Field Guide to Clown World, Ch. 2: The Obscurantist Narrative

Last updated: July 12th 2023

Introduction #

You will see me using the term "The Narrative" often, and you might not know what I mean.

Let's fix that by giving you a clear, detailed example of what a narrative is, how it's formed, and what it's used for.

There are various types of narratives, each with different properties.

Today I'm going to introduce one type: The obscurantist narrative. And I will exemplify one property: Stickiness. Ie. How long it lasts in people's minds. (Including people you really would expect to know better. Such as agents of the law and order aparatus.)

The example I'm going to use is grim: A terrorist attack that occurred in Orlando, Florida, US, at a gay nightclub in 2016. But it's one of the most perfect examples of an obscurantist narrative.

Orlando nightclub massacre #

On June 12, 2016, a terrorist killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

53 others were wounded.

Four days later, President of the United States Barrack Obama "explained" what had happened in a statement to the press:

"This was an attack on the LGBT community. Americans were targeted because we're a country that has learned to welcome everyone, not matter who you are or who you love. And hatred towards people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of what's best in us."
–Barrack Obama, statement to the press, June 16, 2016.

Similarly, three days before Obama, Donald J. Trump (who at the time was a running candidate for the presidency) had made these remarks in a speech on national security and terrorism:

"This is a very dark moment in America's history.
A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only becasue he wanted to kill americans but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.
It's a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It's an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want, and express their identity."
–Donald J. Trump. June 13, 2016.

This was the angle, all over the news, all over the world. Everyone was talking about it as an "Attack on the LGBT community."

The bogeyman talk #

All the usual news media and discussion panels with "experts" and celebrities and politicians immediately started to run their "We Need To Talk About..." segments.

What topics did they say "we" needed to talk about? The woke and progressives' favorite bogeymen: Religion and guns.

(And on the "conservative" side: Immigration.)

Every atheist and pop-sci celebrity jumped at the opportunity to promote his books and podcasts remind us of the dangers of Religion.

Religious bigots going around hunting gays #

In an article for CBC (which only has photos of Christians, even though the terrorist here was Muslim) a journalist described the terrorist as a man who "professed allegiance to ISIS and went hunting gays."

The journalist then called out "people of faith" and "organized religion" and urged an "overdue conversation about religions' attitudes toward gays," because "restricting the discussion to Islam is far too easy."

Hammering the narrative in your head: The Orlando massacre was the result of Religious Bigotry, which caused a man to go "hunting gays."

Guns going around causing terrorism #

Similarly, the "Gun Control" activists and politicians. Always ready to use every tragedy as an excuse to call for a reduction of citizen gun rights.

An article on MarketWatch "explained" "What Gun Fanatics Won't Tell You." That the 2nd Amendment isn't "actually" about the average citizen's right to bear arms. That it's "actually" about supporting a National Guard.

No need to refute that stuff here: It's already refuted in the article's comments. The author got completely obliterated by his own readers.

Incidentally, by 2016, vehicles had become the most lethal form of attack, comprising just over half of all terrorism-related deaths in that year. Should we ban vehicles? Or large gatherings?

The Narrative #

"Let's get one thing clear ... the maniac who did this was somehow conditioned to believe that LGBT people deserve to be massacred, that they are ‘less than’ in this society."
–Chad Griffin, head of Human Rights Watch at the time.

And so that was the Narrative for the Orlando nightclub shooting:

One night, a radical religious bigot was sitting at home, boiling in anger, unable to handle the fact that there is gayness in the world, so he got up and went to a gay nightclub to kill as many gays as possible.

Implicitly in The Narrative: If only there was no religion (cue John Lennon's "Imagine"). If only there was no homophobia. If only there were no guns in the hands of average citizens. Then, there'd be no terrorism.

Now, let's take a look at what the terrorist himself said.

Because it turns out he called 9-1-1 when the massacre became a hostage situation in the nightclub's bathroom. And we have the transcripts.

