USA Today Teaches How to “Fight Hate,” and Completely Whiffs

There was little question that the Charlottesville tragedy was going to be exploited by leftist activists who have been waiting years for an actual crime to connect to the narrative of “right-wing extremists.” The Indy Star and USA Today ensured that we didn’t have to wait long, running a piece by Stephanie Wang that began with an outright lie that has been debunked for years:

“They’re back.” That’s what the mother of Matthew Shephard, a gay college student killed in 1998 because of his sexual orientation, told local civil rights advocates Thursday in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.

Except Matthew Shephard wasn’t killed in 1998 because of his sexual orientation. The truth, exposed on multiple news outlets including ABC’s 20/20, was outlined three years ago by left-wing British paper The Guardian:

Matthew was addicted to and dealing crystal meth and had dabbled in heroin. He also took significant sexual risks and was being pimped alongside Aaron McKinney, one of his killers, with whom he’d had occasional sexual encounters. He was HIV positive at the time of his death.


Matthew’s drug abuse, and the fact that he knew one of his killers prior to the attack, was never explored in court. Neither was the rumour that the killers knew that he had access to a shipment of crystal meth with a street value of $10,000 which they wanted to steal.

It’s hard to believe Wang was unaware of this reality. And it’s even harder to fathom that the editors at both the Indy Star and USA Today were in the dark too. Yet they all published a lede that told a blatant lie, all to set up a piece ostensibly about “fighting the hate.” Apparently none considered the truth to be a good place to start.

After quoting Ms. Shephard who bizarrely tied the Charlottesville Nazis to her son’s lover and killer, Wang proceeded to offer a handful of suggestions on how we all could, “take action to counter biases.” The first was to “work together.” She wrote,

Shephard emphasized intersectionality, or the crossover of identities. She urged marginalized groups to stand up for each other, such as people of color fighting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. “We are all fighting for the same thing,” Shephard said.

So it’s important to note that by suggesting we all work together, Wang didn’t really mean everyone. She meant that left-wing grievance groups should work to combine their efforts and loudly make demands of their “oppressors.”

One way to do that, the piece went on, is to “report hate incidents,” and to push for laws against so-called hate crimes – defined as crimes motivated by bias towards a victim’s “actual or perceived race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, or sexual orientation.”

The problem with that evinces itself in Wang’s own article. She herself misidentified the motivation for Matthew Shephard’s murder, suggesting it was driven by hatred for the young man’s sexual orientation. Had hate crimes laws been in place at the time, Shephard’s murderers would have been subject to greater penalty for that perceived motive of the crime. And it would have been a miscarriage of justice.

The two men who killed Matthew Shephard deserved to be executed. Not because Matthew was gay, white, male, irreligious, or blonde, but because he was a human being bearing the image of God. The enactment of hate crimes laws wars against the very principle we are supposed to believe social justice warriors care about: equal justice under the law. What Wang suggests opens the door to the government policing citizens’ thoughts – that won’t make any of us safer.

Nor will her third suggestion: “recognize the history.” It’s clever terminology, but by recognize, Wang means “exploit it.” She believes, for instance, that remembering my home state of Indiana hosted in one city the largest Ku Klux Klan rally in history and in another city lynched two black men decades ago will somehow help heal our racial divide. What it will actually do is deepen that divide and prevent it from ever healing.

I contrast her proposal with the inspiring message of theologian and Bible counselor Darrell B. Harrison who, as a black man, recently wrote to white people,

“Dear white people; Y’all don’t owe me anything, okay? Nothing. If anything is owed, it is by me to my ancestors to look ahead not backwards.”

What a word of truth that no doubt comes from Harrison’s experience in counseling. When a marriage is in trouble, wise counselors may talk a couple through their past discord, but will then quickly encourage them to move forward and to avoid living in the past, where they keep a record or scorecard of wrongs, and drudge it up whenever they feel aggrieved.

Yet that is the precise recipe Wang cooks up for fighting hate. It’s tragic. Dwelling on past injustice is meant to engender bitterness – fertile ground for political activism, but not racial reconciliation.

Wang’s piece didn’t get any better from there, unfortunately. It amounted to hundreds of words spilled in a vain and counterproductive effort to deal with a problem Jesus solved 2000 years ago with three simple words: “Love your neighbor.”

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Peter Heck

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