Here is my appraisal of Joe Stack’s plane attack on the IRS building. I’ve only begun to look at in more detail. I’ve watched some news reports and read some of the details in the suicide note. My tentative conclusions stated here might change based on further research or they might not.
Was the kamikaze pilot a rightwing terroritst? Well, let’s break it down.
Was he a terrorist? That is a complex question. There are many definitions that I’ve seen. By some official definitions, he would be categorized as a terrorist. By other official definitions, he wouldn’t be categorized as a terrorist. So, I’m going to simplify it with more specific questions.
Did he copy the actions of those deemed terrorists? Yes. The method wasn’t original. Obviously, his actions remind everyone of 9/11. It probably was even intentional that he copied the method of terrorists. This guy, like the 9/11 terrorists, both perceived the US government as corrupt. In protesting this perceived corrupt governmenet, this guy, like the 9/11 terrorists, attacked a symbol of the economic power of the US government. He used a similar violent method to make a similar statement of violent protest.
Did he cause terror? Yes, most definitely yes. The people in that building were terrorized. IRS workers across the country now will go to work everyday in a state of fear. This is similar to how, since the killing of Dr. Tiller, family planning doctors will go to work everyday in fear or else out of fear quit their jobs and not go to work at all. Terrorism is effective in that it causes terror… that is why it’s called terrorism.
Did he intened to cause terror? Probably. HIs act of protest was intentionally violent and violence causes terror. It’s probably safe to assume that he understood that his causing violence would cause terror. I don’t know if he intended terror per se. He may not have thought of himself as a terrorist, but he did intend retribution. His purpose seemed to be to cause suffering on those he deemed to have caused his own suffering. The intention of terror seems implied in both the note and the act. It’s hard to know his precise intentions, but that is equally true of the 9/11 terrorists. We aren’t reluctant to call Muslims terrorists even when they leave no note about their intentions.
To me, determining it was terrorism is simple. It was an act that intentionally caused terror. Terrorism is as terrorism does. I, however, understand why others don’t consider it terrorism. Joe Stack wasn’t a part of a terrorist group. My response to that is terrorism isn’t limited to collective action. Also, an argument can be made that this act of violence resonates with other recent acts of violence that were motivated by fear and hatred of government. The same atmosphere of fear-mongering about the government (Beck being the most extreme example) contributes to people on the edge going whole hog over the edge (Beck about sends me over the edge on occasion). Violent speech doesn’t directly cause violent action, but it makes it more likely. The political polarization in general creates a mood of conflict that impacts the entire country (not just Beckheads and Tea Partiers).
More interesting to me is determining the ideology that motivated this particular act of violence. My most specific interest is in wondering if there is a connection to the other acts of violence from this past year. A lot of the violence recently has seemed correlated to a particular worldview of social and/or fiscal conservatism. So…
Was he rightwinger? At first, I thought yes. I guess it depends on how rightwing is defined, but it can’t be denied he espoused at least some of what is typically labelled as rightwing ideology. His criticisms of the IRS resonate with fiscal conservatism and would be right at home on a sign carried in a Tea Party protest. That said, I haven’t heard of any evidence that he was a part of the Tea Party movement or any other specific movements. He did belong to a group at one time that discussed tax law. The important point is whether he became extreme in his viewpoint simply through his own experience or by being influenced by others. Besides movements or groups, I’d like to know what news sources he read and if there were any place on the web where he regularly commented.
I’ve only skimmed his letter, but the conclusion at the end does create a bit of uncertainty about his actual criticism and the ideology that motivated it.
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.
Before I looked at the letter, someone mentioned his statement about communism but didn’t offer the specific quote. I assumed it was the typical rightwinger preaching of anti-conmmunism. I was clearly wrong. I still don’t know what it means.
(Note: It’s unclear that Stack was a communist or was even basing his argument on communism. Comparative statements like the one Stack made have a varied history. One writer at Newsweek thinks it probably originated from Henry Fairlie who considered himself a conservative, but of course conservatives disagree with this connection because they don’t think Fairlie was a real conservative as he didn’t worship Reagan.)
