Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Suicide pilot makes sense

By Dave Coffey

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“Take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”  These were some of the closing words of the online manifesto left by one Andrew Joseph Stack III before he flew a small private plane into an Internal Revenue Service field office in Austin, Texas on Thursday.  Stack, as well as one unidentified worker in the office building, died in the crash.

Let me first begin by stating that by no stretch of the imagination do I condone the destruction of a single innocent life, whatever the justification for it may be. Human life in and of itself is arguably our most precious and priceless resource, and its loss is never something to be celebrated. I should hope that everyone’s condolences and thoughts go out to the family and friends of both Stack and all those in the office-building he attacked.

That being said, however, when I first saw this story break, it caught my attention, to say the least. It is not every day that someone becomes so frustrated with the system they are a part of that they not only take their own life, but they do so by piloting a fixed-wing aircraft directly into an office building that largely symbolizes that system.

Perhaps more interesting is the message Stack left behind on his webpage just before he committed the act, which is part suicide note, part manifesto.

Anyone who has read it, and all should, will most likely agree that at the very least the piece is extremely articulate and well written, especially considering the fact that it was authored by someone about to do something as crazy as purposefully slam a plane into a large, populated building.

The note left by Stack is basically an essay criticizing the “American nightmare” perpetuated by what he calls the “handful of thugs and plunderers” that make up our government. Throughout his manifesto, he recounts several examples of how he apparently worked hard going through school and working as a software engineer, but on many occasions was forced to lose his income, savings and retirement money because what he thought was an incredibly unfair “atrocity” of a tax system. In particular, he mentions IRS section 1706.

While reading the note, I began to feel pretty conflicted. Here I was, reading the manifesto of someone who was now essentially an independent domestic terrorist, and by the end I was practically sympathizing with him. Once again, I will forcefully assert that I don’t embrace or acknowledge the taking of innocent life as a solution to anything, even if it’s someone taking his own life.

However, the note is at the very least compelling, if not revelatory.  This was someone who diligently stayed in school, obtained an engineering degree and worked hard his entire adult life, only to see the fruits of his labor continuously slip through his fingers.

He describes in depth his experiences living through various negative economic trends such as the “[Los Angeles] depression of the early 1990s,” the “.COM bust and the 911 nightmare [sic],” saying that, “as usual [the government] left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY [sic].”

Ever since the story broke, both sides of the proverbial political aisle have been pointing fingers as to which side is to blame for the cause and inspiration for Stack’s actions.  Frankly, I’m not a political genius, so I’m not going to pretend I am and enter the partisan finger pointing game. Rather, my reaction is fairly simple: these circumstances seem to point to the fact that something is very wrong here.

Once again, I say this not from a conservative or liberal or even moderate point of view, but a completely apolitical context. Here, we have a case where an allegedly hard-working, educated individual who feels he, as well as numerous others he has encountered and mentioned in the note, has been robbed of a significant portion of his earned income and livelihood. While enduring this, however, he did not just sit there and complain – he reached out to officials and individuals who he felt could reverse a system that he felt was screwing over countless Americans.

But, as he writes, it was to no avail: “I spent close to $5,000 of my ‘pocket change,’ and at least 1,000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time.”

Here, we have a demonstrably articulate, intelligent, diligent and sane person who was considerably wronged by a system that he continuously and unsuccessfully appealed.  This same individual was evidently convinced that, “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.” What I gather from this story is that we reside within a system that teaches educated, strong-willed and hardworking citizens that, “adding my body to the count,” is the only way to invoke proper and necessary change.

I will repeat that acts of destruction and loss of life, no matter how small, are nothing less than tragic. But by proxy, a system that encourages those sorts of tragedies from its citizens is a tainted one. And sure, you could argue that maybe Stack was inappropriately blaming the system for his anger and frustration. Maybe a crazy person just happened to sound sane and reasonable in his suicide manifesto. Or maybe there is something very, very wrong here.

Dave Coffey is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]


25 Responses to “Suicide pilot makes sense”

  1. roger on February 23rd, 2010 12:20 am

    Andrew Stack: American Suicide Bomber
    Dave Coffey: Suicide Attack Sympathizer

    Simple truths are harder to see when they are so close to home, huh?


