Joe Stack: terrorist or patriot?

Joe Stack flew a small plane into a seven-story IRS office building in Austin, Texas at 9:56 a.m., Thursday, February 18, 2009. He destroyed the building, killed one person in addition to himself, and injured roughly a dozen others. Joe was a software engineer who flew his own Piper aircraft and who played in a band for recreation. He had a multi-year grudge against the IRS, but was also critical of many other institutions (see link to suicide manifesto at bottom).

Image from billyeli.com

As soon as I became aware of the situation, and the basic details of Joe's life, I watched to see how the American media and conservative movement would handle this one. You see, Joe is a Christian. A white Christian. A middle class white Christian. A middle class white Christian Texan.  A middle class white Christian Texan suicide bomber.  For watchers of American politics it doesn't get better than that.  Break out the popcorn and tune in to DNN (Disinformation News Network), a generic descriptor of any and all American TV networks.

If you read Joe's manifesto, you will find that his grievances are much the same as those voiced by the disparate elements found under the umbrella of the Tea Party movement. This movement is not a cohesive group. It is a relatively new American protest organization with no coherent theme, other than a dislike for anything governmental; it is essentially a collection of American libertarians, as well as ordinary people upset that their vision of "The American Dream" is not working out, and the usual assortment of fringe group wingnuts that any protest movement attracts.  It is uncertain whether this movement will be crushed,  or co-opted and manipulated by external power brokers to further the goals of the elite. 

Therein lies the dilemma for the American conservative movement, which has been highly critical of  "big government" over the last year, and supportive of all sorts of bizarre behaviour like protestors showing up at rallies wearing handguns, simply because it is their constitutional right to "bear arms".  Sarah Palin, the goddess of conservative ignoramuses and idealogues, has been instrumental in supporting those who advocate violence towards those who do not share their ideology.

And now Joe Stack, someone who shared their dislike of "big government", has taken action.  Real action.  Not just waving signs with misspelled words, while wearing hats adorned with tea bags.   The Tea Party crowd know that their movement is modeled on the American rebellion against British "big government" and that it required violence to achieve their aims.  So the Tea Party movement has an unstated undercurrent of the threat of violent protest.  Otherwise they would be modeled on the Mahatma Gandi movement or something else less violent. 

Just as I suspected, the corporate-owned American media immediately began denouncing Joe Stack as a narcissist and quite possibly insane.  Commentators stated that sane people don't fly airplanes into buildings.  Their thesis is that only the insane kill government employees when they have a disagreement with that branch of the government.  Some voiced the opinion that violence is never a rational response to a perceived inequity.  Which leaves unresolved the issue of how wars get started by otherwise rational people.

Joe Stack disagreed.  He thought violence was the only answer.  He knew he wasn't going to solve his personal problems with his actions, but thought he might become a role model for others.  And despite claims to the contrary, American actions worldwide show they believe the application of force is the preferred solution to all disagreements.  The American people will agree to wage war or the threat of war against anyone at any time under the most preposterous of pretexts, all under the smokescreen of patriotism and defence of the nation.  Violence is always chosen over more rational approaches, unless the military is already busy. Roughly 80% of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq in its first week. Act in haste, repent in leisure.

Of course the citizens of any other nation would act the way Americans have if they had the ability to dominate as America can.  If you are reading this you are probably Canadian, and I assure you we would act the same as Americans if we had the same background and circumstances.  The following quote is classic, and reveals an ugly truth that people like to avoid.  We are all the same, and under the same circumstances would act similarly to the people we despise or belittle.

“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

The speaker was Hermann Goering at the Nuremburg trials before he was sentenced to death.  I keep trying to envisage what Hermann looked like, and sounded like when delivering that statement, but the image of Dick Cheney making his weekly rounds on the Sunday "news" shows is what I see and hear.  There is little difference between Hermann and Dick.  Both are war criminals.  But victors don't go to trial, except as accusers.

 The embedded mentality of application of violence is about to eat America out from the inside.  Joe Stack is only one of millions whose American Dream has turned into a nightmare.  I remember quite well the Watts riots of 1965, and the more recent ones in 1992.  And the Chicago riots of 1968.  And Kent State in 1970.  And of course there have been many instances of civil disobedience accompanied by violence before that.  I anticipate there will be many more in the near future, eclipsing all that have occurred in the past.

The Powers That Be (TPTB) in America are concerned.  There has been little media coverage of the suicide attack after the first day, and almost no discussion of the issues raised in his suicide note.  Only on the blogs.  That tells me TPTB don't want the public to focus on the event.  Over the weekend American media spent most of their time hyperventilating about the Tiger Woods apology and how Toyota vehicles were a threat to Americans.

The American security agencies had previously compiled detailed lists of people who might commit acts of violence, and the law enforcement agencies have  response plans for any form of civil insurrection.  But I gather Joe Stack was not on their list.  He was a mild-mannered computer geek who disliked the IRS and played in a band for recreation.  So now the security agencies are busily reviewing their records, re-doing profiles on people who are likely to become Joe Stack copy cats.  They will also implement a strategy to monitor anyone who is in any way supportive of the action taken by Mr. Stack, and add those people to THE LIST.

