There is a new round of debate about the shooting of 102 people in a nightclub two years ago by Omar Mateen, a horror that has returned to the public eye since the acquittal of his wife of the charge of having been an accessory.
On June 12, 2016, Mateen walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire, killing 49 people, wounding another 53, before being killed himself in a shootout with law enforcement. At the time there didn’t seem to be a lot of mystery about his motive. He spoke with authorities via a 911 call, and he said he was an “Islamic soldier” retaliating for a recent U.S. airstrike in Iraq.
Later, though, a theory developed that this was actually an act of sexual repression. Mateen himself, the new story said, had visited gay clubs and made use of homosexual-pairing apps. On religious grounds, though, he came to despise his own homosexuality and (through the mechanism of projection) he despised the victims of his shooting. President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, said soon after the shooting, that both views might be right, “It is entirely possible that he had a dual motive.”
Melissa Jeltsen, of the Huffington Post, seems to have carefully combed the records of his widow’s trial, and to have concluded that there is no basis for the sexual-repression theory.
Left Wing View
From the perspective of the political left the sexual repression theory serves a couple of related purposes. First, it detracts from the Islamism narrative, and thus from the “clash of civilizations” story that the hawks of our day want to impose on current events.
Second, though, the theory invigorates a post-Freudian position in the culture ways: that religion (generically) is a bad thing, an illusion that forces people to suppress their sense of who they really are, thereby distorting themselves and, in the extreme, causing them to lash out at others. This position puts Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (and perhaps animism too) all in the same boat and proposes that the boat be sunk.
But Jeltson, in the HuffPo piece, says that at the trial even the prosecution acknowledged “that Pulse was not his original target, it was the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex” — but the security there scared him off. Mateen “chose Pulse randomly less than an hour before the attack.”
Jeltson has an agenda of her own, at least slightly left of center even in our era. She wants to see the press coverage of the trial as misogynist. Soon after the attack, the New York Post claimed on its cover that the widow, Noor Salman, “could have saved them all.” This, Jeltson plainly believes, was by way of having a woman to blame.
Right Wing View
Noah Rothman, writing in the neoconservative journal Commentary, expresses incredulity that anyone could ever have given any credence to the sexual repression theory in the first place, and something of a sense of relief that HuffPo, at any rate, has come to its senses.
Those who genuinely believed that story, Rothman writes, are those who only live in an echo chamber, who believe “only the kind [of information] produced by and shared among themselves.” For Rothman the incident shows that liberals are delusional.
For some, the key here is that the FBI had Mateen on its radar years before the shooting, yet the authorities failed to do anything to prevent him from wreaking havoc. So this becomes an anti-FBI story which makes it (in Trumpian terms) an anti-Deep-State story.
For still others, the acquittal of Salman isn’t a revelation so much as it is a failure. She was obviously guilty (runs this view), so any competent and non-corrupt jury would have convicted her. This jury must have failed one or the other of those two tests.
It’s a theory.