  2. Tonal on February 23rd, 2010 12:22 am

    This guy was not “harassed” by the IRS. Do you understand that this guy was trying take a 100% tax emption by trying to declare that he had a religious organization? The reference was to Section 501(c)(3) Organizations, not 1706 which has to do with tmployers calling their employees “Contactors”


  3. rickydoc flowers on February 23rd, 2010 12:31 am

    this is so ridiculous its hard to take it seriously

    his constant qualifications are evidence that hes aware

    of just how foolish and even venal he sounds

    i will give him benefit of the doubt and credit

    his youth for this one


  4. Lou on February 23rd, 2010 12:32 am

    With a home in an affluent neighborhood and a private plane, it would appear that Mr. Stack had a great deal more to show for his struggles than most people.

    If an aircraft assault on an office building is the act of an “articulate, intelligent, diligent and sane person” frustrated with misfortune and unfair laws, then we should see tsunamis of suicide attackers crashing against our government buildings.

    Instead we see only Mr. Stack, an unbalanced coward who killed an innocent man.


  5. Michael Foley-Röhm on February 23rd, 2010 12:32 am

    The major difference between the IRS and the Mafia is that one is legal and the other has a code of honor. Oh yes, and only one forces you to engage with it.

    I don’t believe, really, in “the sanctity of life” (in the eternal words of George Carlin, “you never see a bumper-sticker that says, “Save the Tumors” or “I Break for Melanoma”) but I do agree that what Stack did was wrong. Taking innocent life (I emphasize the word *innocent* here) is not right.

    But it is really not surprising – when people are frustrated, and there is no safe, legal recourse to what they are up against, they can go a bit crazy.

    Senators, Congresscritters, Governors and slugs (but I repeat myself) stand up for the Status Quo, and unfortunately, that Status Quo includes the thugs at the IRS. They’re not going to curtail the abuses of the IRS, because it is against their interests and the interests of the Statist power structure in general, which most of them strongly support.

    Stack only claimed one life aside from his own. Look at the number of suicides resulting from harassment by the IRS. Stack is not right, but the IRS has far more blood on its hands.


  6. Reality Strikes on February 23rd, 2010 12:39 am

    Yes. But at least now he can roast in hell with the oh so articulate, intelligent, diligent and sane Timothy McVeigh.

    Truly, you are an idiot.


  7. Daniel Ueda on February 23rd, 2010 12:48 am

    These same words, if written about the attackers of NYC on 9/11, would mean the end of your job as you know it. How have Republicans become the spokespersons for domestic terrorists? I am extremely saddened to read this article.


  8. Rick on February 23rd, 2010 12:59 am

    This article leaves me perplexed. Is it saying that when when our material dreams fail we are justified in hate and blame. Since when is the government and taxes the cause of all misery and an excuse for one of the ultimate narcissistic acts i.e. I kill others because I am frustrated and want to make a statement?

    Much of life will be unfair if you want it to be that way. I suggest we choose to live with unfairness and yet remain happy. Quit blaming the government and its legitimate functions for all that is wrong with us.


  9. KenMc on February 23rd, 2010 1:01 am

    Thank you for coming out and saying this! It’s just what I’ve been thinking the whole time. You’re right on the money.


  10. Craig on February 23rd, 2010 1:06 am

    I wonder if this had happened during the Bush Administration, would anyone have dared to feel sympathy for this guy? Probably not. Instead, he would have been branded a domestic terrorist, hell bent on ‘destroying America’, and all that it stands for. But now that a Democrat is in office, it’s apparently OK for someone to attack the big bad government that’s taxing them into the poor house. In fact some, such as yourself, think it noble. I think it funny Dave, that Republicans, which you clearly are, believe that when one of their own is in power, any critic of the Government, let alone an outright attack on a Government building, is clear evidence of un-patriotism bordering on treason. Yet when the opposition is in power those very same acts become justifiable. Your a pathetic hack.


  11. DrClue on February 23rd, 2010 1:45 am

    I too agree that it is both wrong and a shame that these
    issues that have haunted our country should result in
    well educated members of the citizenry concluding that
    violence is the only valid recourse, having had all other
    acceptable avenues and venues of approach utterly fail.

    The voting box that gives us nothing but choices between
    one well financed soap box and another, often bankrolled
    by the same people.

