Dedicated to my pal Michael Roston, who thought it was silly of me to cite examples at dKos and DU of people blaming this on tea partiers. Those are mere partisan echo chambers, after all, and such nonsense is to be expected.

Fair enough. Should we also expect it of WaPo contributor Jonathan Capehart?

Joseph Stack was angry at the Internal Revenue Service, and he took his rage out on it by slamming his single-engine plane into the Echelon Building in Austin, Texas. We now know this thanks to the rather clear (as rants go) suicide note Stack left behind. 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.

Follow the link and note the parts of the manifesto quoted by Capehart. Yes, of course the anti-Bush rhetoric and screeching about health care is omitted, but something even more revealing is omitted too. Here’s how Stack’s manifesto actually ended:

Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

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.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)


And here’s how Capehart quotes the ending:

Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)


What’s missing?

Capehart’s not the only offender. Reader Craig S. is e-mailing me new examples every 20 minutes or so. New York magazine’s Daily Intel feature slides this into a post on Stack just ahead of another long quote from the manifesto omitting the less narrative-serving parts:

5. He was mad at the IRS, and left what CNN reports was a suicide note on a local website, detailing his trials with the agency. In fact, a lot of his rhetoric could have been taken directly from a handwritten sign at a tea party rally.

Yeah, it could, although I confess to not having noticed a strong “capitalism is for suckers” vibe at rallies that are, let’s face it, driven mainly by laissez faire libertarian impulses. Meanwhile, Time magazine, while mentioning the anti-Bush passage, slipped the following hyperlink into its story on Stack:

According to news reports, 199 IRS employees work in the building, and all are accounted for. Toward the end of what appears to be his final note, Stack wrote, “Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.” (See the making of the Tea Party movement.)

The irony of all this is that violent IRS-hating cranks have been around for decades, long before tea parties were a twinkle in Rick Santelli’s eye. The NYT, to its credit, puts today’s attack in context by highlighting a few examples from over the years — while also taking care to note that a firebomb set in 1990 came packed with a tea bag. (Wink wink.) And a bonus irony: Taxes have actually been a surprisingly minor issue for tea partiers thus far, due in part to the fact that Obama and the Dems haven’t made any aggressive moves on that front yet. The tea party, in my experience, has focused much more heavily on cutting spending, ending bailouts, and auditing the Fed than dismantling the IRS, let alone flying planes into it.

Exit question: Isn’t part of the problem here that tea partiers haven’t decided yet precisely what they stand for in concrete terms, making it extra easy to associate them with disaffected nuts of all political stripes? Revisit this WaPo piece from a few weeks ago. Quote: “I am coming to realize at this convention that we are very, very different in terms of our beliefs.”

Update: PoliPundit supplies a lengthy, yet perhaps not complete, list of everyone Joe Stack was mad at. It wasn’t just the IRS.