Austin on Fire

For those that do not yet know, a man named Joseph Andrew Stack flew and crashed a plane into an IRS building in Austin, TX. His lengthy suicide note makes clear that his act was politically motivated –  Though the Department of Homeland Security has said that this, at least so far, has nothing to do with terrorism, as surely as the sun will set this evening, those who disagree with or oppose the political views of Mr. Stack will call it an act of domestic terrorism and seek to assign responsibility to everyone who shares some of his opinions or at least has the nerve to speak them publicly. Pro-lifers ought to know this routine by now – hysterical screeds that essentially argue guilt by association or even agreement, new calls for expanded police powers, and though they don’t apply in this case, restrictions on second amendment rights.

I condemn what Mr. Stack did. For right now, our political system is broken and wounded, but it is not dead. We still have a Bill of Rights, and especially a first amendment through which our freedoms of association, speech, and to petition government with our grievances is still in tact. Unfortunately both sides of the political spectrum – and which one is arguing this depends solely on whether or not “their guy”, Obama or Bush, Republican or Democrat is in power – seem to think that the basic idea of the Declaration of Independence is either outdated or immoral. That basic idea that governments can go too far and that the people have a right, and a duty, to resist them when they break their end of the social compact. Though the level of resistance offered today by Mr. Stack (whose soul I shall pray for) was wrong, at least under these conditions, that which is offered by the American citizens who will undoubtedly and unjustly be tarred with the same brush is.

So I want to take this opportunity to not only repeat what most people already believe – that violence in this context and reckless individual behavior are wrong – but to stand firmly in defense of the first amendment right of the tea party movement, and all political dissent, to exist. To reject the double-standard that says “protest is patriotic when the other party is in power, but dangerous extremism when my party is in power.” At least on this blog, I hope we can agree on these issues.

Update: Two things are worth adding to this piece. 1) The media, and especially the leftist blogs, did immediately try to associate Stack and his actions with the tea party movement. 2) Stack was not a member of the tea party movement, as the first link shows.

36 Responses to Austin on Fire

  • Stack apparently was a nut who hated the IRS, the Catholic Church, George Bush, and the list goes on for a considerable length. Any attempt to make political hay out of this demented loon is doomed to failure. His hatreds were simply too diffuse and his political allegiances, if any, impossible to discern from his suicide note. I hope he rests in peace, but the world is well rid of this homicidal maniac.

  • Donald,

    He was also a man who had reached the end of his emotional rope.

    But you have to see it coming, that people are going to associate him with the tea party movement (which, I guess, also hates taxes).

  • I’d thought that he would be associated with the far left since he hates Bush and the Catholic Church.

    My two cents worth.

  • You’d think that, but being angry with taxes is generally thought to be “right wing”, and especially now with the tea party movement.

    The man attacked an IRS building, which is somewhat similar to Oklahoma City.

    Now if it were a corporation, a factory farm lets say, I think people would naturally suspect left-wing eco-terrorists.

    In any case, its the tea party movement that is the face of dissent in this country now, not the left-wing anti-war movement as it was under Bush. So they will naturally be the ones to “blame” for this.

    Though if it turns out that the media attacks leftists for this – something I find highly unlikely, but lets say it for the sake of argument – my whole post still stands. They have freedom of speech as well, and they shouldn’t be tarnished by the actions of one individual.

    We should all understand this as pro-lifers as well. Now is the time, perhaps even more than to denounce “violence”, to stand up for first amendment rights and insist that disagreement and even anger is not “extremism”, that we don’t need to be controlled by a police state in order to be “safe”, and that the situation in this country is ultimately the background for this man’s actions – not the tea party movement.

    See, this is how we address what is called spurious logic. The tea party did not “cause” this man’s behavior – rather, both the tea party and this man’s behavior are caused by the same thing. The tea partiers, instead of blowing up buildings, use their first amendment rights to make their grievances known to the government. And so we have to stand strongly on that.

  • For the reasons cited above, I don’t think there’s any way to pin him down politically; he had “leftist” hatred of the Church and Bush, and “right wing” hatred of the IRS and other guvmint agencies. He was simply a very disturbed man who blamed the government, etc. for his personal problems.

    A woman and a teenage girl were seen coming to his home after it caught fire; I’m thinking they were his wife (or ex-wife) and daughter. My sympathies to them.

    Also, given the magnitude of the devastation and the obvious attempt to create a mini-9/11, it’s downright miraculous that only one person was killed (most likely the pilot himself although not confirmed), two people critically injured, and 11 others with minor injuries.

  • In my legal practice I have not infrequently encountered individuals like Stack. They blame everyone else, except the person staring back at them from the mirror, for their problems and sometimes they erupt and hurt and kill a lot of people. It is a miracle as Elaine notes that this nutcase did not amass a large body count.