Conservatives are fond of saying that liberals who turn to conservativsm have been “mugged by reality”. However, Joe Stack seems to have been a man who tried to make it in the world of capitalism (the pillar of modern conservatism) and was mugged by reality. Stack came to an interesting conclusion. It wasn’t simply the IRS that was at fault. Apparently, he was arguing that big government and big business were to blame (and he shared the blame with big religion as well). That isn’t exactly rightwinger or leftwinger. That is more in the territory of between libertarianism and anarchism.
I’m still a bit confused. I heard Joe Stack was a small business owner. Many small business owners are Republican or Libertarian (even when socially liberal). Mr. Stack very well might’ve been a conservative at one time. Maybe his protest was against the conservative ideal of free market capitalism which he thought had failed him… just a theory but it could explain a lot. Despite the ideology, Republican politcians aren’t any more likely to help the small business owner than are Democratic politicians and so it’s understandable that a small business owner might become dissatisfied with mainstream conservatism. He seemed to be embittered about the whole system and the IRS was just a symbolic target. He wasn’t attacking anyone in particular. He attacked a building… a building that symbolized the institution of the IRS, of the government, of the entire socio-political system.
Okay. I was definitely wrong in thinking he was just a rightwing extremist, but he isn’t a leftwing extremist either. So, what is he? The problem is that our language is limited when it comes to labelling the ideologies of people. I’ll have to read more of the letter to see if I can determine his views. My suspicion is that he was a libertarian who started leaning socialist as the system failed to help him. If so, does his letter portray him as more of a socialist libertarian or a libertarian socialist? And was he actually a proponent of communism or simply using communist ideology as a convenient criticism of capitalist ideology?
His ‘communist’ statement, especially in context of his anti-government sentiments, isn’t that far off from what some anarchists preach. Anarchism tends to be socialist if it focuses on the worker class and tends to be capitalist if it focuses on the owner class. I assume he was being critical of our corporatocracy, but he may not have been against ‘capitalism’ as defined by some anarchist-leaning libertarians. I don’t know if it ultimately matters. I’m just curious if he was critical of our present capitalist system because he wished a true capitalist system would replace it or because he thought the entire basis of capitalism was faulty. There is a big difference between the two.
Let me add one further question.
Does Joe Stack’s violent act discredit the message of protest and criticism? No. This is no different than the fact that the 9/11 terrorists didn’t discredit all Muslims around the world. Every group has extremists, but it should be pointed out that certain groups are more prone to violent extremism than others. Those who criticize the government for reasons of anti-taxation (and right to bear arms) tend to be more violent in their protests than environmentalists for whatever reason. This often seems like a right/left divide (similar to pro-lifers being more violent than pro-choicers), but in this case no particular ideological movement can be blamed and discredited.
I’m very critical of big government. I think the taxation system is unfair. And I’m certainly not a rightwinger. This incident is sad because violence is rarely inspiring but more importantly it’s sad because the criticisms themselves get discredited in the mainstream media. The Tea Party itself will become less credible simply for being ideologically similar to Joe Stack’s criticisms. But criticisms of the government in general, from both the left and the right, get put in the light of extremism because of this act of terrorism. Violence isn’t an effective method in getting people to take your message seriously. Such acts of violence only justifies the government becoming more oppressive in maintaining order.
It’s actually more interesting that he didn’t turn out to be just a typical Tea Party protester. And I’m glad it’s forcing the media to come to terms with the true political complexity of the American public. All of this fits into my recent research into different movements and ideologies.
Despite the GOP and Fox News trying to take control, the Tea Party isn’t a simple rightwing movement. It includes a fairly wide range of people and interests (although still too narrow to be a truly populist movement). And if you look at the origins of the Tea Party, you discover Ron Paul followers which touches upon the libertarian party. Libertarians and independents have been behind all of the diverse protest movements/groups: Peace Protests, Truthers, Birthers. Et Cetera. There are white supremacists mixed in here, but there also those who geninely believe in freedom and civil rights for all. There are militia secessionists involved in many of these protests, but most protesters don’t want violence and many in fact are pacifists. The media can’t understand this kind of complexity. Every movement has to be categorized as left or right. Peace protesters were leftwingers because Republicans said so, and Tea Partiers are rightwing because Democrats say so. There are ideological differences in these movements, but there also is much crossover. Ron Paul libertarians were participated in the peace protests and now they’ve participate in the Tea Party protests.
