When I was your age, ramming a plane into an office building full of civilians with intent to murder them was considered an unjustifiable, evil action no matter what the politcal point you were trying to make

We really have recovered from 9/11. Back then, it would’ve been political suicide to say anything remotely sympathetic about Osama bin Laden’s anti-American-interventionist views, because mass murdering civilians was rightfully considered an inherently wrong way to make a political point.

Now, when Joe Stack flies a plane into an IRS building, a pro-military (the military still relies on IRS-gathered tax revenue to operate) and moral-absolutist (i.e. believing that there is such thing as right and wrong in this world, no matter the circumstances) Congressman can say, in a row-back apology for earlier remarks: I understand the deep frustration with [American civilian building targeted for murder to make a point against the American way of life].

Maybe the difference is that Stack only managed to kill one man (Vernon Hunter, an American serviceman who served two tours in Vietnam). If he had killed a thousand, maybe there’d be less room for moral equivocating. But it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt that if he had the resources, he wouldn’t have tried for a more destructive attack; after all, he burned his own house down and left his wife and family homeless.

I'm a programmer journalist, currently teaching computational journalism at Stanford University. I'm trying to do my new blogging at blog.danwin.com.