Irrationality and Irrationality

Joseph Stack, who seems to have been able to pretend convincingly that he lived in the real world, revealed the world he really lived in in his final act yesterday in Austin.

Stack, 53, a software engineer who had repeatedly been unable to sustain businesses because of tax problems, took his frustrations out on a building occupied by offices of the I.R.S. by flying his single-engine private plane into the agency's first-floor offices in the Echelon office park. He had first posted what he described himself as a "rant" against the government, big business, the I.R.S., "Big Brother", and the Catholic Church, then set his house on fire before setting off on the suicide attack.


This is all simple enough. Friends and family were astonished, claiming Stack had made no indication of his seething frustrations, let alone his intention to act violently on them. So, in the article cited at the head of this post, where does this paragraph come from?

The tax protest movement has a long history in the U.S. and was a strong component of anti-government sentiments that surged during the 1990s. That wave culminated in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. Several domestic extremists were later convicted in the plot.
Is there any indication of a "movement" in Stack's actions? Where, apart from Stack's planning his actions far enough in advance to post a blog on his own frustrations is there any indication of a "plot"?

Attempting to use this isolated incident to drive paranoia about some simmering insurrection by a "tax protest movement" that must lie beneath the surface of society, ready to undermine the structures of civilization is an act far more insidious that the one Stack perpetrated himself. Are there people in this country who despise excesses of government? Absolutely! I count myself among them, but what Joseph Stack did in killing himself and hopefully only one other person did nothing to advance the cause of limiting such excesses. That can only be done by using venues like this and others to convince the larger public they are not well served by a government that can tax them to death and favor big business in the process. What Stack did was irrational, random, wasteful and, petulant.

To conflate it into a conspiracy is no better.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at February 19, 2010 9:19 AM
Comments
Comment #295927

Oh, I agree with the proposition that this guy was a whacked-out nutty loser, unrepresentative of the average Republican.

The trouble is, to get their edge, show their strength, the Republicans have been indulging those who use questionable rhetoric, and do questionable things.

I mean, when you have fellows like Rick Perry Dixie-baiting people about secession, all kinds of Republican politicians warning about guns being taken away, and pundits darkly hinting that armed insurrection may be necessary at some point, and few if any Republicans are making a point of disavowing such BS…

Well, then people are going to get a little nervous about your party, every time some lone nut does something like this.

But of course, the problem then, the dilemma for you, is that you have to start being reasonable, because you’ve needed such overheated rhetoric and paranoia to get people distracted from the practical issues of governance for which the Republican Party is ill prepared to offer policies the American people will buy.

You can refuse to moderate your rhetoric, and catch blame for every nut who takes it too far, or you moderate it, and begin the long, painful process of rebuilding actual policy competence and centrist politics in your party.

Neither option, I understand, will sound appealling to you. But the first option has been a loser, and will continue to be one.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 19, 2010 10:25 AM
Comment #295930

Lee when conservative movement mouth pieces such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, The Faux news propaganda machine and many others intentionally mislead and misinform the movement followers this type of reaction should be expected.
A conspiracy to fly planes into IRS buildings I doubt, more a scam to push this failed ideology for personal financial gain that many otherwise good people fall for. When you work the weak minds that follow such movements into a frenzy with non stop hatred violence often results. Why would you be surprised?

Perhaps it is time for the conservative movement leaders to reflect upon their roles in this tragedy. Now let me be clear, these movement leaders are not directly involved in this plot by this guy but without a doubt they influenced this guy with their unending rants. This guy is no different that the Manson cult followers or any of the others that get caught up in these types of movements that sooner or later become cults. The conservative movement feeds these people the nonsense that is needed for one guy to take the final plunge into conservative martyrdom.
Perhaps it is time for the conservative movement leaders to quit pretending they live in the real world and work constructively to ween their followers off the crap they espouse.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 19, 2010 10:51 AM
Comment #295932

It mystifies me that anyone on the left can see conservatism in a rant that includes condemnation of big business and the Catholic Church. Do you hear that from Hannity or Ingraham, both devout Catholics? Do you hear that from Rush, even though he is (I think) Methodist? I don’t.

If “conservatives” are such preachers of hatred an violence why have even large and boistrous Tea Party meetings been so peaceful while we see vandalism and riots among the gatherings of left-wing movements like the anti-globalization crowd and the bunch protesting the Olympics in Canada?

They even clean up their trash, for goodness sakes! How uncivilized and hateful is THAT?

