Political bloggers are tripping over one another to peg Joseph Andrew Stack – the man who authorities say intentionally flew a Piper Cherokee into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, on Thursday – as either a left-wing conspiracist or a right-wing nut.
But the pattern of the attack – including that Mr. Stack apparently lit his house on fire beforehand – fits less into the mold of a terror conspiracy and more neatly into a profile of the solo-flying rebel with a personal beef, the details of which are fueled by partisan rhetoric and current events.
At least at first glance, the act most closely parallels that of Charles J. Bishop, the Al Qaeda-sympathetic teenager who flew a small plane into the side of a Bank of America building in 2002, and Johnny Lee Wicks, the angry retiree who last year attacked a Las Vegas courthouse after setting fire to his condo.
"I know [Stack] wasn’t part of al Qaida or a white power group, but how can this not qualify as an act of terrorism given the obvious political motive, however nutty it was?" writes Michael Roston at True/Slant. "I can assure you that people all over the political spectrum will be working posthaste to distance themselves from Stack’s madness."
Recriminations fly faster than facts
Already, recriminations have flown faster than the facts. Federal agencies seemed to be taking seriously an apparent suicide note written by Stack.
Almost instantly, the left-leaning Daily Kos website had connected the crash to the influence of the conservative "tea party" movement, writing that "teabaggers have struck with their first 9/11 inspired terrorist attack."
"We're about to see the media double-standard in starkest terms," counters the conservative Ace of Spaces website, which points out that the left-wing leanings of Alabama shooting-spree suspect Amy Bishop haven't been part of the mainstream media narrative. "[We're] going to hear endlessly about this lunatic crank's politics. Which aren't even right-wing – he's ripping politicians for not doing anything about health care, for example," the website says.
Besides being a woeful tale of trouble finding professional work in Los Angeles and Austin, Stack's self-described online "rant" is a strong measure of disaffection caused by a troubled economy and a sense that Washington is set against the common man, i.e., Stack himself.
Complaints about the IRS hit a chord
Still, his complaints about the Internal Revenue Service hit a chord with Twitter user Brian Marshall, who tweets: "im fascinated by joe stacks manifesto. Very articulate man. having been a business owner i feel his pain of being taxed twice!"
Stack's disaffection can be primarily tied to the late 1980s and early 1990s when, he writes, "I spent $5,000 of my pocket change and at least 1,000 hours of time" complaining to federal and state officials. About what is not clear.
Stack later writes that he decided to say goodbye to California "and try Austin for a while." That was also a bust because, he writes, of collusion between several major software engineering firms and the US Justice Department to keep wages low.
"So we come to the present," Stack writes. "In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws. I have had all I can stand."
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