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Poor Jesse Dirkhising

A dead 13-year-old gets adopted by conservatives as the anti-Matthew Shepard. But where's the ConWeb now that one of the boy's accused killers is on trial?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/19/2001
Updated 3/23/2001

Poor Jud is dead
Poor Jud Fry is dead
All gather round his coffin now and cry
He had a heart of gold
And he wasn't very old
Oh why did such a feller have to die?

-- "Poor Jud Is Dead" from the musical "Oklahoma!" by Rodgers and Hammerstein

* * *

Poor Jesse Dirkhising is dead, which is bad enough. The Arkansas 13-year-old died horribly in 1999 of asphyxiation during kinky sex at the hands of two men.

Because those two accused killers are homosexual, things have become political. Conservatives like Brent Bozell, Jerry Falwell and Joseph Farah howled that liberal bias kept Dirkhising's death from getting the nationwide attention given to the death of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming man killed for no real reason other than being homosexual. Even the ConWeb claims a piece of Dirkhising; WorldNetDaily happily proclaims that it was "first to provide national exposure to the story." Both WorldNetDaily and have run stories over the past year or so on preparations and motions in the case.

The howling continues to this day -- and got a slight wave of renewal when one of Dirkhising's accused killers, Joshua Brown, went on trial last week. But is the ConWeb?

Nowheresville. ran a story March 15 on the start of jury selection in the trial, a story NewsMax picked up, then added its own clumsy editorializing. The second paragraph of the NewsMax version of the story reads, "The media should give as much attention to this case as they did to the highly publicized 'hate crime' murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, the family groups say," but it never says who these "family groups" are. Professional journalism demands such accusations be attributed to a specific source.

The irony here is that aside from that story, NewsMax, WorldNetDaily and have not offered such "attention" in the way of daily coverage of the trial, the most important phase of a criminal case when all sorts of juicy details about the crime surface. They're not giving the attention to the case they demanded others provide.

It's not that it didn't exist. Due most likely to the aforementioned howling from conservatives, daily reports on the trial appeared on the Associated Press national wire. However, these ConWeb leaders do not belong to the Associated Press. A March 19 Media Research Center CyberAlert acknowledges the AP coverage and also notes that the Fox News Channel was reporting on the trial; it also includes parts of a New York Post commentary that quotes liberally from MRC (and boss Bozell.

The only other mention of the case by the ConWeb at the trial's start was a March 15 commentary by Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition on, who recycles the argument that "liberal journalists" spiked the story: "Could it be that liberals place a higher value on the death of a homosexual, than on the brutal murders committed by homosexuals? How many other acts of rape and violence committed by homosexuals are being spiked by a journalistic community co-opted by radical sex groups?"

Whoops. The "journalistic community" of the ConWeb seems to have spiked it, too. When trial time came, the champions of the Dirkhising cause celebre went AWOL.

Why? Perhaps the boy has outlived his usefulness. Perhaps the details arising out of the trial are too graphic for even a ConWeb obsessed by Bill Clinton's penis. (And it is graphic; as one Associated Press story notes, "the evidence includes bloody pillows, crumpled and twisted duct tape, feces- and vomit-covered shirts and underwear, prescription pill bottles, and photos of items that prosecutors say Brown used to sodomize the child.")

The ConWeb's coverage of Brown's March 22 conviction, such as it was, seem to bear out the point that conservatives care more about Dirkhising as a political tool than a crime victim. Both WorldNetDaily and NewsMax linked to the Fox News version of the the story (which actually came from the Associated Press). WorldNetDaily's Jon Dougherty later pounded out a cover-your-ass story, seemingly geared only to get the conviction in the WND database, that is mostly a recap of WND's coverage of the Dirkhising case. (Dougherty also botches an important fact in his story. He writes that Brown "could face either life in prison or the death penalty"; Brown was convicted of first-degree murder, which in Arkansas rules out the death penalty.) Both WND and NewsMax provided links to a Washington Times story and a column by The New Republic's Andrew Sullivan rehashing the "liberal bias" canard., meanwhile, never ran anything more than a brief on its "In News This Hour" page.

It is possible -- but highly unlikely -- the ConWeb came to its senses and realized that the death of a boy because of someone's perverted sexual fantasy is not comparable to the killing of a man solely for the type of person he is. After all, conservatives have demonstrated that they would love to take the fact that Dirkhising's accused killers are homosexual and extrapolate that into a general statement that all gays brutally sodomize young boys, which would certainly play into the hands on their political agenda.

Sheldon all but admits the political agenda in his commentary: "Shortly after the murder, Katie Couric asked the governor of Wyoming if Christians were responsible for Shepard's death because of their intolerance of homosexuality. Why didn't she ask the governor of Arkansas if all homosexuals are responsible for Dirkhising's death because of their sex practices-which frequently includes sado-masochism?"

The relevant question here is not "why did such a feller have to die?" but rather why the ConWeb suddenly lost interest in a pet cause -- and why it bothered to turn Jesse Dirkhising into a pet cause in the first place.

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