Joe Stack's Manifesto

After a pretty crazy week of debate and travel, I've now been able to read and ponder Mr Stack's "manifesto." It seems to me that there are all sorts of incoherent strands of populist rage within it, right and left, as well, obviously, as personal issues that almost certainly pushed him from simply raging at the TV set to becoming a terrorist. I think the attempt to use him to condemn either political party is unhelpful.

But I want to make a few simple points: this was obviously an act of terrorism. When someone is mad at the government, and when he flies a plane into a federal building, killing two and traumatizing countless others and urges others to do the same, he is a terrorist.

Secondly, it is pernicious to define terrorism by the race or religion of its perpetrators. In the country I grew up in, London and the town where my sister's family now lives, Guildford, endured brutal IRA bombings. These acts of terror were no less terror than Jihadist terror or far right domestic terrorism, such as Timothy McVeigh's. Ordinary people were drinking a beer in a pub or shopping in a department store and blown to bits.

None approached the numbers killed in the mass murder of 9/11 in one incident, but over the years of terror, very large numbers of innocents were killed. What I find deeply alarming is that race is now beginning to define an act of terrorism in America. Fox News described the Fort Hood shootings as an act of terrorism, but did not describe the assassination of Dr George Tiller as an act of terrorism.

Both were politically motivated, and designed to foment terror, and both were influenced by extremist forms of religious teaching. Is terrorism defined by the number of people it kills? Or the race of the perpetrators? Or the religion of the terrorists? The Dish tries hard not to make such distinctions.

Terrorism is terrorism whoever does it. Torture is torture whoever does it. Murder is murder whoever does it. Just as I oppose affirmative action and hate crime laws, which make specious distinction on the basis of race and other characteristics, so I oppose making any distinction on those grounds when describing terrorism. That, I think, is a conservative position. And Fox News is not a conservative news organization. It is, in many ways, a racist and xenophobic one whose double standards are a result of pure prejudice not reason.