Don’t Blame “Self Loathing.” Blame Jihadism.

 

pulse-orlando-shootingDon’t rush to infer motivations, some warned after Omar Mateen’s attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in Sunday’s early hours. We simply don’t know, certainly in the first 24 hours, why a disturbed individual would choose to go on a terrible killing spree. Who knows what abnormalities are at work in such a person’s mind? Even if they say Napoleon or Space Commander Alpha sent them, we can hardly take their word for it.

To be sure, certain clues might have seemed vital. For example, not only had Mateen vowed allegiance to Islamic State in a 911 call during his attack (and also on Facebook, it later turned out), but IS itself within hours accepted his vow and welcomed his actions via a news agency, quite a bit faster than it acknowledged the allegiance of and praised the husband-and-wife attackers in San Bernardino last year. In fact, as New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi pointed out, Mateen, like the San Bernardino attackers and the attackers at a Garland, TX, cartoon exhibition (and like a number of attackers in Europe) had followed closely a protocol laid out by IS itself for announcing loyalty contemporaneously with an independently carried out act of violence.

Some of the wait-and-see commentators seem to regard news developments in the days since then as having vindicated their position. For example, no evidence has emerged that Mateen coordinated his attack in advance with any IS leadership. The problem here is that, as Callimachi points out, IS’s own recommendations for attacks on the West emphasize exactly the avoidance of such pre-coordination, which would give investigators more trails to follow leading to IS actors. Mateen had also followed other steps typical of IS recommendations, including taking hostages in a closed space, which increases the chance of a drawn-out siege (good for media interest) ending in the death of the attacker (who therefore cannot be debriefed for intelligence.)

In addition, it soon became apparent that Mateen had a poor understanding of religious and geopolitical issues. For example, he had expressed admiration for various Mideast factions that, while each violent and anti-American, hew to very different traditions in Islamic theology and sometimes are each others’ sworn enemies. But that too turns out to be unsurprising: much jihadist violence in the West has been perpetrated by the sorts of confused students who might (to use the famous example) need to order the volume entitled Islam for Dummies. This is not a breach of the norm; it’s one common pattern.

But the biggest reason to step back from a simple jihadism explanation, it has been argued, is the emerging evidence that the killer may have hung out on the Florida gay scene for years and sought sex with men. Multiple reports place him as a frequent visitor to Pulse and other gay venues who had tried to pick up guys but was generally regarded as socially unsuccessful and was known for sudden fury and drunkenness. A user resembling him was also seen on gay hook-up apps. (At the same time, he married women at least twice, the latest having borne him a small child.)

This has added a layer of psychological complexity that some commentators have found impossible to resist. It’s true that gays who live a double life, especially when they come from conservative families who strongly disapprove of such goings-on, do come under a lot of psychological pressure — though such pressure hardly ever ends in this manner. And a narrative in which others’ disapproval of his life choices had somehow caused Mateen to explode would reinforce an instinct much in evidence in some quarters after the attack — to find ways in which American society, and conservatives in particular, were somehow to blame.

The theory doesn’t work, however, as a practical explanation of his case, and it’s not really a convincing one psychologically, either.

To begin with, the picture of Mateen as lonely, lacking in any family life, and unable to turn to anyone in his torment was rather drastically complicated by reports that his young and pretty wife, Noor, drove him to scope out the Pulse club as well as on a gun buying expedition; according to reports, she has told investigators she tried to talk him out of the mass murder itself, and authorities are likely to probe closely into what she and other family members knew and when.

Then there are the witness accounts, both of survivors at the Pulse scene and of those who knew Mateen before the attack. Survivors describe him as shouting during the attack about US policy toward “his” country (by which he apparently meant Afghanistan, though born in the US) and as declaring his solidarity with the Tsarnaev brothers, of the Boston Marathon massacre. Where he worked as a security guard in a gated community, a colleague recalls him regularly making anti-gay remarks.

