What are you going to do about it?

I’ve really got to hand it to James Kirchick. Within a day of the Orlando massacre he managed to carry out a broad survey of the left and determine that it was too cowardly and “purposely dense” to point out the role Islam played in the murderer’s motivation. Hear that, liberals and assorted pinkos? There is one factor that brought this horrific plan to fruition, and it is Islam. How dare you talk about gun control. How dare you express concern that innocent American Muslims will once again face a backlash for something they did not personally do. How dare you suggest that something this horrific could have several root causes.

Kirchick condemns those (apparently including a lot of gay Americans) who make a “moral equivalence” between this hate crime and anti-LGBT discrimination such as the wedding cake ceremony. I’m not one to dismiss the experience of someone who spends so much time on Twitter and using it as the basis to judge vast swaths of the population, but I find it hard to believe that anyone of reasonable intelligence is actually suggesting that a baker discriminating against a gay couple is literally equivalent to gunning down civilians in a night club. I think they might have in mind the kind of institutional discrimination that preserves homophobia in America. Maybe someone remembered that another man was planning a large-scale massacre against a LGBT event in LA and unless he’s a convert it’s safe to say Islam wasn’t a motive. I think they might be unknowingly or knowingly thinking about something like this:


Ah but in order for Kirchick to get his point across, he employs a little magic trick. He tells us that this isn’t the first Muslim murderer of gays in America. He then provides us with one case and then quickly leaves the United States to point out the atrocities against LGBT people in countries of the Middle East and Africa. Those not quick enough to pick up on it will miss one important point. However horrible the crimes of Sharia-based regimes might be, none of their actions have a direct impact on LGBT people in the United States. Given that the majority of homophobic crimes in the US are committed by fundamentalist Christians or at least non-Muslims, I think US-based gays can be forgiven for not feeling particularly threatened by the theocratic regime in Iran. Justifiably outraged? Of course. Threatened? No.

This is where we get to the heart of the matter. I don’t mean to beat up on Kirchick for insisting that everyone confess out loud that the problem is “Islam.” He’s by no means the only one. More importantly, I’m an atheist and have no need to defend Islam; I only defend innocent people who have not actually committed any crime. I have in the past condemned those who foolishly say “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam” or those whose immediate reaction to the most egregious atrocity is to pick out some crime of their own government, however old, and act like this somehow negates the horror of what happened. But in spite of this, I have a question for those who, with smug self-righteousness, stand up and challenge people to say the I-word in response to a terrorist attack.

So what? No, I’m not denying that Islam is a factor. It sure is. Congratulations! But I repeat my question- so what? What do we do about this? Do we take the Trump route and ban all Muslim immigration into the country? Well that won’t do- it might radicalize Muslims already in America. Well maybe we can just round them up into camps! Who needs that pesky Constitution anyway?

And what do you plan to do about those Muslim societies abroad? Do we invade and force tolerance on them at gunpoint? The US didn’t even dare try to do that when it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and that didn’t work out too well. No matter. I’m sure it will work out much better if we just invade every country that doesn’t live up to US standards of tolerance (even at a time when the US itself could use a refresher course on the subject) and tell the locals that their religion is shit and they’d better convert or die. Our soldiers wouldn’t need to pull all the weight of course. We can find local Christians and other religious minorities and appoint them in positions of authority over the Muslim population. This plan is so great I’m surprised nobody’s ever tried anything even remotely close to it.

Hey and speaking of our soldiers, who’s going to carry out this great mission? Kirchick? Oh heavens no! This is how Kirchick does battle with an intolerant regime that doesn’t respect LGBT rights:


Look out, Press TV, you’re next in line for a dressing down!

Now I’ve been told by insiders that the reaction inside the studio was a hilarious sight to see, and thus Kirchick deserves some credit. But it’s worth noting that he’d been invited on after advocating the death penalty for Chelsea Manning.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Talk tough but don’t actually back it up. Let some poor person do the fighting, the killing, and the bleeding as you urge them on into the uncivilized world, making it safe for you or at least your specific identity group.

If we step back from the topic of this mass murder, we see this same kind of pattern repeated on dozens of issues, typically from the “neocon” camp. I mean the real neocons, not the RT-definition of neocon, i.e. anyone who criticizes Russia’s foreign or domestic policies. “Assad is a mass murderer!” He sure is. What do we do about it? “Putin is challenging NATO!” Well, kind of. He’s definitely invading Ukraine, but what did you do about it? “This murder is about political Islam!” Yup. It sure is. I guess now all we have to do is send SEAL Team 6 on a mission to take out the president of political Islam. Cut off the head and the body will die.