    As for attempted political use of this maniac, anyone who tries to will reap a whirlwind of quotations from this nutcase’s manifesto to refute their arguments.

  • While I almost entirely agree with you Joe, the whole guilt by association argument is not just a left-wing phenomenon. There is extremism in every movement.

  • Eric,

    For goodness sake, did I not make that clear? Of course I know that.

  • I don’t know about this guy, but the woman who did the shooting at the Univ of Alabama shooter was a far-left political extremist who was “obsessed” with President Obama to the point of being off-putting. You aren’t hearing that on the news…

  • Clearly this man was troubled. Whether he concocted this dastardly deed on his own or someone put him up to it for some nefarious purpose is unclear. He will be painted as a ‘tea party’ extremist; however, that is ridiculous. He has very left wing views peppered with what are perceived as right wing sentiments. His target being the IRS will focus on the so-called right; however, disliking the taxman is not a right-left thing, it is an American thing. In fact, it is even older than our fragile Republic. Did anyone notice how the Pharisees viewed the publicans. Why was Levi (Matthew) viewed with such disdain before he came to Christ?

    I read his meandering letter. Sadly, I couldn’t see the rest of his work because the website was taken down. The letter was contradictory and seems to have been written by someone who was actually lucid, yet very misguided about what constituted the independent political spectrum in our country.

    This highlights the false left-right paradigm. It is as if he (assuming he wrote it) decided to blame everyone without being pinned down to a left or a right ideology. In attempting this, he failed to understand the center-right independents and missed the point completely. It is contrived and the closing accurately quoted Karl Marx and then a play on that creed against Capitalism. Being anti-capitalist is hardly a right wing view.

    Nevertheless, the lame stream media and the blogosphere will grab onto this to attack the tea party sentiment and anyone who does not fit into the lefty loony agenda. it is also likely that Rahm “never let a crisis go to waste you ‘effin retards’ Emmanuel is likely to want to use this to step on our liberties even more. I wonder why the anti-Patriot act left is suddenly silent on personal liberties now that their Commie friends are in control of government instead of the ‘tyrant’ Bush?

    As for who is a ‘violent’ protester, well, that seems to be the anti-capitalist, pro-communist, anti-Olympics crowd filled with indoctrinated left-wing youths – you know the same who put Obama in office and still have his face on their cars, t-shirts and who knows what else.

    Pro-Constitution and traditional American values rallies, commonly called Tea Parties, are the least violent, cleanest, well mannered ‘protests’ you have ever seen. Tea Parties are more like a county fair than say Watts, South Central, Athens or Reykjavik.

    We aren’t far gone enough to employ violence, yet. It seems as if either the tide is turning and we are delaying the decline of the USA or the enemy is changing tactics. However, should the Alinksy model demand an acceleration of the destruction of the Republic, by either the current Dummies or their Nov. Replacements, then the Tea Parties may not be carrying flags and posters for too long but may have to switch to pitchforks and torches. I pray it doesn’t come to that and I am Hopeful (real Hope, not hopey-changey hope) that the Republic’s best days are ahead of us after we weather the storm. We could use some national mortification it is good for the soul of the States and Commonwealths.

    Our Lady of America, ora pro nobis.

  • Left wing extremists are caused by people like Beck, O’Reilly, Rush and Sarah.

    Right wing extremists are caused by people like Beck, O’Reilly, Rush and Sarah.

    All violent extremists are caused by the oppressive Catholic Church and that guy with pointy hat that harms people in the name of Jesus. He used to head the Inquisition don’t ya know?

  • There’s a lot of despair, anger, and bitterness in my neck of the woods. Long-term employees are being let go. They are simply led to a conference room and told to pack up their personal belongings and by the time they get back to their office, their telephones and computers have been cut off. Once their personal belongings have been packed up, they are escorted out. It is a very cold and humiliating process, hard on the employee and sometimes harder on the person doing the firing. These are people that in better times would have come back to visit, had farewell parties, or retirement parties. They immediately sign up for unemployment, but that’s hardly enough to make car payments, mortgage payments, pay utilities, and purchase food. Houses are for sale, being foreclosed on; children are going to school unfed and school personnel are packing food for them to take home to their families. Wages have been frozen. All of us have been affected. There are no jobs available and most of the people I know have simply quit looking, except for the token resume they must send out to continue to qualify for unemployment. And our government just keeps on spending. Of course people are enraged. They see the fat-cats being bailed out, but the common worker is up the proverbial creek. If these needy people don’t have faith to fall back on and a support system, some of them will snap and I think we will be seeing a lot more of the type of incident that has happened in Austin. One of my former co-workers, a very dear, faith-filled lady, has decided not to pursue employment, but is helping out at the soup kitchens and doing other volunteer work which has been very therapeutic. But not everyone is in a position to do this and not everyone has that kind of charity in their heart. My grandmother, during the depression, used to open her kitchen up to folks who were hungry. We are at that point where we must reach out and feed our brothers and sisters. And I mean really dig deep in our pockets. The axes falling on our heads do not discern whether we are left-wing, right-wing, or whatever.