Note that he did *not* shout out his solidarity with famous conflicted gay persons, nor did he swear allegiance to some quack “ex-gay” therapist.

There is every indication, as both President Obama and Vice President Biden have indicated in statements this week, that Mateen’s radicalization has been under way for a while, and could be fully accounted for by the Internet as opposed to time in training camps (though he had visited the Middle East at least for the occasion of a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia). As far back as 2001, according to a front-page Washington Post report, fellow students at a Florida high school were shocked to see him smile and express satisfaction as television in the classroom showed the 9/11 attacks.

Is there anyone who has spent much time studying religion —very much including its most fanatical and extreme versions —who is not aware of the concept of the mind of the adherent as a place of warfare between sinful impulses and the demands placed by the religious authority? This is human and psychological conflict, yes, but ordinarily it is described as one shared by all or most of those who walk in the religion’s path. Had he followed many other sects, what it would mean for religious observance to “win” in this context might be something like unhappy and lonely celibacy, or staying at home with Noor. Had he done that, many would now be alive.

That he did not is attributable not to the hypothesized “push” of self-loathing due to whatever may have gone on in his sex life, but to the “pull” of a malign and evil ideology. And it is to that ideology we should look for explanations of the Orlando atrocity.

There are 18 comments.

  1. Member

    The volume of nonsense about the NRA and supposed Christian homophobia is more than the usual ‘not letting a crisis go to waste’ agenda-pushing.

    I think the left is struggling to suppress what they know is the natural, honest and true reaction to this horror. Multi-culturist/blame America/PC fantasies about the world are crashing and burning.

    Lastly, with respect the buffoonery of Senate Democrats today: Watchlists for gun buyers are not the solution when our own government officials won’t put any Muslims on it for fear of being called Islamaphobic.

    • #1
    • June 15, 2016 at 11:31 am
    • Like
  2. Contributor

    Interesting post. I do find it interesting that both the San Bernardino shooters and this one chose targets and victims they were intimately familiar with. I think some of the Bataclan shooters did as well. That adds an angle to Islamist violence that is particularly terrifying. So I don’t think they’re unrelated at all. And this man’s religious and cultural views had to play a role in all of his life. So I’m not opposed to the idea of self-loathing playing a significant role. I think there is a love of Western values and freedom that is at tension with strict Islamism in the hearts of these terrorists. Something we even saw with the 9/11 bombers. I’m having a hard time articulating what I’m thinking, but basically — what if that tension is part of Islamist violence at its core? And different terrorists demonstrate this in different ways? And, further, what if Islamist ideology appeals precisely to this type of person who is experiencing confusion and conflict in his life? In that sense, *nothing* that has been learned about this shooter is particularly surprising.

    • #2
    • June 15, 2016 at 11:34 am
    • Like
  3. Inactive

    No, silly, the cause was republican hate, and probably christianity:

    The Corrosive Politics That Threaten L G B T Americans

    While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, 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, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.

    Never mind this man was raised by an angry, Taliban-supporting Islamist.

    • #3
    • June 15, 2016 at 11:43 am
    • Like
  4. Member

    If being an oppressed, closeted gay is so traumatic as to have caused this, and if America is such a homophobic, gay-hating nation, then why hasn’t this happened before?

    • #4
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm
    • Like
  5. Thatcher

    Walter,

    I have posted on Ricochet before about the merciless doctrine of Jihad. How in absolute terms Jihad justifies mass murder. Once a subject becomes influenced by this doctrine they are like a walking time bomb.

    However, we must also face the harsh reality of Sharia Law. Adding this to a Jihadist outlook makes for a focused genocidal act. As an example, a genocidal act that is specifically directed against a group such as gays.

    Although, extreme Jihadism is often a rarity Sharia Law is not. This is part of the confusion. Here is an Islamic cleric explaining in his own Mosque and in his own terms what Sharia is about.

    https://youtu.be/xEMHKO5MC6c

    This is the challenge. Jihad is the extreme warning signal that someone is very dangerous. However, common Sharia beliefs hold within them the potential for focusing the Jihadist at particular targets.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #5
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:11 pm
    • Like
  6. Member

    The King Prawn: If being an oppressed, closeted gay is so traumatic as to have caused this, and if America is such a homophobic, gay-hating nation, then why hasn’t this happened before?

