What's the Difference?
The day after John Russell Houser opened fire in a theater in Louisiana, the Washington Post knew exactly what motivated him:
The gunman who opened fire Thursday in a Louisiana movie theater was a onetime entrepreneur who inveighed against women’s rights, liberals and minorities and had been involuntarily committed for mental illness.
Apparently being an entrepreneur is almost as bad as hating women, liberals, and minorities. Oh, later they say he had degrees in law and accounting, but they dare not call him a lawyer or accountant.
Let's see, how did the WaPo do with Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, the Chattanooga man who killed five U.S. servicemen? Well, the day after the shooting he was "a likable, outgoing young man who enjoyed a laugh":
“It’s kind of a general consensus from people that interacted with him that he was just your average citizen there in the neighborhood. There was no reason to suspect anything otherwise,” said Ken Smith, a city councilman.
Yeah, "kind of a general consensus." Okay, so that was the next day (actually, the same amount of time that it took to determine Houser was a racist, sexist, right-wing, angry white man). The article did admit that Muhammad idolized jihadis:
Abdulazeez discussed the Sahaba -- companions of the prophet Muhammad -- and how they served their faith by bringing it to the world, sometimes through warfare.
That’s a nice touch, “sometimes through warfare.” Does the Pulitzer Board give a prize for greatest understatement? WaPo should enter that gem.
“Every one of them [the Sahaba] fought Jihad for the sake of Allah,” he wrote. “Every one of them had to make sacrifices in their lives. . . . After the prophets, they were the best human beings that ever lived.”
Just in case the reader should hear alarm bells that were inaudible to Homeland Security, the FBI, or any other federal agency, the writer editorializes for us: "Neither posting included any specific call for violence or any signal of the deadly shooting spree that would follow." So are such posts just run-of-the-mill for your likable, outgoing, average citizen Muslim? Is that why Muhammed was not on any federal watchlists? Just a Muslim expressing himself, doing what comes naturally?
But motive? Still a puzzle. “Sometimes, he grew out his beard, in the style of an observant Muslim” [emphasis added]. No indication he took his faith seriously. None at all.
Another [sister], Yasmeen, proudly wore a traditional Muslim head-scarf in class and on the volleyball court at Red Bank High School. She worked part time at a sporting goods store near her home.
Some students harassed her, but she didn’t let them intimidate her, she said in a 2010 interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “I’m not afraid to go straight toward them and ask them, ‘Do you really know what Islam is?’ ” she said. “There’s this misconception that Islam is a violent religion. Muslims are actually peaceful.”
Well, Yasmeen sure proved those racist Americans wrong.
A week later, WaPo was reporting that “it is too early to determine whether Abdulazeez was ‘radicalized’ before the attacks,” according to FBI Knoxville Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold. So tell me, SAC Reinhold, was he “radicalized” after the attacks? Or was he even “radicalized” at all, i.e., just acting as a devout Muslim?
Given the passage of time, one week, since the shootings, the reporter was circling closer to a motive:
Friends and neighbors recalled Abdulazeez as a happy, polite young man. But a picture has also emerged showing a darker side, with Abdulazeez’s family saying he struggled with depression from his early teens, abused drugs, couldn’t keep a job and was considering bankruptcy.
So it was a chemical imbalance, either natural (depression) or self-induced (drugs), nothing to do with the book he was reading. No more quotes from Abdulazeez about the glories of the Sahaba. We can rest assured, though, that WaPo and Special Agent in Charge Reinhold will jump to no conclusions in their meticulous, painstaking, diligent investigation into the beliefs that led this “happy, polite young man” to murder five U.S. servicemen.
Henry Percy is the nom de guerre of a writer in Arizona. He may be reached at saler.50d[at]gmail.com.