June 17, 2016

Some Criticism of My Orlando Posts

I received some criticism for what I wrote about the tragedy in Orlando this week, or rather for what I did not write about it. The criticism centered on two points:
  1. I said nothing about the LGBT community.
  2. I did not characterize the shooting as a "hate crime" or even use the phrase "hate crime" in anything I wrote about it.
I'd like to say at the outset that I consider both points to to be perfectly valid. For the most part, both statements are accurate. I am not bothered by either of these things, as they reflect deliberate choices on my part and not some sort of oversight. And yet, I do recognize that some people might be bothered by them. I think that's fair.

I'll address the second point first. My views on "hate speech" and hate crimes legislation have certainly changed quite a bit since I started writing this blog. I now find much about our hate crimes laws to be at least moderately ridiculous (e.g., they tend to apply harsher penalties based primarily on the content of the offender's speech during the alleged offense). But more important than that, I consider any act of mass murder to be a hate crime regardless of which group most of the victims presumably belonged to. Someone who guns down several humans in cold blood has committed a hate crime period. The fact that some or all of the killer's motivation may have involved hate directed at a particular group is certainly relevant in our efforts to understand his or her state of mind; however, I'm inclined to view murder as a hateful act no matter who is on the receiving end of it.

Suppose there was a similar shooting tomorrow with an identical body count. Further suppose that we somehow knew with absolute certainty that the shooter in this second case selected victims randomly. I'd consider this second massacre to be every bit as "hateful" as the first one.  

On to the first point. One reason I have not yet written anything about the LGBT community in Orlando was that their involvement seemed to be so widely reported that I was not sure how anyone could have missed it. The shooting took place at a gay club, and most of the victims were likely LGBT. I think everybody was aware of this. I don't think I mentioned that the club was having a Latin night and that most of the victims were probably "Latinx" either. Again, I think this was reported in virtually all of the news coverage. When it comes to these facts, the news media did a decent job of reporting.

But there is another reason I haven't had much to say about any aspect of the victims. My interest in these cases lies almost exclusively with the perpetrator and not with the victims. Specifically, I am interested in four things:
  1. Who did it?
  2. How did he or she do it?
  3. Why did he or she do it?
  4. What can we learn from #1-#3 that may help us reduce the number of such incidents in the future?
It is not that I don't feel sorry for the victims, their friends, and their families. I'm human, and I do feel sadness, disgust, empathy, and a variety of other things. But I'm interested in learning about the victims only to the degree that this information sheds some light on the offender's motive (#3). I understand that others want to hear the names of the victims, celebrate their lives, remember them, attend vigils, and so on. That's great for them, and I encourage them to do this if the desire. I have zero interest in any of that.

But isn't the fact that the shooting occurred at a gay club or that most of the victims were probably LGBT persons relevant to understanding #3? Sure. And as we learn more details around this case, the degree to which it is relevant in helping us understand motive and state of mind should become clearer. But again, my interest is likely to be focused more on what the victims meant to him rather than which groups they belonged to.
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