Kelley and I discuss the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and his life. We discuss how his anti-technology beliefs and extreme outlook resonate with events and radical, anti-government movements in this current day and age. And finally we explore what lessons can be learned by looking at this case in hindsight.
See the full video and transcript below. I edited the text slightly for clarity’s sake, just to remove filler words and put anything I forgot to say in.
- Intro – Who Is The Unabomber?
- Some key life moments
- Separation From Parents As A Baby
- Loneliness After Being Moved Forward A Year At School
- Psych Experiments For The CIA
- Sex Change Plans & First Desire To Kill (A Psychiatrist)
- First Parcel Bomb
- Plan To Kill A Date Who Broke Off Their Romance
- Offer to stop bombing for newspapers publishing his manifesto
- Contents of the manifesto
- Ethical justifications for guerrilla war
- Theory vs. Action
- Primitivists, Conspiracists & The Fascist Creep
- Prison Reform
- What lessons can we learn about how to do activism better?
- Extra Details We Didn’t Have Time To Cover
- More Details About The First Parcel Bomb
- Relief At Being Able To Kill People With His Bombs
- Further Reading
Intro – Who Is The Unabomber?
Theo: The unabomber was the nickname the FBI gave to an unknown serial killer who started out by sending mail-bombs to universities and airlines, so first letter of university, the two first letters of airlines, plus bomber to get unabomber.
He’s called a homegrown terrorist because he targeted places in the country he grew up, and:
“over the course of 17 years he planted or mailed at least 16 bombs. He killed 3 people and wounded 24. He wasn’t a religious fundamentalist, but he was a fundamentalist. His enemy was, essentially, modern society. He grew up in Chicago, attended Harvard, but he wound up living alone in a remote cabin in the Montana woods. He was arrested in 1996 after one of the most notorious and longest manhunts in history, and he was sentenced to life in prison.”
And I think he’s 75 now, so still alive, still pumping out letters and books, propagandizing for the primitivist revolution.
Kelley: Now, I’m really excited to kind of get into a little bit of what was going on inside of his brain, I’ve kind of unceremoniously titled this in my own head; ‘true crime meets political activism and how Ted got it wrong’.
So, there are some really good bones in what he has to say, but overall I dissected a few things and was really curious to get your opinion. But how did his life start out?
Theo: Well, he was privileged to be born into a middle class family in suburbia, and he had a family who really valued academic achievements and gave him lots of love and affection and put him on a path. He was very intelligent and scored really high in IQ tests and did well at school. Struggled a bit socially and we can go through different periods of his life where that gave him some trauma.
Kelley: Yeah, so let’s start there, like him as a baby because I didn’t know that part and I have some thoughts on that too, but I found that really fascinating.
Some key life moments
Separation From Parents As A Baby
Theo: Yeah, so this is a hard one because his mum tells this memory that’s really important to her that the baby Ted had hives and was very sick with it, so he needed to be in the hospital to be looked after, but because the nurses were short staffed and they couldn’t be looking after visitors coming in and out and making sure that the visitors were going where they need to go and stuff, they literally just did not at that period in time let visitors in to the baby ward.
So, he spent at least a week in hospital where he was getting seen to by nurses like changing and feeding him and stuff, but was not allowed to see his parents, he wasn’t allowed to even hear their voices and they said that he came out of that experience very emotionally withdrawn and rejecting them in terms of the emotional connection.
We have no way of knowing for sure if this had a lasting effect and it might just be a mothers worry that they did something wrong when their son was a baby and so at their most vulnerable.
Kelley: Well, I think she does use this as a way to try in her mind to explain some of this, but I did read a Washington post article where she had been talking about how:
“She can still see the photograph [mental picture] of her baby son, pinned down on his hospital bed. It offered what she now sees as a clue into how her oldest son grew into the troubled man he would become.”
He was terrified, spread-eagled so doctors could examine what they believed was a severe allergic reaction. His naked body was blotched with hives. His eyes, usually normal, were crossed in fear.”
So, you think about that time period and I think someone in the documentary series was saying that essentially “that if a baby is not able to bond with the mother” and Ted was only nine months old I think, then “there’s a chance of developing the psychopathy, so as a coping mechanism,” you know ‘I don’t feel anything, I don’t experience trauma’, but of course we know that’s not true, trauma is often the root of psychopathy forming in the first place.
