As soon as I found out a disgruntled man had flown his small airplane into an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office in Austin, Texas I knew what the response from the pundit class would be: let’s blame the Tea Party Movement! However, when we look what the perpetrator had to say, in his own words, a reasonable person cannot come to that conclusion.
In a rambling and not entirely coherent explanation for his actions, Joseph Stack blamed a variety of nefarious forces for what he was about to do. Everyone from the federal government (including President George W. Bush), to corporations, to trade unions, to the medical establishment and even the Catholic Church were fingered. But the greatest culprit was the tax man, the IRS.
Progressives and the liberal left have predictably latched onto his anti-taxation message and taken the next step to claim his rhetoric mirrors that of the Tea Party Movement, or he was motivated by the Tea Party Movement, or perhaps he was even a member of the movement.
For example, Clarence Page at the Chicago Tribune writes, “In his one-man, all-directional fury he sounds like a one-man walking tea party rally.” Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine agrees, “a lot of his rhetoric could have been taken directly from a handwritten sign at a tea party rally.” While Dan Turner at the L.A. Times opines, “his rhetoric resembles that of a very powerful political movement in the United States: the ‘tea party” crew'”.
Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post is bit more nuanced, though not much:
There’s no information yet on whether he was involved in any anti-government groups or whether he was a lone wolf. But after reading his 34-paragraph screed, I am struck by how his alienation is similar to that we’re hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.
But what Stack’s manifesto actually say? Yes, there is plenty of vitriol for the IRS but that isn’t all. A close reading–actually, even a superficial reading–reveals Stack’s willingness to borrow tropes from the paranoid right who regularly rail against the excesses of “big government” but there is also a strong element of the paranoid left who see corporations as a source of evil in the world at play as well. In fact, his last two lines would tell anyone who is interested that this man was definitely not affiliated with the Tea Party movement:
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.
As is well known to anyone paying even the slightest attention to the rallies and rhetoic of the Tea Partiers, one thing immediately aparent about their brand of right-wing populism is steadfast support for capitalism and their reluctance to crtique it. They would never write a sentence like the one above. But who cares? It’s much easier to blame the Tea Partiers than admit we live in a country with two lunatic fringes, on the extreme right and the extreme left.