Getting back to the heinous crime in Orlando, yes, this does have something to do with Islam. It has a lot to do with Islam. It also has something to do with sensible gun control. And yes, I’d say the ongoing discrimination going on across the country against LGBT people, clothed in the language of freedom to persecute others “freedom of religion,” has a lot to do with this crime. After all, if the fundamentalist Christians claim persecution because they’re not allowed to harass or discriminate against gays, it only stands to reason that this alleged persecution would extend to Muslims as well. At the end of the day, we can still call this what it is- a targeted homophobic attack motivated to some extent by reactionary religious thought, while at the same time acknowledging that it is also complex.

But if you don’t want to take my word, maybe you’ll listen to the president of the United States.

UPDATE: In addition to a pastor in California who praised the Orlando massacre, an Orthodox Jew of the Chabad sect recently released a rant in favor of the killing. Now if you’re thinking “Okay, there have been many instances of anti-LGBT violence motivated by fundamentalist Christianity, but by Jews?” Well, no. As it turns out, a radical Jewish extremist attempted a massacre at a gay parade in Jerusalem, but thanks to Israel’s strict gun laws he was reduced to using a knife. He managed to stab six people, killing only one of them. What’s that you say? Israel isn’t the US? Yeah, and neither are Iran and Nigeria, countries that Kirchick included in his Islamic war on gays.

People like to point out how much more violence is associated with Islam compared to Christianity and Judaism, but it’s worth remembering that one reason these religions seem so tame nowadays is because they were tamed by state institutions while their claims have been devastated by the advance of science. Now that its on the ropes, religion in many countries suddenly cries out for “tolerance” where it once called for blood of the unbelievers. And it’s worth pointing out that right now, radical “Orthodox” fighters have been waging a holy war of sorts in Ukraine since 2014.

But yeah, let’s just like…ban Islam or something. According to Kirchick, refusal to put the blame solely on an entire religion is like electing Donald Trump, a guy who puts the blame solely on an entire religion. Yeah.

17 thoughts on “What are you going to do about it?

  1. AndyT

    Another tragedy, another collective jump onto the blue-vs-red bandwagon…

    I feel both fields have a ground for their respective positions… they take it far, too far, though: ultra-liberals should recognize fanatical Islam has played a role – any fanaticism (including its Christian counterpart) could have.

    On the other hand, right-wingers should recognize the need for stricter regulations: the guy reportedly have been known for its radical position – how could he possibly get a gun?

    Also, I’ve noticed populist, right-wing leaders are seemingly willing to get support for their anti-Muslim campaign… by trying to pander to groups they have always despised – feminists, LGBT people, regular immigrants…

    They are like: “Do you know you liberal buddies are going to let more and more terrorists in? Do you know these terrorists will turn your lives in a hell? Stop supporting your liberal friends, and join our anti-Muslim crusade – we care about you!”

    Finally, do these people realise many leading professors, scientists and scholars are actually of Muslim heritage? Are they really willing to get rid of them?

    1. AndyT

      “reportedly had been” and “your liberal buddies”, actually: sorry for the typos, ranting and orthography don’t go hand in hand…

  2. akarlin

    You’re both wrong. The roots of Omar Mateen’s rage lie in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Masha Gessen will write an article confirming this any day now. As such this is part of Putin’s hybrid war against the West and sanctions should be ramped up further.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I get what you’re going for here, but has anyone actually said anything remotely close to this? I mean it kind of sounds like the mirror image of Kirchick’s strawman, i.e. “I bet those leftists will say this happened because of US foreign policy and support for Israel!”

      I suggest waiting for Ms. Gessen to write that article, and if she or anyone else does, believe me, I’m going to pick it apart here.

  3. Vooks

    Food for thought.
    What if the attacker of a Christian, would the response had been different?

    You bet there would have been no distinction between him and his faith. Political correctness is why Islam is treated with kid gloves and divorced from the act while Christians are routinely ridiculed for much lesser faults.

    Think about the consequences to US foreign policy of blaming Islam for the act. ME would bpgo up in flames

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I’m not sure what country you live in, but if he’d been Christian this wouldn’t be called a terrorist attack and he’d be labeled a lone nut.

