The smoke over Austin is hardly two days settled and already, many have risen to defend the actions of Joe Stack.
And now, there’s this: an 8-bit style video game called “Tax Time,” published on Newgrounds.com, commemorating his deadly attack on a Texas IRS office.
In the game users must obtain a can of gasoline, burn a house, then pilot a single-engine airplane into an IRS building. Upon successful completion, the game declares: “Justice is Served!” Along the way, if players manage to hit a malfunctioning Toyota Prius, they are rewarded with the “Auto Recall” medal.
The game was created by Newgrounds member Falcon, whose profile says he is located in Austin and makes games in 24 hours or less.
His other submission to the site: Balloon Boy Adventure.
Though clearly a mock of the entire event, the game is just the tip of the iceberg in what’s increasingly becoming an idolization of Stack’s ideology across the Internet.
Even Business Insider noticed it on Thursday, when their readers started responding negatively to the publication calling Stack “insane.”
“Anger at the IRS and the bailouts holds tremendous resonance, clearly, if even a suicide plane bomber isn’t seen as ‘insane’ by plenty of folks,” they wrote. “Such is the climate of American politics right now.”
While partisan bloggers both left and right were quick to throw mud at each other and attempt to disown Stack, his letter did not seem to show an affinity for any distinct ideology, apart from his anti-tax screed which is most commonly associated with right-leaning groups. However, he also criticized President George W. Bush and lambasted capitalism. In truth, Stack’s politics were more closely associated with populism; his revolutionist diatribe more closely focused on problems plaguing the republic, sans partisan hallmarks.
By Friday, more than 750 people were friends with a Facebook profile dedicated to “The Philosophy of Joe Stack.” By Saturday afternoon, that number had more than doubled. While the page’s creator says the page is “NOT” to honor Stack, the profile’s photo is an image of George Washington playing the drums on a revolutionary-era battlefield.
While many of the commenters are quick to point out that they do not condone violence, a number of them are avidly in support of Stack’s actions. One man, from France, even lifted Stack up as a hero.
“That man, Joe Stack, is a new kind of heroe [sic],” he wrote. “You may not agree with his last act but he did it to make the people wake up. I’m french, and in my country too, everything’s fallin’ apart… Economy, social troubles, religious conflicts.. people feel bad, tons of zombies for at least on…e per cent of free thinkers… i’m feeling the same way than Joe Stack… Believe me, I’ve had my problems too to deal with but I won’t give up… And I understand why he did it !! It was an act of war, a citizen act of rebellion and by this act, he has tried to save our lives, our soul, our pride… We should start the rebellion now…”
Another page, Joe Stack for President, has 29 fans.
In reality, Stack is no hero. He killed one innocent person and injured 13 more, but the toll could have been much greater.
In Austin, Stack was known better as a typical, easygoing guy who enjoyed playing in a honky-tonk band and didn’t talk much about politics. He largely hid his grudge against the government, according to interviews with those who knew him.
“We didn’t know that he had frustrations and troubles,” said Pam Parker, who had known Stack and his wife, Sheryl, for several years and last spoke to him a few weeks ago.
“He always was very easygoing,” Parker told the Austin American-Statesman. “He was just a pleasant friendly guy.”
Stack, 53, played bass in the Billy Eli Band with Parker’s husband, and he and his wife — a pianist in the graduate music program at the University of Texas — would put on concerts for their friends at their sprawling home.
“You wouldn’t have pegged him to do anything crazy let alone a big spectacular crazy thing,” Parker said.
Jim Hemphill, a member of the band, said he was shocked by Stack’s actions and the anger revealed in the note.
“I never saw anything like this in Joe,” said Hemphill.
Stack’s ex-wife also expressed shock.
“He was a good man. Frustrated with the IRS, yes, but a good man,” Ginger Stack told the LA Times. “I’m in shock right now. He had good values. He really did.”
His father-in-law said Stack’s wife had complained to her parents of an increasingly frightening anger in her husband in recent weeks and took her 12-year-old daughter, Margaux, to a hotel Wednesday night to get away from him.
They returned home Thursday morning to find their house ablaze and Stack already gone to the airport.
“This is a shock to me that he would do something like this,” said Jack Cook, who knew his son-in-law had a “hang-up” with the IRS and still doesn’t believe he wanted to kill anybody.