Lone Wolves

Was the Orlando killer a terrorist? Was he inspired by ISIS? He was apparently a lot of things, but he was also Muslim, and he did claim to be acting in the name of ISIS, so yes—he was a Muslim terrorist, and it’s foolish to try to deny it.

Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow opened her show with a segment on ISIS-inspired lone wolf killers in the USA and abroad. She showed email and other electronic instructions from ISIS to wannabe terrorists, telling them not to come to Syria but to take the war to the enemy by staying home and committing attacks there. Other communications directed wannabe terrorists to overcome moral scruples and target innocent civilians, the more the better. ISIS additionally told (and continues to tell) overseas recruits to record messages beforehand, claiming allegiance to and crediting ISIS with the acts of terror they’re about to commit.

The segment was detailed, thorough, and utterly convincing, especially since in the dozen or more lone wolf terrorist attacks cited by Maddow, the perpetrators had followed ISIS instructions to a T. She ended her report with a Bill O’Reilly-worthy warning that ISIS recruits are taking advantage of the refugee crisis to infiltrate European countries and even the USA.

By the time the segment ended, I was seriously considering a ban on Muslim immigration and a round-up of young Muslim males already here. But then I remembered all the lone wolves Rachel didn’t talk about. Dylan Roof. Planned Parenthood shooters and bombers. Timothy McVeigh. Those who target Muslims and their mosques. Mass shooters of every stripe, from racists to hard right ideologues to the simply insane. It’s a huge crowd, far outnumbering ISIS- and Al Qaeda-inspired lone wolves.

We can’t even single out Muslim terrorism on the argument that ISIS actively recruits and directs lone wolf terrorists. So does the water-the-tree-of-liberty movement that inspires sovereign citizens and Bundy militia types. So does the Ku Klux Klan. So does the radical pro-life movement. So do underground fundamentalist Christian groups who want to kill gays, lesbians, and transgender people. And if, someday soon, outraged citizens start taking shots at reporters and journalists, we might even be able to accuse Donald Trump of actively recruiting and directing lone wolf terrorists.

The more I think about all this, the more I wonder why Rachel Maddow chose to single out Muslim lone wolf terrorists. It’s distressing to see a television commentator you’ve come to trust embrace sensationalism in such a naked, self-serving way. It’s distressing to see intelligent people succumb to fear … as I did, if only for a moment.

Who, among all the people talking about Orlando on TV, is collected and rational? The president. And Hillary Clinton. Lone wolf killers and terrorists aren’t going anywhere. If anything, there are going to be more and more of them. If we can’t turn off the hate spigot, what can we do? Maybe make it a lot harder for them to get guns? There’s a radical thought for you!

But you know what? If our lawmakers weren’t willing to do anything about the easy availability of assault-style weapons and large ammunition clips after Sandy Hook, when a lone wolf nut shot and killed twenty 6- and 7-year-olds and six of their teachers, they aren’t going to do anything in the wake of Orlando. Or the next Orlando, or the one after that.

When I take my rightful seat on the Iron Throne, there’ll be some changes made, that I can tell you.

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