Who dreamed they saw Joe Stack last night?
It was supposed to be right-wingers, tea baggers, and militia types who were the unindicted, uninvolved, uninformed and unaffiliated co-conspirators in Stack's kamikaze attack on an Internal Revenue Service office last week. The WashPost's Jonathan Capehart is "struck by how his alienation is similar to that we're hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement." The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project hits the perfect storm of journalistic clichés by detecting a "perfect storm" of anti-government militias and "so-called Patriot groups." Daily Kos claims (without evidence) links and ties to the tea party movement.
But a strange counterforce has been developing, visible in the comment boards on lefty websites and Facebook. The left's creepy efforts to turn Stack into a club with which to hit advocates of lower taxes and smaller government keep getting met with responses, from other lefties, along these lines: "I read his manifesto, and you know, a lot of his points make sense."
To reiterate, here are Stack's grievances, in order of appearance in his suicide note: failure of health care reform, banker bonuses, the Catholic church, base closings in Southern California, his own accountant, George W. Bush, tax treatment of freelance engineers, and capitalism.
These do not make Stack an excrescence of the left, the right, or the libertarians. They make him more or less representative of the garden variety complaints of Americans -- many if not a majority of whom have both fantasized about blowing up the IRS and considered themselves entitled to something for nothing. And virtually none of whom have ever attacked another person.
But the left's lionization of Stack (coupled always with coy admissions that his methods may have gone too far) edges into creepiness with Rich Benjamin's analysis of the multiple murderer's "real populist grievances." Excerpt:
Deplorable though he might be, Stack is not quite a "random bad apple." His act might be uncommon, but his jumbled populism is not. His crime is in no way excusable, but it spotlights a larger problem that both political and corporate elites like to caricature or dismiss: visceral populist anger.
Stack may have suffered from mental illness, but he is also an acute symptom of this nation's neglected wounds.
The fire this time inflicted just two deaths (including Stack) and injuries to 13 victims. The fire next time may be more traumatic.
We dismiss his screed, suicide and crime as "lunatic" at our own risk.
To be fair, Benjamin does a pretty good job of tracking the jumble of Stack's politics. But that's the problem: thinking we can learn anything from the ideology of this stupid, unemployable, hate-filled loser. Any moron can inflict violence on himself and others. The excuses are completely interchangeable.
Or put it another way: Stack's crime is as compelling an indictment of the left or the right as it is an indictment of the most dangerous people in our society: bass players.
Related blast from the past: Back when the progressive media were engaging in another love fest for another mass murderer, the Unabomber's politics were given the bum's rush by Joey Anuff, a man whose methods were always wrong but who shits bigger than all of us.