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 19, 2010 11:22 AM
Comment #295933

I think this goes to my earlier post about a culture of obsessive/compulsive disorder.

He was a great guy, well, except for being nuts.

He was a great guy, well, except for being a thief.

He was a great guy, well, except for being a phony/fake/liar.

Posted by: gergle at February 19, 2010 11:45 AM
Comment #295935

Let’s not forget: He killed an innocent human being! I read his diatribe yesterday and blames everyone but himself.
I have numerous friends who are independent IT contractors - they are hustling - EVERYONE is hustling! Oh poor little Joe…

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 19, 2010 11:52 AM
Comment #295936

I’m shocked that only a few people are calling this a case of “Domestic Terrorism.” Of course it is Domestic Terrorism. He’s angry at the IRS, among others; he writes about his anger; he carries out his plan by targeting a plane going 200 mph at a building housing approximately 200 federal employees.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 19, 2010 11:56 AM
Comment #295937

Lee, the Right doesn’t have a monopoly on irrational thinking, comments, and behavior, to be sure.

But, the Left doesn’t openly sanction unnecessary death and destruction by the military, or legal death by the justice system. The Left doesn’t sanction violation of law, Constitution, and international treaties in order to summarily execute or torture individuals they don’t like.

Republicans eat that crap up as heroic and American, as evidenced by the throngs that show up to hear Dick Cheney speak just such advocacy.

Many folks on the Left DO sanction civil disobedience as a tactic for change. But, civil disobedience DOES NOT advocate violent assault on life and limb, even though fight or flight responses will often kick in when demonstrators are moved by physical and aggressive force of police or fellow citizens in opposition.

There is a fundamental philosophical difference between the Left and Right on the issue of aggression and physical violence. Violence and aggression are normal and advocated preferentially by the Right as legitimate means to certain ends. The Left treat violence and aggression as last resort concessions to primal instincts when reason and responsible action have failed.

Of course, I am speaking in general philosophical terms here. Not for each and every individual on the Right and Left, in which there is infinite variability in behavior. The Students for A Democratic Society (SDS) for example, were a small group of Left wingers who abandoned Leftist philosophy of civil disobedience as non-violent means.

I am also speaking in terms of political philosophy, not religious. A great many Christians on the Left and Right condemn violence as a means toward ends, except in direct defense of violence. But, there is where the cognitive dissonance occurs on the Right, where religious and political philosophy are at odds on the violence as means, issue. That Cognitive Dissonance does not exist on the Left, not even on the issue of abortion, because the Left does not regard the fetus as a human being anymore than it regards sperm and ovum as human beings.

These differences may even have a physiological component that separates Lefties from Righties, as some preliminary and inconclusive research suggests may be the case. I wish I could cite it, but, never caught the name of the study or researchers. If there is, however, a physiological basis for difference on the issue of violence as means, then the difference between those on the Left and Right is even more fundamental and intransigent than previously believed.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 19, 2010 12:10 PM
Comment #295945

David,

You can’t write off your cognitive dissonance by defining away the humanity of your victims. Not even the Nazis considered the victims of the Holocaust human. The left excuses murder by defining it away. It excuses violence and lawlessness by finding explanation in people’s frustration. It compromises the rule of law by rationalizing that the general population is too incompetent to participate in the difficulty of formally changing the written word of the Constitution so that it may fuction as modern law- necessitating rewriting by manipulative interpretations of a microscopic, elitist, unapproachable few.

The left frankly does not believe in popular sovereignty, fears the people, and seeks to contain their “dangerous” bent toward the desire for freedom. I do not believe in violence as a means of making statements in a civilized society, but violence of the random, unaligned type we saw yesterday is inevitable in a society that falls under the influence of a people so contemptuous of the mass of humanity as the modern political left.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 19, 2010 1:12 PM
Comment #295951

Lee,

Stop stepping on bugs!!! Just because you don’t see the humanity in them doesn’t justify your cruel and cavalier attitude toward them.

The problem with using your own special definitions, is that you also justify the Germans seeing Jews as vermin.

Posted by: gergle at February 19, 2010 4:31 PM
Comment #295952

Lee Jamison-
Not everybody on the right likes Catholics, and there are plenty of folks there who see conspiracies in big business.

But that’s kind of beside the point, now isn’t it?

Your party has been railing against taxation as if it were theft, against the government as an evil, invasive force. You’ve been engaged in this kind of conspiratorial rhetoric for some time now.

So are you surprised that when people pick up on that pattern in the writing of a madman, that your party gets associated with it?