    Walter Olson: Don’t Blame “Self Loathing.” Blame Jihadism.

    I think it is a clear combination of both. As KP points out, plenty of other ‘self loathing’ people don’t start shooting up places. It is the unique combination of that self loathing with a religious assurance that g-d will bless you for killing infidels that makes this unique. When your religion teaches that g-d loves violence and murder, any tendency towards it is justified, enhanced, and enabled.

    In any normal society, there is some small percentage of violent and sociopathic individuals. But most societies condemn, punish, and shun those who act on those tendencies. From what I can tell, a significant portion of Islam enables and celebrates it.

    • #6
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:31 pm
    • Like
  7. Member

    Lily Bart:No, silly, the cause was republican hate, and probably christianity:

    The Corrosive Politics That Threaten L G B T Americans

    While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, 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, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.

    Never mind this man was raised by an angry, Taliban-supporting Islamist.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 3.26.12 PM

    • #7
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:47 pm
    • Like
  8. Member

    In addition, large percentages of Muslims support Sharia law.

    Sharia Law says homosexuals must die. Which is the law in many Muslim majority countries.

    20160613_gay2

    • #8
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:50 pm
    • Like
  9. Contributor
    Walter Olson Post author

    Mollie Hemingway: both the San Bernardino shooters and this one chose targets and victims they were intimately familiar with. I think some of the Bataclan shooters did as well. That adds an angle to Islamist violence that is particularly terrifying.

    Very true. Unfortunately, that tactical choice probably heightens the effectiveness of terror operations in several ways: by improving chances of near-term operational success, by spreading apprehension that even ordinary settings like an office or birthday party are not safe, and most of all, by sowing distrust and ostracism of other members of one’s religion precisely in the circumstances of friendly everyday association that augur successful assimilation in America and elsewhere.

    • #9
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:59 pm
    • Like
  10. Contributor
    Walter Olson Post author

    Mollie Hemingway: what if Islamist ideology appeals precisely to this type of person who is experiencing confusion and conflict in his life? In that sense, *nothing* that has been learned about this shooter is particularly surprising.

    I think this is correct as well. Note that while violent ideologies may hold intrinsic appeal to persons who experience confusion, conflict, and failure in some objective sense in life, they can also engender confusion and conflict in persons who might not have failed on some objective level but rather succeeded in life in a way that the newly accepted religious doctrines deem odious. Being a physician with the U.S. army, or a university-trained North African in Europe who has fallen away from all religious practice, might not seem to most others like a wasted life of evildoing but might come to appear as that if one converts to jihadism and then evaluates one’s earlier life choices accordingly.

    • #10
    • June 15, 2016 at 1:12 pm
    • Like
  11. Inactive

    Mollie Hemingway:And, further, what if Islamist ideology appeals precisely to this type of person who is experiencing confusion and conflict in his life? In that sense, *nothing* that has been learned about this shooter is particularly surprising.

    The conflict is confusion, and the proposed resolution is clear, simple, and direct. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what the confusion was; what matters is that the violent solution is so simple.

    • #11
    • June 15, 2016 at 1:18 pm
    • Like
  12. Inactive

    I haven’t seen much commentary on it, but Jeh Johnston’s words put a shiver down my spine:

    “We have to face the fact that meaningful gun control has to be a part of homeland security,” Johnson said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “We need to do something to minimize the opportunity for terrorists to get a gun in this country.”

    Does this give anyone else pause? (Forgive me, but I’m way behind on my reading the last day or so.) This sounds like the kind of thing Obama would say just before he issues an executive officer to take over an issue, claiming that he has to intervene as president.

