The media has now widely circulated the horrifying story of a mass shooting carried out at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead and 53 wounded. The motivations of this attack have been deliberated in the media before settling upon the age-old racist cliche of “Islamic terror” in a cheap, popular response to the shootings. This was substantiated first and foremost by the identity of the suspect who was a Muslim man of Afghan descent. Upon further interrogation, they conveniently found that his attack had been lauded by Da’esh support forums and eventually claimed by the organization itself. Though, we still must wonder if this explanation is at all useful or revealing when it comes to understanding the attack.
In any case the perpetrator expressed sincere hatred of “homosexuals” and Queer people generally. His family even attested to the fact that he wasn’t a religious fanatic that would act on behalf of an organization such as Da’esh, and furthermore the FBI found no links between him and the organization any time prior to the allegations after the attack. So, for the time being it seems to be an unstable accusation to point to Da’esh and “radical Islam” as a main motivator in this case. An important question would be why it is they need this to be the case; why is it that he must be an Islamic terrorist?
“Terror” and other Loaded Terms
At this point it seems routine: a shooting happens, they determine (or speculate) the “race” of the suspect and then determine the motivations. When the person turns out to be white, as the media cliche goes, they are immediately declared “insane” and the media-frenzy begins showering our screens with scenes from their childhood. Alternatively, when it so happens the suspect is a Muslim, the shift goes from “damaged child” to “Islamic terrorist” in a heartbeat. They run the usual late-night speculatory specials talking about their connections to this or that militant organization in whichever country they think is the scariest at the time, and immediately begin turning the victims from whomever they were into magically relatable amerikkkans.
That seems to expose a lot about what it is the imperialists are trying to do, the fact that they can externalize the enemy so quickly this way makes it that much more beneficial to the imperialist system. Things become simple when the perpetrator is one of “them” regardless of who “they” are at the time. For this most recent attack, it meant that the 49 Queer people (most of whom were also Latin@) suddenly become amerikkkans, and the enemy is no longer heteropatriarchy, but Islam. The language has been conveniently shifted to show a “conflict of civilizations” that allows all of the ugly contradictions internal to amerikkkan society to be swept out of sight. Even the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has refused to acknowledge that the victims of the attack were Queer people! No. To them, this is an attack on amerikkka.
This becomes incredibly clear when compared to the various other attacks (both attempted and successful) that have occurred elsewhere within the country, perpetrated by “inconvenient” individuals who cannot be appropriated for similar ends. Just within the past week we had not only the bombing of a woman’s restroom in a Chicago-area Target store, but as well a planned attack to be carried out against the LA pride parade the morning after the Orlando shooting. Neither of these incidents were labeled terrorism by the media, despite the obvious political motivations and the actual use of an explosive device with the intent to create fear. The problem was that neither of these perpetrators were Muslim; both were white christian patriots. The imperialist amerikkkan media has proven it does not care about the lives of Queer people.
Counting the Minutes
This strategy which has been adopted by the media to divide-up the various perpetrators of mass violence against oppressed peoples has little consistency in any meaningful way. What it attempts to do is reinforce the already existing imperialist structures and provide justifications for the wars it wages on the oppressed people of the globe. What we have seen here is nothing more than weaponized sympathy exploited by a society unable and unwilling to stand up for the oppressed people. This kind of apathetic appropriation of tragedy for the ends of greater pain has no place among those who have been abandoned by amerikkka time and time again. These massacres will only be “terrorist attacks” when it is useful to mobilize the greater population against a convenient enemy. The only “terrorist attacks” they believe in, are those which can be twisted into fitting their “conflict of civilizations” narrative that affects “amerikkkan citizens” as a whole.
For this instance, it seems rather clear that this was entirely unlike the events on September 11th or the Boston Marathon bombing. The only commonality we can find between any of these is the religion of the perpetrator and supposed allegiances to militant groups engaged in fighting elsewhere in the world. His target was not a national icon, nor a strategic politico-military installment; it was a nightclub, full of Queer people. We can find that the greatest commonality exists between the attacker and the conservative right wing; in the initial reports, this event was even lauded by conservative Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, before public outrage quickly snatched the smirk from his face. The attack was a heteropatriarchal assault on Queer and Latin@ people in Orlando, motivated by a deeply held conservative conviction which regarded homosexuality as an abomination.
The attempt to obscure this with imperialist propaganda will do nothing for the Queer community here or elsewhere. All it does is further the agenda of the neo-fascist right, and the imperialist system which continues to murder and exploit people all over the world. They neither care about Queer people, nor have Queer interests in mind. Their objectives are far more nefarious, and the explanations generated by the media and others which root these attacks primarily in the “incompatibility” of Islam and western society obscure the real foundations of the problem, and will likely lead us directly into the next tragedy. What’s more, they will use this as a foundation to generate further tragedies by their own hands.
For the families of those who were taken in the attack and the survivors who suffer with the weight and wounds of this tragedy, we extend our deepest sympathies and love.
- Orlando Nightclub Shooting, CNN
- Governor Refuses to Recognize Gay People were Targeted, Rawstory
- Armed Man was Headed to LA Pride, LA Times; Chicago Woman Arrested in Connection with Target Bathroom Bombing, Chicago Tribune
- Dan Patrick Criticized for Tweets/Posts after Shooting, The Texas Tribune