      1. Vooks

        I’ve lost count of the many times Westboro lunatics are called Christians and touted as the best examples of Christian homophobia by supposedly intelligent America.

        Point is and remains, political correctness is why nobody in their right mind would ID a religion with the act. You can bet if Ramadan posed real threat to Americans, they’d still tell you that Ramadan is not Islam

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        The Westboro Baptist Church claim to be true Christians and they are also openly homophobic. Most people realize that they are not the most representative, seeing that despite the fact that the majority of Christian sects in the US are against homosexuality, that same majority rarely dedicates its entire existence to telling everyone that “God Hates Fags.”

        The rest of your comment makes no sense. The US has plenty of mass shooters who are Christian conservatives and yet their religion is often unmentioned, their acts are not classed as terrorism, and if you point out the link between right-wing propaganda and the shooter’s motive you provoke a major backlash.

  4. Mr. Hack

    Your recent characrterizaton of ‘Christianity’ as some sort of monolithic religious movement that endorses homophobia is way too simplistic. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of separate Christian denominations that don’t represent a united cultural or political front. The ones where a more openly homophobic stance may prevail seem to be Protestant denominations. Also, your allusion to a supposed ‘holy war’ being waged by Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas is way too much of a stretch. Adversaries on both sides of that war are mostly Orthodox christians.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The majority of Christian sects, particularly in America, frown on homosexuality. If we look at Christianity throughout most of its existence, it has been anti-homosexuality. Curiously this stance started to change in secular countries where you had less church influence and better protection of human rights, but I’m sure that was just a coincidence.

      As for the Donbas, of course there are plenty of people fighting their who aren’t necessarily motivated by religious reasons, but what side, what government, has proclaimed itself a defender of Christian and Orthodox values? Obviously this motivates someone, even if they don’t know anything about Christianity.

      Comparing it with Islam, we know that ISIS represents a tiny minority of Muslims, and many of their recruits show little knowledge of Islam before joining. But then we still have to ask ourselves- would their be an Islamic state without an Islamic religion? No. So religion does play a role.

      1. Mr. Hack

        I agree with your assessment, however, don’t understand why you feel that the loosening of the acceptance of the gay lifestyle wasn’t the result of more secularism and less church influence in Western society?

        Your explanation as to why you reference the war in the Donbas as a ‘holy war’ is still woefully incomplete. What’s going on in the Donbas is not directly analogous to what’s going on in the Mid-East and with ISIS.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        That’s precisely what I’m attributing that to. I’m not the first atheist to point out that religion has really softened up after it was devastated by science and restrained by secular law. The point is that if we didn’t have that kind of society, religious attitudes might look very different. Take Russia, for example, where the church has the backing of the state in spite of a constitutional prohibition of exactly that.

        As for Donbas the point is that you have some people there who claim that Orthodoxy is somehow under threat (and pointing out the Orthodoxy of the Ukrainian church doesn’t much faze them). One of the Donbas militia units formed by Russian National Unity was called the Orthodox Army.

  5. Mr. Hack

    You confused me by stating at the end of the paragraph that ‘but I’m sure that was just a coincidence.’ Your clarification seems to indicate to me that it was more than just a ‘coincidence’, but more like a direct causation.

    As to pointing to the Donbas war as representative of a ‘holy war’, I still think that’s going way too far…no matter what any pseudo ortho-vatnik political pundit (or a revolutionary ‘Orthodox Army’) might posit as substance. These are fringe beliefs of a very few that are funny at best.

    (still no ‘Reply’ option at the end of your last comment to me?)…

  6. ramendik

    Well, I guess we can “thank” ISIS for a very radical contribution to this debate. After the attack in Medina it is very hard to claim that Islamist attack equal Muslims because they now attacked Muslims specifically. (I mean it’s literally illegal to be there if you’re not a Muslim).

    But I don’t get your point about Kirchick and RT. You make a point here repeatedly about RT being a propaganda outlet. He took that very same point to heart. I have to say he was speaking on an issue where I am on his side – this is not Ukraine nor Syria – and I sort of understand where he was coming from. (Though I think he should have worn the suspenders, made a brief statement but then gone on to Bradley Manning… except it’s Chelsea Manning if one’s wearing rainbow suspenders, can’t one at least be consistent?)

    I’d probably wear a “Kosovo is Serbia” T-shirt or something if I were ever invited on the BBC, too.


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