The 9-1-1 call #

Based on The Narrative, you'd expect to hear the terrorist ranting "Sodomy is a Sin! I am ridding the world of sodomites!" or something.

Well, here's how he starts, after the negotiator asks his name:

"My name is I Pledge of Allegiance to (unidentifiable name) of the Islamic State."
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

Then, after the negotiator attempts to get information about his location within the venue, he goes:

"You have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq..."
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

That should already serve as a hint.

Let's continue:

"They are killing a lot of innocent people... What am I to do here, when my people are getting killed over there? You get what I'm saying?"
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

No mention of gays or sodomy so far. He continues:

"You need to stop the US air strikes. Tell the US government to stop bombing. They are killing too many children. They are killing too many women, okay? I feel the pain of the people getting killed in Syria and Iraq..."
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

Call me crazy, but I'm having trouble seeing Homophobia as the main driver of this man's actions.

Let's continue the call, though. Maybe he'll start ranting about gays next:

"They need to stop bombing Syria and Iraq."
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

Nope. Still nothing about homosexuality.

"The US is collaborating with Russia, and they're killing innocent women and children, OK? The air strikes need to stop, and stop collaborating with Russia, OK? You see? Now you feel how it is... Now you feel how it is."
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

He doesn't mention homosexuality, LGBT, or anything related to sexual morality. Or American "social liberties" at all. Not once. Feel free to check the transcripts.

Blowback #

"Blowback" is a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the US government's international activities.

The nightclub attack was, of course, another instance of blowback from the so-called War on Terror that the US government and friends have been waging – and losing, if the hasty and chaotic pullout from Afghanistan (subsequently blamed sloppily on Trump) is any indication – for 20+ years.

I say 20+ years because I mean its current form, under the specific name "The War on Terror." Ie. I'm not counting the decades of meddling with, and bombing of the Middle East that preceded it. (Decades which led to the 2001 September 11 attack, itself another example of blowback.)

So what was happening in 2016? #

"In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries."
–Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson, report at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Seven countries. Seven countries were being bombed by the US at the time of this event.

Worse, that number of bombs is actually an estimate on the low side:

"This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single "strike," according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions."
–Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson, report at the Council on Foreign Relations.

So the amount of bombs dropped was likely much higher. But that's not all, 2016 was also a year of an increase in bombings.

In 2016, the United States dropped 3,028 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015."
–Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson, report at the Council on Foreign Relations.


"Most (24,287) were dropped in Iraq and Syria. This number is based on the percentage of total coalition airstrikes carried out in 2016 by the United States in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the counter-Islamic State campaign."
–Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson, report at the Council on Foreign Relations.

(Emphasis mine.)

Let's recall what the terrorist said:

"You have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq..."
–Orlando nightclub terrorist, 9-1-1 call.

U.S. Bombs Dropped in 2016 #

Country Bombs
Syria 12,192
Iraq 12,095
Afghanistan 1,337
Libya 496
Yemen 35
Somalia 14
Pakistan 3

Sources: Estimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2011-2016 Airpower Statistics; CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office strike release, December 31, 2016; New America (NA); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ); Department of Defense press release; and U.S. Africa Command press release.

Let's take a closer look at 2016 #

The numbers above express the general situation: The US had been bombing the hell out of the Middle East in 2016.

But still, they are just aggregate counts.

We can zoom in by checking, for example, an actual U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) civilian casualty report to see the following:

