Smoke from an inferno touched off by an anti-tax fanatic pilot who flew a single-engine Cherokee aircraft into an Austin, Texas, building containing IRS offices hadn’t even stopped Thursday when mainstream media outlets began suggesting that the conservative grass-roots tea party movement is to blame for the incident.
Authorities say an individual believed to be pilot Joseph Andrew Stack III posted a suicide note online, set his house on fire, and then flew his aircraft into a building that housed more than 190 Austin-based IRS agents. At least 13 people were treated for injuries, and two were hospitalized, officials said.
Despite the fact that Stack's suicidal diatribe made no mention of the tea party, the Colorado Independent reported, "There will be more attacks.
Stack was not right or left. He may or may not have been a Tea Partier."
BusinessInsider.com ran a headline titled: "The Austin Texas Bombing Is A HUGE Image Blow To The 'Tea Party.'" The story reported, "We're not saying Stack was a tea partier" and predicted the media would "use this as a chance to smear" tea party organizations.
A piece posted on Time magazine's web site, meanwhile, did not contain the words "tea party." Yet it carried a link in crimson letters halfway through its report titled: "See the making of the tea party movement."
The most egregious example may have come from Washington Post editorial board writer Jonathan Capehart, who wrote: "There's no information yet on whether [Stack] 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."
Beyond citing apparently deranged passages from Stack's manifesto, Capehart did not provide any rationale for linking the wanton act to the conservative grass-roots movement sweeping the nation, which liberal commentators have ridiculed from the outset.
The seemingly irrational suicide note written by Stack, 53, stated in part: “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.”
Greg Holloway, a director of the Austin Tea Party Patriots organization that his wife founded, told Newsmax that Stack was not a member of the Austin Tea Party. His name does not appear on any of its contact lists, Holloway said. He does not know of any tea party leader who ever met him.
"First of all, it's a terrible thing that has happened," Holloway said. "The biggest concern anybody in Austin has, including people in the tea party, is the harm to people. Anybody being hurt is a horrible thing. Frankly, what happened today is the antithesis of everything we stand for in the tea party. One of our chief principles is the rule of law, and for someone to take it upon himself to attack a government agency because they don't agree with the way the law was written is everything we're against."
Asked his reaction to media reports linking the tea party movement to the tragedy, Holloway told Newsmax, "I think it's just the whole notion of a few people in politics, and I'll include some of the media, that everything is about political process rather than about people. Here you've got a terrible tragedy involving so many people, and the first thought is: 'How do I use this to forward my own agenda and to try to attack someone else's?'
"It's silly for anyone to take that tack, and it's actually dangerous. Everything that we do in the tea party is really designed to make people's lives better within the framework of a civil society. And government is part of that, and the IRS is part of that. We don't always like taxes being increased, but we can respect the people that work for the IRS and the job that they do. It's a terrible thing anytime that our civil order is attacked," Holloway said.
Holloway and national tea party leader Everett Wilkinson both expressed bewilderment that some media figures would link the movement to the Austin IRS attack, given that anti-IRS policies are not a tea party issue.
Tea party activists oppose high taxes and government encroachment on individual liberty but do not oppose the IRS role in collecting taxes, Holloway and Wilkinson said.
"We're against some taxes. We're not against all taxes," Holloway told Newsmax. "We have some proposals in some quarters on how to make the tax system better. But we've never attacked anyone verbally or any other way at the IRS.
"Again, the way to change any system is to fall back to our constitutional principles, and figure out 'Well, what's the best way to run the country?' And then to convince people at the ballot box to vote that way … attacking any particular group is just counterproductive," he said.
"I am shocked by the crash," Wilkinson told Newsmax. "As far as I know, Joseph Andrew Stack was not a member of the tea party movement. The movement is not involved in protesting the IRS, but rather government spending. Our best wishes go out to the families and people involved."
Rich Noyes, research director for the Media Research Center watchdog organization, characterized the mainstream media's inclination to link the attack to conservatives, without evidence to support it, as "obnoxious."
"I mean, this is what editors are for," Noyes told Newsmax, "to prevent this kind of impugning of a movement that represents millions of people with genuine grievances about the direction their government is taking, and some nut who is irritated with the IRS because he has to pay his taxes and doesn't think he should."
Fox News host Glenn Beck apparently anticipated Thursday that some in the media would link Stack's attack to conservatives.
"America," he said on his program, "We've got all kinds of problems. Violence is not the way to solve them. Do you want an entirely new system? I don't … I don't like the IRS. They audited me after I was harping and telling you about [Treasury Secretary] Timothy Geithner. Guess who got a knock on the door from the IRS? I don't like the IRS. But I don't think they're riddled with bad people. I don't want to kill them. And anyone who does should be in jail."
Said Holloway: "The whole problem with what we're hearing here today is … you know, there's a very disturbed individual. But to place any blame on any one group just doesn't make any sense."
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