Omar Gonzalez vs. Alton Nolen

by Jonah Goldberg

I must say, there’s something about the way accused White House intruder Omar Gonzalez is constantly described in the media that bothers me. I keep hearing him called “Army veteran Omar Gonzalez.” It’s true he’s an Army veteran. So I’m not disputing the fact. But I have a little trouble with the relevance. I know there is a cottage industry out there trying to hype up the threat of returning vets as the real source of domestic terrorism (we all remember the DHS-report controversy). But it’s worth noting that Gonzalez’s alleged motivation was to tell the president the atmosphere is collapsing. In other words, while PTSD — or some other mental defect — may be to blame for his delusions, describing him as “Army veteran Omar Gonzalez” doesn’t really tell us anything about his motivations. It doesn’t fit into the “narrative” save as evidence that he might have PTSD. But to use “Army veteran” as a euphemism for PTSD sufferer is somewhat obscene.

It’s also worth noting that you don’t hear the word “alleged” a lot. He is in most media accounts the “White House intruder” or the “White House fence-jumper.” Now I don’t have much trouble with that because we know he’s the guy and we know what he did. But compare all this to the coverage of Alton Nolen. In virtually every report, Nolen is described as the “alleged” or “accused” “suspect” of an office place beheading. He’s never described as “Muslim Alton Nolen” or “Islamic extremist Alton Nolen.” And that’s probably right. But why is Omar Gonzalez not afforded the same standard? In the case of Nolen, I suspect part of the reason is that the press, like the White House, is very reluctant to say anything that might cast aspersions on the larger Muslim community. That’s perfectly defensible (though calling the beheading simple “work place violence” is indefensible Orwellian nonsense). But shouldn’t the larger community of Army vets get at least the same deference?

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