Sorry, I Just Have to Keep Belaboring This Point

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As long as we're undermining those noxious red-state and blue-state stereotypes, I should link to the Robert Blanchard article that Reason ran in the aftermath of the Matthew Shepard murder. Here's the thesis:

As a Wyoming native (now living in Texas) and a gay man, I find such geographical stereotyping to be more than simply inaccurate and irresponsible. The coverage of the Shepard case delivers a damning lesson about the gross inability of the hate crime news formula to explain complex social situations–and it demonstrates that when the media and advocacy groups are faced with the choice of responding to reality or simply sticking with their scripts, they almost invariably choose the latter.

Sound familiar?

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  1. “when the media and advocacy groups are faced with the choice of responding to reality or simply sticking with their scripts, they almost invariably choose the latter.”

    Kinda feel like that’s why it was Kerry losing this month, and not Dean.

  2. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story… or agenda.

  3. Coincidentally, Andrew Sullivan recently linked to a story about an upcoming documentary about Matthew Shepard’s murder:

    http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/33855.htm

    The documentary claims that his murder may not have had much if anything to do with him being gay.

  4. I’m substantially in agreement with the Blanchard piece on Sheppard and Wyoming. If you’re looking for a lasting red/blue story…

    …there are still three innocent men imprisoned in Arkansas, where they have spent the first decade of their adult lives, because they once had the wrong clothes, music, and spiritual interests, and because enough Arkansans were able to see the devil everywhere but in the mirror.

  5. What the hell does this person have to say??? If he could write more clearly — more succintly — I might know whether I agree with him. As things stand, I’m just left to wonder what the hell he has to say, because it’s far from clear.

  6. Yep, so now a question has finally surfaced that’s even dumber than, “What’s your sign?”…”Are you more of a red state or more of a blue state type person?”

  7. > red-state and blue-state <<br />
    Stop Seeing Red….

    The county by county maps are more telling of where urban densities are. It’s the cities and along the interstates that are blue. Dems are going to have to get over it, MOVE ON, as they say.

    Stop all the whining, MOVE ON

    Stop looking at the map and acting like your noses are all up in the air superior to the ‘country people’…or people of the country.

    Stop acting like Dems alone know best — it’s called democracy! I ain’t about who knows best anyway.

    Stop suggesting voter fraud stole this one, too.

    Stop predicting doom and gloom with hopeful glee.

    Stop evoking Nam with Bush for over throwing two countries in three years with 1500 combat deaths

    Stop trying to make ‘evangelicals’ the evil force of victory

    Stop trying to replace Liberal with Progressive

    Stop using humor and ridicule to replace logic

    Stop picking can’tidates like Kerry.

    Stop kissing butt to Republican McCain wishing he was their man

    Stop calling in Jesse Jackson to get out less black vote than he gets out white male vote

    Stop having Bill Clinton preach to the choir while converts flee the church.

    Stop making Michael Moore your movie idol — they
    have Arnold — what kind of person identifies with Moore?

    Tell Barb Striesand and Sarandon to please Shut up!

    Stop acting and living like a republican but talking liberal to cleanse oneself of guilt

    Stop making Al Franken your mouth piece — he repulses people

    Stop fighting “moral votes” as something that has meaning

    Stop talking of leaving the country like a kid that takes his ball and goes home when things don’t go his way.

    Stop thinking the uninformed are going to save you.

    Stop pretending Kerry was an intellectual when he was a sophicate. You bet on the wrong horse.
    Stop dropping your candidates for speaking out, yelling even.

    Stop listening to NPR and thinking it is unbiased radio — National Proproganda Radio reaches out to same thinkers.

    Stop making excuses.

    Stop calling the Republicans extreme right taking over the country…remember LBJ’s congress in 64.

    Stop being against Bush as the theme of your life.

    Stop talkign about the past, and start talking about here and now, what to do today.

    Start being for something, say it, and stick with it.

