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Orlando shooting brings hate to its natural conclusion

  • 15 June 2016


The tragedy in Orlando, Florida over the weekend is hate brought to its natural conclusion. In the wake of competing truths, this is what emerges and perhaps what matters most, if we are to make our way past.

So far, analyses of what happened at Pulse nightclub — an LGBTQ venue — follows a pattern made familiar in recent years.

The gunman Omar Mateen, for instance, is described as having been unstable and aggressive. The upshot being that the violence bears no further explanation than individual choice, a flaw in character.

It is an explanation that withers wretchedly against the incandescence of 300 lives, of which 49 were extinguished and 53 wounded.

It is also inadequate against a host of other elements: the ideologies internalised by the perpetrator (including notions of masculinity), the circumstances in which he was able to access assault rifles, biases that are now heightened by the violence, the temperature of political responses, law enforcement accountability, and public perceptions of global threat.

At the epicentre of all this is a place where young, queer men and women had felt safe and free to be themselves. It was a Latino-themed night, drawing many whose families had moved north for a better life. The nightclub itself was named by its co-founder for her brother, who had died of AIDS in 1991. Pulse, for the heart that beats on.  

It lies arrested at the intersection of the hatreds that continue to grip western societies. The dead are almost all black, brown, gay and working class. The gunman bears a Muslim name. Based on comments from his ex-wife, he harboured contempt for women — a trait he shares with lone-actor shooters such as Anders Breivik (Utøya) and Elliot Rodger (Isla Vista).

If, as Dr Cornel West has often said, justice is what love looks like in public, then injustice must be what hate looks like, and there is perhaps no greater injustice than murder. Mass murder is hatred realised in full grotesque proportion.


"When we adopt discriminatory language and policy, we shift further toward the prospect of real violence."


What this means is that the little things we do to validate hatred are not inconsequential.

When gays and lesbians are spoken of as if they are sub-human, when their relationships do not bear equality before the law, when their parenting or teaching is described as child abuse, when their murderers can lodge a defence based on 'provocation', when their presence