Why Joe Stack Matters

Austin tea bomber Joe Stack is the canary in the right-wing mental coal mine. His action tells you where the hysterical rhetoric poured from hate radio takes a mind in a moment of crisis.

In anticipation of a crisis, the far right—by calling Stack a patriot and legitimizing things like torture and Birchite conspiracy theories—is softening the country up for a more brash authoritarian and violent ethos.

It’s the Shock Doctrine. In a time of crisis, run to brash moves. In a time when there is no crisis, soften the country up with extreme rhetoric. Get people used to hearing politicians unapologetically bash gays, stereotype Muslims, advocate torture, sympathize with fanatic anti-intellectuals, and disdain liberalism and cosmopolitanism, and when a real crisis comes serve up authoritarian measures and scapegoats.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Why Joe Stack Matters

  1. andrewclunn says:

    Really? The “Shock Doctrine?” Disaster capitalism and evil authoritarian scheming by the political right? You’re sounding like the conspiracy theorist now.

  2. santitafarella says:


    I don’t buy any conspiracies associated with the Shock Doctrine—and I certainly don’t think of Milton Friedman as a bad man, but a good man. But I think that, as an analytical observation, Naomi Klein’s idea is helpful for thinking about how political interests might exploit crises.

    I think that Hitler came to power, for example, precisely because of Weimar instability and that the ideological fever between left and right in the streets got Germans used to civic brutality.

    I worry that America is being brutalized by the heated right rhetoric, and that the politics of liberal and conservative humanism is being transformed into the politics of cruelty and disgust. I believe that the humanist strand in politics is being lost. An America that tortures is not the same America, and as of now the right is clamoring for a return to Bush’s torture regime. I think that a major crisis—a depression or an act of nuclear terrorism—stands to turn America into an authoritarian country.


  3. Thanks for this. It’s the first time I’ve come across the idea of the schock doctrine, and it’s intriguing and powerful.

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