Friday, February 19, 2010

The Angry White Man Rides Again: Joseph Stack Crashes His Plane Into the IRS and White Folk Remain Untarnished

This is all too easy. Tragedy strikes and the mainstream media finds a delicate and nuanced way to talk about an act of domestic terrorism. Often folks, more specifically some White folks and their allies, find a way to discount any discussion of white privilege. Common sense object lessons and practical examples are discounted as "playing the race card." Even more reflexively, hard examples such as these are discounted as being "in poor taste." Yet, the underlying truth of the comparison is rarely discussed.

I smile. I laugh. I rest easy knowing that the absurdities of life will provide another example of white privilege, a privilege that often makes itself most known in a moment of tragedy. Cue the drums and the chimes: enter once more the Angry White Man. He usually listens to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. He prays at the mantle of Jim Crow 2.0 and Pat Buchanan. The Angry White Man loves dressing up as one of the "founding fathers" as he embraces a juvenile and sophomoric understanding of The Constitution. When most deranged he writes political manifestos and commits acts of domestic terrorism. I now introduce to you the newest entry in the rogues gallery that is the Angry White Man run amok: Joseph Stack, anti-IRS domestic terrorist who on Thursday crashed his plane into an office building in Austin, Texas.

Ask yourself the following:

1. If he were Arab American how would the story be covered?

2. If he were a person of color how would the story be covered?

3. If he were Muslim American how would the FBI be reacting at this moment?

4. In this political environment, if the Tea Party, radical Right, and disgruntled anti-Obama crowd were Black or Brown (as opposed to overwhelmingly White), if they were calling for secession, accusing the President of being a traitor, and indulging in seditious behavior, how quickly would the dots be inexorably drawn between this domestic terrorist and the racial group to which he belonged?

5. If his skin were different, and his religion more "suspect" how would Fox News and the Right Wing echo chamber be covering this story?

The details follow courtesy of Fox News:

A pilot furious with the Internal Revenue Service crashed his small plane into an Austin, Texas, office building where nearly 200 federal tax employees work on Thursday, igniting a raging fire that sent massive plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the seven-story structure.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the incident was a single act by a sole individual, who appeared to be targeting the federal building. He refused to classify it as terrorism.

"I call it a cowardly, criminal act and there was no excuse for it," Acevedo said at a news conference.

The FBI identified the pliot as Joseph Stack, a 53-year-old software engineer. Stack was confirmed dead, but his body has not yet been recovered.

At least one person who worked in the building was unaccounted for and two people were hospitalized, thirteen others were treated and released said Austin Fire Department Division Chief Dawn Clopton.

Emergency crews found two bodies in the building late Thursday evening, but wouldn't identify them.

Texas Republican Congressman Michael McCaul told reported the incident was, "not tied to overseas terror organizations."

A U.S. law official said investigators were looking at a lengthy, anti-government "manifesto" Stack is believed to have written on his Web site. The message outlines problems with the IRS and says violence "is the only answer."

About 190 IRS employees work at 9420 Research Boulevard, the building that Stack crashed into. IRS spokesman Richard C. Sanford said the agency is trying to account for all of its workers.

IRS Agent William Winnie said he was on the third floor of the building when he saw a light-colored, single engine plane coming toward the building, reported.

“It looked like it was coming right in my window,” Winnie said, according to the Web site.

He said the plane veered down and smashed into the lower floors. “I didn’t lose my footing, but it was enough to knock people who were sitting to the floor,” he said.

In what appears to have been his suicide note, Stack is believed to have written:

"If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?' The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time...

"Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer...

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well," the note, dated Thursday, reads.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said he was shocked by the "tragic events," but did not directly address Stack's rant against the government agency.

"This incident is of deep concern to me," the statement read. "We are working with law-enforcement agencies to fully investigate the events that led up to this plane crash."

Stack took off in a Piper Cherokee from Georgetown Municipal Airport in Texas at 9:40 a.m. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said he didn't file a flight plan. The plane crashed into the building in Austin about 20 minutes later.

The Department of Homeland Security said it did not believe the crash was an act of terrorism. President Obama was briefed on the incident. As a precaution, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defense Command launched two F-16 aircraft from Houston's Ellington Field, and was conducting an air patrol over the crash area.

Patrick Beach, who once played in a band with Stack, described him as a mild-mannered guy who was a stereotypical software guy.

"I talked to alot of people who knew him better than I did, and no one saw anything like this coming," Beach told Fox News.

The toughest part about this, Beach said, was how this guy, who loved his wife and step-child, could be the same person who wanted to "commit mass murder."

Billy Eli, a band member of Stack's, has known the man for about five years and said he never suspected Stack had any political feelings.

"The Joe I knew was mostly apolitical," he told Fox News. "I never heard him talk politics, or take a stand left or right. As far as I know he didn't have a party affiliation."

Stuart Newberg, who was in the area right before the crash, said the plane was flying low and fast when it plowed into the building, according to The

“It was flying low and fast and I did a double take," Newberg said, according to the Web site.

