The Kansas City Star headline sums up the nearly universal media angle on this unfolding story: “‘Queers will burn’: Gay Kansas teacher quits and moves because of threatening letters.”
The story by Lisa Gutierrez is written without a hint of suspicion. Michael Hill, a Kansas native, left his Seneca, Kansas, high school in February reportedly because of three threatening letters he received after coming out as gay last year. Of all places, Hill left for Palm Springs. He left behind not only his extended family, but also his two sons, presumably from a marriage to a woman given the fact that at least one son is in college.
Hill posted the letters on Facebook. He also posted his farewell to Kansas. “Today is a big day,” Hill wrote. “This afternoon I will start the drive to Palm Springs with Eric Simmons! It’s hard to move away from family but with everything that has been happening at the hands of some ignorant, small minded bigots it’s the right decision. Looking forward to starting fresh!”
In her summary of this post, Gutierrez edited out the “with Eric Simmons” line. Simmons is a Missouri school teacher and Hill’s best friend. Simmons also posted the letters on Facebook with the message, “These anonymous letters share TRUE HATE that still exists in many parts of our country and world.”
Gutierrez conceded that at least a few responders on Facebook questioned the authenticity of the letters, but she dedicated considerable space to establishing their legitimacy. “People want to say that it’s fake because people don’t want to believe this kind of of hate still exists,” said Hill’s son Hunter, 19. “I think my dad, in sharing those letters, his intention was to spread awareness that this hate still exists, and that for anyone who has experienced this to know they’re not alone.”
What Gutierrez did not do is examine the text of the three computer generated letters, all allegedly from one person who signed off as a “concerned patron.” Even a cursory textual analysis raises red flags.
As should have been obvious, the author–we’ll guess male–is capable of putting together a coherent thought. Some samples from the first letter:
“I want to express a problem I have with you being an openly gay person and working with our high school students.”
“. . . you should be encouraged to leave as soon as possible and I’m writing to administration to express this too.”
“The homosexual lifestyle is not in keeping with the values of this community. The religious views of my family do not support this lifestyle and I do not want my kids to see this as an acceptable way of living.”
Other than a missed comma or two, the author’s syntax is solid. His nouns and verbs align. His word choice clearly conveys his meaning. And he avoids slang. In the first sentence, he even uses a parallel set of gerunds–“being” and “working”–a fairly sophisticated construct. Now here is the same alleged author in the subsequent two letters:
“Since the school board and school administration don’t got the guts to do what’s necessary I’m just going to need to take matters in my own hands.”
“You need to watch your back because I ain’t alone.”
“I have heard you ain’t in school, that’s a darn good start.”
“Don’t think my friends and I still ain’t after you.”
Darn? Ain’t? Don’t got? How is it that no one in the media noticed this conspicuous shift in language? If a genuine bigot wrote all three letters, he would have had no reason to make himself sound illiterate in the last two letters. If a this were a hoax–and Lord knows there have been hundreds of them–the author may have pulled the language level down to fit the left’s stereotype of the “small minded bigots” that allegedly inhabit Kansas.
Hill left for Palm Springs on February 9. The school board accepted his resignation on April 9. According to Gutierrez, Hill was on unpaid medical leave during the interim, which likely comes with health benefits. As she notes, Palm Springs is something of a gay Mecca. Every person on its city council is a member of the LGBTQ community.
This is not to imply that Hill wrote these letters or had them written, but the cui bono question, like the crude shift in language, favors someone on the left.