Joe Stack is even more difficult to categorize than the libertarians. His complaints is a sampling of the entire range of criticism. As an extremist, he comes off as a middle-of-the-road average American with gripes against the wealthy and powerful elite.
Here are some interesting articles, blogs, and videos about the topic (or of related topics):
In his best work “Valis” and its two companion volumes, “The Divine Invasion” and “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer”, the late Philip K. Dick develop a strangely Gnostic vision. In this 73 minute lecture, Dr. Hoeller discusses P. K. Dick, his vision,
Fred: D… Substance D. “D” is dumbness, and despair, desertion-desertion of you from your friends, your friends from you, everyone from everyone. Isolation and loneliness… and hating and suspecting each other, “D” is finally death. Slow death from the head down. Well… that’s it.
Why does Control need humans, as you call them?
Answer: Wait… wait! Time, a landing field. Death needs time like a junkie needs junk.
And what does Death need time for?
Answer: The answer is sooo simple. Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sake.
The conversion of the living to the dead has been converted from a moral, human, question into a technical problem to be solved, and, if at all possible, profited from.
~ Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe (p 568)
New-Path resident: Living and unliving things are exchanging properties.
Second New-Path resident: The drive of unliving things is stronger than the drive of living things.
Freck as New-Path resident: The living should never be used to serve the purposes of the dead. But the dead should, if possible… serve the purposes of the living.
Fred: I saw death rising from the earth, from the ground itself, in one blue field.
Playing for Keeps
By Derrick Jensen
“PEOPLE WHO READ MY WORK often say, “Okay, so it’s clear you don’t like this culture, but what do you want to replace it?” The answer is that I don’t want any one culture to replace this culture. I want ten thousand cultures to replace this culture, each one arising organically from its own place. That’s how humans inhabited the planet (or, more precisely, their landbases, since each group inhabited a place, and not the whole world, which is precisely the point), before this culture set about reducing all cultures to one.”
Endgame, Volume 1 (p 56)
By Derrick Jensen
“It is the BLU-82, also known as the Daisy Cutter. This fifteen-thousand-pound bomb, filled with an aqueous mix of ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, and polystyrene soap, is so large that it can only be launched by rolling it out the rear door of a cargo aircraft, the MC-130 Hercules. The slowness of the cargo plane means Daisy Cutters can only be dropped when there are no defenses, in other words, only on those who are defenseless. A parachute opens, then the Daisy Cutter floats toward Earth. The parachute slows the descent enough to give the transport plane time to get away before the bomb explodes. The bomb detonates just above ground, producing what are called overpressure of one thousand pounds per square inch (overpressure is air pressure over and above normal air pressure: overpressures of just a few pounds are enough to kill people) disintegrating everything and everyone within hundreds of yards, and killing people (and nonhumans) at a range of up to three miles. General Peter Pace, vice-chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, put the purpose clearly: “As you would expect, they make a heck of a bang when they go off and the intent is to kill people.” Marine Corps General Trainer was even more specific about the effect of Daisy Cutters on the people of Afghanistan: “Besides the physical degradation, these — along with the regular ordinance dropped from B-52s — provide great psychological punishment, as victims begin to bleed from the eyes, nose, and ears, if they aren’t killed outright, of course. It’s a frightening, awesome assault they’re suffering, and there’s no doubt they are feeling our wrath.””
The Heart of Thoreau’s Journals (pp 83-4; April 11, 1852)
By Henry David Thoreau
“If I am too cold for human friendship, I trust I shall not soon be too cold for natural influences. It appears to be a law that you cannot have a deep sympathy with both man and nature. Those qualities which bring you near to the one estrange you from the other.”
This post is about why the libertarian vision of society scares me shitless. No offense to Stefan Molyneux, but I truly hope his ideology never becomes reality.
In a stateless society, contracts with DROs are required to maintain any sort of economic life – without DRO representation, citizens are unable to get a job, hire employees, rent a car, buy a house or send their children to school. Any DRO will naturally ensure that its contracts include penalties for violent crimes – so if you steal a car, your DRO has the right to use force against you to get the car back – and probably retrieve financial penalties to boot.