  1. November 20, 2015, near Dayr Az Zawr, Syria, against an ISIL tactical unit, it is assessed that five civilians were killed and three individuals were injured after the civilians entered the target area after the aircraft released its weapon.
  2. March 5, 2016, near Mosul, Iraq, on a strike against an ISIL weapons production facility it is assessed that 10 civilians were killed.
  3. March 24, 2016, near Qayyarah, Iraq, during a strike against an ISIL target, it is assessed that one civilian was killed.
  4. April 1, 2016, near Raqqah, Syria, against ISIL tactical unit, it is assessed that three civilians were killed after entering the target area after the aircraft released its weapon.
  5. April 9, 2016, near Mosul, Iraq, during a strike against an ISIL tactical unit, it is assessed that one civilian was killed after entering the target area after the aircraft released its weapon.
  6. April 30, 2016, near Mosul, Iraq, against ISIL military leadership, it is assessed that five civilians were killed after entering the target area after the aircraft released its weapon.
  7. May 25, 2016, near Mosul, Iraq, during a strike against an ISIL tactical unit, it is assessed that one civilian was killed.
  8. May 26, 2016, near Mosul, Iraq, during a strike against ISIL fighters, it is assessed that one civilian was killed after entering the target area after the aircraft released its weapon.
  9. May 29, 2016, near Mosul, Iraq, during a strike against an ISIL weapons system, it is assessed that six civilians were killed.
  10. ...

And on it goes. Adding up to a total of 64 civilians killed and 8 injuried by US bombs in 2016.

Note we're trusting the US government's own CENTCOM data.

When talking blowback, think families, not individuals #

64 civilians killed by US bombs is obviously a horrible number in itself.

But we're talking blowback here: The domestic consequences of the US Government's actions in the Middle East.

So you shouldn't just think "64 civilians killed." You should also think: In 2016, 64 families had a member blown to pieces by US bombs.

How many surviving members, perhaps teenagers and young adults, of those 64 families, were left primed for manipulation by terrorist recruiters thanks to their propagandists and their Narrative?

Anyway, back to our individual Orlando terrorist.

Details The Narrative left out #

The perpetrator of the massacre was a 29-year-old man called Omar Mateen. He was raised in America by first-generation Afghan immigrants and, according to an ex-wife, he was bipolar and abusive.

Let's recall The Narrative: Religious bigot goes hunting gays with guns that are too easy to obtain in stupid gun-loving America. (Implicitly: Let's keep the conversation focused on Homophobia and "Gun Culture.")

Now let's see what The Narrative left out.

His job and his employer #

Mateen had been employed since 2007 by G4S, a "U.K.-based security giant," one of the world’s largest, with contracts with the US Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

Ie. He was a security guard.

G4S, his employer, made headlines in 2012 for botching its contract to provide security for the London 2012 Olympic Games (by overcharging and understaffing) and in 2015 for improperly vetting its employees, which led to an incident in which one employee murdered two fellow security guards.

(That employee was also found to have writings where he claimed to be "the antichrist" looking to satisfy his "bloodlust.")

Anyway, by omitting that Mateen was a security guard, The Narrative omits that he was licensed to carry firearms. (Thus the point about America's "Gun Culture" making it "too easy for people to get guns" is entirely irrelevant.)

His behavior at work #

G4S had at first assigned Mateen as a guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, but he would create a hostile work environment by eg. making threats to coworkers (in one instance threatening to have al-Qaeda kill a deputy’s family).

So they then transferred him to work as a watchman at a gated community, which was his job at the time of the massacre.

His relationship with the FBI #

Most notably, he had been placed on the FBI’s terrorist watch list twice because of inflammatory remarks shared with a coworker and because he had been seen "deep in conversation" with a guy who went on to become the first American-born suicide bomber in Syria.

Yet, after twice being investigated and interviewed by the FBI, Mateen's case file was closed and he was taken off the agency's terrorist watch list.

His FATHER's relationship with the FBI #

On top of that, it later became known that Mateen's father, Mir Seddique Mateen, had been an FBI informant at various points between January 2005 and June 2016, with FBI agent Juvenal Martin, who acted as his handler since 2006, saying he had considered the son as well for the informant gig.

The father, Seddique, was subsequently investigated for money transfers he had made to Afghanistan and Turkey which were suspected of funding "questionable activities."

Moreover, an anonymous tip during Mateen's wife trial, claimed Seddique had been raising money for an attack against the government of Pakistan.