    Start saying you are liberal and be proud of it.

    Start some secular/humanitarian rescue missions.

    Start calling prayer in school ‘freedom of speech’ or do something…DO Something, be for something.

    Start praying for the good health of the Supreme Court Justices.

    Start taking Prozac or something…smoke weed, but chill out demo-dudes…it’s over, four more years. Enjoy the riducule of the comedians on comedy channel and late night TV.

    Remember, Bush is not running again. This is it.

    Start being an “I told you so party” if that makes you feel better.

    Root for the hurricanes hitting the southern coast, if that is what you need. Say “I thought God was on your side.” Remember it was you saying and thinking that.

    Applaud the tornadoes ripping through the midwest ‘red’ states.

    I’m a registered democrat, but post election behavior just prove the view of the ‘hysterical democrits’ and it is embarrassing.

    Will the election loss of 2000 never end?
    dj of raleigh

  8. The documentary claims that his murder may not have had much if anything to do with him being gay.

    Required viewing for joe, who claimed my saying I couldn’t say exactly why the murder took place proved I was wrong about everything.

  9. hey dj! welcome back!

  10. The killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell A. Henderson, pleaded guilty and are each serving consecutive, double life sentences.

    But in their first interviews since they were convicted, McKinney and Henderson claim anti-gay bias had nothing to do with the crime.

    Would a murderer lie to you?

    Now, would he?

  11. Would a murderer lie to you?

    They’re more likely to lie while trying to avoid conviction than they are to lie afterwards. They’re going to die in prison regardless of what they say, after all.

  12. Dan –

    Hardly. A great deal of people on the inside claim to be innocent when, in fact, they are guilty, regardless of whether or not their lies will get them anywhere. I’ll leave speculation over the psychological reasons for this to better-trained minds.

  13. Still worth seeing, fyodor, but remember the source.

    Maybe it was elaborately staged to look like a lynching motivated by homophobic rage…

    But it was probably just a lynching motivated by homophobic rage. Hearing, hooves, horses, zebras and all that.

  14. “As long as we’re undermining those noxious red-state and blue-state stereotypes…”

    Let me know when you get around to undermining stereotypes of the blue states. They seem to be flying around unquestioned on the thread you linked to.

  15. just like anywhere else, you get your stereotypes come to life.

    ny is having one of those moments now, but is thankfully starting to die down. it’s getting a little better, or at least less annoying.

  16. A great deal of people on the inside claim to be innocent when, in fact, they are guilty, regardless of whether or not their lies will get them anywhere.

    Pleading innocence can always get you somewhere, a.c. — if the right people believe you, you can be pardoned.

    In contrast, there’s little (if anything) to be gained by saying “we didn’t murder him because he was gay, we murdered him because we wanted his money”.

  17. More Blue vs Red from Dan Savage (he who coined “santorum”):

    http://www.portlandmercury.com/2004-11-11/feature.html

  18. I tend to take the statements of self-confessed murderers, rapists, thieves, presidents… with a grain of salt, no matter where they live.

    What’s really interesting and worthy of investigation is why some people are so quick to give credence to such statements.

    Are they saying: “Ah look. Your ‘martyr’ is a fake”?

    Are they trying to convince me that “Nobody really gets beat up or killed because of his sexual orientation”?

    There’s an agenda here, and I’m curious to understand what it is.

    (What’s the smiley with the sticking-out tongue?)

  19. Dan,

    Are you sure that their isn’t something to gain from such? Maybe they are now embarressed about their motivations? There are plenty of reasons why they would lie.

  20. i can understand why dan savage would have severe hate for for many of the anti-gay states out there, but i’ll be very happy once all this red blue thumbsucking dies the fuck out. it’s a bad influence, the sort of manichean gibberish augustine would have warned us about, had he known of such things.