Call me silly, but this sounds like the worse kind of fascism. It scares me that someone even thinks this is a good idea. I’ve been feeling critical of the society we have now which is already a mild form of fascism that some people call corporatism, but the vision outlined here takes it a step further.
How does this work in practice? Let’s take a test case. Say that you wake up one morning and decide to become a thief. Well, the first thing you have to do is cancel your coverage with your DRO, so that your DRO cannot act against you when you steal. DROs would have clauses allowing you to cancel your coverage, just as insurance companies have now. Thus you would have to notify your DRO that you were dropping coverage. No problem, you’re off their list.
Any homeless person would become the equivalent of an illegal alien. But in a DRO a homeless illegal alien would automatically be assumed to be a criminal without any legal protections or civil rights. If you were born outside of a DRO, you may or may not be able to get a contract from a DRO. Even if you did have a DRO contract, they could drop you at any moment. Fear would keep everyone in line because no rights would be considered inalienable.
However, DROs as a whole really need to keep track of people who have opted out of the entire DRO system, since those people have clearly signaled their intention to go rogue, to live off the grid, and commit crimes. Thus if you cancel your DRO insurance, your name goes into a database available to all DROs. If you sign up with another DRO, no problem, your name is taken out. However, if you do not sign up with any other DRO, red flags pop up all over the system.
Not only would a homeless person be both an illegal alien and an assumed criminal, but they would be tracked. My God, this sounds like capitalistic Stalinism. The DRO would follow your every move in Big Brother fashion. A DRO could potentially become so oppressive that cameras would be installed even in houses because all property is owned by the DRO. Your entire life (work, education, shopping, entertainment) would be controlled by the DRO. Complete propagandistic control would be possible. It would be a Communist beauracrat’s wet dream.
What happens then? Remember – there is no public property in the stateless society. If you’ve gone rogue, where are you going to go? You can’t take a bus – bus companies won’t take rogues, because their DRO will require that they take only DRO-covered passengers, in case of injury or altercation. Want to fill up on gas? No luck, for the same reason. You can try hitchhiking, of course, which might work, but what happens when you get to your destination and try and rent a hotel room? No DRO card, no luck. Want to sleep in the park? Parks are privately owned, so keep moving. Getting hungry? No groceries, no restaurants – no food! What are you going to do?
All possibility of freedom would be eliminated. Even if you wanted to escape, there would be no where to escape to. You could attempt to sign a contract with another DRO. However, no DRO may want to accept free agents because of their inherent criminal status. Even if another DRO does accept you, they might be just as or more oppressive than the one you left.
Obviously, those without DRO representation are going to find it very hard to get around or find anything to eat. But let’s go even further and imagine that, as a rogue, you are somehow able to survive long enough to start trying to steal from people’s houses.
No fuck it would be hard to get around or find anything to eat. The sub-class of those free of DRO contracts would be forced to seek out black markets or else starve to death.
Well, the first thing that DROs are going to do is give a reward to anyone who spots you and reports your position (in fact, there will be companies which specialize in just this sort of service). As you walk down a street on your way to rob a house, someone sees you and calls you in. The DRO immediately notifies the street owner (remember, no public property!) who boots you off his street. Are you going to resist the street owner? His DRO will fully support his right to use force to protect his property or life.
Yep. There is that Stalinism. Your neighbors and your family would get payed to spy on you. The paranoid’s worst nightmare would become reality.
So you have to get off the street. Where do you go? All the local street owners have been notified of your presence, and refuse you entrance. You can’t go anywhere without trespassing. You are a pariah. No one will help you, or give you food, or shelter you – because if they do, their DRO will boot them or raise their rates, and their name will be entered into a database of people who help rogues. There is literally no place to turn.
The DRO contract will probably prohibit anyone helping those without contracts. And if you helped one of these homeless criminals, you’d lose your contract too. People would just walk past these starving, wretched sub-humans.
