I started writing this piece last week about an attack in Orlando that killed five just before the one-year anniversary of another Orlando mass shooting. As if that already wasn’t a damning enough comment on the frequency of mass killings in America, before I could even finish, other active shooter situations knocked it out of the news cycle, including at least three on the president’s birthday — the attack on Congressman Scalise in Virginia, a mass shooting at a UPS facility that killed three in San Francisco, and a shooting near Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn (there was another lockdown at Travis Air Force Base that turned out to be a false alarm).
The news cycle barely has room for all of them. Just as an experiment, type in a Google News search for “London attack,” and then compare the results to what you get for “Orlando attack.”
If it seems like there’s a lot more coverage of the van attack on London Bridge that killed seven last Saturday than the attack at the Fiamma factory in Orlando in which a disgruntled employee killed five former co-workers and then himself last Monday, you’re not imagining things. In fact, just look at our president’s Twitter feed. In the days since the London attack, he’s tweeted a report of the attack, a message of support to London, blamed the London attack on political correctness, attacked London’s mayor over his response, (twice), pointed out that the London attacker didn’t use guns, and restated his travel ban (at least five times), without once mentioning the Orlando shooting.
Interesting, because this time last year, he was all over the other Orlando mass shooting, tweeting at least four times about the infamous Pulse Nightclub attack that killed 49 exactly 51 weeks before the Fiamma factory incident.
The disconnect is easy to explain. While the Paris attack was a “terrorist” attack and the Fiamma factory just your run-of-the-mill disgruntled non-Muslim mass murderer, Pulse Nightclub straddled both lines, and thus rated a mention. The president gets very excited every time a killer shouts “Allahu Akhbar.”
It should come as no surprise, but the threat of “random” terror vastly outweighs that of “Islamic” terror. In 2014, for every one American killed by terrorists at home or abroad, 1,049 were killed by gun violence. Sure, as the NRA folks will certainly rush to point out, that number includes suicides and accidents (what, those don’t count?). But if that stat’s not “random” enough for you, you’re still twice as likely to get shot by a toddler than a terrorist. Should we have a travel ban on babies? (Come to think of it, maybe that’s not a bad idea…)
But I’m falling into the same old trap, trying to decide which flavor of murderer is the scariest. It’s like when movie studios get us arguing over which actor would make the best Spider-Man while they reboot it for the 17th time. These days, whenever there’s a mass shooting, we wait breathlessly for a motive and then whichever side “wins” (Islamic terrorist being a big win for the right, right-wing hate crime being a big win for Democrats) gets to spike the football on Twitter (that the Virginia shooter was apparently a Bernie Sanders supporter is rare win for both sides). I state the obvious here, but this is no way to live.