Orlando Shooting: In the Name of God?


The latest mass shooting in the United States gives the right-wing media the opportunity to throw fuel of the fire of fear. What was quite obviously a vicious homophobic hate crime has become “Terror” because the shooter was Muslim.

During the early hours of this morning a lone gunman walked into a crowded bar in Orlando, Florida, armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, and enacted the single largest mass shooting in US history. Initially, other than its scale, there was nothing unique about this massacre. While this may sound odd to say, we are talking about the United States, and mass shootings in the US – now more than forty per year – are frighteningly commonplace. In fact, it is safe to say that large scale fatal domestic firearms assaults have become normal.


Two things quickly set this shooting apart, however. This morning’s attack in Orlando was perpetrated by a Muslim US citizen of Afghan extraction, and the target was a crowded gay bar. Everything is changed by these details. Almost immediately after the shooting Paul Joseph Watson appeared on his YouTube channel stating that “the religion of peace strikes again.” Nothing is ever said of the Christian beliefs of other mass shooters in the US, even when they make it clear that their faith has inspired them to commit murder. Yet the religion of twenty-nine year old Omar Mateen has presented our opportunistic media with the ammunition it needs to make this all about Islam.

Homophobia, as a motive for the attack, has been completely ignored by an ideologically driven media intent on making this an act of Islamist Terrorism. All mass shootings are by definition acts of terrorism, but this fact is always omitted by the US and British media when the perpetrator is a non-Muslim. Rather than identify this crime as a homophobic hate crime SKY News and others have consistently forced parallels with the attack on the Bataclan in Paris, arguing that this was an attack on the “Freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves” – effectively democratising the focus of the crime and so downplaying its true homophobic nature.

Regardless of the facts, the right-wing media has to make this about the danger of Islam even when that narrative reading of the event comes at the cost of the truth. Owen Jones, during a SKY News interview, pointed this out and was rounded upon for daring to challenge the official agenda. He also pointed to an interview with Mateen’s former wife in the Washington Post where she said that Omar Mateen, although from a Muslim family, was not particularly religious. He may well have claimed to be inspired by ISIS, but this claim lacks all credibility. People will, as Jones commented, find all sorts of nonsense to legitimise their bigotry. Mateen’s own father has come forward to say that his son was “repulsed” by gay people. The sad truth is that this will not be allowed to be a hate crime; this has to be turned into fodder for the fear machine. This is Radical Islam. This is the fiction of our time.


Owen Jones on Sky News’ Press Preview


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