Since the Orlando terror attack there's been a subtle tug-of-war over what kind of notorious and deadly act it was.
Forty-nine people were murdered when the terrorist — who claimed to be doing the act in the name of the Islamic State or ISIS — systematically fired his two weapons upon partiers at Pulse Night Club, a gay bar. Indeed, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Then came the shocker —- claims that the killer was himself gay.
But a simmering semantical battle is now underway. Some want the act conducted by a disgruntled gay Muslim designated as a “hate crime” — a legal term of art calling for enhanced criminal sanctions over and above the heinous act itself based on what the perpetrator was thinking or saying at the time of the act.
Some consider that an Orwellian 'thought crime' and unnecessary — since all murder is a hateful act regardless of what you think of your victims. Others say the Orlando attack was a clear act of terrorism.
It matters little anymore to the terrorist, of course. He's dead, and his victims are dead or maimed. But it mattered a lot to Guardian reporter Owen Jones when his co-hosts on the Sky News Press Preview program prioritized the attack as terrorism rather than a hate crime.
Mediaite reports that the openly gay reporter walked off the set when he believed the hate crimes angle of the story wasn't covered to his satisfaction:
Jones pointed out that if the killer had gone to a synagogue, the story would have been about the anti-Semitism of the killer and not a general discussion of terrorism. He later wrote:
“This was homophobia as well as terrorism. It is not enough to simply condemn violence: we have to understand what it is and why it happened.”
He's not alone in his feelings, as messages on Twitter reflect:
Pro Publica reports that the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 40% of hate crimes are not reported. Victims advocates believe that if the cases were properly reported they'd be taken more seriously.
And, words are important. After the Fort Hood shooting, the Obama Administration described the act of opening fire on a room full of Army personnel, killing 13, as “violence in the work place,” though the act was committed by a avowed Islamist with ties to a notorious American Muslim cleric.