Friday, February 19, 2010

Joe Stack: A Muddled Act of Rebellion

I first read about Joe Stack torching his home and flying his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas at Bill Gnade’s Contratimes. You can pretty much follow my understanding of the events through the comments, where I also link to Joe Stack’s suicide note.

I have a soft spot for the diatribes of violent rebels. I read over a hundred pages of stuff written by the Columbine kids. I read everything I could find on Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, even Osama bin Laden. I don’t read these things because I want to know what “made them do it;” I want to know what they thought made them do it.

That’s always how it is. These people are always “driven” to do these things, as if violent outbursts are a foregone conclusion under certain circumstances. Maybe this is true, I don’t know. I live in the same world, notice the same injustices, and yet I am not driven to hurt innocent people. Sure, there’s the occasional day-dream of poisoning the punch at a Republican Convention, but those cocksuckers deserve it…

Perhaps the first step in committing an act of terrorism is to define those who are “guilty” of preventing change, always some group of “others.” The second step, then, is believing that violence is necessary for change. Joe Stack is a terrorist. He states quite clearly on page six of his note that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer” [emphasis in original].

When I first heard the story, I assumed the guy was a right-wing nut who blamed the government for his woes. After reading his note, I am conflicted. I want to say he is probably a centrist who leans left, but there is nothing to indicate to me that this note was not carefully contrived.

I am reminded of the census worker who was found hanging in a cemetery with the words“FED” written on his stomach. It turned out he had faked his own murder, which was in fact a suicide, in order for life-insurance to pay out.

Why would Joe Stack fake being a lefty communist? Why would he gloss over political issues (mentioning healthcare briefly and railing on Bush… who is universally panned anyway) only to end his letter with a seemingly all-important allusion to Communism [page 6]:

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.
This line that could easily be added to the note, perhaps after several re-readings where he realized he comes off as a crazy conservative. Charles Manson and Timothy McVeigh both staged their crimes with the hopes that it would stir unrest and confusion.

I don’t think there’s any evidence for anything like that regarding Joe Stack…yet. I will say this: he rails against Catholics, which is something right-wing Protestants are wont to do. He talks about “big brother,” and chose to fly his plane into the IRS. That doesn’t sound very left to me.

Left, right, progressive, conservative, whatever he is, Joe Stack’s actions are being criticized across the board. I sympathize with the guy, especially if he truly was the victim of predatory tax laws. Even if he is merely in this situation due to his own actions, I question the validity of a system that would leave a man in the very dangerous position of having nothing to lose. People are often driven to crime in tough times, we just rarely see it because most people aren’t very creative.

The world lost a motivated individual, one willing to die for something they believed in, even if he did not fully understand it, and one who didn’t care who he hurt in the process.

Joe Stack: typical American rebel.


  1. it could be that he was just quoting the communist creed to show parallels, or that he disagreed with both the communist sentiments and what he perceives capitalistic sentiments to be.

  2. This guy had issues, obviously. My brother once spoke with a sargeant who served with McVeigh in the first Gulf War. Said he was a nice guy who did his job well and kept to himself. Go figure.

  3. I's the quiet ones you gotta have eyes for in the back of your head

  4. I heard about this and now read the letter. Don't know much about the system over there, but I've yet to find one that nobody can complain about. I think the problem is freedom. People don't realize this, but we are completely free. However, so is everyone else. If everyone were to do what they wanted, shit would happen to some. So at the same point you are free to do anything, everyone is free to stop you if they don't like it. After reading this letter I think this guy was tired. From what I understood, he just wanted to live the end of his life with a bit of comfort, but every time he was on his way there, something stopped him. That's gotta be frustrating. However, he shouldn't have made the decision of ending someone's life. Life is precious.

    We have our problems here too (obviously --') but on another side if life was easy it wouldn't be fun, would it? Like a game perhaps? I like difficulties, they allow me to grow. I don't want an easy life, there is no learning in this. But then again, I've only just begun playing the game of life. =P


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