February 19, 2010

The Rage Of The Average Joe

irs building.JPG
all of this has happened before and it will happen again

"Obviously his methods were wrong, but you can see how a person can feel so excluded..."

"Of course he shouldn't have killed anyone, but you can understand the frustration of a guy who does the right thing, but still gets the shaft, meanwhile these other guys get everything handed to them..."
"You know, he does have one legitimate point..."

"All I'm saying is his explanation makes total sense..."

"Look, I don't condone what he did, but I can understand..."



Of course his explanation makes sense.   What did you expect?  Numerology?  Bible codes?  He's not insane.   The man could just as well have railed about blacks or illegal immigrants.  It would still all make sense, it would all be internally consistent, and it would all be wrong.

Look up there.  See those quotes, those justifications?  Those are what people said-- after George Sodini shot up an aerobics studio.  They're the same hedges despite completely different events.  That's because the content is a red herring.

If he had blamed the RAND Corporation and the reverse vampires, would you have listened?  But since "IRS" seems plausible you overlook the paranoia.   

What people want is to take his possibly legitimate frustration, and extend it to his actions.  "Since he was so frustrated, he eventually snapped."  The note tells you why he was frustrated, but it does not tell you why he killed anyone.  If you want to use it for the former, go ahead. But the note is as informative as Mercury in Libra for the latter.


"But the note says the IRS made him do it."

Funny: Sodini's note said he did it because he was about to lose his job, but still it's blamed on a lack of sex.  You know why?  Because no one cares why Sodini did it, they just want to talk about their own gripes.  "Women are bitches." "Men are misogynists."

In this case, people are going to use it as "see how the government drives people crazy?" and simultaneously by others to as  "these anti-government nuts are crazy."

In other words, if you're reading it, it's for you.


"Was he a right wing nut?  I heard he was a socialist nut?"

It's natural to look at this from your own perspective ("he has a point about the rich" etc) but this isn't a manifesto, it's a suicide note. The information of suicide notes are not reliable.

And it's a suicide note, not a homicide note, because it is about his life/death.  Everyone else doesn't matter.
The reason why he's so hard to pin down as right wing or left wing (or patsy) is that it's not important to him, writing the note.  The purpose of the note isn't to convey information, it is to convey mood, and the seemingly random and contradictory positions he takes on issues is all in an attempt to win you, the reader, over to his side. He knows for sure he is angry, he knows for sure he feels wronged, but he can't logically and realistically link the real world events to his level of anger.  So he confuses you with words while blanketing you with mood.  You have no idea what he's talking about, but you definitely sympathize with the frustration.  Boom-- he got you.

If you simply look at it as a "type", then he's a mass murderer, akin to a guy in a tower with a rifle.  So the form of the note will be impotence, paranoia, displacement, a feeling of rejection/invalidation, and, of course, narcissism. I'll make the simple observation that as obsessed with rules as he was, he didn't think and didn't like that they necessarily applied to him. 

The reason this is important-- that you should focus on the form of the note and not the content-- is that it speaks to "treatment" and prevention. If you had granted every single one of his wishes, he would still not have been satisfied, he would not have been happy.   As bankrupt as he was, he still had a plane, a house to set on fire, a car... note also he didn't seem to care about his family he left behind. The problem isn't what happened to him in his life, it's how he viewed his life and its expectations.

I'm not saying he would inevitably found a reason to explode, or that rage against the IRS was not a factor.   He may not have someday flown his plane into an old high school bully or a cheating wife-- or maybe he would have-- but it's wrong to think of this as an ordinary man crushed under the weight of regulation. 

This was a keg of rum rolling around a smoldering ship.  Maybe he blows up, maybe he doesn't.  Either way, abandon ship.


Commonly heard after an event like this: "he was so nice, I can't believe it he did this."

"We didn't know that he had frustrations and troubles," said Pam Parker, who had known Stack and his wife, Sheryl, for several years and last spoke to him a few weeks ago.

"He always was very easygoing," Parker told the Austin American-Statesman. "He was just a pleasant friendly guy."

You're surprised because you think you knew him because of the duration of your exposure to his body and the sounds his mouth made; but they don't put themselves into their relationships, they put themselves into appearances.  The rest is just going through the motions.


Why hasn't this happened before? Or: why isn't this being called terrorism?

Because the  media says it's okay to shoot women, but not okay to don suicide vest. 

We have already accepted-- not acceptable, accepted-- methods of American violence, and the media has a backstory for all of them, right or wrong:  The 70s was serial killers-- "caused" by childhood sexual abuse.  In the 90s we had school shooters, "caused" by bullying.  We have one for random violence against attractive women: loser loner, caused by (either) no sex or .  So we can all be horrified, but not surprised.

Now we have a template for a new kind of violence: anti-government Average Joe.

Unfortunately, the creation of this template-- the repeated discussion amongst pundits that "we don't condone but..." and then a dramatization on CSI or in a movie, means that Average Joe mass murder is going to be inevitably part of our culture.

But none of these templates are true, in the sense that there's no causality.  They are merely post hoc descriptive.  And since dead men tell no tales, you can pretty much describe one any way you want, for your own purposes. 

If Joe Stack had reflected on that, he would never have hit the ignition.