Saturday, June 18, 2016

250.6 - Orlando and the media

Orlando and the media

[Note: I have broken my discussion of the Orlando shooting into four parts for convenience.]

So it does look like Omar Mateen was a disturbed individual, disturbed in a way that makes him almost a poster boy for our "violence has nothing to do with us" evasions.

But unlike so many other mass killers, he is being denied that narrative as another narrative is foisted on us. And I can tell you exactly when that happened: when we found out his name was Omar Mateen.

Initially, news accounts called the tragedy a "shooting" and continued to do so for hours after officials said it was being investigated as an possible act of terror. But as soon as they knew his name, as soon as they knew that while he is a US-born citizen, his parents are from Afghanistan, the storyline changed.

For example: At 9:01am the morning after the attack, CBS News tweeted that the shooter has been IDed as Omar Mateen. Just 10 minutes later, its description of the event had changed from a "shooting" to a potential case of "Islamic terrorism."

Other media outlets quickly fell in line and what had been a "shooting" became a possible and soon thereafter an unquestioned act of Islamic terrorism. Once they knew the accused murderer was named Omar. That's all they needed.

In fact, an early version of Reuters' article about the shooting (since changed) spent the first two or three sentences going on about "missed red flags" of "Islamist leanings" and the need for "better security," and then immediately thereafter - literally the very next words - said quote "much remains unknown" about Mateen's motives. We don't know why he did it, but so what? Red flags! Islamist leanings! Security! Be afraid!

Every hint of some possible connection to some radical Islamist individual or group was reported breathlessly. Past FBI investigations were mentioned over and over and over. The fact that the FBI investigated him and found nothing there could not be allowed to be an indication that there is nothing there, it had to be proof of "missed red flags."

A big deal was made out of the report that Mateen and his wife Noor Zahi Salman visited Walt Disney World in April. Oh my God! He was scouting the site! The idea that maybe he was just going to Disney World with his wife and kid was beyond the imagining of our media moguls. I'm sure at some point went to local supermarket, another place where there can be a lot of people around with minimal security. Scoping it out!

But of course the big deal was that he claimed to be a supporter of Daeah - of ISIS - in a 911 call he made during the attack. Proof it's Islamic terrorism!

Except: He had previously claimed to be a supporter of both al-Qaeda and al-Nusra front, even though the three - al-Qaeda, ISIS, and al-Nusra are all bitter rivals, in fact the latter two are fighting each other in Syria - but he also claimed to be a member of Hezbollah, even though Hezbollah is Shiite and the other three are Sunni!

FBI Director James Comey said "It's not entirely clear at this point just what terrorist group he aspired to support." Or, as a senior US official put it more pointedly to the Wall Street Journal, "He seems to be looking for any opportunity to associate with the terrorist group du jour." Which sounds less like some religious fanatic and more like someone who feels powerless trying to feel more powerful by connecting to something "big."

Oh, and speaking of religious fanaticism, recall the description of him going to Pulse and getting drunk. You do remember hearing at some point that getting drunk is forbidden in Islam, don't you?

But of course none of that could be allowed to derail the narrative, so we had some "expert" saying that his conflicting claims of loyalty are to be expected from a "low-level" follower. That is, if you claim allegiance to some radical Muslim group, that proves you're an Islamist terrorist. Claim to follow a bunch of different, conflicting, groups, and that really proves you are an Islamist terrorist.

Likewise, the failure to find any connection between Mateen and any group simply proved he had been "radicalized online." The idea that, whatever his political belief may or may not have been, the idea that his murderous was not driven by religious fanaticism or indeed by any fanaticism other than fanatical hatred, hatred of LGBT people, simply was not entertained.

Our media has been, as is all too common, a miserable failure.

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