cw: the June 12, 2016 Orlando shooting, including sanctions of hate, fear, violence, and death regarding oppressed minorities; media and politics.
I am extremely saddened and grieved by the tragedy in Orlando. I feel even less safe. And yet I do not feel even less safe primarily because I am afraid of gunmen. I feel less safe because the media (and political) response to the event reminds me of why there are gunmen in the first place. And that it is all being sidelined, ignored, glossed over, or excused instead of addressed and resolved.
This is written in response to the first headline I read about the tragedy, posted by CNN.
Let’s think about what is happening when the headline reads “49 killed, shooter pledged ISIS allegiance”. That was the link I followed (it was the first relevant thing on my screen).
First, and very importantly, the media (CNN, here) bypasses the fact that the victims were LGBT people of color. This is despite the plain fact that the shooting took place in a gay bar during Latinx Night during LGBT Pride Month. The victims were very clearly, very obviously, LGBT and people of color. Yet this was not mentioned. This was bypassed altogether. Readers think “Oh my god, 49 people were killed!” but they are offered nowhere to place their compassion. Readers may feel pain, sorrow, and loss but it is given nowhere to land. The media disables the LGBT community and people of color (especially in this case the Latinx community) from receiving support, compassion, and a recognition of their worth and fellow humanity, because before readers ever learn who the victims were, the media has diverted their emotions with the second half of the headline.
The victims are denied their right to be grieved as anything other than generic humans.
The reader, still shocked by “49 people killed”, is immediately ‘informed’ that the “shooter pledges ISIS allegiance”, and, prompted by conjurings of an imminent threat of attack by an Islamic Terrorist organization, is thus directed to feel fear and hate. The media is here completely bypassing the idea that the natural response to a mass shooting of LGBT people of color is support and compassion towards the victims, and instead insisting that the *important* point is that ISIS has struck again, and that therefore the natural response to this tragedy is to feel fear and hatred.
The claim that the gunman had any connection to ISIS whatsoever was questionable, but it still made it into the headline.
It turns out that the gunman has no connection to ISIS. The shooter was Muslim, but not religious. He was American. He had been known to frequent that same club for the last three years himself. So, convoluted and disturbing as his background may be, it has nothing to do with Isis. He was not a member of ISIS and ISIS had nothing to do with the shooting (besides through perpetuating hate and fear, just like this media headline does).
CNN had no proof that ISIS was involved, but “ISIS” is prominent in the headline, whereas the words “Latinx”, “LGBT”, and “People of Color” are absolutely nowhere to be found.
And so we have an example of the media wording a headline in a way that effectively removes support and compassion for two oppressed minority groups (LGBT community, people of color, and of course those who are doubly oppressed by belonging to both groups) and promotes hatred and fear towards another oppressed minority group (Muslims, especially, incredibly, Muslim refugees fleeing Isis), all while allowing politicians/society/the media to completely bypass their own responsibility towards any of these groups or the dynamics of their oppression; and this was achieved through emotional manipulation, misinformation, and withholding of information.
This is how they chose to set the stage for everything that followed.
These things matter.
Please be aware.
And now of course the media throws in the usual tripe about the gunman being mentally ill. As if mental illness did not have enough shame and stigma attached to it. As if the mentally ill weren’t victims of violence everyday. Let’s again bypass our responsibility to the mentally ill, as well. Another oppressed group to disconnect from compassion and support, to be made the target of fear and hatred, to be made to shoulder the blame of the dynamics of their own oppression.
I will also say this: the gun control discussion is important. It is. But it should not be the main discussion now. It should not be the only discussion now. The main discussion should be why someone would use a gun to murder 50 people in the first place, and, specifically, 50 LGBT people of color. The main discussion should be about our social responsibility towards the victims and their communities. The main discussion should be about the dynamics of their oppression. The main discussion should be about how we are all human and can we stop hating each other please. Gun control is a vitally important issue. A person of murderous intent could hardly walk into a night club wielding a giant butcher knife, a lead pipe, a flame thrower, or an arm’s length of heavy chain (etc) and not be stopped; and even if they did, they could not mow down a room full of people in mere seconds as easily as with a gun. Controlling access to and use of such powerful a weapon as a gun is vitally important. But people don’t use guns to kill for no reason, and when the gun control discussion *is used to divert attention away from the main, all-important, all-illusive discussion of broader social responsibility for these actions* then that is a problem. It is profoundly sad that the issue of gun control is being used to do just that. We DO need to have that discussion, but we need to have the other one also/ first/ more.
We are actively being distracted and directed away from the real underlying problems, and this is being done in such a way that not only keeps us from solving those problems but also reinforces and compounds them terribly, and continuously divides us against both each other and our inner selves while embroiling and investing us in the dynamics of our own (and everyone else’s) oppression.
These things matter.
Please be aware.
Not in my name.
For my part, peace to my fellow humans, all of you: you are loved and respected and mourned and remembered and seen and heard and I will try to make the world a better, safer place for you, and to make a place for you in this world. All of you.