Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Using ISIS as Cover

Watch the media patterns after mass shootings and other disasters.  They start by broadcasting whatever tidbits they can find and filling in with lots of 'woe is us,'  'pray for the families,' and trying to figure which current narratives explain what happened.  Was he homophobic?  Was he Muslim?  Was he a terrorist?  An Immigrant?  Oh, he pledged his allegiance to ISIS and he's Afghan (did I forget that he was born in the US?), presto, this is a radical Muslim terrorist attack.

And, did you notice that the only facts they were sure of at the beginning weren't always right.  "50 killed"  "That number will surely grow." Now we're being told it's 49 killed and so far the rest are still alive - six in critical condition.

We all have narratives in our heads - stories that help us organize 'facts' into a coherent explanation of the world.  And it looks like politicians, and maybe eve the shooters themselves, these days might be manipulating our narratives to hide their personal conflicts and demons.  Or to divert our attention from the weapons used.

We don't know anything for certain, but one thought I had from early on, is being supported by some evidence.  NOTE:  This is a thought experiment - exploration of possible explanations.  It's NOT truth, it's thinking outlaid 

ISIS as cover. Number 1.

A few LGBT folks in the area are saying that they've seen the shooter at the Pulse, frequently.  That he's got a profile on a gay hookup app. Suggesting that perhaps this young man was a somewhat-closeted gay man.  This narrative suggests he couldn't come out to his family and was terribly conflicted and frustrated.  His internalized homophobia turned against himself and other gays who lived a life he couldn't.

What better proof of his straight masculinity than massacring gays and then using the banner of self-proclaimed Muslim saviors to cover your own personal problems?

[UPDATE June 17, 2016:  Here's some support of this idea from a Slate article:
"Orlando may be another variant, then, of what the French scholar of Islam Olivier Roy has called the “Islamicization of radicalism.” Islam is used by an individual already on the edge of violence to justify his actions and give him status to at least one audience, as indeed has already happened to Mateen. Details on Mateen’s background are still trickling in, but his ex-wife claimed he was abusive in their marriage and not particularly zealous in his faith."]

ISIS as cover. Number 2:

From The Hill:
"Instead of focusing on the weapon that was used, there should be a focus on radical Islam. The focus should not be on the weapon, it should be on the individual’s heart and the cowardly acts that he performed."
This narrative says it's all about the shooter; the guns he had are irrelevant.

Really?!  For the survivors, in the long run, it really doesn't matter if he was a self hating gay, if he was treated badly because he looks suspicious in the dominant American world view.  It doesn't matter what any of the shooter's issues were in terms of getting past the carnage.  Yes, it would help if Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian pulpits spoke to their congregations about love instead of attacking women and the lgbt community.

But if disturbed people - whatever the cause of the issues, whether it's biological or sociological - didn't have such easy access to automatic weapons, there'd be people still alive in Sandy Hook, Columbine, Roseburg, and San Bernadino, and Orlando.

Instead we hear each time about mental health and terrorists, and strong denials by politicians supported by the gun industry controlled NRA.  First it was Al Qaeda, now it's ISIS.    ISIS is the distraction that keeps us from talking about the first steps that we can do to cut down on the slaughter taking place across the United States.  And that's because of the Congress members who hear NRA money pouring into their campaigns.

This is not about logic, it's about power.  It's about courage. Or rather lack of courage.  It's about electing politicians who care more about the people they represent than about their own egos and power.  Politicians who are willing to risk their jobs for what's right.   And we're moving to a situation where anyone who opposes the gun lobby runs the risk, not only of losing their office, but even losing their lives.  Ask Gaby Giffords what she's doing about this.

ISIS as cover.  Number 3:

But bigger than the guns, is that we're living in a society that produces way too many alienated and angry men.  Again, there are lots of narratives explaining this.  Some argue we've turned our backs on God or there are too many immigrants.

The bigger, overarching context for the alienation, in my view, is our competitive society that is structured to enrich a relative few and impoverish many.  Until the system is recalibrated that alienation will continue.  We need recover some of the economic security that has been destroyed.  People need to feel economically ready to have a family.  Then they need the time to love their children and teach them to love themselves.

We also have to learn how to focus on what's important instead of the increasing number of distractions the internet offers us all.  Including this blog.  We need to take care of our selves, our families.   The people around the world both envy our material wealth and personal freedom and they fear what it will do to their own societies as the world begins to look more and more the same. As we lose the rich diversity of cultures that offers us many possible ways of living.   And that's why organizations - if we can even call it that - like ISIS become symbols of defiance.  Why guns become symbols of manhood.  Why Trumps become symbols of rebellion.  People are desperate for meaning in their lives, for something to believe in, for hope.

I remember years ago when someone in China first gave me a copy of China's Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States.  Of course, it's a response to American reports on human rights violations in China, but still it is sobering to review it.  To see what we look like in others' eyes.  We need to think carefully of the two gods that Americans rely on - the one in the bible and the invisible hand of the market.  Because those are the solutions we're given when confronted by the ISIS cover - pray to God and let the market take care of things.

It ain't working in my eyes.

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