mind your business

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Joe Stack was a Terrorist. Period.

Above: Photo of the damage to the Echelon Building | Author: Jasleen Kaur

The following is an excerpt from a piece I got published today on the Christian Science Monitor's opinion page. I really am getting sick of hearing from Stack apologists, and am less than happy with the response Stack has been getting from the tea party movement.

I hoped to set the right example with my post condemning Stack's criminal act last week, but maybe the tea party doesn't have as much spine (or good sense) as I hoped it would. I hate that I had to write this, but someone has to say it:

Joe Stack was a terrorist. Period.

If intentionally targeting civilians with acts of violence is terrorism, then Mr. Stack was a domestic terrorist. So why the nonchalance, even empathy, from conservatives like Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa and Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts who are typically “strong on defense?”

The progressive blogosphere and media rushed to label Stack a “tea party terrorist” and associate him with the resurgent antitax protest movement in the United States (conveniently ignoring the concluding swipe Stack’s suicide note made at capitalism: “The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”)

Yet despite this glaring omission of something you probably won’t see on a sign at your next tea party rally, it would seem that tea party activists have bought into the smear that Stack is one of their own. Their reactions have varied from explicit endorsements of Stack’s violence, like this appalling tweet from, “God bless Joe Stack an american hero,” to lukewarm condemnations and awkward dismissals of his behavior, à la Representative King and Senator Brown.

Read the rest of the article at the Christian Science Monitor.

Digg it up here. Discuss here.


  1. Uh, no.... Joe Stack was just a nutcase, a loser who went off on those he felt were persecuting him.

    I would not elevate him to the level of a terrorist because to be guilty of terrorism requires a component lacking here. And that component is a connection to an organization or organized coherent philosophy which embraces the use of terror. Which is to say that for it to be terrorism one would have to be terrified of it happening again... and again.. and again.

    Sure you could be terrified of most anything criminal.. being mugged for instance. But muggers would not usually be defined as terrorist.

    Like a disgruntled employee, Joe Stacks "terrorism" died with him.

  2. That is the only respectable argument I have read that he wasn't a terrorist. I still disagree, but I hear where you're coming from. The reason I disagree is that the mugger doesn't mug for political reasons, but simply to steal someone's wallet for personal financial benefit. Stack targeted civilians in an act of violence to gain attention for his political philosophy and, it would seem from his suicide note on the Internet, galvanize others to likewise rise up in violent revolt.

  3. I agree with Fantom. Joe Stack was a nutcase that went off the deep end, but not a terrorist.

    Even though he hated the government and IRS, I wouldn't classify this as terrorism. It does not seem that Stack followed any extremist groups or any type of terrorist groups. This seems like an isolated incident. In addition, it seems like he didn't have any connections to others or other groups that would continue his mission so I believe that this should be classified as a criminal act- a crazy gone whacko.

  4. I'm not sure he didn't belong to a group--albeit a loosely associated group. I've heard these anti-government, anti-IRS types talk before and they tend to share ideas, pamphlets, etc. It was well-thought and the fact that, as you pointed out, there are people who seems to almost sympathize with, if not endorse, his ideas shows it's wide-spread and not isolated. I believe he was a terrorist.

  5. Hey Teresa, thanks for chiming in. Are you sure that the number of people involved is what makes something a terrorist act? What is your definition of terrorism? I would define it as deliberately targeting civilians with violence for political purposes. I'd say that by that definition, Stack was definitely a terrorist.

    Libertarian Woman, I followed your link. Almost libertarian? Keep reading this site, we'll get you there :)

    Actually if you seriously have questions about libertarianism like those you posed on your site, and are frustrated with neglected state LP websites, do keep an eye on The Humble Libertarian, because it is up, running, active, and dedicated to exploring libertarianism.

  6. Wes,
    I don't think that we should solely rely on the number of victims involved in a particular act to determine whether Stack is terrorist or not , but that should be taken into account. I just think to some degree the term terrorist is used too loosely nowadays whenever a crazy goes off the deep end.

    Here is a definition of terrorism from wikipedia:

    "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."
    This sentence is what I think disqualifies Stack's action as being terrorism.
    "provoke a state of terror in the general public."
    I just don't see this as provoking terror in the general public.
    But, I would say it is terrorism in a very broad sense of the word-not in Al-Qaeda or Tim McVeigh sense of the word terrorist/terrorsim.

