Given the state of Internet trolling, it was probably inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing: since the news this morning that Joseph Andrew Stack was the pilot of the small plane that crashed into the Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, which housed almost 200 IRS employees, a number of Facebook groups have sprouted up in praise of Stack. Among them: “Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee,” “The Philosophy of Joe Stack,” and “The Joe “Take My Pound Of Flesh” Stack Anti-IRS Fan Page.”
These three groups cover a spectrum of approval for Joe Stack’s actions.
“The Philosophy of Joe Stack” comes out against the attack, but sympathizes: “This page is NOT to glorify his actions, but simply to say that after reading his note, we can agree with and sympathise with Joe Stacks’ thoughts.”
“Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee” is against violence against other people, but says that the attacks were about “prov[ing] a point: “We hope that everyone is okay and accounted for. It is our belief that his intention was not to hurt anyone, but to prove a point.”
Finally, “The Joe “Take My Pound Of Flesh” Stack Anti-IRS Fan Page” is silent on the ethical ramifications of the attack, and merely posits that his acts will be distorted: “Welcome to the Joe Stack fan site. Dedicated to a man, frustrated as so many of us are with our corrupt, inept government, sacrificed his life to make a statement. Will history see him as a patriot or terrorist? Depends on who is doing the writing.”
One photo of the smoldering Echelon Building wreckage on “Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee” simply says “THE MAN,” and one comment surmises that this is “the start of a blood revolt.”
Facebook’s free speech policy for groups promoting controversial messages can be murky. Last year, Facebook removed two Holocaust denial groups, saying that members were promoting hate speech, but let a number of other Holocaust denial groups remain.
Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities says that users are prohibited from “post[ing] content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” In the Holocaust denial cases last year, the application of this rule determined which groups stayed and which groups got shut down, but the line can be blurry: is writing “THE MAN” next to a picture of a smoking building a call for violence? It seems likely enough that Facebook will allow the Joe Stack groups to remain, given its stances in the past, but Facebook can be unpredictable in its application of that Rights and Responsibilities Rule 3.7.
Update: The Business Insider’s John Carney has the rundown on another group, “Joseph Andrew Stack,” which already has 146 members.
Mediaite has a copy of the anti-government note that Stack left on Embeddable Art before his death.