Joseph Stack — remember him? He’s the guy who crashed his plane into an Internal Revenue Service building in Austin last week. Fifty-three years old, Stack killed one IRS manager, Vernon Hunter, and wounded 13 more before killing himself, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting his name, because he largely fell out of the news in the days afterward…

That’s not so say there hasn’t been howling. When Stack’s daughter told ABC’s Good Morning America that she considered her father a hero there was outrage, and reasonably so. Facebook fan pages praising Stack have shown up with links to right-wing, so-called patriot groups and at the CPAC conservative organizing meeting in DC more than one GOP member referred sympathetically to Stack’s anti-government views.

Outrage at all of that’s utterly justified. Sympathy with a bomber puts the lie to the extreme right’s claim to reject violence. Someone who carries out premeditated deadly force against civilians to make a political point is by virtually any definition a terrorist, not a hero. Stack remodeled his plane so as to pack it with extra fuel, left a manifesto, took  the life of an innocent man.

If Stack had been an Arab or a Muslim, you can bet this story would still be getting blaring headlines and front page news coverage. As one of my Twitter friends wrote, “What, if you own your own plane you can’t be a terrorist?”

Well said. But it’s not just the hypocrisy that’s the problem, it’s the lack of serious coverage. By all means hold those who praise Stack to account, and call out media hypocrisy and double standards. But before you dismiss him as simply a crazy, read his manifesto. It’s posted online. I quote:

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities…and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and….this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their… cronies.”

Most of what Stack has to say’s not mad. Or incoherent. Does is justify killing? Not at all, but should the extreme right be the only ones responding? I’d say not. Stack’s was a lone act — and let’s hope it stays that way, but – as after 9-11- asking why is again worth doing… We have choices about how to respond. Denial’s only one of them.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at and Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on

Correction: Joseph Stack was not a Vietnam veteran as reported earlier.  However, the man he killed, Vernon Hunter, was. The text has been corrected here.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.