Noor Salman, Leo Frank, and the “Other” We Must Destroy

Please forgive me for my mistake! This is not the first time I’ve made this mistake. I have partial face blindness. And I really didn’t want to use that picture of her smiling at what looks like a party in an article about such a serious matter. I really appreciate your pointing out the error and I’m sorry it took me so long to fix the problem. I haven’t been to the site and it was only because of a tweet that I first found out that I had totally blown it. Although this is not even close to the dumbest thing I’ve done here. And it gets harder and harder as I have so little time to put articles together. Finally, I’m so sorry to Noor Tagouri. I will attempt to make amends to her privately. Thanks to everyone who pointed out the error!

Lynching Leo Frank
Noor Salman is the wife of Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. He’s dead, so we have to find someone to punish. So why not his wife? It doesn’t matter that two other recent high-profile mass shootings also involved women who were more clearly involved. They were white women. Salman is a Muslim, and so must face decades in prison.

Omar Mateen Wasn’t Targeting Gay Clubs

The main reason this case has come to be a big deal is that Pulse is a gay nightclub. And lots of false information came out when no one knew anything that indicated that Mateen picked the nightclub because it was gay. As Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain discuss in As the Trial of Omar Mateen’s Wife Begins, New Evidence Undermines Beliefs About the Pulse Massacre, Including Motive, Mateen probably didn’t even know it was a gay nightclub.

None of his searches had anything to do with the LGBT community. He was just looking for a nightclub, and the Pulse was the first one he found that seemed vulnerable.

Development of a Narrative

This isn’t to take away from the extreme villainy of what Mateen did. But I think a big part of indicted his wife (who he brutalized) has to do with this false narrative.

We now live in a world with 24 hour a day cable news that must be fed. AIt doesn’t matter if what is reported is true. And in the case when nothing is known, it is even worse. Then some reporter’s hunch becomes news.

A gay nightclub was attacked, so it must have been an LGBT hate crime. Mateen was Muslim, so he must have been a closeted homosexual.

And before you know it, there is a narrative. And the only information that gets reported is that which fits the narrative. The media are just like the police. Only smarter. And therefore more dangerous.

Leo Frank

This whole thing has made me think about Leo Frank and what happened to him. But I’m hopeful that things will work out better for Noor Salman than for him (but I’m not sure; I’ve seen too much injustice in this country for anything close to certainty).

Now most of you probably don’t know who Leo Frank was. The only reason I know about him is because when I was a kid, I saw a made-for-television film about him. And unlike the way these things usually are, further research on my part has shown that the film was quite accurate.

Who Was Leo Frank?

Leo Frank was Jewish and raised in New York. He went to college and got a degree in mechanical engineering. Afterward, he took a job as a superintendent at a factory in Georgia.

The Murder of Mary Phagan

Everything was fine until 13-year-old Mary Phagan was found murdered. The police first suspected James Conley. He was an African American janitor at the factory. In his first affidavit, he implicated Leo Frank. But it was so bad that even the police didn’t believe it.

Noor SalmanCoaching the Murderer

But the police helped Conley work his affidavit to the point where it would sound good to a jury. Now most modern historians believe that Conley murdered Phagan. That was, after all, what all the evidence pointed to. So you would think they would just indict him and be done with it.

There was a problem, though. Sure, Conley was black and they hated them. But he was also a southerner. He was, in his limited way, one of them. Leo Frank, on the other hand, was a Jew, which means he was hated as much as a black man. Plus, he had a college degree and a good job. And then there was the fact that he was from New York! (Although he was born in Texas.)

Antisemitic Narrative

So the police and the press engaged in an antisemitic attack on Leo Frank. He was found guilty, but never officially executed. Instead, he was kidnapped and lynched.

I’m always amazed by these lynching photos with all the proud white men standing around.[1] Ultimately, it isn’t the lynchers who are to blame but the police and the journalists who whipped them into a frenzy where they absolutely knew that this innocent man was guilty.

Noor Salman and Leo Frank

I think it should be obvious why I see a connection between Noor Salman and Leo Frank. The LGBT community is still oppressed. There are people who hate them with a furiosity that is unimaginable to you and me.

America Hates Muslims

But overall, it is nothing compared to the hatred that Americans reserve for Muslims. I think this quote from the article I mentioned above says it all:

The decision to prosecute Salman is particularly odd given the Department of Justice’s refusal to prosecute Marilou Danley, the girlfriend of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, despite far greater evidence suggesting her foreknowledge of his plans. Additionally, the DOJ refused to prosecute Katherine Russell, the white, ex-Christian wife of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, also in the face of evidence of possible complicity that was far stronger than exists for Salman.

