Saturday, 20 February 2010

Austin Plane Crash echoes Tea Party unrest.

This week, an IRS (American tax service) building in Austin, Texas was the target for Joseph Andrew Stack who crashed the plane he was flying into the building, killing himself and injuring others.

Given the initiatives of the Tea Party movement and Americans' general unrest at taxes, I have come across two recent articles that report the connection between Stack's apparent act of terrorism against the tax service and the uprising of the Tea Party Movement.

Sean Paul Kelley's article ( is from The Guardian website and John Merline's ( is taken from AolNews.

Kelley notes the significance of the event serving to represent (although morbidly and dramatically) the current state of Americans' feelings and fury towards the tax situation. He says, 'The right wing is riding the populist tiger', suggesting that such tax frustration is boding well as a topic for the Right and drawing in a significant amount of unsatisfied Americans. He also picks up on the fact that to some, the plane crash serves to promote the undercurrent of the Tea Party Movement; the reality of a potential violence which is festering beneath the surface of angry citizens. Many have been tempted to label the event as an act of terrorism and if so it suggests an internalisation of terrorism (a domestic rather than foreign threat); a deep mistrust in government to fulfill the peoples' needs.

Kelley's article is rather accusing and there is a sense that he himself is not surprised by this act of violence, 'As a friend of mine is fond of repeating: "If you pursue bad policy, you will reap bad results." Joseph Andrew Stack is only the first of many such bad results'. This recent event however is on an extreme level and such remarks as this seem a little melodramatic.

Merline's article looks into the wealth of virally stimulated articles and opinions that suggest a link between the plane crash and Tea Party momentum. The immediate assumption in the media and online to report the incident as Tea Party motivated reflects the view that the movement is an extreme element of Right wing politics and a force not to be reckoned with. Merline also notes of the belief that democrats are using the incident to discourage support of the Tea Party and regain votes towards the Left, '"The mainstream liberal media is already having a field [day] with the plane crash," says Habledash. "Their obvious attempts to connect the suicide pilot ... to the Tea Party movement completely unveils their political agenda."' Such conspiratorial assumptions are reflective of distrust within politics and the paranoia which is evident within Americans' relationship towards the economy.

Richard Benjamin offers an explanation for the range of interpretations of Stack's suicide note, 'The tortured manifesto cannot be properly labeled as 'left-' or 'right-wing'. Rather, it's a non-partisan screed against problems roiling the Republic -- and Stack's head -- for years.'. It would be naive to assume that only a small proportion of Americans are dissatisfied with tax matters because it is a subject that has dominated public support for and against Presidencies for decades. Benjamin suggests that Stack's situation is somewhat common with most Americans, regardless of political identification.

1 comment:

  1. The contrast in journalistic styles between these two articles couldn't be more stark. As Katey suggested, the Kelley article is emotive to say the least. A perfect piece of biased, unsubstantiated journalism. The opening sentence is a case in point:

    "While members of Washington and Wall Street elites transfer the accumulated wealth of 200 years to themselves, the desperation in the rest of America becomes palpable".

    I'm not sure what 'accumulated wealth' he is referring to. The multi-trillion dollar national debt perhaps? Shelley's article is a good example of how the media is prepared to use any issue, however tragic, to promote a particular view. In this article, Kelley appears more interested in misrepresenting the (alleged) views of Mr Stack in order to justify a left-wing, anti-capitalist rant than he is in reporting the facts.

    The text of the 'suicide' blog is, tellingly, not available within Kelley's article but it is accessible via Merline's article. Merline's style is more that of a 'news reporter' as he discusses the various reactions to the events in Austin, not his own agenda or opinion. I found this to be a much more balanced approach as he refers to responses from both the left, and right, of the political spectrum.

    If you read Mr Stack's text it is difficult to determine where his political affiliation lay(if anywhere) and there is no mention at all of the Tea Party. The poor man blames everyone from the government to big business for his misfortunes. Merline quotes the conservative website 'polipundit'com' when summarising the blog's contents: "Mad as Hell, at Everyone". Which, when viewed against the content of Mr Stack's alleged blog, is a reasonable view.

    The alacrity with which both sides of the political divide have exploited this tragic event, suggests more about the nature of American politics generally than the Tea Party philosphy. Mr Stack certainly expressed anti-Government views but against specific laws and specific policies. There is nothing in his blog to suggest he shared the anti 'big' government, highly individualistic and nationalistic ethos of the Tea Party. There is no evidence to substantiate this link and, in the absence of such evidence, the calculation suggested in attempts to make such an association appears to be pure media and political mischief-making.


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