Conservative media figures are pouncing on a fallacious column suggesting that bullying has nothing to do with suicide rates among teenagers, in order to justify their long-standing campaign against anti-bullying efforts.
Writing for the Poynter Institute on October 25, Poynter faculty member Kelly McBride denounced media coverage of bullying-related suicides as "emotional linkbait." McBride argued that such stories promote "a false narrative" - that bullying can lead to suicide - "that has no scientific support":
Yet when journalists (and law enforcement, talking heads and politicians) imply that teenage suicides are directly caused by bullying, we reinforce a false narrative that has no scientific support. In doing so, we miss opportunities to educate the public about the things we could be doing to reduce both bullying and suicide.
There is no scientific evidence that bullying causes suicide. None at all. Lots of teenagers get bullied (between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 teenagers report being bullied in real life, fewer report being bullied online). Very few commit suicide. Among the people who commit suicide, researchers have no good data on how many of them have been bullied.
It is journalistically irresponsible to claim that bullying leads to suicide. Even in specific cases where a teenager or child was bullied and subsequently commits suicide, it's not accurate to imply the bullying was the direct and sole cause behind the suicide.
McBride's entire argument proceeds from the construction of a straw man. Nobody claims that bullying always causes suicide, but it's hard to ignore the finding that victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide, according to researchers at Yale University. Similar research has confirmed a correlation between bullying victims and suicidal behavior.
It's true, as McBride notes, that not all bullying victims kill themselves. It's also true that not every cigarette smoker dies of lung cancer, but that's hardly a compelling reason to downplay the risks of smoking.
Unfazed by the logical flaws plaguing McBride's column, right-wing pundits reacted with glee, wielding it to advance their long-running crusade against anti-bullying programs, particularly those aimed at addressing bullying of LGBT youth.
On the October 28 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh read extensively from McBride's column, concluding that bullying has been over-hyped by the media:
The New York Post lauded Stephen Jimenez as a fearless, dogged, and truth-telling reporter, ignoring the numerous substantive flaws in his new book claiming that Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder wasn't an anti-gay crime but the result of a meth deal gone awry.
In her October 28 column, the Post's Andrea Peyser effectively acted as Jimenez's stenographer, fawning over "the most dangerous journalist on earth" whose critics are irrational "protectors of Matthew Inc." Jimenez is so heroic, Peyser would have her readers believe, that he may well end up saving lives as a result of his book (emphasis added):
Stephen Jimenez didn't set out to be the most dangerous journalist on earth.
Or, more to the point, the most dangerous gay journalist.
But Jimenez unearthed a story that few people wanted to hear. And it calls into question everything you think you know about the life and death of one of the leading icons of our age.
Matthew Shepard, college student. Killed, at 21, for being gay.
Or was he?
Jimenez's "The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard," out last month, challenges every cultural myth surrounding Shepard's short life and unspeakable death. After some 13 years of digging, including interviews with more than 100 sources, including Shepard's killers, Jimenez makes a radioactive suggestion:
The grisly murder, 15 years ago this month, was no hate crime.
Shepard's tragic and untimely demise may not have been fueled by his sexual orientation, but by drugs. For Shepard had likely agreed to trade methamphetamines for sex. And it killed him.
Why dredge this up now? Jimenez's answer surprised me.
"As a gay man," he said, "I felt it was a moral thing to do."
Activists, journalists, politicians and filmmakers who, with the best of intentions, based careers on Shepard's murder are furious. But Jimenez insists he's willing to trade Shepard's irreproachable image for a serious talk about drugs. Meth, he said, is haunting the gay scene, bringing with it a plague of ultra-violence, new HIV infection -- and gay-bashing.
If this book saves one life, it's worth it.
I find it offensive that a gay journalist should be held to a different standard than a straight one. But Jimenez's every word has been vetted by protectors of Matthew Inc. to determine his agenda. Is he a traitor to the cause?
Jimenez is not the enemy. He's just a man who told an uncomfortable truth, as he saw it.
He should be proud.
Media Research Center (MRC) President Brent Bozell slammed Hollywood for including too many gay characters in television programs and films, lamenting that gay characters "never face any real opposition to the gay agenda on these so-called 'inclusive' programs."
In an October 25 column for TownHall.com, Bozell criticized the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD's efforts to track the number of LGBT characters in television programs. Bozell mocked GLAAD for throwing a "tantrum" over the lack of LGBT characters on many networks, asserting that the group wants "children indoctrinated," because apparently it's "propaganda" to expose them to LGBT characters on their shows (emphasis added):
These cultural trend-enforcers went after the movies this summer, complaining that out of the 101 film releases by the major studios in the 2012 calendar year, "only 14 films contained characters identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. There were no films containing transgender characters."