So, that very well may have a small role to play here, but I mean it seems legitimate.
Theo: Yeah, definitely and I mean what’s interesting to think about is that that could have been traumatic for the parents as well, to have a baby rejecting you and it would take a skilled parent to not show that fear in their emotions with the baby and not have it create a lasting effect in your relationship with your child, every time the child rejects them as they get older, to not read into it that they’re withdrawing from them, and so there could be a shutting down there.
So, when you’re young it’s really important to form a secure attachment and if it’s not formed then it can be an insecure attachment in the form of avoidance or it can be insecure in the form of too clingy to their parents and rejecting the world, so there’s all kinds of ways that it could have manifested.
For example, there’s a really heart-wrenching psychological experiment researchers will do with parents and babies to in part to see to what degree the baby can form this emotionally secure attachment, and it’s that the parent will pull a completely blank straight face showing no emotion, and the baby will usually do everything it can to get the parents attention again, until it starts to look away because it can’t bare seeing the blank face anymore, to then trying to comfort themself by sucking their thumb, to finally when the parent re-engages emotionally, the baby usually crying out of stress relief and being reminded of the secure attachment available again.
So bringing that back to Ted, it must have been stressful for that week at least, having a rotation of nurses faces you don’t recognize just briefly engaging with him to feed and change him as a baby.
Kelley: Yeah and I do think that him growing up and from what I was learning about even just in primary school is that this was a super smart kid where there already feels like there’s the possibility of abandonment issues and a lack of trust, so I feel like what you’re gonna walk us through next is kind of Ted’s feeling of not belonging, not being like everyone else, it seems to be something that it can be traced back to that time in the hospital, the feeling of abandonment, not trusting you know he kind of already feels like an outsider and that’s also another kind of textbook description of how psychopathy forms.
Theo: Yeah or even just that it was a strained relationship with the parent, that the parent really wants to be attached, so as to never – in their mind – betray the baby again and to be able to have this really secure attachment, so being clingy and then if they ever saw any signs of Ted being problematic to people that they would play it down because they just really wanted to make sure that he was safe and developing okay, so in their mind they would justify some of the things they’d see as he just needs protection.
Kelley: I do think that it was the form of her making excuses for him, you know I think there was clear anger, there are certain stories that the brother David tells about you know some really jarring incidents that happened and I think there is that denial by at least the mother that it doesn’t have a deeper meaning and that she somehow is responsible for making him feel safe or I don’t know that could just be my opinion.
Theo: Yeah for sure and it’s just about teaching parents to know how to be open with their children, it’s problematic that she felt like she wasn’t a good parent, and it’s problematic that the kid maybe was picking up on that in a way, and so maybe he wasn’t developing a secure attachment, so I don’t know, it’s complicated.
Loneliness After Being Moved Forward A Year At School
So his parents were teaching him a lot, making sure that he was doing well at school and this was a source of pride for him to just focus all his mind on studying.
Then at some point the school just said we should put him forward a year because he’s obviously a lot further ahead than the pther kids and so he was skipped one year ahead and just went straight into another year above.
And, in his diaries or in interviews he always says that was really difficult for him, like an already socially awkward kid just not fitting into a year above him and so some alienation from society and the institutions that he was part of as a kid.
Psych Experiments For The CIA
So, moved forward a year in secondary school and then before he even finished school, he got accepted a year early into Harvard, the most prestigious school in the country, so he was arriving two years younger than most students in Harvard.
He was like having picnics on the grass on his own and just not really knowing how to make friends with people there. So, then he entered this psychological experiment with the most impressive psychology professor there, which wasn’t advertised as a psychology experiment, it was advertised as a place where you could debate professors and have your ideas received and reviewed. So he thought he was going to get a chance to have his ideas genuinely evaluated.
So he didn’t have many friends or any really strong friends at all at Harvard, but for the whole three years he was at Harvard he had these really intense sessions with professors which through his dedication to study, he really admired and valued them.
And they were testing to see how to play mind games with people in order to do advanced interrogations, it would later get used in Guantanimo Bay, they were studying how to break someone down and make them say what you want them to say, or make them say things you think they want to say deep down, but just madness. Basically the professors’ objective was to humiliate the student for the philosophy they held as most important to them.