As for your other rhetoric? All I can say is, “that’s nice.” I look at it, and I don’t know what strand of logic there is to pick apart.

I’m a Democrat, and a Liberal, and I’m nothing like what you say people like me are. I believe in freedoms, and moderate regulation. I believe in a system that works. I believe in informed consent being one of the principles of government, and I support openness in records and documentation.

I believe this country needs to defend itself wisely, represent itself with dignity and morality abroad, go to war only when necessary, but when at war, have a plan to win unquestionably, not merely an intent to muddle through.

I believe in many things, and I have spoken for myself on those subjects, and I do not resemble your twist cariacture of Liberalism.

The Republican Party, sad to say, is becoming identified mainly for it’s hatred of Liberals and Democrats, and little else explains its positions and behavior consistently.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 19, 2010 4:32 PM
Comment #295953

Republican official jokes about man who flew plane into IRS offices, says he’s relieved it wasn’t Grover Norquist in that plane.

I guess, Lee, if you wanted to know why people make such associations between the GOP, and guys like that…

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 19, 2010 4:38 PM
Comment #295955

“If “conservatives” are such preachers of hatred an violence why…..”

Perhaps Lee it is because of the age difference of the protest groups you mention. The tea baggers are a much older group than the young anarchist protesting the G8 and such. But there is no shortage of “preaching hatred” when those conservative tea bags get together if the protest signs are any indication.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/16/10-most-offensive-tea-par_n_187554.html

“I do not believe in violence as a means of making statements in a civilized society, but violence of the random, unaligned type we saw yesterday is inevitable in a society that falls under the influence of a people so contemptuous of the mass of humanity as the modern political left.”

So it is us liberals that are to blame for this guys attack on the federal government eh Lee? It is this kind of conservative logic that never fails to amaze me. So because conservatives falsely spread this kind of misinformation it therefore becomes the fault of those the conservatives are attacking, not the gullible conservative follower who believes the falsehoods and goes off the deep end committing violent acts on the same masses? Are you sure about this Lee?

Posted by: j2t2 at February 19, 2010 6:30 PM
Comment #295956

j2t2

I have attended two tea party meetings. I was at the big one in Washington. There were many thousands of people and almost no questionable signs.

I have seen other protests. There was much more hate in Code Pink or the various lefties. The anti-globalists have many among them who openly advocate violence as an end in itself.

BTW - I looked at those “offensive pictures” from the Huffington post.

So they call “hateful” a sign that looks forward to Obama’s leaving office, one asking how kids are going to pay the debt, a couple claiming the Fed caused the problem? If that is hateful, I guess so am I … and so are all of us.

RE the crazy pilot - he was just a crazy guy. From his writings, he was more of a communist than anything else. He hated big business. But he was mostly just nuts.

Anybody who says he is “speaking for” liberals or conservatives is a pinhead.

Posted by: Christine at February 19, 2010 8:58 PM
Comment #295957

“RE the crazy pilot - he was just a crazy guy. From his writings, he was more of a communist than anything else. He hated big business. But he was mostly just nuts.”

Christine I don’t know the man’s political leanings so I would have to agree with you that he did have mental issues that got the best of him. the point of my earlier rant is that people like this man find their justification for violence easier to act upon when the conservative movement leaders in the predominate media outlets are contributing many half truths misinformation and outright lies as factual.


When you view the HuffPo pictures from the tax day protest last year bear in mind that there is a series of pictures behind each of the lead pictures. Some are not hateful some are. When you take your young children to protest and have them carry signs about their money and you voted for GWB and the repubs in Congress during the ‘00’s … well IMHO that is a special kind of hate and disrespect to not only your kid but to the country. I found those pictures especially repulsive.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 19, 2010 9:47 PM
Comment #295960


“So, in the article cited at the head of this post, where does this paragraph come from?”

Lee, perhaps I’m blind but, I’ve read the article several times and I can’t find that paragraph in it so, where did it come from?

A rant against the government, big business, the I.R.S., “Big Brother”, and the Catholic Church:

Lee is right that this is not the Rush/Hannity style. There is a talking head that has ranted against all these things and more.

But, that is just the way it is in America, take a man off the air for 30 days and he no longer exists. Poor old Lou.

Posted by: jlw at February 19, 2010 10:31 PM
Comment #295961

j2t2

So you believe it is okay to bring children to protests as long as they support your politics? Otherwise it is hateful?

Re our nut case pilot - we may assume that he was driven to his weird behavior by left wing or right wing nuts, or maybe he was just nuts and hateful for his own reasons.