So, really, what incentive is there to turn to a life of crime? Working for a living – and being protected by a DRO – pays really well. Going off the grid and becoming a rogue pits the entire weight of the combined DRO system against you – and, even if you do manage to survive their scrutiny and steal something, it has probably been voice-encoded or protected in some other manner against unauthorized re-use. But let’s suppose that you somehow bypass all of that, and do manage to steal, where are you going to sell your stolen goods? You’re not protected by a DRO, so who will buy from you, knowing they have no recourse if something goes wrong? And besides, anyone who interacts with you will get a substantial reward for reporting your location – and, if they deal with you, will be dropped from the DRO system.
All property would be tracked, but would the DRO stop there? Of course not. The DRO would implant all people with tracking chips. With the advance of technology, they could do all kinds of things with brainwashing and neural manipulation. Your very body would be the property of the DRO. Trying to escape the DRO would involve having to steal your own body.
Will there be underground markets? No – where would they operate? People need a place to live, cars to rent, clothes to buy, groceries to eat. No DRO means no participation in economic life.
The homeless illegal alien criminals would be forced to create underground markets or else they’d die. If those underground markets were destroyed by the DROs, the starving sub-class would revolt. The DRO is just a capitalistic version of feudalism. Each DRO would be an anarcho-fiefdom. People created democratic states in the first place to escape the oppressive rule of feudal lords. Why would we want to create a new feudal society?
I’m painting a dark vision. I am a pessimist afterall. A DRO theoretically could work out as this guy thinks, but it seems improbable considering the real world historical examples of mining towns that were the perfect example of oppressive anarcho-capitalism. And I’m certainly not alone in my doubts:
– COMMENTS (from above quoted article) –
Matt: “In a stateless society, contracts with DROs are required to maintain any sort of economic life – without DRO representation, citizens are unable to get a job, hire employees, rent a car, buy a house or send their children to school.” WTF! You just replaced oppressive government with oppressive corporate rule. If you can’t get a job, hire employees, or rent a car, etc. without their permission how is this anywhere close to a voluntary society?
Edward: I am with Matt on this one. I have listened to many of your podcasts and been in and out of here for a while but upon hearing this madness I just dont know anymore. How can you insure the type of people drawn to your DRO organizations arent the same as those who are now on our government and law enforcement/military rosters. This whole arangement to me if far more dangerous that what is currently going on. DRO is the absolute authority on my ability to be alive! What if I want off your DRO grid and do my own farming and build a house myself? Well I cant! I cant own property or a house because Im not DRO covered!!! So “crime” is my only option if i want to live without the DRO coverage!?!?! I say “crime” because according to this system i am now a rouge (criminal) even though I had a peaceful nonviolent nature and I just wanted to exist on my own. The crime here is?
masonkiller: Matt, Edward, there is a difference. If both of you don’t like a certain DRO or the way it’s running, then you have the option to break your contract. Therefore, voluntary. In our government, they have the same powers, only you didn’t sign anything. You HAVE to be in the system, you can’t say you don’t want to. Though I have other fears with DRO’s. How could you prevent one that had enough funding and owned it’s own bank or was in cahoots with a corrupt bank from coercing people into signing contracts with force and, in turn, creating a new government?
Me: I agree with Matt and Edward completely. Stefen is a very well intentioned and educated guy, and I fully appreciated his video on The Myth of the Free Market. However, the system suggested here is so inorganic and structured by a left brain thinker that it denies people the ability to exist without attachment to a system that enslaves them. I’d suggest Arno Gruen’s book, The Insanity of Normality to give a more complete version of why people commit crimes. Furthermore, I believe you’d see the err in this system by realizing it still functions as a dominator in a larger context. I don’t think that this system really factors in and analyzes human behavior and motives. Only by addresses the underlying issues of a humans instincts and desires and their response to forced compliance within any system can you truly offer a better solution to the worlds issues. This isn’t necessarily better or worse just different. There is a great video on youtube that comments succinctly on this idea. I will post it as soon as i find it, but it basically shows the cycle from anarchy to democracy to fascism etc. just being a constant loop. I would suggest that the only way out of that cycle would be remove the leveraging device – money. More difficult to put into effect than to say, yes, but with usury being imbedded in the current monetary system through Interest, Inflation and Income tax, you can never get away from oppression. To say that you propose a stateless society is just slight of hand. Maybe you don’t intend it, but the idea of having DRO is the state. Peace
To be fair, the following video is the same guy defending himself against the charge of being naive.