Kelley: So, basically the intent is to make them question themselves on things that they feel they believe strongly.
And I mean part of me wants to know if his intention for you know being involved in the experiment in the first place was to maybe learn a little bit more about himself and his own social issues. And this ended up just compounding that and making it worse and adding to his feelings of humiliation or ineptitude which also then to me I found like a pattern that through his writing too that made me think of that.
But, do you think that this… well, I mean I don’t see how this could make a positive impact on a person, but I mean we have to study these things somehow, but he wrote a lot, he was super smart, he was so mathematically intelligent that it makes me feel a little nervous because I have a bad relationship with mathematics…
Theo: Yeah, he was excelling at maths and sciences because it was something you could do on your own and just really dedicate all your mind to. And he probably wasn’t reading political theory books, so he had some funny beliefs about, well to me, funny beliefs about primitivism and about how less less technology is good.
And he hadn’t yet decided that like we needed an anti-tech revolution or anything, maybe at this point he was against big cities and very systematized, atomized society, he liked the suburbia life that he came from and he didn’t like big metropolises.
Kelley: Something just sprung into my head and this is extremely personal, but I came from a home-schooling background and it was extremely oppressive, and then I got into college, I somehow was able to make the right score to get into college and that’s totally due to my older sister, but once I was there I cannot tell you…
I’m not going to draw a parallel between myself and Ted, but coming from somewhere where I had so much isolation, once I got to college, it was the most traumatic experience I think of my adult life because I had to suddenly have a roommate that I didn’t know who this person was, I didn’t know how to study for tests, I had only taken one test in my whole life, all of these things compounded around entering university for the first time that I think has exacerbated all of my personal anxieties.
And I feel like that is possibly a huge catalyst when you know you’re told that everybody’s social, you need to go out, you need to put yourself out there and let me tell you that’s one of the worst things I ever did for myself because I was like maybe you just don’t know what fun is, maybe you just need to put yourself in these uncomfortable situations because that’s what everybody else is doing.
And as somebody who’s an introvert it was not a fun period of life and it was constantly feeling inadequate in social situations, so I can sort of see a glimpse into the mind of someone who kind of wanted some normalcy but just couldn’t quite get there, I don’t know that just jumped in my head.
Theo: No, for sure, like he didn’t know whether he fitted in and he probably had the same feeling of wearing feeling like he was wearing different people’s clothing, like trying out different identities. So, with the professors, he would have been asking questions that maybe come from a naive place, like we’ve all just lived through 4 years of Trump where he would do things like suggest injecting bleach into your body at a news conference, so people have these weird ideas where they haven’t fully thought through the consequences. And he was probably connecting that to psychology and why he didn’t fit in, and why he felt alienated.
So, he would have been using these arguments to test them out with the professors and see what they thought and all that time he was just on a highly regimented program, where they’d pretend we agree with you for a bit and then we’re gonna tear you down, so yeah just not nice to say the least.
Kelley: I mean the whole idea of a university setting, it’s also jarring when you know I think a lot of his early ideas could have been formed in that moment, probably more strongly than others as far as everybody kind of looking like sheep, you know everybody does the same things, everybody’s a part of this system and one that he didn’t feel a part of and one that he maybe felt alienated from and started to resent. I think those ideas probably started to really solidify during this period.
Theo: Yeah and what friends he did have in university would say that during different periods of the experiment he would just never eat dinner with them or if they would try to sit down with him he would just be so angry with himself and the people around him that he’d just take himself off back to the room and spend as little time as around people as possible.
Sex Change Plans & First Desire To Kill (A Psychiatrist)
Theo: Ok, so next if you like we can talk about dates and romance, and how that affected his emotional development.
To start with there’s one example of him chatting to a woman in the university library and her giving him her number, but then he’d write in his diary that he couldn’t get up the nerve to call, so his defense mechanism for being so anxious, trying to call and not feeling like he was able to, was to chastise himself for spending so much time worrying about connecting ‘with some dumb woman’, so his feelings of inadequacy projected onto an identity class of less powerful people like women and later gay people.
