Media reports a major attack by one gunman on the Pulse Nightlcub in Orlando FL last night about 2 AM, on what is Pride weekend in Washington DC. CNN has a typical story . The Washington Blade has a story here. The Orlando Sentinel has a much more detailed story as of 10 AM Sunday morning here. It is not yet know what the motive of the perpetrator was (for example, political or “religious”), and whether the perp acted alone. There had occurred a story on club security here on April 15, 2016. The attack occurred one night after a shooting of a singer in a different (straight) nightclub in Orlando, apparently unrelated. It is not known if there is any conceivable connection.
I had visited the club myself in July 2015 on a trip, when I was visiting nearby theme parks of Disney and Universal. The posting showing the visit is here on July 14, 2015. The club is relatively small in floor space.
This does seem to be one of the deadliest events at a gay club in US history. Right after I had “come out” there had been an attack in New Orleans in 1973, which has largely been forgotten (according to AC360, the arsonist in that event was never caught -- the establishment was the UpStairs lounge, and CNN has the details here -- actually, I think there was another attack earlier in the year, if I recall correctly). But there were fundraisers for that incident in NYC then right when I was entering the community then.
Many more details will come out of investigations, and it isn't practical to follow them all in detail right here, although I'll have more to say on a newer Wordpress news commentary blog soon.
The death toll is now at least 50, so this is the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11.
Without getting into too much speculation about radical Islam at this early stage (even allowing the reports of what he told a 911 operator), it's important to note a major news story (here in the Washington Post) that the suspect. Omar Mateem, has been reported as abusive and mentally unstable by an ex-wife. Then, in a recent event in Miami, he, according to his father, was enraged at a gay PDA in front of his young son. This attitude is common in people raised in authoritarian cultures (whether based on religion, or in a country like Russia), when they feel that a competitive, individualistic culture doesn't make sense to them. If economic opportunities are limited, they feel that their identity is tied to the idea of (often tribal) lineage. They fear that open male homosexuality around them will influence their own children and result in their having fewer descendants, denying their own life any further meaning. This is really obviously behind the "anti-propaganda" law in Russia.
Of course, the debate on gun control comes into focus. Why would an individual citizen need an arsenal of military weapons? The NRA argument that people inside a public venue could reliably defend themselves if all were armed falls apart in a crowded space.
A blogger from France reports on homosexuality in Pashtun culture in tribal Afghanistan on youtube here. Maybe it's relevant.
There is a gofundme page for the victims of the incident, from Equality Florida. There is another one from the LGBT Community Center of Central Florida. There is a source of other volunteer and donation opportunities from Wesh here.
However, I think there is a strong moral and legal case that Congress should authorize a compensation fund (including San Bernadino), given the military style of the attack and the connection to US foreign policy, effectively drawing in civilians as unwilling "combatants". The president should authorize the use of active duty combat surgeons and military hospitals to provide care, including rehab. I'll get into this more on Wordpress soon.
The Daily Mail has a sensational story about Matteen here. Again, he was seen at the Pulse and various other Orlando area locations, including theme parks. Orlando also has street fairs and parties. I don't recall encountering him in 2015, but I have about 200 pictures I could look at to make sure. Anyone who remembers meeting him or discovers him in vacation photo should contact the FBI,
Ishaan Thaoor has a column in the Washington Post June 14, "The Islamic State's shocking war on gays" here. At least within the confines of where ISIL controls territory, it hunts down people associated with gays on social media, according to the article, here.
Media reports detail Mateen's social media posts and telephone calls, even to a TV station, during the attacks. There are some particularly grotesque reports that Matten put strapped bombs to at least four of the hostages, but no reports yet as to whether these are among the deceased. There are limits to what I will go along with under any circumstances (I won't belabor it now) but I doubt I could have survived such an event had I been there.
There are particular unanswered questions as to why Mateen chose this nightclub, 90 miles from where he lived. He appears to have frequented it, for perhaps a few years. No men have reported intimate encounters with him. It's not known to what extent he may have visited other clubs. Inspection of his Internet searches over a period of time may provide clues as to motive. Investigation could include looking at service provide access logs, and analytics (like Google or Urchin).
Increasingly, investigations show severe personality issues even early in his life. The course of the investigation seems to make religion and sexual identity per se much less important, than a sense of humiliation and failure and need for revenge. Look at what David Brooks says today.
Update: July 30
There is discussion of building a memorial at the site. I am not personally in the club business, but I hope that the owner or other investors will rebuild the club, based on the idea you can't let a "bully" win. Did the club have adequate insurance, or would insurance cover this kind of event? TownDC has a benefit for the employees July 30, 2016 in Washington, here.
See related story, Feb. 5, 2014, about a near-incident in Seattle.
Update: Aug. 1
The Washington Post has a disturbing analysis (Andrew Goldman and Mark Berman) of the very measured police response.
Update: Nov. 1
I've posted a link to a tape of Mateen's audio at the Pulse on the International blog. It is heavily politicized, to say the least.