Wrapping up the Dirkhishing story

Posted: Apr 02, 2001 12:00 AM
You could call it a forgotten ending to a forgotten story. On March 22, a jury in Bentonville, Ark., convicted 23-year-old Joshua Brown of first-degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising. On Sept. 26, 1999, Brown and his lover, Davis Don Carpenter, 39, bound, gagged and drugged the skinny, long-haired boy and raped him with objects until he died of "positional asphyxiation." Let the record show this is a story the national press has deliberately chosen to spike. The national media's ongoing, see-no-evil campaign of calculated ignorance on the Dirkhising story stands in stark contrast to both its perpetual exploitation of crimes against children and its campaign to smear the religious right as the killers of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. Iconoclastic gay journalist Andrew Sullivan recently arrived at the scene of the discrepancy in The New Republic: "In the month after Shepard's murder, Nexis recorded 3,007 stories about his death. In the month after Dirkhising's murder, Nexis recorded 46 stories about his. In all of last year, only one article about Dirkhising appeared in a major mainstream newspaper, The Boston Globe. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ignored the incident completely. In the same period, The New York Times published 45 stories about Shepard and The Washington Post published 28. This discrepancy isn't just real. It's staggering." It's beyond staggering. It is nauseating. Washington Times reporter Robert Stacy McCain tried to discern why not one network (with the typical exception being Fox News) has covered the story. A spokesman for ABC said that the network had been "watching the trial and will continue to monitor it." A CNN flack assured the world that, at her network, "we've been monitoring the trial." How comforting. CBS had the best excuse: "Every day we have 22 minutes to fill ... (and during the trial) the overall editorial judgment was that it couldn't fit into the broadcast that day." These are the same networks that also monitored yet somehow found the time to report literally
hundreds of stories on Jon Benet Ramsey. Sullivan agreed that this discrepancy is a result of the media's sensitivity to gay-left politics. The Shepard murder was the hook for selling a raft of "hate crime" and other legislation, while the Dirkhising murder would only "feed anti-gay prejudice." Gay-left activists didn't just promote Shepard and ignore Dirkhising. They have urged their followers to shut this "insensitive" story down in the press. In 1999, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation advised action against Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby's Shepard-Dirkhising comparison: "Jacoby uses his voice at the Globe to inappropriately contrast them and manufacture a notion of media bias. Please tell the Globe that this type of insensitivity does not belong in a newspaper that has a record of treating lesbian and gay issues in a fair and accurate way." Sullivan's first defensive reaction to the story reflected the gay-activist mindset: "Some on the far right clearly want to use this case to raise vicious canards about gay men. They want to argue that this pedophilic rape-murder is representative of the 'homosexual lifestyle' and to wield it as a weapon against the notion of gay equality and dignity as a whole." That is precisely the mindset of the national press. Now, the media might have an argument if to report the story would foster "vicious canards" that suggest the gruesome death of Dirkhising is somehow typical of the homosexual lifestyle. But where were their ethical worries with the Matthew Shepard story? In fact, they used that murder to raise vicious canards about Christian conservatives: Behind every newspaper advertisement urging homosexuals to reject sin and embrace Jesus, there lurks a message that gays should be beaten to death. Raising the Dirkhising story isn't a call to match vicious canard with vicious canard. It's a call to expose the blind spots in liberal media news judgment, and the unfairness of its terribly inconsistent policing of political civility and accuracy. One side has a legislative agenda to promote. Shepard's mother was escorted around to national media interviews and promoted by the Human Rights Campaign. The other side is pushing no "hate crimes" law, instead taking comfort in the conviction of these callous killers through the laws on the books. Dirkhising's parents had no political flags to wave on network TV, since they made the mistaken judgment of sending their son to the weekend custody of his killers. The Dirkhising story proves that compassionate liberalism's claims of love for all mankind are torn asunder by the arrival of inconvenient publicity. Jesse Dirkhising was no less human than Matthew Shepard, but the double standard in media coverage suggests that some poor departed fractions of mankind must go ignored and unmourned for the greater good.