The Shameful Rewriting of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre

Memorial wall outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 12, 2017. (Reuters photo: Scott Audette)
Why can't people face the fact that the killer was an Islamic extremist?

One year ago yesterday, Omar Mateen went into a gay nightclub in Orlando and murdered 49 people. While on the phone with a 911 operator, Mateen made his motive clear: “Yo, the air strike that killed Abu [Waheeb] a few weeks ago – that’s what triggered it. They should have not bombed and killed Abu [Waheeb].”

There we have it. A radicalized jihadist self-identified as “Mujahideen” and an “Islamic soldier,” American born and raised, committed the deadliest mass shooting in American history, directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community in the name of a murdered Islamic State militant.

Yet the media, unhappy with this narrative, have constructed another one: “Why did this happen?”

The FBI destroyed the internalized-homophobia narrative constructed by unsubstantiated media reports in the weeks following the massacre, with law enforcement stating that the FBI had found zero credible evidence that Mateen, who had been married twice, secretly indulged in homosexual behavior or interests. With only an “Islamophobic” narrative remaining after those pesky facts, the media have decided to pay tribute to the barbaric murder of 49 infidels with a “senseless violence” narrative.

“Pulse gunman’s motive: Plenty of theories, but few answers,” read an Orlando Sentinel headline.

The Washington Post referred to the night 49 people “died” as having been “upended by gun violence.”

The New York Times equated the terrorist attack with “a year of racism,” with the insinuation that Donald Trump spearheaded the latter.

It didn’t matter that Mateen intentionally targeted the Pulse Nightclub as an attack on liberal values; his true crime was gun violence. An uptick of fear of Wahhabism and non-Westernized Islam is not a product of observation and inference; it’s irrational, a blanket Islamophobia.

The truth is just an inconvenient narrative.

The 911 transcript, released with most of its mentions of ISIS redacted in a Friday-evening news dump, depicts a single-minded terrorist hell-bent on avenging the assassination of an obscure ISIS militant. As noted by the New York Times’ ISIS and al-Qaeda correspondent, Rukmini Callimachi: “Waheeb is killed in an airstrike on May 6. Meaning Waheeb is killed around 1 month before Mateen’s killing spree. For an entire month, Mateen kept this guy’s name in his brain. ISIS-inspired attackers usually go for the Great Hits. They name Awlaki, Adnani, Jihadi John, Baghdadi. But Abu Waheeb? Seriously? At minimum transcript shows Mateen was deep in the fanboy-ism.”

Apparently, many find this evidence to be lacking, just a “theory” rather than a politically satisfying “answer.” The Orlando Sentinel opined in a news piece last week that, because Mateen did not explicate to his wife (who is charged with aiding and abetting terrorism) that he wanted to shoot up a gay club, then this must fall into the senseless-violence narrative.

This line of thought creates a bigotry of low expectations for American Muslims. Many of them practice their faith in a manner fully compatible with secular liberalism, but extremist thugs like Mateen — who view women and homosexuals as second-class citizens and believe that violence is always the answer — are fallaciously equated with Westernized Muslims, on the theory that it couldn’t have been Wahhabist jihad that caused Mateen to commit a hate crime. To believe that would be “Islamophobic.”

Hashtags and rainbow-filtered declarations of “Love Wins,” “Hate will not divide us,” “Orlando United Day,” and “Honor Them with Action” have flooded Twitter in remembrance of the victims of June 12, 2016. We must recognize those murdered in the attack, but “love” will win only if we recognize and vanquish the extremist enemy. We remain incapable of honoring the victims so long as the media continue to propagate this myth that the Pulse terrorist attack and hate crime was not a part of a global movement to forcibly and violently impose the will of a literalist, extremist interpretation of Islam onto the rest of the world.

No, hate will not divide us, if we stay smart and proactive. But willful ignorance? That will destroy us.


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Tiana Lowe — Tiana Lowe is a senior pursuing her B.S. in economics and mathematics at the University of Southern California and a former editorial intern at National Review. She is. Lowe is ...

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