Lincoln * Institute

Colin A. Hanna

Colin A. Hanna

Let Freedom Ring, USA


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Let Freedom Ring

Look at Motive, Not Means

by Colin Hanna

The tragedy of the murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last weekend is intense and Americans of all political persuasions are rightly shocked and outraged. Statistically, it was one of the worst mass murders in our history. But it is not the worst, as many news stories might lead us to believe. The 49 persons killed by Omar Mateen made it the largest mass shooting by a single person in American history, not the largest mass murder. More than three times as many innocent Americans died in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994 at the hands of Timothy McVeigh. The number of victims who died in that event was 168. It is usually referred to as an act of terrorism, even though McVeigh was not associated with any major terrorist organization.

Omar Mateen, on the other hand, unambiguously associated himself with the terrorist organization ISIS in writing on Facebook, as well by calling a local 24-hour cable news channel, News 13, to say he was tied to ISIS, the station revealed on its website.

So why is his horrible act almost universally being referred to as a shooting rather than an act of terrorism? Could it be because many in the media see it as an opportunity to exploit the Orlando tragedy as a means of advancing their agenda of limiting gun rights?

For many editorialists, along with President Obama, there is a secondary agenda: to shift any possible blame away from Islam.

Guns themselves are the easiest target, if I may use that ironic term, for those pundits who want to promote their own ideological agendas rather than to do the hard and honest analysis that might actually help the nation understand what happened and how to reduce the chance of its happening again.

So let's try to do some of that hard and honest analysis right here on American Radio Journal. What's the single most important element in analyzing any murder? It is motive, of course. The English crime writer P.D. James said "All the motives for murder are covered by four L's: Love, Lust, Lucre and Loathing." While there may be elements of love and lust among Mateen's motives, it's pretty clear that loathing lies at the heart of his rampage. He chose to attack a club whose own website proclaims it "the hottest gay bar in Orlando." He may have been gay himself, as his former wife claimed, and this may have led him to some level of self-loathing. But the fact that he had pledged his allegiance to ISIS, an organization under whose name other murders of homosexuals has been justified, is a material fact.

Note that I am not saying that Islam itself unambiguously condemns homosexuality or condones killing homosexuals. I am specifically citing the same organization that Mateen cited. Granted, he is reported to have also uttered the generic Islamic phrase Allahu Akbar as he was committing his gruesome murders, but not all Muslims condemn homosexual activity and most do not condone murdering homosexuals. In this respect, I actually agree with Bernie Sanders, who said, "The Muslim people did not commit this act. A man named Omar Mateen did. To blame an entire religion for the acts of a single individual is nothing less than bigotry." That skirts the question of whether a particular subset of the Muslim people, namely those who support ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorists, should be blamed, but he is right not to blame all Islam.

Donald Trump's remarks fail to make that distinction, and thus do meet the definition of bigotry. But even that bigotry is closer to the truth than the self-righteous ignorance of the New York Times editorial that said that Mateen's motivation for the rampage "remains unclear."

The Times gets a bit closer when it said "it is evident that Mr. Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians. Hate crimes don't happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester," but who then does the Times identify as responsible for creating the climate where bigotry festers? Astonishingly, Republicans, not radical Islam! Hate that is rooted in religion, even if the religious belief in question is a distorted and corrupted version, is especially onerous because it provides the hater with justification.

There is a critical difference between motive and means. The motive for the Orlando murders was sick, twisted hate. The means happened to be a semi-automatic weapon. Does anyone seriously doubt that, if Mateen could not legally buy such a weapon, he would not have found another way to commit his venomous mayhem? He'd almost certainly either obtain one illegally or use another means of mass murder like a bomb of some sort — a bomb that night actually have killed even more innocent victims than his rifle. The motive was hate. The means was a rifle. Intellectual honesty compels us to distinguish them, not conflate them.

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