  21. Maybe Shepard’s killers lawyer told them that they might get a longer sentence if they admitted that it was a hate crime. I don’t know if Wyoming has an anti-hate crime law that includes sexual orientation (I kind of doubt it), but it still may have influenced the judge to give them a longer sentence. Also, one of their fellow inmates has claimed that they admitted that they killed Shepard because he was gay, and because he hit on one of them. I’m not inclined to believe another criminal, but I am more inclined to believe him than convicted murderers.

  22. “I’m not inclined to believe another criminal, but I am more inclined to believe him than convicted murderers.”

    keshmeshi,

    Go to Google and type “logic causal fallacy”.

  23. Belief has nothing to do with logic.

  24. “Belief has nothing to do with logic.”

    True. But if Believers really believed what they believe they would be completely satisfied by blurting out their naked axioms. But the believers don’t really believe, instead they feel compelled to pick a few ripe cherries from the tree of reason without ever examining the tree itself.

    It’s getting late, sorry ’bout the zen.

  25. Wyoming didn’t have ‘hate crime laws’ in 1998. For a capital crime like the Shepard case, murder in the first degree, this is irrelevant though, since the statutory sentence for ‘murder one’ already is death or life without parole. Thus the possibility of penalty enhancement according to a hate crime statute is nil.

  26. Kenneth Jordi,

    Yet demonstrating that his sexual orientation was a primary motivation could be beneficial to the prosecutor in garnering a conviction and in the penalty phase; thus there was motivation enough to deny that they murdered him because of his sexual orientation. Furthermore, such a denial might also play into any appeal that the defendants have.

    To be blunt, stating that the denial doesn’t benefit the party, that it is a statement against interest, is hogwash.

  27. Jason,

    having a motive, any motive, makes a particular murder one that is based on intent. Not to have a ‘hate crime law’ on the books doesn’t mean a prosecutor can’t demonstrate that homophobia had been a motive for murder.

    The absence of ‘hate crime laws’ doesn’t mean that homophobia (or any other hatred of a certain category of people) isn’t considered a motive, it simply means that this particular form of hatred isn’t seen, by the legislature, as a worse motive than others, like personal hatred, or greed, or jealousy.

    If there is no hate crime law on the books, the prosecutor only lacks the possibility of penalty enhancement. But in cases of first degree murder, this doesn’t really matter. He or she couldn’t go for a higher sentence, kinda “death plus”, could they?

  28. Kenneth Jordi,

    I’ve already answered this line of reasoning once, but let me try again:

    Having details about motivation based on racial, etc., hatred, whether a hate crime law exists or not, are something that prosecutor will milk and a defense attorney will try to keep out of the trial. Why is that? Because it plants in the collective mind of the jury a reason to convict him as well as give him the death penalty (or whatever the highest penalty the prosecutor is seeking). You want such information admitted just as you would want the physical nature of the crime admitted (i.e., it was an especially violent crime) because it is going to help you reach your goals in the case. You want to keep such information away from the jury if you are defense counsel because it damages the chances of your client. In other words, you aren’t worried about some “plus” factor regarding the issue of motivations, you are worried about the motivations with regard to the case in chief.

  29. But if Believers really believed what they believe … But the believers don’t really believe, instead they feel compelled to pick a few ripe cherries from the tree of reason

    Belief is a form of reason. Reason is a form of belief.

    (omg. I say these things and I’m amazed!)

    Jason –

    I don’t think any of your reasons apply in this case. They (I don’t remember if it’s only one or if it’s both) gave up their right to appeal as part of the bargain. As they did their right to give interviews.

    This is a wild guess with no evidence at all, but my guess is that they are maybe being manipulated by anti-“gay-agenda” people. Then again, maybe now they’re telling the truth; they were only after the money and the torture of a gay guy was just an added bonus.

    If the people in Texas who dragged the man behind their truck suddenly said race had played no part, I’d be inclined to disbelieve them, though.

  30. Jason,

    I agree, on principle.