  7. I really don't see how Stack's actions were ultimately any different from McVeigh's. In either case it was basically a suicide mission with the intent on killing a large number or innocent people to prove a political point. McVeigh had to know he'd get caught, and when he did, he asked for the death penalty.

  8. Like Steve said, Teresa, I don't see much of a difference either. Before reading his comment, I was about to say the same thing. I find it interesting that you bring McVeigh up, because if he's a terrorist, I don't see why Stack isn't.

  9. Let's see....he was a white guy that hated taxes and the government and killed a black man. Wouldn't that make him a patriot in the eyes of the Tea Baggers Movement??

  10. Come on, Anonymous- do want to connect and communicate with people, or just lob rhetorical hand grenades at everybody and pick fights on the Internet?

    How many tea parties have you gone to? I've been to several of them, and I can say from experience that the people who go to these are normal, everyday, non-racist, non-hateful people.

    Their biggest complaint is the government's response to the financial crisis that started in 2008, and its bailout of corporate interests on Wall Street at the expense of America's working class.

    What Obama-loving "lefty" couldn't agree with that sentiment? We all have a lot more in common than people think. Keep reading The Humble Libertarian, and do please keep commenting, but try to understand other people before criticizing them.

    Now before I end up ignoring my own advice- please tell me more about yourself so I can understand you. What do you stand for? How do you feel about the government? Taxes? The corporate bailouts? And why do you think that the tea party is racist and violent?

  11. Well, for one. I bet Stack was very familiar with his target. On a personal level. Where as McVeigh likely did not know any one at his target personally.

    I got a Jackson says that Stack flew his plane into the very office of the IRS agent who he felt was hounding him.

    Personal revenge folks, is not terrorism.

    W.E. ........ Mcveigh had a s'porting cast. He did not act alone. Not that acting alone is preclusive to being a terrorist. Mcveigh certainly held to a organized philosophy, as in The Turner Diaries, an anti-government one. So like a moslem acting on his own in jihad, yes terrorism as it continues with other like minded individuals.

    That no other anti-government bombing continued though argues to the overall reason in the militia/small constitutional government group. And gives pause to call McVeigh an act of terrorism. Even thought he certainly meant it as one.

    To find a philosophy native to the US which is engaged in terrorism, by the definition I have been using(individual or group action along a philosophical or ideological axis using violence as a political means) one would look to the leftist, it is replete with examples. ELF, SEIU thugs beating Tea Party members, leftist biting off the fingers of Tea Party members, all the while the leftist in power use very negative terms and calls to action against said.

    In short it is too nebulous a stretch of imagination to connect Stack with any philosophical or ideological axis using violence as a political means. Certainly not any small government group. If anything Stack is a communist and a atheist.. a leftist. Just another finger biter.

  12. Yeah, but if you think that Stack's a communist, wouldn't you agree that Stack did have a connection to a philosophy / ideology that uses violence as a political means? That's the whole idea of Marxism, that the oppressed lower classes should use violent revolution to bring justice to their society. Stack echoed these sentiments exactly in his suicide note and concluded with an endorsement of communism and a swipe at capitalism. Doesn't that make his attack programmatic, and part of a larger political agenda, rather than just personal? I think that's what makes the guy a terrorist.

    I have a more detailed argument that he's a leftist / Marxist here:

  13. Just delivering the slow pitch. ;) Playin' the straight man. :D

    Still I think this action is one of personal revenge. Sure communist are quite capable of terrorist acts. However I am fairly sure they are down with taxation and statist organs like the IRS.

  14. Not unless that taxation is strongly progressive. Marxists like Stack might argue (and I would actually probably agree) that our income tax system is extremely regressive because it has so many exceptions, deductions, and loopholes for corporations and the entrenched upper-class interests whose lawyers can navigate the tax code. If taxation is a tool of the bourgeois, then the Marxist desires to violently seize the levers of power and use it as a tool of the proletariat. If you haven't closely read Stack's screed, I'd take a look at it. The man screams Marxism.

  15. Heh, funny thing about marxist. The bourgeois still rise to the top.

    Wagu beef anyone?

    A Simple Bricklayer

    P.S. And yes, I have read his writings. Which is why I stated, if anything he is a communist.

  16. Well I'm glad we agree on that point, good sir!