Glenn Greenwald versus Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell on whether Andrew Joseph Stack is a terrorist and his suicide note

I happened to see the 2010-02-18 Rachel Maddow show and the 2010-02-25 Democracy Now!. Both discussed Andrew Joseph Stack III, the man who flew his plane into Building I of the Echelon office complex in Austin, Texas which killed Stack and IRS manager Vernon Hunter. Stack left a suicide note (local copy) published on his website. These shows covered Stack in a remarkably different way which is telling about the power to frame an issue.

In her introduction to the segment in which she discussed Stack, Rachel Maddow described the suicide note as “a 5,000-word, fairly incoherent screed about the evils of the IRS and a lot of other more or less coherent things that made him feel victimized and alienated and angry”, “incoherent suicidal rantings” only “some of which made sense”, looking for a “clear political message or clear political signal” which she said could not be found. She quoted only the end of the note which reads “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.”. Andrea Mitchell was Maddow’s guest in this segment. Immediately after Maddow introduced Mitchell, Mitchell said, “It is so crazy. The whole thing is so crazy and so tragic, but clearly, a criminal act. The FBI and domestic””not terrorism, not the CIA.”. Maddow offered no rebuttal nor did she question why Stack was not a terrorist. Neither Maddow nor Mitchell described the suicide note or quoted from it so that you could decide for yourself if Maddow’s inability to comprehend the suicide note was reasonable.

Glenn Greenwald was Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez’s guest on their show Democracy Now!; Goodman, Gonzalez, and Greenwald had this to say about the same event:

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to one of the pieces you’ve written about recently, and it has to do with the man Joe Stack, the man who drove a plane into the Austin IRS building, and how he has been described by the media.

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, if you look at the initial reaction of the media””and I mean not just initial in the couple of hours after, but for the several days after””there was an overt reluctance to call him a terrorist. In fact, there were discussions about whether or not he ought to be called a terrorist, and the media essentially said that this doesn’t seem like terrorism.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what happened.

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, essentially, he wrote a manifesto that was not””that was anti-government. It wasn’t purely right-wing or left-wing. He talked about how the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance industry, for example, are gouging the middle class and below. He talked about how the government is stealing from the middle class and the lower middle class in order to pilfer profits and money and transfer money to their cronies on Wall Street. And he also talked a lot about the unfairness of the tax code and how it was written by and for the benefit of corporations.

AMY GOODMAN: But he flew a plane into a building.

GLENN GREENWALD: Exactly. He burned his house down and then took a plane and flew it into the building, essentially modeling the””

AMY GOODMAN: For a political purpose.

GLENN GREENWALD: For a political purpose, essentially modeling his act, of course, after what al-Qaeda did on September 11th. And he even said in his manifesto that he was doing it in order to put fear in the government and to inspire others to engage in violence in order to advance these ideas. It was the classic case of terrorism. If you look at any definition, it’s exactly what every definition of terrorism describes.

And yet, the media was overtly reluctant to call it “terrorism” because””and they were actually amazingly upfront about this””they talk about the fact that he was American, that he seemed like the guy next door, that you could identify with some of his grievances, and that terrorism is really something that, as several of them said, is done by Muslims in caves who hate the United States.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And amazingly, I recall, in the first hours of that attack, when in the Daily News on our website we published the story, the overwhelming number of reader responses that were coming into the news were supportive of him, and they say this is””I remember I was stunned. I’m saying, how are people coming out and supporting this attack because it was aimed at the IRS, supposedly by an American?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, that’s right, and I think””you know, I think that we’ve seen this a long time. I mean, there has been a lot of violence carried out by domestic groups within the United States going back to the 1990s, of course, against abortion clinics. Timothy McVeigh was the ultimate one, the formation of militias. And you’ve seen all kinds of escalation in the rhetoric and violence of right-wing groups, who believe that the US government is illegitimate and a justifiable target. Classic terrorism. And yet, we’re very reluctant to call it that.

And yet, at the same time, if you look at acts that clearly fall outside of the scope of terrorism, such as the attack on Fort Hood, which was an attack on a military base””unjustifiable and heinous as it was, it was an attack on a military base deploying soldiers into a war zone””that was immediately branded terrorism, because the perpetrator was Muslim and he said “Allahu Akbar” in the act. And we even have people in Afghanistan, in their own country, who, when they throw grenades or engage in other forms of warfare against the invading American army, are declared terrorists and put in Guantánamo. The word “terrorist” has really come to mean Muslims who dislike the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: The internal Newsweek discussion?

GLENN GREENWALD: There was a discussion that Newsweek published””it was originally intended to be private, and they ended up publishing it, I think, because they thought it was so enlightening that the public would benefit from it””about why there was an aversion, on their part and generally, to calling Joe Stack a terrorist.

And many of them””a couple of them said, “Look, this is a domestic terrorist, and we should call him that.” But many of them””the managing editor was the first to answer. What she said is, “My rule of thumb is, if it’s a domestic person or group, if it’s a right-wing group, they’re a ”˜separatist’ or a ”˜protester’ or a ”˜bomber’; if it’s a left-wing group, it’s a ”˜radical left-wing protester.’ But it’s a ”˜terrorist’ only if it’s a foreign group engaging in violence protesting the United States.” So, in other words, in her mind””and many of them said similar things””that in order to be a terrorist, you have to be a foreigner””Americans could never possibly commit acts of terrorism, by definition””who is protesting the United States, meaning a terrorist is somebody who dislikes or objects to something the US government is doing. This is a journalist. These are journalists who are essentially propagandizing the public.