"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Did Joseph Stack Have a Last Second Change of Heart?

Neglected throughout the coverage of Joe Stack and his small plane crashing into an Austin building that housed a department of the IRS is the fact that Stack didn't fly directly into the building. He actually crashed into an embankment in front of the building, ricocheting off the ground into the first floor offices, which as it turned out, were the only offices in the entire building that were not leased. This from the San Antonio Express News:

Stack’s Piper aircraft slammed into an embankment just outside the building occupied by 300 people. The aircraft struck on the building’s first floor, next to an empty break room.
“It was a combination of luck as to the fact the plane obviously did not go through inside the building,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Stack could have flown directly into the building. It's certainly easier to fly straight ahead than to take a sudden nose dive. It would have done a lot more damage, caused a lot more destruction, and taken a greater number of casualties. In fact, it could have been really, really ugly. But Stack, at least according to the investigation and a number of eyewitnesses, did indeed take a last second dive. The result: only one person died. The question is why?

Based on the evidence, I believe Joseph Stack had a last second change of heart. Though he tried to talk himself into a life of martyrdom by writing his manifesto, it didn't quite take. When the moment of destiny came, the musician, family man, and software-engineer steered clear of causing mass destruction. He was willing to be the sacrificial lamb, but not the wolf; to die for the cause, but not take lives for the cause. Maybe he knew being the wolf would only muddle his message. Indeed, it has.

I'm not saying Joseph Stack was acting rationally through the whole ordeal. The full text of his manifesto shows a troubled soul incapable of taking responsibility for his actions and casting judgment on everyone else. But his last second maneuver, if it was that, clearly saved lives.

Here's another theory. Maybe Joseph Stack was only trying to kill himself. Maybe he wanted to go out in a grand exit that attracted the attention of the world, left the IRS doubting their methods, and stirred a nation into questioning our confusing tax code. Obviously, he achieved that to some extent, although anyone who calls this man a hero is fooling themselves. However, one phrase in particular from his manifesto seems to cast doubt that he intended to harm others.

"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." [emphasis mine}
It might be stating the obvious, but you usually don't tell someone to sleep well if you are expecting them to be dead. And Stack says "take my pound of flesh", not that he wants to "take their pound of flesh."

Still, why operate heavy machinery and risk endangering others if your only target is yourself? Why not set yourself on fire in front of the building or jump off the bridge at 183 and Mo-Pac, an overpass easily in view from the office? These acts would have grabbed headlines without risking other innocent lives. More importantly, why did Stack load an extra drum of fuel at the Georgetown airport, confirmed by the FBI in the wreckage, if he didn't hope to hurt others with a bigger explosion?

These questions may never be answered. But one myth that definitely needs dispelling is that Stack flew his plane into the building. He didn't. He stopped just short and crashed into an embankment. To push any other narrative is a disservice to the facts.


  1. Thanks for sharing that little tid bit, I didn't know that, and it does put things into a different light so to speak. When a man gets so frustrated, he can do some pretty irrational things, there's no doubt about it. I think that every man has been there, not to the degree of this guy, but everyone has had their own 'breaking point' so to speak.