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If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention

Posted on 2004.28.11 at 11:05
How I feel about it all: angryangry
Soundtrack: Neil Young - The Last Trip to Tulsa
Two days ago there was a 20/20 special about the death of Matthew Shepard. My daughter Hannah watched it, and taped it (I haven't seen it yet). She did tell me a little about it, and what she was saying didn't agree with anything I'd read about Matt and how he died.

Well, apparently it didn't add up because 20/20 misrepresented facts all over the place. Now I have to show these pages to Hannah, because she bought the package, and I have to un-brainwash her.

Thanks, 20/20. Hannah's a bright, open-minded, non-homophobic person, and she believed what was on the special because it was pretending to be news, and succeeded. Imagine the effect on people who are homophobic, and maybe not so bright or tolerant? Yep. More hate crimes. I wouldn't doubt it at all. The Fred Phelps people are probably having a field day with this.

So what can be done? Talk. Talk to everyone, on or offline. Show them the websites. Show them the 20/20 message boards.

Especially show them the statement from Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matt's parents.

For more info on what you can do, go here.

If anyone can tell me where I can find a list of 20/20's sponsors, I'd appreciate it.


just dance
karabou at 2004-11-28 09:13 (UTC) ()
I saw the show, and I was so confused. I was wondering "what is this, a show to prove that it wasn't a hate crime, so it was okay for these guys to have killed him?". Because that's what it felt like. Also, I don't know the circumstances around his death, what was said about it from the begining, except that he was beaten, hung up on the fence (because he was gay), and died. So I can imagine what other people who weren't me, but also hadn't been watching anything on it when it happened, think now.
diamond_dust06 at 2004-11-28 09:22 (UTC) ()
I read about this is last week's Washington Blade. Sick, isn't it? Way to cheapen someone's death, ABC.
robinhoo at 2004-11-28 13:33 (UTC) ()
I saw this too. Even my mother, who wouldn't be sympathetic to seeing a murder as a "hate crime" unless the evidence was just overwhelming as such, read through the gaping holes in Vargas' interview of McKinney and said, "He's lying. They killed that boy because he was gay. They might've decided to rob him along the way, but they killed him because he was gay."

Throughout the course of Vargas' interview I kept asking the question of her that I always ask when I'm grading papers: "What's your thesis? What are you out to prove to me?" I never could decide if she really was trying to prove that Matthew's murder wasn't a hate crime, or if she was just trying to construct some kind of story to contain this coup she got by being the first to interview his murderers. I felt that everything about the interview was altogether ambiguous, but not in a harmless way. Rather, all the ambiguities (Was this really more a drug-related robbery than a hate crime? Is McKinney, in fact, bisexual? Did Shepard and McKinney know each other? Did McKinney already know Shepard was gay? Was Henderson sentenced too harshly? Etc., etc., etc.) served to imply that Matthew's murder was in fact less egregious than it's been made out to be -- whether because he "had it coming" (either because he made a move on McKinney or because he was just another HIV-positive, meth-addicted queer party-boy in small-town America) or because it was a case of being too rich in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This crap did nothing to 1) cast McKinney and Henderson in a better light, 2) lessen the brutal wrong of the crime, 3) clear up the "facts" of the case (indeed, it did just the opposite), or 4) make this crime any easier for Matthew's parents and friends -- including all of us who didn't know him personally -- easier to bear. In short, it was yellow journalism of the most damaging sort. Dan Rather misrepresented facts about George W. Bush by not checking his facts carefully enough, and he's "stepping down" (ha) at CBS. Elizabeth Vargas misrepresented facts about Matthew Shepard and his murder by intentionally omitting things and presenting things falsely -- a far more reprehensible practice to my mind than Rather's -- but I bet her career will be nothing but furthered by this story. I am aggrieved by the dynamics of power that continue to oppress Matthew Shepard even after his death. He had no voice in life, and Vargas did not allow him a voice in death.
robinhoo at 2004-11-28 13:56 (UTC) ()
Okay, I have to whine in your LJ again, Prim. I've just been over there reading the 20/20 boards, and right now I feel... well, I feel panicked. It's totally not news that people have been using the Bible -- particularly Leviticus -- as a weapon against homosexuals for generations, I know. But so. many. people. are referencing the Bible on those message boards, people on both sides of the issue, and they're taking everything out of context and misrepresenting Scripture all over the place. I feel an enormous burden to respond, since 1) this is an issue I care about immensely and 2) not only am I a biblical scholar, but Leviticus is my dissertation area. The problem is, I don't know what to say. This is a conversation that can't be fruitful in any way if the conversants have no background of education on the subject. It's nothing to do with relative intelligence -- it's just that Leviticus is not a book that lends itself to simple interpretation. It's a complicated book from a complicated and singular perspective. Some scholars have done wonderful work in exegeting the particular text they're citing, work that should be read in a more mainstream context, complex work that can't be summarized easily but must be weighed carefully. There are no easy answers! But it's making me sick to see the way people on both sides of this issue are bandying about the words of Leviticus (and other texts, I know, but Leviticus is the one being most heartily demonized, I think) to serve their own ends.

