“Pulse” one year later – we may never know why


A year ago, a man walked into “Pulse”, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and gunned down 49 patrons, most of them young gay men, many of them black or Latino. Following the carnage he created, Omar Mateen called 911 to boast about his handiwork:

(OD)   Orlando Police Dispatcher

(OM)   Omar Mateen

OD:     Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM:     In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OD:     What?

OM:     Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD:     What’s your name?

OM:     My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD:     Ok, What’s your name?

OM:     I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

We didn’t get to read the full transcript for days afterwards, because the FBI decided to redact any mentions of religion and terrorism. Apparently, the “portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime”. Knowing why he did it will distract the investigators. Got that? Also, according to the then Attorney General Loretta Lynch: “The reason why we’re going to limit these transcripts is to avoid re-victimizing those people that went through this horror.” Identifying the reason for the massacre will re-victimise the survivors. Got that too?

Following the public outrage, the authorities folded and released the full transcript of the 911 call, which you read above. But Mateen’s motives continued to mystify the authorities, including the then director of the FBI James Comey (yes, that one):

“During calls he said he was doing this for leader of (ISIS) who he named and pledged loyalty to, but he also claimed to pledge solidarity with the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing and solidarity with a Florida man who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for al-Nusra Front, a group in conflict with the so-called Islamic State. The bombers at the Boston Marathon and the suicide bomber from Florida were not inspired by (ISIS) which adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives.”

Beats me. Many people, however, knew that the right-wing climate of homophobia was to blame (Mateen was a Muslim, Registered Democrat, and a Hillary supporter).

A year later, the mystery continues.

Writing under the headline “A year ago, 49 people died at Pulse nightclub. Today, Orlando remembers” (died? in a fire? bee stings? under falling fridges?), “Washington Post” journalist Katie Mettler spends the whole article leaving us none the wiser as to what actually happened. We learn it was a “tragedy” (true enough), and later on that at 2:02am “gunman Omar Mateen fired his first bullet”. Who was Omar Mateen? Was he a white supremacist, or a Trump supporter, or a NRA member? What motivated him? Did he perhaps say anything about why he did it? “The Pulse nightclub shooting” was a tragedy, but it was also the biggest mass shooting in US history, the third largest terrorist attack on the American soil (after September 11 and Oklahoma City), and the second largest Islamist terrorist attack. But I’m not quite sure what Orlando or “The Washington Post” remember.

Meanwhile, at the “Orlando Sentinel”, Paul Brinkmann titles his article, “Pulse gunman’s motive: Plenty of theories but few answers”.

To be fair to Brinkmann, his article is not as ridiculous as the headline. ISIS makes frequent appearance, but we are taken on a magical mystery tour to discover (we never do. Hint: the headline) whether Mateen himself was a self-loathing homosexual, whether he attacked “Pulse” to specifically kill gay men or just kill a lot of people, whether he was really avenging Syria and Iraq, and whether he was a psychopath. “Why do they hate us?” is clearly old and busted; the new hotness is the existentialist “Who are they? Who are we? Who knows?”

Lastly, just to prove that while every cloud has a silver lining, every silver lining is tarnished by Islamophobia, “The New York Times” opinion pages give us “A night of terror, a year of racism”:

We might never know what motivated Omar Mateen, but we know that everything is always Donald Trump’s fault.