FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What it Really Means

If, as author Bill Blum has noted, a terrorist is someone who has a bomb but doesn’t have an air force, then the suicide pilot Andrew “Joe” Stack most certainly qualifies as a terrorist, having made an effective little bomb out of his Piper Cherokee.  At the minimum, he appears to have been a thoughtful terrorist, so we should pause a moment to consider his thinking.   For crashing his plane into the offices of the IRS in Austin, Tex. – and, worse, for leaving a manifesto explaining why he did it – Stack has been accused by the usual mouthpieces on the Democratic left (Daily Kos, for example) as a right-wing Tea Party loon (the Tea Partiers demur).  His  suicide letter, now published far and wide on the internet, has been dismissed as a “rant” for its “ideological incoherence” and “self-pity,” in the words of Salon’s Joan Walsh, herself a model of the Democratic left in that she can always be expected to say nothing worth reading.

The coherence is there for all to see who have eyes to see it.  Read the manifesto.  “When the wealthy fuck up,” writes Stack, “the poor get to die for the mistakes.”  Such a system, he notes, is predicated on “two interpretations for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us.”  Stack is talking, of course, about the remarkable functionality of corporatism, or, rather, corporate socialism – socialism for the rich – the marriage of big business and big government, the wealth and power that has accrued in large-scale institutions whose growth the Democratic and Republican Parties have together abetted (the left only somewhat less skilled at it than the right).   Corporations marred by their own stupidity and greed get bail-outs, writes Stack, while healthcare companies plunder the ranks of the sick and the dying for profit.   Big labor unions, he writes, collude with company executives to defraud union membership.   Stack drops $5,000 out of pocket and “at least 1000 hours of my time writing” on various matters to get the attention of his representatives in Congress, only to conclude it is “a futile exercise.”  “They universally treated me as if I was wasting their time,” he writes.   Five thousand dollars and a thousand hours of letter writing was not enough for consideration.

Stack singles out the “vulgar and corrupt” Catholic Church as a “monster of organized religion” that grows inordinately wealthy exploiting religious tax exemptions.  God only knows how much money the “ecclesiastical corporations” (as James Madison put it) are squirreling away by a pretense of service to the greater good.  And, obviously, Stack goes after the IRS, on the charge of “taxation without representation.”  That is, he is attacking a gigantic system of wealth transfer – itself designed, like organized religious doctrine, to confuse, stultify, mystify – that keeps alive a government which ably represents its corporate handlers but coldly calculates the length and breadth of the shaft for its citizens.  As a software engineer in Austin, for example, Stack finds that “three or four large companies in the area” collude “to drive down prices and wages” for engineering professionals like himself, while the Department of Justice, he alleges, does nothing about it.  If true, it’s not a surprising development for a government that in recent years has allowed bigness oligopolies to take the dominant position in just about every major sector of the economy (in banking, finance, food production, energy, defense, steel, pharmaceuticals, airlines, and media), while institutionalizing unfairness for the small man.  Two interpretations of the law: one that favors the large and powerful, the other that dashes the rest of us against the rocks of “justice.”

I would venture that what drove Stack to a suicidal-homicidal rage was in part that he could no longer accept the unfairness of the bigness complexes, no longer navigate the labyrinth with the required shrug and sullen grunt.  I hear in his words distant echoes of Paul Goodman, the author and anarchist and one of the great unsung thinkers of our time.  Writing in 1963, Goodman observed that institutional bigness, and the centralization necessary to maintain bigness, was the bane of American life: “one interlocked system of big government, big corporations, big municipalities, big labor, big education, and big communication, in which all of us are pretty regimented and brainwashed, and in which direct initiative and deciding have become difficult or impossible.”  The assumption, wrote Goodman, is “now appallingly unanimous among the ordinary electorate, professional politicians, most radicals, and even political scientists who should know better, [that] politics is essentially a matter of ‘getting into power,’ and then ‘deciding,’ directing, controlling, coercing, the activities of society” – that is, coercing so that centralization and bigness remain the norm.  The individual, taken alone, is worth nothing in the face of such monstrously outsized structural imbalances.  It’s clear that Joe Stack understood this, feeling worthless enough that the only conceivable act of value was ultimate destruction.

Christopher Ketcham writes for Vanity Fair, GQ, Harper’s and many other magazines, and is currently working on a book, “The United States Must End,” which advocates the dissolution of the US. He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

More articles by:

Christopher Ketcham is a freelance writer.  You can write him at cketcham99@mindspring.com or see more of his work at christopherketcham.com.

June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail