Reflecting on Orlando: spinning narratives once again
It must be exhausting being a ‘social justice warrior’.
Whenever a widely-reported terror attack occurs – as has been the relatively-frequent case in the West over the last year – I refrain from the well-wishing and statements of solidarity that flood social media. Any sentiment worth expressing has usually been shared by someone else already, and my 2 cents would add nothing.
I won’t refrain from commenting on how people respond to these tragedies, though. These events are invariably used to gain social, political, and moral ground. The primary vehicle used to achieve these gains is narrative.
What exactly is meant by ‘narrative’? In brief, ‘narrative’ refers to the way in which a set of facts is presented. In addition to framing facts in a particular way, part of crafting a narrative is deciding which facts to highlight, and which to omit entirely.
Narrative is everywhere. The media, in particular, are saturated with various narratives, and each one serves some overarching vision. Contrary to what is commonly taught, the notion of media objectivity is a myth – something those of us here at the Rational Standard openly acknowledge and readily embrace.
In the wake of what happened in Orlando, it has been fascinating to observe the narratives that have been spun. In order to best understand current narratives, we should first turn our attention to an earlier incident.
San Bernadino: narrative changing course
When the mass shooting in San Bernadino took place during late 2015, the social justice Left’s knee-jerk reaction was remarkably uninformed. The perpetrator – many claimed – was one or a combination of: an old white male, a political conservative, a pro-lifer acting out against Planned Parenthood, or an NRA supporter.
Strategically, rushing to get this narrative out before all the facts were known was a big mistake.
After it turned out that the shooters were a Muslim couple, the narrative quickly changed course. Suddenly the focus was shifted to gun access and gun control, ‘Islamophobia’, and the supposed provocation of one of the shooters by a co-worker, ostensibly resulting in ‘workplace violence’.
Much of the response to the Orlando attack has paralleled earlier reactions to attacks in San Bernadino, Brussels and Paris.
As more information about this attack has become available, the subsequent explanations and comments – and indeed, the whole leftist narrative – have unfolded as follows:
“Yes, he’s a Muslim but he’s not devout!” (Read: “Well he’s not a real Muslim. Stop looking for a problem with Islam!”)
“Yes, he was a registered Democrat – but his political views may have changed!” (One wonders what his political affiliations would have changed to. After all, we are constantly told that Republicans are an ‘Islamophobic’ bunch – so no luck in assigning blame there.)
“He was mentally unstable. And nobody liked him.”
“Yes, he was ‘homophobic’, but this is just an isolated case. It’s got nothing to do with Islam!”
Islam is defended and promoted by the social justice crowd because Critical Theory views it as a religion whose adherents are ‘oppressed’ by hateful, bigoted, pathological, and ‘oppressive’ Christians. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the ‘Christian Right’ has received its share of the blame for the attack – the argument being that Christians are the source of any prevailing anti-LGBT sentiments in the world.
Nonetheless, such weak arguments indicate that the social justice Left is wading through difficult intellectual territory. Not only is a Muslim responsible for yet another of the large-scale attacks in recent months, but the victims of this attack were patronising a gay nightclub. Since gay people form another ‘oppressed’ group in their own right (according to the social justice worldview), this is causing a massive headache for the social justice Left.
When will Social Justice Warriors face their own ‘bigotry’?
Social justice warriors insist on defining Islam for Muslims. They choose what does and doesn’t fall in the purview of that belief system. They decide how the adherents of Islam can or can’t behave – and, most strikingly, whether particular individuals are even true adherents of Islam to begin with.
All of this brings to mind a key insight by Dinesh D’Souza. Responding to a question about anti-American sentiments in the Middle East, he had this to say:
“Bin Laden himself issued an open letter to America dated 2002. You might discover the motives of Bin Laden a little better from reading Bin Laden, than from reading the 9/11 report. […] Very often, if you want to understand people from another culture, listen to them – don’t just listen to your own prejudices. So I agree, it may be discomforting for you to think that the radical Muslims are upset not merely at American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, but also about the massive spread of American popular culture into the rest of the world. […] The worst kind of ethno-centrism is trying to project your own fantasies about other cultures onto them. So, you don’t want America to invade Iraq? Don’t pretend that’s what upsets the Muslims – that’s what upsets you! So protest all you want. You don’t like the World Trade meetings? Go protest against them, but you won’t see a lot of Indians and Chinese protesting over there. […] But the truth of the matter is that most Indians and Chinese like foreign companies and stand in long lines when Nike and Oracle hire, and the people from the Indian Institutes of Technology run to those companies to give them their resumes. So, again, the prejudices of leftist Americans don’t always correspond with the welfare of 3rd world peoples – and that applies to Muslims as well.”
The above quote captures quite accurately the tendency of the social justice Left to define so-called oppressed groups’ views and interests for them. If Muslims are indeed an ‘oppressed’ group, it is worthwhile pausing to consider exactly who is responsible for this ‘oppression’.
Make no mistake: I am not making any particular claims about the Orlando tragedy itself, the attacker, Islam, immigrants and their descendants, or anything like that – although there is plenty to be said on all of these topics. I am simply pointing out how the social justice Left has responded. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there are those on the ‘Right’ of the political spectrum who also spin narratives – but at the very least, as misguided as some of those narratives are, they tend to stick to their guns (so to speak) without veering off-course to follow a different narrative when the current one doesn’t suit them, or when it gets shattered by facts.
Ultimately, the social justice mission of spinning narrative in order to protect certain helpless groups of people (helpless in their condescending view, anyway) is untenable. Critical Theory is only useful and remotely plausible when some straight white male can easily be assigned blame; it becomes an intricate game of mental gymnastics when members of ‘oppressed’ groups deviate from the script and turn on other ‘oppressed’ people. Yet here we are, and the mind-numbing cognitive dissonance is showing.
As I said, it must be exhausting being a social justice warrior.