  • Thanks for that excellent and truthful post, Moe.

    I was going to say it before, but I’ll say it now – dismissing this man as a “nutcase”, as Don does – doesn’t help the situation.

    I find that when people dismiss things that aren’t actually insane as insane, it is a way for them to detach those things from reality. That’s not a backhanded insult for Don, but it is my opinion.

    This man’s actions were rooted in and reflective of an increasingly desperate reality for millions of Americans.

    Immoral, yes, desperate, yes, unwise, yes – but insane? I think a person has to be a few bricks short of a load, frankly, to not be at least a little upset at the state of the union.

  • Nutcase Joe, plain and simple, as he proved by his actions today and his suicidal manifesto rant. Also a transparent tax cheat. I assume he was using the old minister scam to claim that none of his income could be taxed, that or declaring himself a non-profit entity. This miserable maniac says nothing about people coping with the Obama economy.

  • Hey great and balanced post Joe. Thanks

  • This man’s actions were rooted in and reflective of an increasingly desperate reality for millions of Americans.

    The guy set fire to his house with his wife and daughter inside. He then flew a plane into an IRS building, apparently because he was upset about Section 530(d) of the 1986 tax reform act. If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

  • That being said I think it’s possible to read too much into something. It sounds like the guy was nuts. Sometimes circumstances make it easier for people to act out their insanity, but I’m not sure that’s the case here. Sometimes people just snap.

  • Ok, the man’s ACTIONS were crazy, yes.

    But if you read the whole letter, it is clear he had more problems than “Section 530(d) of the 1986 tax reform act”, and that he was right about one thing: that there ARE actually many discontented people in this country, and that he is neither the first, nor the last.

    I don’t want to read “too much” into anything. It’s also a problem to be dismissive.

  • “Long-term employees are being let go. They are simply led to a conference room and told to pack up their personal belongings and by the time they get back to their office, their telephones and computers have been cut off. Once their personal belongings have been packed up, they are escorted out. It is a very cold and humiliating process, hard on the employee and sometimes harder on the person doing the firing. These are people that in better times would have come back to visit, had farewell parties, or retirement parties.”

    That’s been SOP for years when it comes to firing people. It happened to me once, more or less — I lost a job I had for many years with only 2 hours notice on a Friday afternoon. I did not get to say goodbye to anyone, which was really the hardest part for me. But employers do this because 1) they don’t want employees who are on their way out hanging around to bring down the morale of the rest, and 2) it’s supposed to prevent “going postal” type incidents where the fired employee may decide to sabotage company property, or worse, on his/her way out. However, I wonder sometimes if this practice doesn’t, at least for some people, make them MORE likely to contemplate some kind of revenge against the employer.

  • Would you had written this kind of sympathetic post if the man were instead a non-American Muslim?

  • Would you have written this kind of sympathetic post if the man were instead an American evangelical, MM? Why the passive aggressive insinuation of prejudice?

  • If there’s any evidence that Joe has a prejudice against Arabs or Muslims, I haven’t seen it.

  • MM implying that Joe of all people has any sort of prejudice against Muslims is simply ludicrous.

  • I think if the hypothetical Muslim left the exact same suicide note, then I can’t imagine why the post would be any different.. although I can’t imagine a non-American Muslim suicide pilot leaving that same note..

  • Well I’m certainly not prejudiced against Arabs, seeing as how I AM ONE :)

    My aim wasn’t really to sympathize with the man who did this, but to make the point that this is a time we must defend our rights against those who call for them to be reduced or taken away.

    That said, if this were a Muslim terror attack, I’d probably have something more to say about and against an inevitable call for war with Iran – even if the guy came from Egypt or Saudi Arabia, because we know that any Muslim attack from Morocco to Malaysia will be turned against the enemy du jour.

  • That was a lame attempt at moral equivalency by MM. Terrorists against the West, Great Satan, etc. are not born of the same frustration as this man. The common root is always sin. This guy apparently snapped. But for the Grace of God. . .

    Muslim terrorists are engaged in jihad to destroy Dar-Al-Harb, The House of War, which is everything that isn’t ruled by Muslims. Of course, since Islam is the first Christian heresy that stuck it is almost as fractured as non-Catholic Christians. Nevertheless, Islam has a pragmatic streak – the enemy of my enemy is my friend. . . for now.