In the 2012-13 TV season, GLAAD found a record number of LGBT characters -- 4.4 percent, or at least double their actual percentage of the population. Fox was honored for having these characters in 42 percent of their programming hours -- although that wasn't enough for "Excellent" status, merely "Good."
There's no wonder that a Gallup poll in 2011 found that on average, American adults estimate that 25 percent of Americans are homosexual. They're getting that crazy idea from TV.
They want children indoctrinated as well. GLAAD is also not shy when it comes to Teen Nick, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. Apparently, children also desperately need the propaganda of gay characters in 42 percent of programming hours. They're extremely happy with the liberalism of "ABC Family" and have relayed that Disney Channel executives promised GLAAD they will "introduce LGBT characters in an episode of its original series 'Good Luck Charlie' set to air in 2014, a first for the network." The first of many, they expect.
Here's the catch: Gay characters never face any real opposition to the gay agenda on these so-called "inclusive" programs. There is no measure of Orthodox religious inclusion and no real debates. The victory of the left is assumed without thinking. When a conservative character is created -- like Ellen Barkin's "Nana" in "The New Normal" -- it's a vicious cartoon, the kind that those "against defamation" folks deeply enjoy.
Janet Mefferd has become one of talk radio's most relentless purveyors of homophobia, using her eponymous program to provide a platform to fringe anti-LGBT activists and to spout her own bigoted, occasionally conspiracy-minded views.
Billed as a "distinctively Christ-centered" host, Mefferd came to talk radio after a career in print journalism, during which she wrote for newspapers including Chicago's Southtown Economist and The Dallas Morning News.
After Mefferd had worked in Christian radio for two decades, Salem Radio Network syndicated The Janet Mefferd Show in 2010. Her show - touted by Salem as "mainstream, faith-based Christian radio"- is heard on more than 100 stations nationwide. Mefferd has scored such prominent conservative guests as businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Despite Salem's avowals about Mefferd's "mainstream" credentials, her show routinely serves as a welcoming forum for the nation's most extreme anti-LGBT activists and hate group leaders to spew venom and misinformation.
Author Stephen Jimenez claims that he doesn't want his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, to be used by right-wing media figures to "score political points." So why is he promoting his book on one of the most extreme anti-gay radio shows in the country?
The September publication of Jimenez's book revived the right-wing media's obsession with Matthew Shepard trutherism, allowing anti-LGBT commentators to seize on the book to assail hate crime laws and describe the problem of anti-gay violence as a fake crisis.
During an October 7 interview with radio host John Quinlan on Forward Forum, Jimenez proclaimed that he "completely" disagreed with the agenda of his right-wing supporters, calling it "frustrating" to witness "people attempting to score political points with the book":
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued to shill for the extremist American Family Association (AFA), allowing the anti-gay hate group to bill itself as "a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group" and baselessly asserting that the military is waging a campaign of "retribution and reprisals" against conservative soldiers who support the AFA.
In an October 15 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes assailed the U.S. Army for including the AFA in a presentation on domestic hate groups. Much as he did in an appearance on Fox & Friends earlier on October 15, Starnes whitewashed the AFA's record of anti-gay hate, describing the organization as a "well-respected Christian ministry" that simply supports "traditional family values" (emphasis added):
The Pentagon has admitted that information used in an Army briefing that labeled the American Family Association (AFA) as a domestic hate group was not acquired from official sources and does not reflect Army doctrine.
Meanwhile, the president of the well-respected Christian ministry says his organization may file a defamation lawsuit against the military.
"We are probably going to be taking legal action," said Tim Wildmon, president of one of the nation's most prominent Christian ministries. "The Army has smeared us. They've defamed the American Family Association."
The AFA was listed alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam during a briefing last week at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
A soldier who attended the briefing recently sent me a photograph of a slideshow presentation that listed AFA as a domestic hate group because of their support of traditional family values and their opposition to homosexuality.
"For a taxpayer-funded organization like the military to use a politically-motivated group's hate group list is problematic," Wildmon said. "One way or another, we're going to get this changed."
And he strongly rejects accusations that AFA is a hate group.
"We are a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group," he said. "We don't hate anybody. We have strong feelings on moral values. We oppose the gay and lesbian social and political agenda. We always have. We always will, but that doesn't mean we hate anyone."
Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association (AFA), praised Fox News for its "very friendly" coverage of his organization, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On the October 15 edition of American Family Radio's Focal Point, Fischer lauded the network for providing Fox News Radio reporter and hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes a "very friendly venue" to attack a military training session on domestic hate groups, including the AFA:
The appellate attorney who represented an accomplice in the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard assailed author Stephen Jimenez's book suggesting that Shepard's murder was fueled by meth, not anti-gay hate.
In a statement provided to Equality Matters, attorney Tim Newcomb - whom Jimenez lists as a source in The Book of Matt - responded to Jimenez's claim in a recent interview that Newcomb's criticism of the book is invalid because Newcomb was an appellate attorney and not involved in the Shepard case from the beginning. As a longtime resident of Laramie, the small college town where Shepard was brutally murdered, Newcomb said in his statement that unlike Jimenez, he has a long-standing familiarity with the tight-knight community:
Unlike the author, who visited Laramie from New York a year and a half [after Shepard's murder], I was an attorney living in Laramie, and had been for several years, when Matthew was murdered. I mention that only because Laramie has few people and we tend to know of each other. Hidden truths behind notorious crimes are as rare as windless winters.
Moreover, as the appellate attorney for Russell Henderson, Aaron McKinney's accomplice in Shepard's killing, Newcomb dealt with one of Jimenez's apparent sources, who claimed to know the "hidden truths" in the murder. In his statement, Newcomb described how -- like many of Jimenez's other sources -- this man put forth multiple shifting stories, including the theory that Shepard's murder wasn't motivated by homophobia:
An op-ed in the conservative Washington Times assailed the campaign for transgender equality, lamenting that "you no longer need lady bits to be a lady" and asserting that the LGBT movement is part of a broader left-wing effort to "dismantle" Western civilization.
In an October 9 column, the Media Research Center's Matt Philbin complained that it's becoming increasingly unacceptable to misidentify transgender individuals. According to Philbin, the notion that we should respect a person's gender identity is emblematic of a larger leftist cult of identity:
My privilege invalidates my perspective on how you identify.
If you had to read that sentence twice and maybe are still unsure what it means, you're woefully unfamiliar with contemporary liberal-speak. You see, "identify" and "privilege" are terms with great currency on the left these days. They are also two sides of the same magic coin, minted to instantly quash dissent and silence argument.
This became abundantly clear recently when I made the mistake of commenting on Twitter about the latest 6-year-old "Princess Boy" news story. My crime, according to the liberals I offended, was declining to call a boy a girl. I'm rather a stickler for reality, and because the child was a biological boy, to my benighted thinking, the male pronouns still applied.
First, that matter of "identifying": In 2013, you no longer need lady bits to be a lady. You need only "identify" as one -- reality be darned. In modern America, you can't earn a living the way you want to, or build on your own property if it impacts the habitat of the spotted slug. But call yourself a halibut, and you can self-righteously demand the world cover you in beurre blanc and serve you with a dry white.
How you identify is sovereign. If Bradley Manning says he's Chelsea, then, by golly, the world is expected to send gender-warming gifts with a C embroidered on them. (Would his and hers hand towels be inappropriate?) We're all expected to choose sides in Manning's argument with biology, and make no mistake: Biology is in the wrong. Anyone with the temerity to point out the empress has no womb is a bigot.
Woe unto the pronoun refusenik who happens to be a straight, white guy. As my possibly straight and definitely white Twitter interlocutors so damningly pointed out, I am guilty as charged. Told to "check my privilege," my instinctual response was to suggest they check their bong. In their eyes, I am a creature of privilege. My skin color and reproductive organs -- and how I use them -- have imparted it. White privilege makes my perspective invalid and my opinion unwelcome, as long as I'm disagreeing with liberals.
This charge of privilege amounts to a simple statement: You had your time, white guy. You built this civilization. You're going to sit quietly while we dismantle it. So "check your privilege" and shut up. [emphasis added]
The Daily Caller dismissed as "re-education camp" a University of Mississippi forum to address anti-gay hate speech in the wake of an incident of homophobic harassment, running an image from the film A Clockwork Orange to accompany the story.
During an October 1 performance at Ole Miss of The Laramie Project, a play about Matthew Shepard's murder, a group of football players disrupted the play by shouting "fag" and other homophobic epithets. According to The Daily Mississippian, the players were attending the performance to fulfill a theater credit. In response to the incident, the pro-LGBT campus organization Allies will host an "educational dialogue session," which everyone present at the October 1 performance will attend.
In an October 8 article, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens dubbed the forum a "re-education session." Unable to determine what the big deal was, Owens lampooned the decision to hold the dialogue over audience members "voicing anti-gay slurs and laughing at the wrong times":