Framing Orlando: An Act of Terrorism or a Hate Crime?
The murder of 49 Americans in a Gay Nightclub is both an act of terrorism and a hate crime. The elite Left will play down the shooter’s Muslim identity and then proceed to shift the focus to push a narrative that “guns kill people” and not the people themselves or the ideology that fuels their murder sprees. Contrary to that position, however, it is more reasonable to assert that Islamic Jihadist Terrorism is itself based on a hate-filled ideology. It is both hate and terror. It is not all about guns, but in the coming days Americans will be bombarded with a heavy dose of propaganda that makes it seem to be so.
Yesterday, a radical Islamist carried out his hate-filled act of violence against a Western target. He, who shall not be named here, deliberately sought to inflict pain, death and ultimately terror upon people who were pursuing their happiness as they saw fit. The inclination of some is to try to understand why this has happened and look for a means to avoid it in the future. The bad news is, many politicians are afraid to combine the words “Radical” and “Islam.” What is worse, however, is that many will now try to retrospectively reconstruct what caused this violence to take place and then take the sort of misguided action that logically flows from their pronouncements. So, what can we expect from the American Left?
One can expect that a discussion of “gun control” will ensue, as it already has. The reason is that the shiny object represents a low-hanging fruit, which makes the politician’s job easier. This is because politicians need to be seen as acting on the heels of a national tragedy. Treating a symptom as though it were a cause is the fastest way to do this and the American political Left is very adept in this regard.
The aforementioned tactic is very attractive and powerful, even in the face of contradictory evidence. Some examples to consider are the fact that the mass casualty attacks in London, Madrid, Brussels, Paris (twice), and yes, Boston, largely featured explosives. To be sure, firearms were present in the Paris attacks, but they were wielded by the terrorists. Citizens, after all, are not allowed to defend themselves by owning firearms in France.
Some additional evidence undermining the “guns kill people” diatribe could be seen in the fact that terrorist attacks needn’t be carried out by any firearms. The Palestinians, ever the terrorism innovators, have shown that vehicles and kitchen knives (and the potential use of terror tunnels) can cause mass casualties.
With regard to global terrorism trends, between 1970 and 2014, as reported by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD), bombings/explosions have accounted for approximately 68,779 attacks in that period (see Table 1). Astonishingly, the trend over the past several years has been an exponential annual increase, more than tripling between from 2011 to 2014 (see Table 2).
The GTD data from 2015 has yet to be released and therefore doesn’t include the two Paris attacks, nor the Brussels attack. The sum total of bombings, however, is reported to be approximately twice the number of assaults by firearms. Nonetheless, one can see that a murderous rampage doesn’t require a firearm; commitment will suffice.
People carry out mass casualty attacks against a variety of targets for diverse reasons, to include the efforts of a suicidal man who hurled a homemade bomb at an airport check-in counter in China today. Only four people were injured, but the non-firearm attack could have easily produced deaths and more injuries. However, it seems that the more recent attacks against the West have been fueled by a hateful ideological set of priorities. Two operational principles, taken from the lexicon of political science, should be kept in mind as the aftermath of the Orlando event unfolds. First, politicians will attempt to “cue” people who seek to understand where it is they stand on this particular issue. The second is the “framing” of the issue, which is the effort to assert that something is a case of one thing and not another.
The cueing by politicians on the Left will likely be coordinated by what some call an Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). This network doesn’t merely consist of political people, but includes news outlets, think tanks and academics who share a similar ideology. People who generally tend to agree with the general view of a particular party, politician, news outlet, or blogger, will tend to tune into the source that is most pleasing to them. Hence, if you are a Leftist, you will not be reading The Wall Street Journal or listening to Fox News; you’ll be tuned into satirical “info-tainment” such as The Daily Show, or reading The New York Times.
The ACF will work to frame the event as part of a series of mass casualty violent shooting incidents, with most of the emphasis placed on the weapons chosen. The least emphasis, and what really makes for bad policy, will be placed on calling out the root cause of this specific type of mass casualty event: radical Islam. This pathway is disastrous, but it is predictable. In fact, feel free to return to this prediction in the weeks and months ahead.
Table 1: Global Terrorist Bombings 1970 – 2014
Source: GTD, as of June 13, 2016
Table 2: Global Terrorist Bombings 2011 – 2014
|Year||No. of Attacks|
Source: GTD, as of June 13, 2016
 Although bombings outnumber shootings, this should not be eclipsed by the fact that they often go hand-in-hand and may form part of a larger combined arms campaign. Additionally, the GTD fails to account for many types of incidents where a death or injury did not occur. In this regard, the thousands of missiles launched into Israel from Gaza are almost completely missed in the data.
For more academic work, visit David Firester on ORCID.org