His activities online on that day #

In the hours before the massacre, Mateen used several Facebook accounts to write posts vowing vengeance for American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Then, before the attack, he called 9-1-1 and pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Later, during Mateen's wife's trial in 2018 (which took place because she was suspected of knowing about Mateen's plans, but was ultimately found not guilty), her defense revealed that inspections of Mateen's phone history showed he had Googled "downtown Orlando nightclubs" (ie. not specifically gay or LGBT clubs), visited other candidate locations that night, before finally chosing the "Pulse" gay nightclub, likely as a last minute decision based on the lack of security, not because it was a gay club.

(By the way, Mateen's wife was ultimately acquitted, though not before a hysterical media campaign was launched against her, which included, eg. a New York Post full front page photo of her, with the headline "She could have saved them all" and subtitle "Killer's wife knew – but did nothing.")

So the gay nightclub wasn't the first or even second candidate target for him.

In fact, Mateen initially intended to attack the Disney Springs retail, dining and entertainment complex, but changed his mind due to the amount of security Disney has in place there.

During the massacre / hostage situation #

In the hours Mateen spent surrounded by the gay people he was murdering, he never once uttered a homophobic syllable.

Instead, he kept emphasizing to his victims the same he would say in the 9-1-1 call: His geo-political motive.

"Not a single survivor reported him saying anything derogatory about LGBTs or even anything that suggested he knew he was in a gay club."
–Glenn Greenwald, gay journalist who didn't buy The Narrative.

Moreover, Mateen didn't even know it was a gay club:

"A security guard recalled Mateen asking where all the women were, apparently in earnest, in the minutes before he began his slaughter."
–Melissa Jeltsen, Apr 4, 2018, Huffington Post.

Questions The Narrative distracts from #

Again what's The Narrative?

"Religion bad, guns bad! #IStandWithTheLGBT."

Which leaves out questions such as:

The purpose of The Narrative #

Again, let's recall Obama's statement four days after the massacre:

"Americans were targeted because we're a country that has learned to welcome everyone, not matter who you are or who you love. And hatred towards people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of what's best in us."
–Barrack Obama, statement to the press, June 16, 2016.

It's almost a spit in the face.

It does not mention a single thing that is relevant to the attack.

Ie. The Narrative is specifically meant to obscure the killer's motive. Thus, I categorize it as an obscurantist narrative.

It has nothing to do with informing the public (gay or otherwise) or honoring the victims (gay or otherwise), and everything to do with framing the conversation to keep the public from asking inconvenient questions.

Some consequences of The Narrative #

More Americans in danger, because what caused this scenario was neither "Homophobia" nor "Gun Culture," but rather the ever-messier American Government's operations abroad causing blowback at home, which The Narrative leaves out entirely.

False Sense of Security and False Sense of Insecurity:

More unfounded support for "anti-theism" because of all the morons who believe "religion did this!"

More unfounded support for "gun control" because of all the morons who don't know Mateen had all the permits necessary to acquire guns, from his job as a security guard.

The Narrative is sticky as hell #

On March 2022, almost six years after the massacre, some 20-year-old guy vandalized some LGBT rainbow-colored street with his truck, by burning tire rubber into the paint to ruin it.

Yes, yes: Oh - my - gosh, what a homophobic (and/or transphobic or whatever) bigot!

Here's the relevant part of the story:

During the trial, the judge saw that our vandal, named Jerich, was basically just some troubled kid. Some immature 20-year-old just lashing out or whatever. After noting that Jerich seemed to have "little understanding of the meaning of the rainbow-colored gay pride mural he defaced," the judge gave him the following homework:

To write a 25-page essay on the Orlando 2016 massacre!

So here we have a judge who literally just swallowed The Narrative from the TV in 2016, and it became real History in his mind.

This event which as we've seen was a full-blown terrorist act, blowback from the "War on Terror" abroad, committed by a guy who chose the place at random, who spent the whole time ranting about Iraq and Syria, and not once mentioned gays, is what the judge thinks should be studied by Jerich, to teach him that homophobia is bad.

A judge. Not your middle-aged wine-drunk Democrat "activist" cat lady on twitter. A judge. Literally basing his legal decisions on "history" according to The Narrative.

