Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Tax Murder: Reflections on the lack of ideological constraint in American public opinion

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

It may be unfair to claim this, but I just caught a glimpse of the Yahoo news story about a man who crashed a plane into an IRS building in an attempt to protest tax laws, and I can’t help but see this as our first clear episode of Tea Party terrorism.

Am I being unfair in labeling this? Just to review, the man hated an aspect of the American government and wanted to use violence to attack it. He flew a plane into the symbolic building that housed that hated aspect of the government to make his views clear. This could be Mohammed Atta, but it was instead an American guy.

I’ll be fascinated to see all of the facts come in, but this is the read that makes most sense to me. I think the most interesting thing now is to see how the event gets reported. This will be a nice test of what the slant of the MSM is. We always speak about a left tilt, but that misses the key nuances in political commitments that differentiate views. My guess is that it will take a while for this frame to catch on, but I could be surprised.

UPDATE

It could be that I am wrong on his ideology. I just read his manifesto and it is surely a bit confusing if not confused. The end is what throws me.

“I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. 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.”

So is this the kind of thing that characterizes the lack of ideological constraint that Converse famously described in American public opinion or is this just some kind of weird irony by a guy who is about to commit mass murder? If this is a Converse style lack of ideological constraint, it may be a useful window into the volatility and diversity of Tea Party ideas. His opening statement invoking “no taxation without representation” does seem to rank him as part of the Tea Party phenomenon.

Also, have you noticed that the terrorists seem to be disproportionately drawn from the engineering profession. Perhaps it reflects a kind of reaction to a perception of a violation of meritocratic principles.

UPDATE II

The prediction that this event would be largely ignored has proven to be true. Apart from a quick barrage of concern on day one and a few reactions here and here in the media, the story was successfully framed as a criminal act. I have even changed the title of this post to reflect the reception of it. There are two reasons that may explain why the story was framed as it was. First, there is something very disturbing about the idea that this may be a kind of terrorism and that an anti-tax movement has the potential to destabilize the country. The rhetoric reaches rather high up the totem pole and we are not meant to question beyond a certain point. Of course to recognize an act as terrorism need not lead to some kind of ideological purge or mass violation of civil liberties, but perhaps we can’t separate the label from our habitual reaction to it. Second, it may be that we simply do not think of many kinds of violence as terrorism. Not only did Robert Gibbs immediately label this something other than terrorism, but most people after the fact have done so as well. For Americans today, terror may simply refer the mass violence derived from some ideologies, but not from others.

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