 So that brings us full circle on this posting.  How does law enforcement distinguish Joe Stack from the millions of  other Americans who are similarly disgruntled with their government?  Who will snap next, and take some form of violent action?  And how does the American conservative movement dissociate some of their positions from the similar complaints Joe outlined in his suicide note? 

The destruction caused by small acts of violence like Joe Stack's are irrelevant in the big picture.  Of course it's highly relevant for anyone killed or injured, and their friends and families.   I don't intend to diminish their suffering in any way.  I like to think we all want a situation where all members in society are secure from violence from others.  But that's just not possible.  It never was and never will be.  I may  be the only person I know who thinks the 9/11 attacks were of trifling importance, other than giving the American neo-cons an excuse to engage in two wars they had already planned.  Fewer than 3,000 people died and only a handful of buildings were destroyed; that is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

What is significant is the symbolism of the attacks, the fact that almost anyone can be killed anywhere at any time by a determined person or group.  For the average citizen this is compounded by the uncertainty surrounding random attacks like Joe's.  TPTB do not fear random acts of violence, but that those random acts will coalesce into more organized, targeted forms against them.  That's why there is media silence on Joe Stack.  I'm guessing the corporate executives and government officials currently involved in the ongoing looting of the American middle class beefed up their personal security details since last Thursday.  But they won't stop looting until they are met with a deterrent force that makes more plundering too risky.

President John F. Kennedy stated the following:
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

 The rich and powerful in America have become much more rich and powerful over the last 30 years when the plundering of the middle class really picked up momentum.  A highly skewed distribution of wealth and power always ends badly.  Read your history.  And TPTB are currently opposing any meaningful reform of the financial sector, the health care sector, the education sector, and other sectors like energy and transportation where America is becoming increasingly uncompetitive with the rest of the world.  

So far peaceful change for the benefit of the citizens has been suppressed easily.  TPTB simply increased the supply of credit whenever the natives got restless.  The gullible public mistook the increase of credit for actual wealth, and believed they were living the American Dream.  Everyone would get rich selling over-priced houses to each other.  But there are limits to credit expansion and the natives are starting to wake up to the reality that all is not well. At some point, which could be as much as 2-3 years away, the majority will come to the realization that the deterioration in their circumstances is not temporary; it is permanent and the deterioration will continue.    And they'll be angry.  Very angry.  Pitchforks, tar, feathers and burning torches in the night kind of angry. That's when the potential for WWIII becomes most likely.

That brings us back to Joe Stack again.  Will he be a catalyst for Americans to come together and develop an action plan to deal with the numerous challenges they face, as an empire in decline?  Or will TPTB use him to further their highly successful "divide and conquer" tactics employed against the populace?  I'm betting on the latter.  The powerful elite will bleed off the wealth for a few more years yet, until societal systems collapse and general chaos ensues.  Then they will jet off to their properties outside America where much of their wealth is already stored. 
One of the first thoughts I had when Joe Stack's identity was released, was "Joe Stack, Joe Six Pack".  Revenge of the American sheeple.

As more details of his background were released I thought of the parallels between him and the main character played by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.  If you haven't seen it, at least do an internet search for the plot, and see if you find the same parallels.

One of the major news networks had a rather lively commentary section going on below their story on Joe Stack on Feb. 18.  There was considerable debate on whether he was a terrorist or misguided patriot.  One reader requested clarification on how others would classify a person like Joe as being one or the other, because there seemed to be no clear definition or consistent treatment of such issues.  Another reader clarified it as follows (paraphrased):  "white skin = patriot; skin not white = terrorist".  There's considerable truth in that statement.

Want to know how long Joe Stack captured the attention of Americans?  On Feb. 18, the day of the crash, he occupied  6 of the top 20 Google searches, and more if you consider other searches like "Austin news".  The next day, Feb. 19, Joe Stack never made the top 20 nor did he make the top 20 in any day since.  On Feb. 19 Tiger Woods took 6 spots, 7 if you include the search for "buddhist".   Today's (Feb 23) top searches so far have "Dallas tea party" in #3 spot, "Jack in the Box" in #7, "Jack in the Box free sandwich" in #10, and "Toyota hearings" in #15.  Tomorrow could easily have Google top searches being "bomb Iran", "(insert name of celebrity or sports star here) in rehab", "repossessed Mercedes for sale", or whatever trivial fluff the media decide to air that day.  Just like butterflies flitting from flower to flower.  Do butterflies remember what flowers they have visited, or do they just flit about at random?

Do you suppose Joe Stack understood that he would be famous for less than a day?  Did his selection of the Echelon Building as his target have any connection to the movie, The Echelon Conspiracy?  Will Americans even remember who Joe Stack was by this weekend?

Link to downloadable copy of Joe Stack's manifesto:

His ending words caught my attention, since my blog is devoted to the theme of human gullibility:
""The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)"

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