published: 16 June 2016
In America, where the National Rifle Association owns a political party and there are so many mass shootings that only some of them make the national news, there are two kinds of mass killers: soft-spoken, mixed-up white loners who deserve a measure of sympathy, and evil Middle Eastern terrorists who do not.
Just after Sunday’s horrific massacre, when information was scant, the identification of a shooter with a name like Omar Mateen helped some sources quickly categorize him as the latter.
Days later, conservative outlets and politicians persist in painting Mateen as a jihadist, the agent of a well-organized Middle Eastern sleeper cell, despite official reports that suggest he was unaware of the deep divides between the multiple factions to which he pledged allegiance.
The subtext of these narratives is an indictment of Mateen’s Muslimness and Afghan-born parents; a hard-sell of the idea that a man born in New York and raised in Florida is somehow innately foreign by dint of heritage and religion.