No Justice When Only Some People Are Prosecuted

It doesn’t matter how good juries decide guilt or innocence, when someone’s religious beliefs determine whether they show up in court at all. If Noor Salman were white and her husband just a white neo-Nazi, she’d be free to get on with her life.

But they were both Muslims, and Omar Mateen is dead, so we’ve got to punish Noor Salman. And don’t think that if she’s found innocent she won’t have been punished. First, she stood the chance of spending decades (or her whole life) in jail. Second, the stress of going through such a trial is worse than anything most people in this country ever go through.

What Should Have Happened to Noor Salman

Noor Salman should be happy right now. She got rid of a husband who brutalized her. But instead, she got a whole society to continue the brutalization. And all because she is an Other. She doesn’t have the right religion. And this will hang over her head for the rest of her life if she is found not guilty. If she’s found guilty, it will be so much worse.

This is another case, in a long line of cases, where we have oppressed the weak. Look at the proud men in that lynching photo. That’s us. Today.


[1] If there is one thing life has taught me that is most important it is humility. It is that I’m quite fallible. This is an issue I deal with in my family. I come from redneck stock. And so I’m always told about this or that outrage. But I’m rarely outraged, because in pretty much every case, when I research the outrage at hand, it is far more nuanced than I’ve been told. A good example was this undocumented guy who accidentally shot that young woman here in the Bay Area. I knew from the start it wasn’t the way people were saying. This guy wasn’t a psychopath just having fun killing people. He was a person with mental problems playing around with a gun that resulted in tragic consequences. It’s sad, but not every sad story has a villain. But I know it is the thinking of my family members that leads to those proud smiling faces that gather around innocent people they just lynched. I love my family, but many of them are part of the problem.

6 replies on “Noor Salman, Leo Frank, and the “Other” We Must Destroy”

  1. Jay McCollough (Mack) says:

    As an anthropologist with a strong Marxist bent to my scholarship, who has read Gramsci, and who understands hegemony and the way it works on the masses, I get this sort of thing intellectually. From a personal perspective, however, I don’t understand it at all (if that makes any sense). In other words, even just imagining what being present for that lynching would be like leaves a palpable knot in my stomach. I just don’t get how people can do such things to other human beings. He probably begged for mercy, cried out in pain and fear, and made his humanity remarkably evident. To continue on torturing and murdering him in such a way is inconceivable to me.

    It’s different than other kinds of crimes. The way they stand around in that photo reminds me of pictures of my grandfather and uncle’s hunting trips, posing with the body of the trophy they took. Their expressions–fuck, just the fact someone thought to take a photo–horrify me. It’s beyond disturbing.

    People often assume that those kinds of things are relics of the past, but, as you point out with this article, the mentality that produced lynchings is ever present.

    • James Fillmore says:

      @Jay — Things become normal. Judy & John at the office are ruining lives every day, possibly with lethal fallout… they don’t care, and neither do we. It’s what office people do, we don’t question it. After all, aren’t they regular folks? They watch the same shows on Netflix that we do.

      The killers in that photo probably include the town dentist or doctor, the president of the bank. If the most venerated people in the social strata are doing it, it must be OK. And if we want to be thought of as OK, we’d better go along. Even if it makes us physically ill, it’s better than being regarded as Odd.

  2. paintedjaguar says:

    Could be worse for her. She could be a RUSSIAN Muslim. (Thanks, Hillary!) And last time I looked, a popular local restaurant still had Freedom Fries on the menu – this stuff never seems to subside and go away anymore. The current lineup of massive dog & pony shows includes Red Scare / Cold War 2.0 plus the ongoing Wars on Terror, Drugs, “Rape Culture”, etc, all built on a firm foundation of knee jerk tribalism. I suppose that once a Dept of “Homeland” Security is normalized, one should just accept that all bets are off and sanity is out the window.

    • James Fillmore says:

      @paintedjaguar — Taibbi pointed out recently that the Homeland Security threat color scale (blue clovers, yellow diamonds) never was set to green. Not once. We were supposed to remain in a permanent state between panicked and terrified. Naturally, everyone just started ignoring the Threat Color, and it soon disappeared. But it served its purpose; we went to war.

      How do we push back against this kind of socialized xenophobia? It’s not easy. It’s like the default setting on humans is “irrational hate” and we have to dig into the program coding to change it.

  3. Anon says:

    YOU’VE USED THE WRONG PERSON’S PICTURE!! This picture is of Noot Tagouri, who is a journalist and not Omar Mateen’s wife. Someone needs to fix this ASAP. What if some one who is unhinged see’s this picture and then proceeds to go out of their way to harm Ms. Tagouri. YOUR WEBSITE WILL BE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE!!

  4. N says:

    The picture you have up is NOT of the Pulse nightclub shooter’s wife but of a journalist named Noor Tagouri. Please do the right thing and remove it!

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