Belmont Club

San Bernardino Straight

The smoke has cleared enough around the San Bernardino shooting to discern a few facts.  Earlier in the day, Twitter was wild with rumor.  Rumors were swirling, based on snatches overheard from police scanners that one of the perpetrators was named “Saeed Farook”.  Later, Gawker posted, without any visible attribution, this cryptic statement. “FBI: San Bernardino Shooting Suspects Are Probably Americans, Not ‘Terrorists'”.

Then TMZ reliably informed its readers that “One of the gunmen who shot up the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino was at a holiday party at the facility earlier Wednesday … got into a dispute, then came back with his “buddies” and opened fire … this according to a well-placed law enforcement source.”

Now we know it’s all true. NBC reports that a man named Syed Farook, “listed in public records as a resident of the Redlands address from which police tracked the SUV involved in the shootout”, together with his brother and an unnamed woman, were the suspected shooters.

Farook may have worked for San Bernardino as an Environmental Health Specialist and is believed to be a US citizen.

There’s enough in this story to satisfy everyone’s preferences, including president Obama, who seemed to be sure this was just another case for controlling guns.  Not long after the shootings were first reported, he delivered his boilerplate condemnation of “shootings”:

But it is the men who did the shooting which the public are interested in.  Rick Serrano of the LA Times says “Fed law enf. official says they believe one man angrily left meeting; returned with “one or two” others; started shooting”; that he “was at the event earlier in the day to make sure a specific target was there, then returned”. Earlier on the NYT had suggested it was workplace violence.

Officially it’s still a draw. The NYT reports “Investigators were puzzling over the motives and there were conflicting accounts of what led to the shooting.”

David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s office in Los Angeles, would not rule out terrorism. “We will go where the evidence takes us,” he said. “It is possible it will go down that road,” he said.

There is no doubt that the Narrative will change as more details come to light simply because it is so unusual for a person to rush out of a Christmas party and return not long afterward with two companions armed with assault rifles and pipe bombs, to shoot the place up.

The shootings themselves have probably run their course.  Now it is the meaning of it which will be fought over.  As the story unfolded the political sides were like an audience agonizing at a cliffhanger. Would it be white male Christian? Would it be a Muslim? Would it be an American? Would it be a foreigner?  One could almost sense the bated breath.

Nobody was quite ready for such an ambiguous result:  American citizen with Middle Eastern-sounding name who worked for California shoots up a Christmas party with relatives in tow.  Should Americans give up their guns so they can be protected by the government in a week where the perps both in Chicago and San Bernardino were from the government themselves?

That suits nobody’s book completely, a fact underscored by the struggle parallel to events on the ground.  Even as the cops were embarked on the physical pursuit of the suspects, a corresponding struggle for its significance was underway across the Internet.  Like malevolent spirits, the rival memes followed the events around.

Perhaps it is fair to say that it is now impossible to commit a simple murder or even an outrage as an individual act.  It’s all imbued with meaning, almost as if the conflict between the cops and the perps were overshadowed by a far larger fight: Right versus Left in America.

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