By now most of you have already heard of Texan “terrorist” Joe Stack. After a string of problems with the IRS, a divorce and some critical thinking about the capitalist elite in this country, Stack set his own home ablaze and flew a small plane into an IRS building after posting a rant/manifesto/suicide note online. A lot of base speculation has bounced around mainstream media. Some are calling him crazy (simultaneously obfuscating the causes behind the attack) others say he’s a Tea Bagger. I’m not writing to condone his actions. I am writing to bring to light the things that the FBI and the media don’t want to address. The real meat of the issue, if you please.
I would say that Joe Stack was a left, anti-establishment anti-capitalist. His vitriol against religion, the state as well as corporations signals to me that he was not a Tea Party member. A comparison of the “Communist creed” to his own rendition of the “capitalist creed” also makes me believe that he was to the left rather than to the right. Somehow, though, the media has associated any anti-taxer with Rubio’s cohorts. This is unsurprising considering the fact that they also consider Obama a “progressive”. They’re paid to write, not to think, unfortunately.
While his choice of tactic was certainly poor, we should not dissect these instances as black or white. If we blacklist Stack as a terrorist and a bad man, we ignore causation. If we prop him up as a hero (as some already have) we overlook tactical and ethical problems and lure ourselves into the trap of romantic and senseless violence. My motto is “take the best and leave the rest”.
Joe Stack’s “manifesto” can be found here. While he’s no Noam Chomsky, Stack exhibits a strong understanding of the failures of the state as well as the capitalist system. His actions, though largely useless and morally questionable, reflect a viceral reaction to a disconnect between what we as Americans are led to believe we can accomplish and what little opportunity there is to achieve it. A disconnect between what the media and politicians tell us the world is like and how it actually is. More than anything, his writing sums up, excellently, the latent oppression that Americans endure; oppression that is hidden beneath veils of consumer culture, historical revisionism and escapism.
Discontent with the current state of society has become disgust. The pot is now boiling over. These actions, while mostly symbolic and shortsighted, are a signal that it is not only the educated and dedicated anti-capitalists who are ready for a change. There are many others who, like Stack, have a viceral feeling regarding the state and capitalism. They may not be able to explain the labor theory of value or discuss dialectic materialism, but it doesn’t take left-leaning academia to see that capitalism is a death machine.
Individual acts (especially suicide missions) are not as effective as organizing on a broad scale. Stack’s emotional distress certainly led him to this ultimate decision, but for those of us who want to see real change: we must exhaust our personal resources toward a sure and particular end. Guevara once said that the ends justify the means if you can justify the ends. I’d like to tag a caveat onto the end: the ends justify the means if you can justify the ends and ensure without reasonable doubt that the means will actually bring about the ends. This may seem superfluous, but often times we’re starring down a corridor. This activist tunnel vision leads to confirmation bias. We assume that whatever action we’ve commited ourselves to will succeed. We don’t consider variables. Joe Stack was a misguided missile.