Matthew Shepard and confirmation bias

A new book about Matthew Shepard suggests the story of his murder was far more complex than the gay-bashing narrative that has been assumed. Turns out it can be seen as a prime example of confirmation bias,

Comparable, says a senior editor for The American Conservative, to the narrative that led so many to initially support the Iraq war.

The story of Matthew Shepard as a martyr struck a deeply resonant chord within many gays and their supporters in the media, who created the hagiography and, as this review acknowledges, was fiercely defended by leading gay activists in the face of contrary evidence reported at the time. The thing is, I wouldn’t be quick to accuse these activists and their media allies to have been conscious liars. I know what it’s like to want to believe something so badly that you close your mind to the possibility that things aren’t what they appear to be — and, in turn, you conceal your motives from yourself. This describes the way I responded to 9/11 with regard to the case for the Iraq War, though I didn’t recognize it until years later. There were liberals and a minority among conservatives — including the founders of this magazine — who didn’t buy the pro-war narrative. People like me considered them gutless, or, infamously, “unpatriotic.” We did not grasp the extent to which we were captive to confirmation bias. We thought we were seeing things with perfect lucidity. But we were very wrong.

This is not a left-wing or a right-wing thing. It is not a gay or straight thing, it is not a religious versus atheist thing. It’s a human thing. …

Since I’ve been reading about confirmation bias recently, I’m seeing discussions of it everywhere!

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