    The letter box hung cleverly over the waste basket
    as to leave room on the desk for the tributes of lobbyists.

    The editorial box , censored and characterized by the policies
    of those who make the bulk of their money printing consumer
    ads by the same folks paying for the other boxes.

    The opinions of the people carefully shaped and molded
    by the fnords of their masters, or in alternative
    being the food for the local compost heap and not the
    food for change.

    Even the word “change” has been hijacked and debased to the
    levels of such worn thread as “new” and “improved”.

    The choices reduced to a “tide” and “cheer” rolling off the same
    assembly line with but “red” and “blue” colored crystals
    setting up a pseudo choice in the totally ineffective powders we
    are sold.

    Perhaps “ineffective” is not totally correct, as these powders
    like some mind altering crack cocaine are effective for those who
    can afford them, just not the victims of those they are effective

    “In your best interests” Watch out brother.
    “In the interests of national security” Buy Lockheed, Halliburton
    “To spread democracy” Don’t get any of that on your shoes.
    “In the best interests of the child” The child gun is a great weapon
    “It’s your Patriotic Duty” Shut up son , we own the game.
    “Your moral duty” Religions make such good sock puppets.

    The slogans of the soap powder sales, used over and over again,
    because it works.

    The sign should read “Americas destruction, your tax dollars at
    work and our dividends on the rise”.

    I could never myself commit an act of violence, but brother
    before you warm up that little plane of yours, can I buy you a beer
    and suggest your flying into the wrong buildings.


  12. JB on February 23rd, 2010 2:31 am

    I’m going to venture a guess that if this murderer’s name had been Abdul Tariq Hasan rather than Andrew Joseph Stack, Mr. Coffey would be a lot less impressed with his arguments for becoming a suicide bomber.


  13. daniwitz13 on February 23rd, 2010 2:49 am

    I do empathize with someone willing to sacrifice his life to force a change in our Govt. Many say he is a coward to take other innocent lives, even one. That if one is offended by something our Govt. has done, they should not act out, right? Then consider what our Govt. is lashing out in other countries like Afghanistan. Our troops just killed 27 innocent civilians, women and children. I’m assuming you all think that this OK. Your Govt. attacking innocents because they have a gripe against someone. Again with all your OK. Is it any different? Lives in another country doesn’t count? What would it take for to stop this, surely if Mr. Stack did it for this cause, it would be again for naught. Because you all look the other way.


  14. DrClue on February 23rd, 2010 4:13 am

    There is hardly anything more profitable
    than war, and nothing more marketable
    than fear.

    Violence hardly ever has any true merit,
    but is often the first recourse of true greed
    and the last recourse of the unheard.

    It’s not a matter of liberal or conservative
    not a matter of religious views, that’s
    just the soap powder.

    Have someone who disagrees with
    your point of view? Label them a “communist”
    “un-patriotic” , “terrorist” and once that
    gains acceptance as a tactic simply
    whisk your opponent away for a secret trial
    like they would in of those countries
    they say needs a regime change.

    No heath care, No Job, surreal tax systems,
    the housing crisis, terrorism.
    It’s all greed.

    Both the bombers and the bombed
    Both the shooter and the shot
    They are but victims.

    Tune into as many news casts as you like,
    they are probably owned by “News Corp”

    Elect whoever you like ,the campaign
    contributors and lobbyists spend
    money on both sides.

    “Pick a card any card” says the
    magician , giving you that apparent
    freedom of choice already in advance
    created the astounding reveal in answer
    to your “choice”.

    It’s been this way since the invention
    of the ballot box.


  15. Michael Foley-Röhm on February 23rd, 2010 11:30 am

    I find it hilarious that the naysayers assume that anyone who feels this way must be a Republican. Think again, geniuses. I can’t speak for Mr. Coffey, but I voted for Obama and oppose Republicans. That being said, anyone for cutting back the government makes me smile.

    Plenty of us (again, I can’t speak for Mr. Coffey) agreed with Ward Churchill’s assessment of the 9/11 bombers and didn’t gulp down the Bush admin’s America-worship Kool-Aid. Quit having your opinions fed to you by Keith Olbermann, people. People aren’t all “liberal” and “conservative” stereotypes.

    To paraphrase Matt Stone and Trey Parker: “I hate Democrats but I really hate Republicans.”