My response to this video is that my own criticism of naivette still stands. Stef misunderstands. His naivette isn’t in his criticism of the present system but in his proposal of his own system. Stef admits in this video that his utopian society is improbable (which I was glad to see him admit). His argument is that it’s improbability doesn’t matter. He states that all advances have come from those who attempted the improbable and so we should continue to strive for the improbable. He believes his idealized society is “the right thing to do”.
I think his admitting the improbability of his own ideal still can support the critics. The people who strove for the improbable did so because they believed it to be probable. If Stef doesn’t believe it’s even probable, then why risk everything for most likely gaining no benefit. Considering past examples, not only is his utopia improbable but that his utopia will turn into fascism is highly probable. We should consider all possibilities including the negative possibilities. His idealism is noble and his moralizing is righteous, but that doesn’t change my assessment.
Let me share another video that shows the personal context.
Stef is obviously angry and sad. The way he expresses himself here seems to imply he has suffered himself in some way. His response to suffering has been to commit his life to his ideal.
Derrick Jensen talks about this (and I think Stef would agree to an extent). We are all victims in this society. There are two common responses. Either the victim becomes a victimizer or becomes a defender of victims… and, I would add, that it’s easy for the defender of victims to become just another victimizer (which is how popular revolts sometimes lead to dictatorships). Stef idealizes free choice, but ideals have a way of becoming distorted when they’re implemented in reality. Stef hasn’t explained why his ideal will be the first ideal in history not to end in more oppression, violence, and suffering.
I sympathize with his emotion, but I fear his utopianism. I respect his devoted idealism, but his bright and shining utopia casts a dark shadow.
– – –
To end on a humorous note, let me offer an example of a normal day in your local DRO corporatocracy:
Little Johnny comes home from the company-owned school. His mommy brings him cookies and milk bought from the company-owned store.
“How was your day, Johnny?”
“Mommy, I learned today that Coca-Cola tastes better than Pepsi. In science class, we did a blind taste test. One kid said Pepsi tasted better and he didn’t get a gold star. I got a gold star because the teacher said I was a good company kid.”
“That’s nice, dear.”
There was a forum at MIT about the scandal involving the stolen e-mails of some climate scientists. A video of it is available at the MIT World website:
It was a helpful discussion about the specific issue of Climategate and the general issues of science, education and media.
One particular point stood out to me. One of the participants explained one of the problems with East Anglia where the e-mails were stolen from. The skeptics argue that the the scientists were being devious because they wouldn’t publicly release the data, but the skeptics conveniently ignore one factor. The East Anglia scientist sold the rights to the data to an outside organization. This is apparently a practice that is sometimes used in Europe in order to get funding. The problem is that a contract was signed where the scientists legally weren’t allowed to share the data with third parties.
What is interesting is that the skeptics claim government funding is causing the data to be skewed, but in this particular case the problem was that the scientists were being funded by way of capitalism and not government grants. In the US, this practice isn’t done because scientists get public funding and so US scientific data is open to the public. The skeptics argument falls apart here because they seem to imply that there wouldn’t be problems if scientists got their funding from sources other than the government.
The skeptics don’t explain why capitalist funding would be more trustworthy than government funding. If you look a capitalist funding, a lot of money has been invested lobbying politicians and creating front groups to sway public opinion. For example, ExxonMobil has given millions of dollars to dozens of organizations that argue against the climate change science. This capitalis propaganda is very successful. Even though there is a scientific consensus among active researchers in climatology, most Americans believe that no consensus exists. It’s one thing to believe the consensus is fraudulent, but to believe it doesn’t exist shows both a failure of the media and the education system. The scientific consensus does exist. That is just a simple fact.
This isn’t surprising. Polls also show a large percentage of Americans believe in Creationism or otherwise doubt Darwinian evolution. Darwinism is one of the most credible theories with one of the strongest of scientific consensuses. If Americans even doubt such solid science as that, then what hope is there? The American public is largely ignorant on many scientific issues. Why? Another poll might give a clue. A large percentage of highschool biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. There you go. Even many teachers are ignorant of science and so the students of those teachers are unlikely to get a high quality science education.