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Thursday March 29, 2001

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Not all victims get a vigil

By Tom McDermott

Unless you watch the Fox News Channel regularly, you probably haven't heard very much about Jesse Dirkhising. His case has put an entirely new twist on the debate over hate-crime laws, particularly with respect to the media's coverage of events that precipitate such debate.

Jesse was a 13-year-old Arkansas boy who was murdered by two gay men. Joshua Macabe Brown and his lover sodomized Jesse and strangled him to death. Brown was convicted of first degree murder last week.

Invariably, the Dirkhising murder has been compared to the Matthew Shepard beating and murder. In both cases, two young men singled out a smaller, weaker individual, lured him into their confidence and then viciously attacked their prey. The only pertinent difference is that in the latter, he was targeted because he was gay, and in the former, gays were doing the targeting.

Hate-crime-law proponents have argued that Dirkhising does not qualify as a bias-motivated crime because Jesse was not victimized specifically because he was heterosexual. On its face, this is true.

But so what?

Was this murder any less heinous or repugnant to civilized society than Shepard's? If not, then why do they advocate that similar acts of violence be treated differently under the law?

In a violent crime, there is such an intimate contact between perpetrator and victim that the law's treatment of one invariably affects the other. Therefore, to treat similarly situated perpetrators differently implies that one class of victims is to be afforded more or less protection under the law than another. That runs contrary to our fundamental notions of jurisprudence established under the 14th Amendment.

And what of the media's coverage of the two crimes? The Shepard murder was a bonanza for anchors, talk show hosts, legal analysts, social commentators and just about any crusading, Geraldo-wannabe do-gooder with a microphone. But apparently, Dirkhising is just another corpse.

Sadly, there are far too many child murders for the media to cover them all. However, considering the round-the-clock re-education effort that occurred in the wake of Shepard, the lack of attention to an equally appalling crime speaks volumes about the people who make careers out of playing identity politics.

After Shepard, we were barraged with their despicable attempts to indict anyone who disagrees with the homosexual-rights agenda as a willing accomplice in his brutal murder. Where are the prime-time specials and campus candlelight vigils for Jesse Dirkhising?

Not that I think there should be a national mourning for Dirkhising, but his death forces one to examine why one person achieves national notoriety - not for anything he achieved in life, but solely for his victimization in death - while other victims go unnoticed.

Such is the power of identity politics. We saw it in the comments of unrepentant Clinton flunky Paul Begala, overflowing with the media-approved elitist bigotry against Americans from the South and Mid-West. After the election, he said, "You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart - it's red [won by Bush]. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay - it's red."

We saw it also in the NAACP's deplorable attempt to capitalize off James Byrd's death in the worst political hit piece since the flower-girl ad of '64. They all but accused President Bush of tying Byrd up to the truck himself.

The American people have grown sick and tired of these guerrilla tactics of race, class and gender warfare. And when a murder like Dirkhising's comes along, it shines a blinding spotlight on the media's treatment of gays.