Down through history, ideology has often provided an excuse for the use of violence to even scores. Those who commit murder may have had troubled upbringings – from either the lack of a father or too much fathering (authoritarian) to child abuse. Or they may be bipolar or suffer from borderline personality disorder. Beyond that what actually triggers an attack can be even more intensely personal.
The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, may be an example of that. In an unsubstantiated report on June 10, a man who claimed to have had sex with him told Univsion, we zero in on a possible trigger.
“He adored Latinos, gay Latinos, with brown skin – but he felt rejected. He felt used by them – there were moments in the Pulse nightclub that made him feel really bad. Guys used him.”
Presumably, the rage built as he explored the Islamic State online until we get to the actual trigger.
Mateen was especially upset after a sexual encounter with two Puerto Rican men, one of whom later revealed he was HIV positive, he added.
“He [Omar] was terrified that he was infected,” he said. “I asked him, ‘Did you do a test?’ Yes. He went to the pharmacy and did the test … it came out negative but it doesn’t come out right away. It takes 4, 5 months.”
“When I asked him what he was going to do now, his answer was ‘I’m going to make them pay for what they did to me.'”
The same may also have been true in the San Bernardino shooter on December 2, 2015. The husband-wife team was much more steeped in jihadism than Omar Mateen. But, overlooked, was what might have triggered the husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, to choose that particular day.
On December 5, the Guardian reported:
Friends and family have described Nicholas Thalasinos, one of the 14 people slaughtered in San Bernardino, as a devoted father, husband and colleague, a dedicated health inspector, colourful dresser and outspoken conservative.
But as detectives investigate Wednesday’s rampage, seeking clues about the killers’ motives, his widow, Jennifer, says she believes he was also a martyr.
… Farook, 28, and Malik were Muslims and Thalasinos, a Messianic Jew, took issue with Islam. He wrote fiery posts online and used a derogatory term to describe Muslims. He had also argued with Farook, a fellow health inspector.
Their relationship came under scrutiny on Friday when lawyers for Farook’s family cited workplace tension as a possible factor in the country’s deadliest mass shooting in three years.
… Farook had mentioned … teasing to his family, said Mohammad Abuershaid, another attorney. The lawyers mentioned “intolerance” and a “disgruntled colleague” at Farook’s workplace but did not elaborate.
Thalasinos’s widow told the New York Post on Thursday her husband was “anti-Muslim” and “probably had plenty to say” to Farook. “I’m sure everybody has seen his Facebook page. He’s very outspoken about Islamic terrorism and how he feels about politics in the state of the country,” she said.
Two weeks ago Kuuleme Stephens heard a heated argument when she phoned Thalasinos, a friend, at work. Farook said Thasalinos did not understand Islam, prompting Thalasinos to lament that he did not know how to talk to his colleague, Stephens told the Associated Press. The day before he was killed, Thalasinos posted on his Facebook page that he had received a threatening message from a man he described as an antisemitic brain surgeon named “Med Ali Zarouk” from Ukraine.
The message stated that Thalasinos would never succeed in making a “country for Jews” and ended by saying “soon you ll get your ass kicked, you will die and never see israel as country believe me never”. Thalasinos responded in the same post that his new hobby was “blocking pagan antisemitic troglodytes”. He also noted that an earlier message from another person was far worse.
Thalasinos often posted impassioned comments on a range of topics, including politics and religion.
Five days after the massacre, at New York’s Daily News, Linda Stasi wrote of Thalasinos:
One man spent his free time writing frightening, NRA-loving, hate-filled screeds on Facebook about the other’s religion. … The other man quietly stewed and brewed his bigotry, collecting the kind of arsenal that the Facebook poster would have envied… He also posted screeds like, “You can stick your Muslim Million Man march up your asses.”
Viewed through the lens of the personal, with a trigger event, you can see that jihadic attacks are not that different from school and workplace shootings. The common denominator, as always, is the outsized weaponry.