Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
A few days before the second anniversary of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida, two Muslim terrorists were arrested in a plot to attack gay targets in France. There may be no connection beyond coincidence, but the media would have normally made one anyway if it weren’t avoiding the subject.
The aftermath of Omar Mateen’s killing spree was one of the modern media’s low points. And these days that’s a competitively low bar. Cable news ignored Omar’s declaration that he was an Islamic terrorist and instead wildly speculated that he was secretly gay and homophobic at the same time.
It’s been established conclusively that the ISIS terrorist wasn’t gay. He may not have even known that he was about to open fire in a gay nightclub. His original target had been the Disney Springs mall.
And his message began with, “In the name of Allah.”
ISIS has recorded propaganda videos of its fighters fully implementing Sharia law by hurling gay men off buildings. But after the media’s misleading coverage, it appeared to urge future attackers to avoid targets where their intentions might be misinterpreted. ISIS had managed to pull of its deadliest attack in America only to have it be attributed to repressed homosexuality instead of the glorious caliphate.
A year later, Amer Alhaggagi was indicted for aiding ISIS and plotting murderous terror attacks.
'I'm going to place a bomb in a gay club, Wallah or by Allah,' he allegedly said. Other plans included selling cocaine laced with rat poison and planting backpack bombs in Berkeley dorms.
We know little about the latest plot in France except that it targeted gay people. The perpetrators, two young men in their early twenties, had assembled some weapons and ISIS propaganda.
What we do know though is that this plot fits with the pattern of Islamic terrorism in France. Previous attackers chose the Champs-Élysées, nightspots, concert halls and areas where large numbers of people were enjoying themselves. This terror tactic depressed the famous Parisian nightlife so badly that in one poll, many residents of Paris admitted that the fear of terrorist attacks was keeping them homebound.
What the Sharia police haven’t been able to accomplish with orange vests, the terrorists are doing.
Islamic terrorists in France had been caught last year plotting to bomb Parisian nightclubs, including gay clubs. In March, Umar Ahmed Haque was arrested for exploiting his role as an Islamic teacher to train children to commit terrorist attacks in the UK. His long list of potential target included gay clubs.
But what’s notable in both of those cases is that gay clubs were a target, but not the only target.
In that same way, Omar Mateen might have hit any one of a variety of targets. The Pulse massacre, like the terror plots in the UK and France, were not the product of an exclusive hatred for gay people. Instead they were generated by a theology that inclusively plots the death all non-Muslims.
That is what the media coverage of the Pulse anniversary continues getting wrong two years later.
After Pulse, ISIS doesn’t appear to have hit any specifically gay targets in the United States. But ISIS terrorists in Europe don’t appear to be operating under any such restrictions. That may be because they aren’t worried about having their motives misinterpreted. The sheer scope and lethality of ISIS attacks in France and the UK over the last few years would have made an attack more difficult to misinterpret.
The media has no good way of talking about Islamic terrorism against gay people because it is bound by its rigid political worldview to think of Islamic terrorism as a response to our foreign policy and to attacks on gay people as a generalized ‘homophobia’ that has to be fought with protests and legislation.
But Omar Mateen’s stated motive for his attack was foreign policy. Specifically, he told an Orlando police negotiator that what "triggered" his attack was "the air strike that killed Abu Wahid a few weeks ago." Wahid was a top ISIS leader who had emerged as a popular figure in ISIS propaganda. Omar would have been quite familiar with him and had sought revenge for the death of the murderous terrorist.
Two years later, the media is still choosing to tell the story it wants to tell, instead of the real story.
And yet there is a compelling story there to tell. Unlike the divisive media narrative which reduces the Pulse massacre to pithy homilies about homophobia and gun control, it’s about that which unites us.
Despite our differences, to Islamic terrorists a gay nightclub and a Baptist church would have been equally good targets. Democrats or Republicans, environmentalists or construction workers, men and women, gay or straight, black or white, we are all targets. After hitting Charlie Hebdo, a magazine known for its scatological attacks on religion, the next people to die were Jews were shopping for the Sabbath.
One of the unifying narratives of 9/11 was the understanding that the Al Qaeda terrorists didn’t care and couldn’t know who was in the buildings. They had come to kill as many of us as they could.
That is the defining feature of Islamic terrorism.
Islamic terrorists often start out with a wide variety of targets that they narrow down. And in those plots they usually try to avoid locations where fellow Muslims would risk ending up in their field of fire.
Hitting a gay nightclub is one way of doing that. Like a church, it’s a place where no devout Muslim could or should be found. And, from the point of view of an Islamic terrorist, that makes it an ideal target.
The most significant thing about Pulse, from Omar’s point of view, wasn’t who was inside, but who wasn’t.
That missing piece is still what defines the coverage of the Pulse massacre. And of so many terrorist attack plots which linger on the identity of the targets, but not on the motivation of the attacker. To see it, we have to look for the blank space in the piece of paper and find what isn’t there.
The media can only see the world through a leftist lens. It can’t see Omar. So he isn’t there. But the inability to see Islamic terror also leads to an inability to prevent attacks like the Pulse massacre. The FBI couldn’t see Omar after looking him over for 10 months. Two years later, the media still can’t see him.
But it’s that missing piece which unites us. And without it, we are a house divided against ourselves.
Rainbow shirts won’t stop Islamic terrorism. The latest plots against gay nightclubs in Europe make that clear. A divisive identity politics that segregates us into warring groups makes the work of the terrorists easier. Without a clearly defined enemy, we turn on each other and blame one another for the carnage.
That clearly defined enemy is the missing piece. And in Orlando, he made his presence known.
“In the name of Allah.” That was the message of the man who called himself an Islamic soldier.
All of the attack plots against clubs and churches, Christmas markets and cartoonists, synagogues and museums, were carried out in that name. When we remember that, we have a war. And when we forget that, all we have is tragedy.