Posted by: Christine at February 20, 2010 12:56 AM
Comment #295962

Gee. If we had a decent health care delivery system in this country he might have been able to get mental health treatment.

Posted by: bills at February 20, 2010 2:56 AM
Comment #295965

What strikes me is that this argument that Lee is making here has been echoed across the board with conservatives, and which great speed. Which leads me to think that Republicans knew that the nature of this man’s actions would make them in particular look bad.

I would say the Republicans are playing with fire, appealing to and cultivating a counterculture of radicalism and paranoia which they fear, from time to time, will blow up in their face

They know, ultimately, that their success depends on them keeping a radical base, then selling that radicalism through various scare tactics to the center in this country. Of course, the problem is, if their radical base gets too radical, the Republicans become more scary than the liberals, and they lose power.

So, Republicans are quick to say he couldn’t possibly be influenced by their rhetoric, by radical beliefs they buy into, because if they don’t dissociate themselves quickly, they fear that the public and the media might start asking whether there’s a connection between his nuttiness and theirs.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 20, 2010 8:38 AM
Comment #295966

SD
Nail on the head again. A sad part is that they have to continue to rely on that method. Its the only way they can fool enough working people into voting against their own interest and that is the fundemental demand of the current Rep Party’s masters. Lies and fear are all they got.
Great job on the blue side. I wonder how many Red readers know that 95% of Americans recieved tax breaks under BHO and almost NO Reps in congress voted for them.

Posted by: bills at February 20, 2010 9:03 AM
Comment #295967

Stephen and Bill

Maybe Democrats want to disassociate themselves with that nutty woman who killed those people in Alabama? After all, she was evidently a liberal feminist. Of course, it would be stupid to expect that.

The reason Lee felt necessary to bring this up is because he knew that wing nut leftists would try to use it.

The airplane nut was … a nut. If anything he was a leftist, since the last lines of his screed seem to praise communism and attack capitalism. So he belongs to neither legitimate American side. To the extent that he was a communist, he is just a nut. But his ideas would more easily find a home on the left than on the right.

Posted by: Christine at February 20, 2010 9:48 AM
Comment #295969

“So you believe it is okay to bring children to protests as long as they support your politics? Otherwise it is hateful”

J&C I am not against bringing children to protest whether for or against my politics. I find it hateful when the parents misinform their children as was the case with the tea baggers. By and large these conservatives voted in GWB and the repubs in Congress during the ‘00’s. They doubled the deficit with borrow and spend budgets whilst fattening Big Pharma, the wealthy with tax cuts, and not funding the ongoing war effort while handing off a financial disaster to the current administration. Then they bring their children to protest the spending to get us out of the hole created whilst they remained silent. I find it as moronic as I do hateful, but IMHO they have tainted their kids with their hate for this administration wrongly, and for that I don’t think to highly of these tea baggers as people.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 20, 2010 11:24 AM
Comment #295970

“Maybe Democrats want to disassociate themselves with that nutty woman who killed those people in Alabama? After all, she was evidently a liberal feminist.”

J&C a gun toting liberal feminist?
Do you two consider this shooting to be a domestic terrorist attack ?

Posted by: j2t2 at February 20, 2010 11:38 AM
Comment #295971

j2t2

I am with you on using the children and it makes me sick to see kids interviewed about “their” political views. The left tends to do this more often.

Just having kids carrying signs or being at protests, however, is a little different. As parents of three kids, C&J understand that (1) you sometimes have to take the kids along because you cannot find a baby sitter and (2) you want to have them experience things you think are important. This would go for left, right or center.

But I would say that bringing along the kids is either good or bad on its own merits. I am not partisan enough to believe that those who disagree with me are hateful for behaviors I would tolerate in those who I like.

I will also repeat that C&J attended two tea party rallies. They were the most peaceful and among the least “hateful” we have ever seen. They are not well-organized, so anybody can show up. In the around 50,000 people who covered Capitol Hill and part of the Mall, there were only a few signs that were “weird”. That is a smaller % than in almost any other protest I ever saw.

I think I may have told the story, but let me repeat. On the Mall on the day of the tea party, there was the “black family reunion” featuring African American culture and foods. The tea party people wandered down there and there was a general mixing of the crowds. The idea of “racism” just doesn’t make sense to anybody who was there with an open mind.

The thing you noticed about the crowd is that is was older and there were families. Most protests feature a lot of young people w/o families and with jobs or student status that makes it easy for them to spend their time. This one featured actual busy, working people who took the time off to attend. That shows the level of commitment.