    DrClue: I think the great Emma Goldman said it best: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Great comments, sir.


  16. John McLeod on February 23rd, 2010 12:32 pm

    With your indulgence I’ll omit the ritual condemnation of involving third parties in an act of seppuku, but I would like to suggest that you have a look at “The Sea of Fertility,” by Yukio Mishima and especially Part II: “Runaway Horses.” That might serve to put some of this into perspective.

    Anyway, thank-you for doing this. I’m sure a fair number of people wanted to express roughly similar thoughts but many would have been deterred like me because of the prospects of negative reactions such as those in some of the comments above. One exceptional case of someone considering the Sec. 1706 angle was David Cay Johnston writing in the New York Times, and his piece is well worth a look.

    As an outsider I’ve become somewhat alarmed at the evident shabby treatment America has been affording its IT types recently. I was particularly taken with what has been happening to Sergey Aleynikov since July, a truly egregious spectacle. But then Serge seems to be a gentle and naive soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Still, this new data point does at least deserve inspection.


  17. Dave Coffey on February 23rd, 2010 1:51 pm

    Aside from thanking everyone who commented for their readership and analysis of this piece, I would perhaps see it beneficial to remind everyone that I on several separate occasions explicitly disagree with the practice of taking innocent lives as witnessed in this particular accident. If one reads the article, they will notice I did not refrain from calling the perpetrator crazy, wrong and a terrorist. The point of the piece was not to praise the attacker and celebrate loss of life, but to perhaps draw a closer examination towards the environment that breeds this sort of action and reaction. I thought I made that quite clear, but I suppose I may have been mistaken, so for that I apologize if I was misunderstood. I was a bit disappointed, however, to see that many people who read it turned it into something political even when I expressly stated the apolitical context of the piece. I find it counterproductive and frankly pointless to respond to every comment on the page, so I will merely state once again that I clearly stated in the piece, and still embrace the idea that, I DO NOT CONDONE THE ACTIONS OF THE ATTACKER WHATSOEVER, AND DO NOT ENDORSE ANY SORT OF TERRORIST ACTIVITY.
    Thank you again for your time and attention.


  18. Kristopher Ryan on February 23rd, 2010 7:14 pm

    About half of you who commented here did not read the message of this article right (DrClue, KenMc, Michael Foley-Röhm, Daniwitz13, John McLeod not included).

    The main point of the article is that an educated man wrote a very insightful (and very correct, in my opinion) essay/manifesto which basically brings to attention a very real problem with the American economy and the American Government. You may say that Dave is sympathizing with Andrew Joseph Stack, but he very clearly stated he was NOT sympathizing with the recent actions of Stack. Dave was sympathizing with the view from many working- and middle-class who see billions and billions of dollars poured into mega-corporations, and, meanwhile, millions of American families no longer have homes to live in because The current administration did not do enough to help the little guy, while near-failing corporations still poured millions of the bailout dollars into BONUSES FOR THEIR OWN TOP EMPLOYEES. Does that make any sense at all, that while middle- and working-class are now out on the streets because they didn’t have the money to pay their mortgages, the upper class gets more money than they can wipe their asses with? To quote roger here, “simple truths are harder to see when they are so close to home, huh?”

    Dave was merely agreeing with the opinions of what turned out to be someone who felt violence was the only answer. But, very explicitly and very often, Dave stated that he did not agree with any form of suicide in order to create some semblance of change. And I agree with Dave on all accounts. No, no one should have to go to such extreme levels as suicide attacks in order to make a point. But something has to change.

    And the real problem is, despite Stack’s actions, I highly doubt that anything will change at all. One man, no matter how far he goes, is not going to change the system. However, millions of people acting together may be able to, and I absolutely do not mean mass suicide attacks. I mean activism and protests and the like. Stack’s manifesto was, at the very least, an effort to bring to light what everyone sweeps under the rug and forgets about: The current economic system is completely ass-backwards, and something needs to change. And I challenge anyone here who disagrees with Dave (and, by extension, myself) to prove me otherwise, or else I bill you as an upper-class sympathizer, and thus among the greedy elite who, as Stack said, “[didn’t] give a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall.”


