At first blush, very first blush, it seemed cut and dried. America's new record-setting mass murder, and I'll refer to him only by his terrible acts and not his deservedly forgettable name, had claimed he carried out the worst mass shooting in our history as a jihadist for Isis. Then it turned out he also pledged allegiance to Hezbollah and an Al Qaeda branch, all at deadly odds with one another. That, together with the fact that, unlike other jihadist attackers, this fellow stayed incredibly fixated on one target zone, a gay nightclub, was more than enough to give one pause.
It didn't add up.
The arithmetic got worse when it emerged that the murderer's father was given to issuing rambling YouTube harangues on his native Afghanistan, and regularly traveled from Florida to LA to appear on an expatriate TV network on which he quite variously styled himself a candidate for president of Afghanistan, a backer of the Taliban, and the failed state's provisional head of government.
Which only made sense if the poor fellow was deranged. So it seemed more than just possible that the bad apple with the all too easily acquired assault rifle hadn't fallen far from the twisted tree.
But, unlike writers, politicians in this dreadful Era of Trumpism can't afford to wait to get it right. The billionaire neo-fascist and the reactionary media machine he drives won't allow it. The de facto Republican presidential nominee, having promptly complimented himself for predicting a terrorist attack, you know, sometime, claimed it proved he is right to vow a ban on Muslims coming to America. And our deranged American politics was off and running once again.
That this is just the latest vicious non sequitur from our shallowly clever barstool drunk-in-chief -- the murderer was an American citizen, born in the same part of the Big Apple as Trump himself, here as a result of the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan supported by, yes, Trump himself whatever he might claim now -- just didn't seem to matter as much as it should.
For we live in media culture-as-little-kids-soccer-game: Bully boy Trump kicks the ball and everyone runs in that direction.
Then we learned that there was probably a very good reason why the murderer fixated on that one LGBT target in Orlando.
Many reports have emerged and persisted that he spent years doing so much up-close-and-personal, er, surveillance of the gay lifestyle that he was almost certainly a closeted gay himself.
So was he a devout religionist who struggled with a forbidden proclivity? There's hardly any evidence he was much of a religionist to begin with at all.
Or was he a deeply troubled guy, as his ragged school days strongly suggest, who pursued gay culture even as he publicly eschewed it, latching on to the most extreme variants of supernatural religionism as he moved toward going out in a blaze of what he hoped would appear, at least to some, to be glory?
The latter seems much more likely. Which means that the two FBI investigations into apparent radical Islamist leanings were not so much failures of investigation as they were failures of imagination.
Perhaps our counterintelligence/security folks dismissed him as a true jihadist because he was not one. As they did so, they ignored that he might be something else every bit as dangerous; an irrational, self-loathing hater who latched on to a totally contradictory jihadist identity to cover motivations even more base than what he ended up representing.
Which makes claims on the increasingly Trumped-up right that the murderer was a jihadist who succeeded in infiltrating our security state -- in reality, he was a low-level security guard for a big firm at irrelevant sites -- just more uselessly hateful and time-wasting blather.
What to conclude? Pay attention to things that don't fit. Avoid snap judgments unless the situation is solid. And try to ignore that despicable know-nothing blowhard Trump.
True, he didn't invent our shallow rush-to-judgment media culture. He's just the clever parasite who makes it work like a charm for himself.
But all this does not mean that all we have to focus on is an excess of assault weapons (which, by the way, are essentially useless for home defense) and persistent hatred of "The Other."
Investigators need to consider the fact that someone pretending to be a jihadist can be every bit as dangerous as the real thing.
And the Isis social media machine that glamorizes extremist savagery and attracts genuine potential jihadists can't be allowed to provide inspirational cover to the irrational and weak-minded. As I've said before, and as Hillary Clinton points out, it has to be taken down.
As to whether anyone who is drawn to savagely reactionary supernatural religionism in the 21st century is dangerously crazy, well, that may be my view but it doesn't have to be so for present purposes.
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