Posted by: Christine at February 20, 2010 11:43 AM
Comment #295972

Re terrorist acts

The pilot is a terrorist,IMO, because he tried to use terror to advance his political agenda. I think the difference with him is that there is no reason to think he is affiliated with Al Qaeda etc. So he committed an act of terror, but he is not part of a bigger and more dangerous organization. That is why it is a harder choice.

I have not heard that the crazy professor in Alabama had any political agenda. She was just nuts.

I think in both cases we have to look at what they are part of. They both seem to be one time events, not harbinger of things to come. There is no second step to take beyond the criminal case. I doubt that questioning the Alabama woman will reveal a web that can be attacked.

Posted by: Christine at February 20, 2010 11:49 AM
Comment #295976

Stephen,

What strikes me is that this argument that Lee is making here has been echoed across the board with conservatives, and which great speed. Which leads me to think that Republicans knew that the nature of this man’s actions would make them in particular look bad.
Actually, this is a matter of knowing the enemy. We know how media-oriented liberals will take advantage of an opportunity to take people’s eyes off of the ball. Some wack-job drives a plane into an IRS office, so they will say it was anti-government conspiracy come to life. Surely conservatives, because they fear unregulated government (My God, what a radical idea THAT is!) are the source of all people who would strike out against the government or any of its agencies.

So, in spite of the fact we’re not comptent to run our own lives without wet-nursing by the federal government, we’re capable, as a body politic, to a man, of maintaining a secret conspiracy to release a trickle of people who will look both disaffected and crazy- but not organized.

You’re a good man Stephen Daugherty. You do absurdity with a straight face better than any writer I know.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 20, 2010 2:12 PM
Comment #295977

jlw,
In post #295960 You asked where did the quote I used in my article came from. I cut and pasted the paragraph directly from the AP article. The article as it is posted now has been significantly altered.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 20, 2010 2:24 PM
Comment #295980


Lee, I thought the paragraph was propaganistic and not very factual.

I have seen similar revisions on my home page news articles. I once had a controversial article disappear while I was reading it. It just vanished from the screen to be replaced by the news agency homepage. I clicked back to my homepage and the headline had vanished as well.

Posted by: jlw at February 20, 2010 4:02 PM
Comment #296105

Christine-
We don’t need to disassociate ourselves very far, because radical feminism, as most people understand, it is not that closely associated with the Democrats, with the exception of those who listen to talk radio.

Republicans consistently overestimate the radicalism of the Democrats, because their personalities, like Rush Limbaugh, are constantly screaming about it. But for those who don’t, the Democrats are actually quite milquetoasty, even overly defensive.

Also, though, we haven’t made a point of actually rationalizing extremism the way Republicans have. Goldwater, Nixon, and Bush didn’t do the party any favors by eagerly pushing the nutty ideas of their fringe on Americans. Look at the Tea Partisans! Look at the people who shouted down folks in the Healthcare Townhalls!

Listen to the paranoia in their actual rhetoric.

Another aspect to this is that Liberal groups are often quite quick to dissociate themselves from the paranoid conspiracy theorists. Good luck peddling truther stuff on Daily Kos.

We also tend to have a greater emphasis on rational discourse.

What it boils down to is that people see Democrats pushing boring policy and an emphasis on science and fact finding, while they all too often see Republicans shouting red-faced, in somebody’s face, or holding up a sign saying something offensive.

That maybe nothing like you. But you’ve let the main voices in your party be the strongest and most strident advocates of the kinds of views that are on the fringe of society. If you borrow the rhetoric of the folks who see communists behind every lightpole, you’re going to catch hell for that these people do.

My advice to the Republicans: stop playing with fire. Keep associating with your fringe, and when your fringe does something mind-bogglingly crazy, you’re going to get tarred by association.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 22, 2010 8:15 AM
Comment #296114

Stephen,

Even crazy people, so long as they are willing to be crazy peacefully, deserve representation in our republic. When people who are not crazy, but get labelled that way for the sake of a politcal effort to delegitimize them, are ignored by the politcal system they will often sound shrill, even dangerous. Especially when the effort to prejudice people against them has had some success.

This is just the sort of thing truly evil bigots attempt to do. White bigots in the Old South used to do it in the effort to stem movements toward providing representation for blacks.

Tea partizans seek representation, and they do so peacefully, but you caution against representing them. You would deny them a politcal voice.

As a Democrat, Stephen, you make a very peculiar democrat.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 22, 2010 12:33 PM
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