If Jerich is any good at research, I would expect his 25-page essay to allocate 5% of it to homophobia and "gun culture," and 95% to the American Military-Indutrial Complex and the blowback from its geopolitical schemes.

References #

  1. (Text/HTML) Orlando nightclub shooting @ Wikipedia
  2. (Text/HTML) Remarks by the President in a Statement to the Press @
  3. (Text/HTML) Transcript: Donald Trump’s national security speech @ Politico
  4. (Text/HTML) After Orlando, time to recognize that anti-gay bigotry is not religious freedom @ CBC
  5. (Text/HTML) Opinion: What America’s gun fanatics won’t tell you @ MarketWatch
  6. (Text/HTML) John Lennon - Imagine @ YouTube
  7. (Text/PDF) Omar Mateen Transcripts @ PublicIntelligence
  8. (Text/HTML) Democratization of terrorism: an analysis of vehicle-based terrorist events @ PubMed
  9. (Text/HTML) The Politics of Mass Murder @ TheAtlantic
  10. (Text/HTML) Blowback @ Wikipedia
  11. (Text/HTML) Afghanistan Was a Predictable, Preventable Disaster @
  12. (Text/HTML) What the Biden administration’s report on the Afghanistan withdrawal gets wrong @
  13. (Text/HTML) Council on Foreign Relations
  14. (Text/HTML) How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2016? @
  15. (Text/HTML) November 9: Iraq and Syria civilian casualty assessments @
  16. (Text/HTML) Ex-wife of Orlando nightclub shooter: 'He abused me, had bipolar disorder & anger towards gays' @ RT
  17. (Text/HTML) G4S @ Wikipedia
  18. (Text/HTML) Orlando Nightclub Shooting Puts G4S in Spotlight Again @ WSJ
  19. (Text/HTML) G4S failed to understand size of Olympic security job, says Lord Coe @ TheGuardian
  20. (Text/HTML) Olympic security shortfall called "absolute chaos" @ CBSNews
  21. (Text/HTML) Paul McGuigan murder: Killer 'not properly vetted' @ BBC
  22. (Text/HTML) ‘Anti-Christ’ claim of killer ex-soldier @ Oldham - Chronicle
  23. (Text/HTML) PGA Village residents present findings of investigation into G4S @ WPTV
  24. (Text/HTML) Omar Mateen was taken off a terrorist watch list, but keeping him on it wouldn’t have stopped him from buying guns @ LATimes
  25. (Text/HTML) Mateen spoke to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha at a party, said friend @ DailyMail
  26. (Text/HTML) Judge denies motion to drop case against widow of Pulse gunman @ CNN
  27. (Text/HTML) Letter from Sen. Ron Johnson to Facebook regarding Orlando shooter's posts @ FoxNews
  29. (Text/HTML) G4S did not psychologically re-evaluate Omar Mateen after FBI questioning @ TheGuardian
  30. (Text/HTML) THE STING. How the FBI Created a Terrorist @ TheIntercept
  31. (Text/HTML) Orlando survivor: 'There's no way' gunman acted alone @ CNN
  32. (Text/HTML) Orlando shooter's employer G4S found nothing of concern @ USAToday
  33. (Text/HTML) FBI seeking to prevent disclosure of information about Orlando shooting @ Reason
  34. (Text/HTML) Pickup driver who defaced Delray Beach LGBTQ street mural pleads guilty to two charges @ PalmBeachPost
  35. (Text/HTML) Man who defaced Delray gay pride crosswalk must write 25-page essay on Pulse as he awaits sentence @ PalmBeachPost
  36. (Text/HTML) What Exactly Did the Company Omar Mateen Worked for Do? @ TheAtlantic
  37. (Text/HTML) Pulse shooter visited Disney, another club in hours before attack, widow's defense says @ OrlandoSentinel
  38. (Text/HTML) Everyone Got The Pulse Massacre Story Completely Wrong @ Huffpost
  39. (Text/HTML) The Enduring False Narrative About the PULSE Massacre Shows the Power of Media Propaganda @ Substack