Column: In the wake of the Orlando massacre

The confluence of issues inherent in the Orlando massacre involves the assassin’s head, heart, and hand. Omar Mateen’s head was packed with jihadist propaganda. His heart was evidently troubled with issues of sexual and personal identity. And his hand held a gun.
The Islamic State’s slick propaganda—propelled worldwide with just a click or two—must fall on fertile ground to take root. Angry young men who feel like cultural outcasts in the Western world are excellent candidates. ISIS ideology reshapes Islamic theology into a themocracy—“thee-mock-cracy.” Western values and lifestyles are mocked and reviled, rendering us legitimate lightning rods for young jihadists’ righteous rage. When a beheading video fuels a primal bloodlust, mass murder can become their methodology of revenge.
This mindset of holy homicide must be energized by emotional drivers to reap a harvest of hate, to use writer Michael Gerson’s phrase. In Mateen’s case, feelings of hatred and victimization may have interacted with sexual identity issues—so as to make a gay bar an inviting target. While Disney World may also have been a desired target, the pragmatic issue of easier accessibility prevailed.
With his head and heart synchronizing in anti-Western hate, Mateen’s hands had to turn that hatred into homicide. The hand may pull a trigger, wield a knife, drop poison into a city reservoir, or assemble a bomb. Just as life is full of choices, death-by-terrorist also involves a sickening selection of targets, timing, and weaponry. The Tsarnaev brothers visited a fireworks store and pressure-cooker vendor. Mateen went to a gun shop.
That seed of sadistic terrorism planted in a young man’s mind by a book, video, or voice of hatred has to be nurtured to bear fruit for the jihadist movement. John Donne’s observation that “no man is an island” undermines the convenient simplicity of the lone-wolf scenario. Boston, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando were all executed by just one or two attackers — but they needed help along the way.
The Lone Wolf was raised by the pack and often stays tethered to the mother ship of jihadi cultural motivators and killing methods right up to the day of the attack. In the back of his mind, he hears the applause and approval of fellow jihadis and supportive mentors as he plans and perpetrates his attack. From beginning to end, he’s a team player, even when he goes to bat by himself — as a baseball player does. Mateen’s bat was an assault rifle, and in the jihadist league, he knocked it out of the park, a sickening but undeniable fact.


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