With 49 dead and 53 wounded, you’d expect to know more about the victims of the Orlando shooting than the killer. But the shooter has dominated media coverage. You probably know about his links to ISIS, his wife, his ex-wife, and his sexuality, but how much do you know about the victims?
“Orlando Shooter Posted Pro-ISIS Messages on Facebook, Senator Says,” reads one NPR headline. A Vice article is titled, “What ISIS Is Saying About the Orlando Shooting.” A Washington Post headline claims “Orlando gunman who pledged loyalty to ISIS was ‘homegrown’ extremist radicalized online, says Obama.” And a video shows “Shock, tears and grief [surrounding] Orlando shooting scene.” But none of these articles pay much more than lip service to the suffering caused by the Orlando massacre.
Many of these articles mentioned phone calls between the killer and his wife, Facebook posts hinting at pro-ISIS leanings, and text messages sent by the killer during the murders. The victims were only mentioned in numbers to highlight the cruelty of the killer and direct readers’ hate towards ISIS. But it’s too narrow a view of this tragedy and it isn’t going to bring the victims back.
What you won’t read about in these articles are the names of the survivors. In the direct aftermath of the massacre, the spotlight was fixed firmly on the shooter. News reporters gave their interpretations and biases, but you won’t hear anything about how the survivors, victims’ families, and the community interpreted this event. You won’t know how they feel about the fact that the media has taken the opportunity to endlessly comb over the life of a mass murderer instead of honouring the victims.
You won’t be told that Pulse nightclub was attacked on its Latin night. You won’t read that most of the victims were Latinx (a term used to denote queer people of Latin heritage that includes gender non-conforming, male, and female individuals). Instead, you’ll read about how Trump and other conservatives think deporting Muslims is the solution to these attacks, but you won’t read about how he wants to deport the same group of people that formed the majority of the victims in this hate crime.
It seems like it’s easier for media outlets to tell the story of Islam producing radical groups like ISIS than it is to look at how homophobia is a global issue. Perhaps this was an act of terrorism committed by a shooter who pledged his allegiance to ISIS, but this was also a hate crime against the LGBTQ community — a topic that many outlets avoid.
The Westboro Baptist Church is protesting a memorial to the 49 victims, but you’ll find exponentially more articles with ISIS in the forefront. The killer was born in New York, it has been shown that ISIS didn’t co-ordinate this attack, but people don’t want to think about how radical Christian groups contribute just as much bigotry to our society as radical Islamic ones.
Quite simply, the shooter does not deserve this spotlight. His five minutes of fame are up — stop glorifying every detail of his life. Now is the time to pay respect to the victims — victims who had to bear the brunt of homophobia just for being in public and being themselves. If mainstream American media outlets cared more about the victims than dissecting this killer’s life, maybe it would be harder for the Westboro Baptist Church to celebrate their deaths.