    On the other hand, I think Dan is right that under the particular circumstances of the Matthew Shepard murder the perpetrators had nothing to gain by saying “we didn’t murder him because he was gay, we murdered him because we wanted his money” when one motive is as bad as the other in the eyes of Wyoming’s legislators.

    Moreover, I think it’s highly unlikely that a jury in a rural town like Laramie (or indeed any run-of-the-mill jury) will find a holdup murder motivated by simple greed more forgivable than a murder motivated by homophobic or racial hatred, especially when the physical nature of the crime is quite horrible.

  31. Kenneth Jordi,

    No, Dan is not correct. I can think of several plausible reaons why they might might lie and have stated those. Dan on the other hand has simply accepted the words of the murdered without giving it a second thought.

    As to what a jury might or might not do, you’d be surprised how a prosecutor could use such information in his favor.

  32. …murderer…

  33. What I think is most interesting is that both sides of this debate are making worthy arguments, but ultimately I don’t think this is the kind of thing that is essentially speculative and can ever really be proven beyond reasonable doubt. I also think it’s interesting that if JB is correct, then it’s already detrimental to a defendent’s case to have such a pernicious motive as anti-gay bigotry associated with a crime entirely in lieu of hate crime legislation.

  34. …but ultimately I think this is the kind of thing that is essentially speculative and can never really be proven beyond reasonable doubt….

  35. fyodor,

    Trust me, any prosecutor would play up the anti-gay nature of this crime, whether a hate-crime law existed or not. You do what you can do (that is legal) to garner a conviction of scum like these guys. And if part of that is associating animus based on race, sexuality, gender, etc., with the crime, then so be it. Now, the judge may not allow such information in (say under FRE 403 or a like state rule of evidence), but if the crime is suffiently dealt with in the media, then the jury is going to know about the background nature of the crime, thus it gets in through the interstices and cracks in the system.

    Furthermore, in voir dire a prosector and defense attorney are going to ask potential jurors about their views regarding homosexuals(or blacks, etc., depending on the nature of the crime), and they are going to seek sympathetic jurors in that way.

  36. fyodor,

    The point is that you are trying to create inferences in the collective mind of the jury as to how much of a scumbag these guys are; and generally speaking, most Americans do probably think that someone who kills over race, etc., is far more scummy than someone who commits homocide by accident or in the “heat of passion.”

  37. JB,

    Trust me

    ??? 🙂

    than someone who commits homocide by accident or in the “heat of passion.”

    Doesn’t this touch on other issues of guilt? Ie, if it’s by accident, then it wouldn’t be murder at all, and if it’s in the “heat of passion,” then it wouldn’t be 1st Degree, n’est pas? Just for clarification purposes.

  38. fyodor,

    No, I was not referring to the actual facts of a case and how the law applies to those facts, but to how facts are presented at trial.

  39. Wouldn’t it actually be more justifiable to kill a person who made a lewd pass at you than to kill a person because they had some money? At least in the former case, the murder victim did commit some sort of “wrong” (though the wronging is only worthy of a dirty look, at most). In the later case there is no justification for any actions whatsoever. Hatred for gays should be part of the insanity defence.

    J.B. don’t you worry about giving more power to prosecutors? All they need to do is show a victim to be of a protected class and show some proof the ALLEGED killer at some point in his life made an off the cuff remark about said class of people (like a joke), and now an innocent person starts to look guilty. And for what – the chance of tacking on another life sentence on top of the first two? Maybe the perp could be executed two or three times?

  40. bigbigslacker,

    I don’t favor hate crime laws if that is the implication of your statement.

  41. It was, sorry. (I’ll now review the facts and conduct a full investigation into this intelligence blunder. I’m confident, however, I’ll find no evidence of any personal wrongdoing)

  42. bigbigslacker,

    My point is that any decent prosecutor is going to look at the underlying facts of a crime and use them to his advantage; that includes crimes comitted with some racial, etc. animus in line.

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