Then he started to have sexual fantasies of becoming a woman, I think because he didn’t know how to have relationships with women, so he wanted to explore desires for women which he hadn’t had the space to learn to understand. I definitely don’t think it was out of any felt emergence that he was a woman. They’re called autoerotic fantasies, where you get turned on imaging how other people will view you in different situations, and it can be as common as when you’re imagining yourself in a situation where someone is admiring a specific item of clothing you’re wearing that make you feel confident.
So anyway, he made an appointment to go see the university psychologist and at the last minute decided he didn’t want to talk about having a sex change or his sexual fantasies.
And he writes in his diary that this is when the first desire to kill happened;
“I felt disgusted about what my uncontrolled sexual cravings had almost led me to do. And I felt humiliated, and I violently hated the psychiatrist. Just then there came a major turning point in my life. Like a Phoenix, I burst from the ashes of my despair to a glorious new hope. . . . So, I said to myself, why not really kill that psychiatrist and anyone else whom I hate. . . I will kill, but I will make at least some effort to avoid detection, so that I can kill again.”
So the psychology experiments for the CIA and this humiliating experience with the psychologist, turned into hateful resentment for a society that he felt had made him confused and depressed.
Then a desire to carefully plan his murders and pick targets he thought some people would intellectually admire him for picking, as in his eyes the evilest people deserving of fighting a guerrilla war against. Which could be seen as a way of getting the validation he didn’t get from friends as a child on his own terms, for being special and intelligent enough to have discovered all these connections and go after the worst offenders.
As well as a desire to rebel against social alienation and mediocrity, a fear of the harder task of finding meaning with others, that there’s no special meaning given to your life for just being you.
Kelley: And I think it’s interesting that he did write so much because I think there would be a lot of unanswered questions if we didn’t have a lot of his writing. And I think part of that confusion is… I think one of his neighbors or somebody in in the documentary had talked about how he just clearly hated women and I think it all comes back to that theme of inadequacy and self-loathing and those patterns that he seems to have turned on everybody else at this point in in his writings that I find very interesting.
Theo: Yeah, and we see that today with InCel (involuntarily celibate) terrorists driving their van into people and having this whole worldview they’ve built where they gather on places like 4chan and reddit, where there’s these ‘Chads and Stacies’ and how they’re oppressed because women aren’t traditional enough anymore, so yeah it’s a weird phenomenon.
Kelley: And a way of deflection, as well. So, I mean I’m always talking about mental health like any time that I can and growing up with someone who’s schizophrenic and extremely abusive it’s one of those things where you can see the pattern and you can see it worsening at a certain period of time in life, where there’s certain some traumatic event.
And just thinking about the person that I knew before and during and after it’s like if only that person had gotten the help that they needed, you know he seems to be such an intelligent guy with deep feeling, but extremely damaged. So, I think we as a society are getting a little bit smarter about catching these things and being a little bit more open and embracing of handling our issues with mental health and therapy and things of that nature.
Theo: Yeah definitely, if only people had felt able to be open about their mental health problems like this would this would have been a time when people it would have been like it would have been like the worst thing in the world to come out as having depression even. You would worry about your social standing among your neighbors, that maybe you wouldn’t be invited around for dinner parties.
As well, I’m jumping forwards a bit here, but he gave a letter to his brother that explained how he had thought about killing this other woman and his brother just thought it was like a psychological break, he thought it wasn’t serious. So there’s not enough understanding about mental health and the mental institutes and prisons I’d imagine were even worse back then, you would never want to do that to your brother, make the police aware and then put him through that system, if you don’t think he’s gonna be violent in the future, if you make that judgment, then it’s a scary thing to think with our past or even current system that you’d have to turn someone over to exist in this horrible prison system.
Kelley: Well, not just that but I do remember his brother David saying how his mother had told him the story of Ted as baby and how she had kind of put responsibility on his shoulders as well, to always look out for and take care of and protect his brother. And he was always just like ‘well yeah, I love him, why would I not’. So there is all of this enabling being done by his family.
And of course that is a time like both of my parents grew up in, where talking about mental health was taboo, which is why my mom has still been completely adamant about not admitting to anything and not seeing someone for help. It’s like this ultimate shame to have to admit that there’s an issue there, so then you have all these people around you enabling you, it’s kind of giving you free reign to keep going.