I'm at a loss. There are so few people who can speak to this issue from a truly educated perspective, and so many of them simply won't. I can; I want to.... But I don't know where to start. *upset*
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-11-28 21:41 (UTC) ()
Maybe you should go in and wow 'em with education.

Oh, and I have a question--isn't the word "abomination" used in Leviticus about "men lying with men" the same one the same one that's used regarding God's opinion of shellfish? I think it is, but I'd like to say I got an Official Declaration from a Biblical Scholar.

You are, of course, my very favourite out of the countless thousands of Biblical Scholars I deal with every day. *hugs*
robinhoo at 2004-11-29 12:50 (UTC) ()
Thanks, babe. :) *hugs you*

The Official Word regarding "abomination" -- nope, it's not the same as the word used for shellfish. The word in Leviticus 20:13 (and 18:22, which parallels 20:13 but is in apodictic rather than casuistic form) is to'ebah, and it's used 4 other times in Leviticus outside these two verses, all in chapter 18 and with reference to sexual wrongdoing (including incest laws and bestiality). It occurs 112 times in the Hebrew Bible outside Leviticus, but it's not limited to a sexual context outside Leviticus. Ezekiel often uses it in a sexual context, but that context is metaphoric and actually refers more to idol worship than anything else. (The word that refers to shellfish, in Lev 11:10, is sheqets, and it occurs 8 other times in Leviticus, always with reference to the laws of kashrut -- that is, laws regarding what it's not cool to eat. It occurs in 2 other places in the Bible, only one of which [Ezekiel 8:10] doesn't clearly specify the context of kashrut.) Although I haven't had a chance to do a careful analysis of how to'ebah is used throughout the Hebrew Bible, my quick look through its occurrences suggests that it occurs primarily in contexts wherein Israel is being differentiated from its non-Yahwistic (that is, not-Yahweh-worshipping) neighbours. In other words, Israel was given certain laws that defined them as "a priestly kingdom and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6), set apart for the Lord from its Ancient Near Eastern neighbours (like Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia). Leviticus is a specifically priestly book, reflecting the concerns of those who presided over Temple worship and cultic practice, and no study of the uses of to'ebah would be complete without a consideration of whether or not the word ever occurs in a text other than one which reflects such specific priestly/cultic concerns.

We know that homosexuality occurred to varying degrees in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, such as the Hittite Empire and ancient Ugarit. Sometimes it was purely negative -- soldiers raping their conquered enemies as a final humiliation of war. But there is also evidence to suggest that some ANE cultures allowed for homosexuality. For instance, the Bible itself records references to male (and female) temple prostitutes, and other ANE evidence bears out the fact that Canaanite (and other nations') worship practices included cult-sanctioned prostitution of both women and men (the worshippers who would avail themselves of the prostitutes' services would've been exclusively male, as women were prohibited from extramarital sexual relations of all kinds, in pretty much every ANE culture). Also, some ANE law codes (including Lipit-Ishtar, I'm pretty sure, and possibly even the Code of Hammurabi, though I'm much less sure of that) contain legal prohibitions against only the passive partner in homosexual consensual encounters -- the active partner (that is, the fucker, not the fuckee :)) would receive no legal condemnation. We don't know to what degree homosexuality was accepted socially in the ANE, but it's reasonably clear that Israel's prohibitions against it were much more stringent than its neighbours'.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-11-30 21:50 (UTC) ()
Thanks, darling. Lots of good info. *hug*
Drowned Girl Fuschia
fuschia at 2004-11-28 22:22 (UTC) ()
Wow. Thanks for posting about this.


try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-11-29 04:17 (UTC) ()
Hannah taped the show. I'm afraid to watch it. :/
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