    Any attack against the West, even by a lone Muslim, in the name of Islam is a physical war of violence against Western Civilization. Now we all now that much of what the West has to offer is sick, perverse, ungodly and devilish; but, we are still the heirs to Christendom and the future of the world lies in restoring Christendom.

    Invading Iran is about the most foolish thing we can do. Let Israel destroy their nuclear capability, preferably before they get it. Amongst us there are minions of principalities and powers that want to dominate the middle-east in order to weaken the West, especially the USA and control all the natural resources. These are the same fools that planned the Iraq war while Clinton was in office.

    We have to fight the barbarians who are Muslim terrorists and the barbarians within the gates.

    As for Muslim and Arab. Hmm? those are not interchangeable. Muslims come in many different varieties and increasingly are not Arabs – I mean look at Kat Stevens, er, sorry, Yusuf Islam. Additionally, what is an Arab? Near as I can tell Arabs come from the Arabian peninsula, Saudis, Emirates, Yemenis, etc. The rest of the middle-east is a little more difficult to pin point. You are talking about centuries of mingled and shed blood. Some of it is Arab. looking at me (I know you can’t), you’d think I was an Arab (olive skin, big nose, curly black hair, you know the whole chestnut), but my lineage is Phoenician (Lebanese), Canaanite, Hebrew, Russian, probably some Crusader, definitely some Roman and a little Arab. I have extended family who are Muslims. But I would not consider myself an Arab and I know that all Muslims are not Arabs. Line up an indigenous Israeli and a Palestinian and tell me if you can see the difference. Just to be safe, I’d shot them both.

    The leftist sympathy for Muslim-terrorists is almost as ugly as their condescending racism for blacks, South American Indians and other ‘protected’ classes. Christ taught us that none of this matters, we can all be inheritors of the promise through our father in faith Abraham. The problem with being a Muslim sympathizer is that they are intent on destruction and killing. It is ingrained in the ‘religion’ since it was recited to a bi-polar fool by demon who posed as Gabriel.

    Our Lady will convert and liberate the Muslim people. We must kill the Muslim terrorists while we pray for their souls – you do not negotiate with someone who is looking forward to dying while destroying everything you love. Christ never negotiated with demons. He called them by name and cast them out. His Way, no highway.

  • AK,

    Ah, good point. Ethnically, I’m half-Lebanese, so I guess “Phoenician” is a better descriptive than “Arab”, though I think most of the world couldn’t care less about that distinction.

  • Well I’m certainly not prejudiced against Arabs, seeing as how I AM ONE

    Self-hatred, Joe. Self-hatred. :)

  • Check ths out:

    They have an interesting perspective on this including what the government may be brewing up.

  • What’s in a name?

    Our Parish Priests name is Joe Stack. :-)

  • Lets put it this way, regarding ethnicity.

    I’m Levantine :)

  • I’m going to Levant that last one alone ;) because Outremerer is too hard to say.

  • I find Joseph Stack’s suicide eerily similar to the Mad Bomber of Bath, who perpetrated the worst school massacre in US history by blowing up a school while classes were in session.

    Jack Kehoe, too, was incensed by high taxes and the loss of his farm, but he blamed the building of a new school. He, too, made sure that nothing that belonged to him would be salvaged by his “enemies”: he cut down his orchard, shot his wife, and set fire to his farm. While townspeople tried to save any survivors, Kehoe drove his truck full of dynamite to the scene and called administrators over, just to make sure the death toll was higher when he shot into the back of his truck.

    Crazy? Yes, indeed. A terrorist? No, since we generally define those people as using terror to affect political outcomes. These men were just playing out revenge fantasies. I’m just thankful that Stack only had a plane.

  • Good point, JBalconi; but you forgot to mention that the Mad Bomber of Bath (Michigan) struck in 1927 — proving that incidents like these are not unique to our era.

    Most people, if asked what the “worst school massacre in US history” was, would say Columbine or Virginia Tech. However, while 15 people (including the shooters) died at Columbine and 32 at Virginia Tech, the Bath bombing killed 45 people (38 children and 7 adults) and injured 58 more.

    The perpetrator of the Bath bombing was himself a member of the school board, who had often accused the superintendent of financial mismanagement (don’t know whether that was true or not). He stocked up on dynamite and ammunition for months prior to the bombing, buying it in small quantities at farm supply and sporting goods stores. The only possible warning sign he ever displayed was his tendency to be cruel to his animals — he beat at least one of his horses to death (at a time when horses were absolutely essential to farm operations).

  • Also, the Bath School Disaster (as it was called at the time) made front page news across the nation, but only for a brief time, as Charles Lindbergh’s successful trans-Atlantic solo flight only a few days later quickly took first place in public consciousness.

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