When do right-wingers think an act of politically motivated violence is not terrorism? When a white man flies his airplane into a federal building and kills an African American, as Joe Stack did, Feb. 18, when he killed federal government employee Vernon Hunter and wounded 13 others.
Right-wing bloggers and white supremacist web sites universally applauded Stack. But Republican Party politicians and their media allies also offered twisted justifications and even accorded hero status to Stack after his suicide attack.
This response shows their hypocrisy on the issue of terrorism, as well as the depth of their racism and religious bigotry.
Consider, for example, the words of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, already widely known for his hatred of immigrants and others who do not look like himself or share his religious beliefs. When ThinkProgress.org asked him if he thought Stack's were terrorist actions, King evaded a direct answer and blamed the government. "I think if we'd abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn't have a target for his airplane," he said.
Indeed, King justified those actions with a denunciation of the IRS. "It's sad the incident in Texas happened," he added. "But by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America."
King basically believes that IRS functions are the same as and even responsible for terrorism.
According to media reports about Stack, the IRS found that he illegally created a phony tax shelter to avoid paying taxes. The agency ordered him to pay back taxes amounting to over $14,000.
In an interview the day after the attack, Fox News' Neil Cavuto tried to link Stack's actions to voter discontent. Interviewing newly installed Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., Cavuto opined, "Invariably, people are going to look at this type of incident, Senator, and say, well, that's where some of this populist rage gets you."
In his response, Brown refused to straightforwardly condemn Stack's actions. Instead, Brown tried to give him some benefit of the doubt and to shift the blame for Stack's violence to Washington. "You don't know anything about the individual. He could have had other issues," Brown commented. "Certainly, no one likes paying taxes, obviously. But the way we're trying to deal with things, and have been in the past, at least until I got here, is there's such a logjam in Washington, and people want us to do better. They want us to help solve the problems that are affecting Americans in a very real way."
How kind of the right wing to view Stack's actions in a social context and to frame them as the result of powerlessness and fear in an oppressive society.
Of course, if anyone with a progressive orientation had tried to be this compassionate with a person like Army Maj. Nidal Hassan, who, in a burst of rage motivated apparently by his religious views, fired dozens of shots in a crowded Ft. Hood facility killing 13 and wounding 30 others last November, right-wingers would have denounced them as "bleeding hearts" who are "soft on terrorism" and who share responsibility for the violence.
Take for example, a recent post at David Horowitz's web site. Horowitz is a right-wing extremist who fashions himself as the new Joe McCarthy.
In a post at his site written by Jamie Glazov, the contradiction is all too apparent. In a bit of twisted logic in response to Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano's recent ruling that Maj. Hassan's actions were indeed terroristic, Glazov shifts responsibility from Hassan to Napolitano.
"I wonder if Napolitano will now confirm that thirteen American heroes lost their lives at Fort Hood precisely because of people like her," Glazov writes.
So, in both the Hassan and Stack cases the government is to blame for terrorism. (The applies across the board except when the crime is committed under Bush's watch.) But in the Stack case, he is the hero.
Hassan, on the other hand, is a Muslim extremist naturally prone to violence against America, Glazov insists. He goes on to claim that Muslims are ideologically bent on terrorism. Indeed, Glazov spits, people who embrace religious diversity are embracing and allowing Muslim violence to become a part of American society.
Glazov's hate speech has intentionally promoted harsh views and a violent backlash against Muslims and even non-Muslim Americans of Arabic descent. According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) recent polling shows that significant numbers hold negative views of Muslims, believe they teach hate, and support unconstitutional repression of their civil liberties.
When are Steve King, Scott Brown or Fox News going to start trying to protect us against the Joe Stacks of the world?
Photo: Flames engulf the federal building in Austin, Texas, after Joe Stack's suicide attack. AP/Trey Jones