  19. Alex Perry on February 24th, 2010 2:19 am

    “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.” — Stack

    Stack is a crazy communist nut job terrorist. You guys should not be reading his work and trying to get into his head to figure out his logic. He is a nut job. A communist nut job.

    if you guys like communism so much and you’re so happy Stack reminded everyone how much we shouldnt like capitalism you guys should- if you can- find “millions of people to act together” with you and overthrow our government.

    luckily, those people dont exist even if you may be able to find a few in far left looney ville massachusetts.

    because communism has worked SOOOO well in the past.

    please guys. hes a nut job and hes dead. lets move on and hope the next communist nut jub who tries to committ suicide does it on his own time in his own room rather than putting the lives of other innocent americans in jeopardy. no praise needs to be given or analysis put in.


  20. Michael Foley-Röhm on February 24th, 2010 3:02 pm


    Any critique of capitalism makes one a “crazy communist nut job terrorist”?


    Agreeing with this guy’s opinion re: the IRS apparently makes you one, too. Therefore, logically, Rep. King (R-Iowa) is a crazy communist nut job terrorist.

    of course, that would make Pope Benedict XVI one, too.,8599,1909020,00.html

    Or, maybe it is possible that there’s more than just two economic ideas, and maybe – MAYBE – it is possible to note that one fails horribly while not upholding the other as truth.



    The Pope and Rep. King are both nutty commies. I’m sure that Pope Benedict XVI will add passages from the Manifesto and Das Kapital to the liturgy any day now, in fact, and Rep. King will make them both required reading in Iowa schools.

    Thanks, Alex, your view makes much more sense.


  21. joey on March 4th, 2010 6:20 pm

    To the students who are shocked by this article’s approach to the IRS suicide pilot: reread this article in your 30’s, 40’s or 50’s, after years of struggle and pain and see how your reaction has dramatically changed. Yes, we are required by law to pay taxes to pay for government. But, as one of the posters has written, the IRS has driven more than one person to suicide. Life doesn’t always turn out the way one plans. And the IRS has no scruples about hounding innocent people to their death.
    I was unemployed for several years and when I finally got a job as a contractor, I was so in debt, that I “put off” paying taxes. When I finally got a full time job, and I was on the verge of putting my finances back together, the IRS levied my paycheck, decreasing my income by 65%, making it impossible to pay my bills. Then my house was foreclosed.


  22. Janet Faulkner on March 6th, 2010 3:31 am

    What appears to be lacking from some folks is the need to take responsibility for their actions. Deciding to forgo paying your taxes and then think the IRS is at fault because those 1099’s that were given to you were reported to the IRS. You choses not to report but the people you did business with opted to do the right thing. Many employers treat their workers as independent contractors to rob them of benefits and avoid paying taxes that benefits the employee, i.e., social security, medicare and unemployment. When employers do not pay their state and federal unemployment tax, people have difficulty getting paid, if they get paid at all. I’ve never had a problem with the IRS, and if you have a problem, tackle it at the beginning, not when you’ve been hit with a lien or levy, which by the way can take years before it happens. This is when the individual or business has decided to ignore all attempts to communicate with the IRS. Do you honestly think the courts, fire departments , and all other forms of public services that benefit everyone to some degree would exist without taxes, whether it’s state or federal. Being informed is better than bliss in ignorance anyday.


  23. Cato on March 8th, 2010 3:38 pm

    That’s what the IRS employees get for blatantly violating the U.S. Constitution. It’s amazing how many of our largest and most entrenched government institutions (the federal standing military forces, income tax) are specifically and obviously prohibited in that document (the highest law of the land, apparently).

    Whatever this guy was, label me a sympathizer.


  24. Commander Shepard on March 8th, 2010 6:48 pm

    Who cares if the pilot had scribbled the solution to Fermat’s last theorem and the unified field theory?

    He burned down his home leaving his wife and kid homeless, then proceeded to kill somebody else by crashing a freaking plane into a building. Whether or not his manifesto inspires any contemplative chin rubbing in armchair politicos is irrelevant.

    Saying “But he had good points!!” is like having somebody murder-suicide themselves and their family and saying “He had valid reasons for doing that out of his pain!!”.


  25. Hapless Sheep on April 12th, 2010 7:59 pm

    If the pilot’s acts of violence render his ideas irrelevant, how do you justify our government’s rationale? Lest we forget how many millions of innocents have died at our government’s hands. . .

    Nothing comes for free.


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