"I thought it was a play remote control plane. Then I saw the smoke."

He told the paper he thought the plane seemed “very controlled.”

In a neighborhood about six miles from the crash site, a home listed as belonging to Stack was on fire earlier Thursday. Two law enforcement officials said Stack apparently set fire to his home before embarking on his suicide mission. said firefighters reported that the entire house was on fire, including the fence, when they arrived on the scene.

Neighbors said they heard a loud explosion in the house Thursday morning right before it became engulfed in flames. reported that a 12-year-old girl and a woman were rescued by a neighbor from the $236,000 home. The station reported that the girl is believed to be Stack's stepdaughter. Other media reports indicated that these individuals may have alerted authorities to Stack’s actions.

A neighbor told that Stack was an experienced pilot who owned his own plane.

The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reported several "walking wounded" at the scene of the crash. Paramedics set up a triage center at the scene.

Early reports that the building housed the FBI field office in Austin turned out not to be true. An FBI spokesman told Fox News that the FBI office in Austin is near where the plane crashed, but not in the same building. There are some federal offices in the building, though authorities couldn't identify which ones.

The NTSB was sending staff out of Dallas and Washington to the scene.

Witnesses were asked to contact the Austin Police Department at 210-650-6196 with any information that might be useful in the investigation.

According to California Secretary of State records, Stack had a troubled business history, twice starting software companies in California that ultimately were suspended by the state's Franchise Tax Board.

In 1985, he incorporated Prowess Engineering Inc. in Corona. It was suspended two years later. He started Software Systems Service Corp. in Lincoln in 1995 and that entity was suspended in 2001. Stack listed himself as chief executive officer of both companies.


Bill the Lizard said...

I really don't understand why Police Chief Acevedo and others won't label what Joseph Stack did an example of lone-wolf domestic terrorism.

To me, this whole issue is clear cut: Stack had a political manifesto, he chose a federal building as his target, and then attempted to murder as many Federal employees as possible.

The man was a terrorist!

What pisses me off even more, however, is that there are people out there who are actually defending this guy!!:

They're calling him an "American Hero" and a "defender of the Constitution".

Absolutely sick... sick sick sick.

The Roving Reporter said...

The post was great, but the cartoon was hilarious.

I find it hard to understand why this is not being considered as a domestic terrorism case. This guy clearly had a premeditated plan to harm as many people as he could. He knowingly flew this plane into that building with the intent to hurt as many people as he could and to draw attention to his "cause." In essence, he committed a terroristic act.

Pangolin said...

There are two exceptions to the white privilege, no-terrorist label, classification. The obvious one is that anybody identified as a muslim gets a terrorism charge for jaywalking on up, The second is the lowly white environmentalist. If this guy had expressed any concern for climate change, pollution, or animal rights he would be labeled a terrorist.

If there are three environmentalists in the room and one guy suggests bombing the pollution factory conventional wisdom says that guy is the FBI plant. A three member Earth Liberation Front cell consists of a guy from the FBI, one state policeman and a clueless white guy with no real friends.

Thelonious said...

White people who fly planes into buildings or blow them up and kill people are never terrorists. Only Muslims or otherwise non-white people are painted with that brush. Usually by white people.

An embarrassed white woman said...

The impact of this blog on my white life has been a complete re-examination of all interior maps; what I have found has distressed me unceasingly. While overtly and in horror casting off my parents' white southern Presbyterian racism, its' endemic assumption in subtle and unconscious ways has led me to decide to devote the foreseeable future to a scholarly work on Whiteness and the Invention of Original Sin, the premise being white folk created the western protestant notion of original sin as a means of distancing ourselves from our evolutionary African roots, and of explaining our "problem with the coloured man". Of metaphorizing, of exampling, in order not to deal. This is my mea culpa.

If anyone would be so kind as to point me in the direction of any works they have encountered that may be applicable as research, I would be more than grateful. Anything. I mean, aside from this site, what spurred this was partly a realization about the reasons for my recent childhood crush on Dwayne Wayne, so I do mean ANY type of works applicable.

Thank you, and I'm sorry for using this comments section as a pitch.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

"2. If he were a person of color how would the story be covered?"

Since when is white not a color?

How would your blog define John Brown?

chaunceydevega said...


Jon Brown was a good white man and a race traitor in the best sense. So yes, white people have a color because they are not transparent. But, in this society white folk are not racialized and the construction of whiteness is a juxtaposition to the "colored races." So beyond the semantics, yes there are people of color and white people.

As a test, as a white person if they are black, brown, yellow, red, yellow, etc. and see the response.

thanks for chiming in.


Anonymous said...

People seem to only see what they want to see. No white terrorists, you say?

Eric Rudolph
The Unibomber

One thing that differentiates this angry man from a real terrorist is that his intent wasnt to kill as many innocent people as possible. (Check out the transcripts of the handlers of the Mumbai gunmen to find out what a true terrorist aims to be).

azascan said...