christians in the military, it's clear that Monk's harsh words for his Air Force superiors may well have breached military regulations on soldiers' conduct. Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits soldiers from engaging in speech or actions "of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces." Going to the media with unfounded allegations that the Air Force is retaliating against Christians would likely merit an investigation under Article 134.

But Starnes asserted that Monk's case indicates widespread punishment of Christians in the military. Alas, this claim is based on nothing more than hearsay. An attorney for the Liberty Institute - which has a history of pushing trumped-up, unfounded "religious liberty" cases - told Starnes that "there must be some sort of systemic problem in the Air Force," while a local pastor told Starnes that he "hear[s] it every Sunday at church" that life at Lackland is becoming "difficult" for Christians.

And according to Media Matters, who reported on the situation and the fact that the Liberty Counsel is taking up Monk's case:

While Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk claims his anti-marriage equality views led him to be relieved of his duties, there's no evidence, besides the sensationalistic coverage of far-right news outlets, that that's actually the case. After devoting four minutes to touting the Liberty Institute's claims, Bream briskly noted that officials at Lackland Air Force Base said Monk was at the end of his assignment. A spokesperson for the base told Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes that while Monk and his lesbian commander did disagree on marriage equality, they "agreed to disagree," adding "the wing commander said there was no punishment."

The one constant in this strange is how the narrative of anti-Christian is being driven by the religious right and conservatives. According to Todd Starnes of Fox News, Monk is now being brought up on charges for repeating his tale.

Of course the irony of Starnes' story is while the headlines pushes the idea that Christians are being persecuted in the military, it doesn't even look like Starnes even tried to get the Air Force's side of the story.

Why should we be surprised at how conservatives and the religious right are pushing this story? It's a formula we have seen before - take a potential controversy, report on it in a half-assed way, bombard the media with the side of  the story you support, and finally take your victory before the truth even has a chance to put on its track shoes.

For folks to engage in this scurrilous propaganda is one thing, but for those who claim to be Christians while engaging in this underhanded tactic is positively nauseating.