Orlando, Florida was a horrific event. Fifty people killed by a gunman.
There are two factors here. The venue was a gay club. Was this a homophobic attack? Self-evidently …yes. Was this an Islamist terrorist attack on United States? Self-evidently …yes.
It was certainly an attack on American “values”. A key American “value” is tolerance of sexual orientation. Conversely many American Christians….I should say so-called Christians….proclaim that their own version of American “values” does not include tolerance of “gay” people.
There are after all “Christians” driving around in cars with stickers “Kill a Qxxxx for Jesus”. Quite possibly there are stickers which say “Kill a Qxxxx for Mohammed”.
The reaction on right-wing Fux News is interesting. They siezed on the fact that the murderer was American-born of Afghan heritage. The contributors that Fux News regard as experts lined up to blame President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
I did not hear any Fux commentary on American gun laws and I did not hear any commentary that was specifically sympathetic to the LGBT community.
Fux News have an agenda.
The mass murderers at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech were not Islamist. The murderer at the “black” church at Charleston, South Carolina was a white supremacist who might have a distorted view of “American” values. The so-called Christians who bomb family planning clinics have ….they would say…American values.
To understand what happened last night in Florida….we need a discussion. All that you have just read above was always going to the subject of a blog-post that I would write tonight. It would be reasonable to arrive at a conclusion that the murders were nothing more than blind hatred of gay people. Thats an entirely reasonable conclusion and you dont have to be LGBT to believe that. Nor do you have to be homophobic to believe that this was an attack on western values (and that a LGBT night club is a very visible sign of western tolerance.
There is a discussion to be had.
A discussion that should have been part of the 25 minute Press Review (10.30 pm….there is a second edition at 11.30pm) an always watchable segment on SKY NEWS. Two journalist reviewers as always tonight (Julia Hartley-Brewer, a conservative commentator and Owen Jones the liberal/Labour commentator) and presented by tonights duty newscaster, Mark Longhurst.
This was the ideal forum to discuss the way that tomorrows British neespapers were handling this story. That after all is the whole point of the nightly “Press Preview”. Part of the discussion is to analyse the unpalatable. Necessarily, the presenter (Mark Longhurst tonight) has to act as Devils Advocate.
As I have said, a reasoned discussion would probably have reached the conclusion that this was simply or mostly homophobic.
Yet a reasoned discussion never happened. Owen Jones is usually right-on-the-money with political and social commentary …an effective advocate of social democracy, the Labour Party and LGBT issues (he is gay).
Yet Jones…who has accepted enough appearance fees on SKY NEWS to know how the format works, wanted no discussion. He may well be right that this is an attack based on unique hatred of and unique vulnerability of the LGBT community. But the role of Islamic terrorism (if any) should not be dismissed.
Increasingly Owen Jones became more animated and increasingly more over-the-top. And it was no surprise that he walked off the set. He looked petulant. He did not appear on the second edition of the “Press Review”. It was left to Mark Longhurst and Julia Hartley Brewer to appear without him. And rather oddly, he was not even mentioned.
And his attitude becomes the story. Rather than writing about “Orlando”, I find myself writing about “Orlando…and Owen Jones”. That is a shame.
Of course I understand the fact that tonight the LGBT community around the world is grieving and in shock. Likewise my friends in the local LGBT community.
But if we have proved anything in Ireland in the last year, it is that gay people are valued members of the Irish nation…LGBT people and heterosexual people voted for Equal Marriage. We proved our Humanity.
I dont have to prove my Humanity to anyone. I grieve for people affected by the Orlando tragedy. I grieve for the broader LGBT community around the world.
I will never be attacked for being Gay. I will never be attacked for being Black. I will never be attacked for being a Woman. Or Muslim. Or Jewish. Or Protestant (Kingsmill). Or British (Birmingham).
But dont demean my Humanity by trying to suggest that I have no understanding of the murders and hate crimes, committed on your unique vulnerable group. Loughinisland anyone?
“Hate Crimes” were not invented in the 21st Century.
The acceptance of the LGBT people into the mainstream has been one of the great acchievements in my life. But Owen Jones doing a passable imitation of “the only gay in the village” is a step backwards.