    • #12
    • June 15, 2016 at 1:23 pm
    • Like
  13. Member

    Saw her name and NYT article mentioned above, so for those on Twitter, I want to add that Rukmini Callimachi @rcallimachi is worth following and reading. I’m catching up right now and reading her discussion (beginning about 10 hours ago) with Maria Abi-Habib (Wall Street Journal), Michael S. Smith II (Congr. Taskforce on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare), Thomas Joscelyn (Long War Journal), and others about so-called lone wolf terror attacks, Al Qaeda’s experimentation with them going back 6 years, attackers pledging support to organizations, ISIS’s internet savvy etc.

    • #13
    • June 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm
    • Like
  14. Member

    Mollie Hemingway:I think there is a love of Western values and freedom that is at tension with strict Islamism in the hearts of these terrorists. Something we even saw with the 9/11 bombers. I’m having a hard time articulating what I’m thinking, but basically — what if that tension is part of Islamist violence at its core?

    And that is the cause of Islam’s civil war spelled out – the tension between individual freedom and the constraints of tradition.

    But like most culture wars, most of it is fought inside our heads. Violence, and violence against the West even more so, is the tip of the iceberg.

    • #14
    • June 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm
    • Like
  15. Member

    Kozak:

    Lily Bart:No, silly, the cause was republican hate, and probably christianity:

    The Corrosive Politics That Threaten L G B T Americans

    While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, 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, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.

    Never mind this man was raised by an angry, Taliban-supporting Islamist.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 3.26.12 PM

    I wish that list included the United States, the UK, France, Sweden, and other Muslim countries. I’d like to see the data.

    • #15
    • June 15, 2016 at 6:49 pm
    • Like
  16. Inactive

    KC Mulville:I haven’t seen much commentary on it, but Jeh Johnston’s words put a shiver down my spine:

    “We have to face the fact that meaningful gun control has to be a part of homeland security,” Johnson said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “We need to do something to minimize the opportunity for terrorists to get a gun in this country.”

    Does this give anyone else pause? (Forgive me, but I’m way behind on my reading the last day or so.) This sounds like the kind of thing Obama would say just before he issues an executive officer to take over an issue, claiming that he has to intervene as president.

    Those statements by Johnson are beyond patody.

    Thus speaketh the head of the very gov’t agency that hired the company who employed this traitor to enforce the security of our borders?

    In that capacity, I maintain, Omar woulda had a gun even if private gun ownership were completely banned in this country.

    Why wasn’t he on DHS’ “no-hire” list? If they don’t have one, they should.

    But the fact that we are even discussing gun control in connection with the Orlando attack, I’m very much afraid, means we’ve already lost. Omar himself did everything humanly possible to declare his motive for this attack: allegiance to Sharia and the Islamic state. The Left has succeeded in promoting a fantastic narrative about gay self-loathing– thus making Omar into a pathetic victim. “We” are now instructed to ask if the true cause of this attack was not the controversy over gay weddings.

    In a way, I guess that’s some rough justice, since to be seen as pathetic victim is the last thing Omar the jihadist warrior would have wanted.

    But-Trump gave a good speech, one which focused on the real issues posing a danger to Americans. And it’s nothing to do with wedding cakes. The Left, and the NeverTrumpers, have ridiculed him for it.

    They’re probably going to get what they deserve: Obama:The Sequel.

    I just wish I weren’t stuck on this ride.

    • #16
    • June 16, 2016 at 5:31 am
    • Like
  17. Member

    The Reticulator: I wish that list included the United States, the UK, France, Sweden, and other Muslim countries. I’d like to see the data.

    Well, about 50% of US muslims support Sharia when polled.

    80% of the mosques in the US are Saudi funded and have been radicalized

    I don’t think anything in the other countries is anymore reassuring …

    • #17
    • June 16, 2016 at 7:50 am
    • Like
  18. Member

    Blaming the Christians, the Republicans and the NRA for Orlando, San Bernardino, et al is like blaming Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the Holocaust.

    • #18
    • June 16, 2016 at 12:48 pm
    • Like