Theo: Yeah that’s really sad. So, yeah I mean the brothers had a really interesting relationship, the connection between siblings in general is something really unique, there was a weird case of sisters running in front of traffic that went viral and it was because they had schizophrenia and were spending lots of time around each other, confirming each other’s psychosis beliefs. And then there’s the case of the marathon bombers, where the older brother encouraged the younger brother into throwing his life away at a young age. So these are examples at the extreme fringes, but it just shows to me how powerful sibling relationships can be.
So Ted and his brother David would spend a lot of time with their dad out camping in the wilderness from a young age, and they’d been taught in bushcraft, so they saw survivng by their own wits as a really special experience, and would go off to camp on their own at a young age and eventually both build cabins, but at opposite ends of the country.
And then David started to settle down and not visit his cabin as much, but Ted’s idea was always to move move permanently off grid and he hoped that David would do that as well and would justify it for the same reasons of being anti-tech, but at some point their ideas split.
One interesting example of this was after he came back from Harvard David noticed this difference in Ted, where before they were bouncing ideas off each other and being very interested in what each other had to say, but that after the psych experiments maybe he was just very dismissive and very ruthless towards his ideas and putting them down.
So, I mean it’s a good thing there was a split in terms of David not following his path, but it would have been more ideal if Ted had not had followed David.
First Parcel Bomb
Kelley: Well tell me a little bit more about his early ideology and let us know how this whole manifesto ended up being published and then we can go into more of our own personal thoughts about his ideology.
Theo: Sure, so we’ve talked about how he valued wilderness and surviving on your own, and then how he justified his desire to kill after seeing the university psychiatrist about his sexual fantasies and feeling humiliated in that place, so connecting psychiatrists to the psychology experiments maybe and anyone else he hated, so institutions like university that he felt had betrayed him and what universities stand for in terms of intellectual and technological progress.
Then, he took on a professorship in order to earn enough money to go and build the cabin in Montana and he once he’d been living out there for a bit, he told someone in a prison letter that he wrote in his diary the reason he first planned to kill through building a parcel bomb, so he just talks about gong for a walk and wanting to be at peace in the wilderness and enjoying all the sounds of the forest, but then coming across a new road being build close to his cabin which enraged him, so he wrote in his diary:
“[…] and then I returned home as quickly as I could because I have something to do!”
and then he in the prison letter to he wrote:
“You can guess what it was that I had to do.”
Which was getting scrap from neighbors garages and building these pipe bombs in his cabin.
So, he’d gone from having sexual fantasies about becoming a woman to provide him some relief at the frustration at not being able to find intimacy with people, to writing about and realizing fantasies about killing people to provide him relief at people setting off his insecurities and making him angry, in this case not letting him find peace in the wilderness.
That was his first parcel bomb, and it’s really weird, it was found in the car-park of a University with the return address of an Engineering professor their, so maybe he had walked around the university wanting to enjoy soaking in the experience of the place he was taking revenge on, but why it was left in the car-park and why with a return address I don’t know, because obviously the person would know they didn’t send it, which is what happened, he reported it to campus police who opened it and received minor injuries.
And he would travel by coach out of the cabin in order to place these parcel bombs because I think he knew that the postal system could be tracked, so he was posting the package in random places around America they they wouldn’t be able to connect back to the cabin or him.
And in this first trip out of the cabin to place this bomb he visited his family home, as well to earn some money to sustain him living out in the cabin, he worked at the same foam-cutting factory where his father and brother worked.
Plan To Kill A Date Who Broke Off Their Romance
Theo: He briefly dated a female supervisor at the factory, but the woman cut off the relationship after a few dates. Ted responded by posting crude limericks about her on sticky-notes all around the factory walls.
His brother Dave, who worked part time as a night supervisor, confronted Ted in the storage room. It was a turning point in their relationship.
Dave remembered this as a really tragic event, where he said he remembered Ted ‘looking at him like a friend’, but that “by the time I got done speaking to him, he was all shut down.”
So, David was saying to him, if you put any more of these notes up you’re going to get fired.
And the next day, Ted walked up to the machine where Dave was working and posted another insulting note right in front of him and said
“Are you going to fire me now?” Ted defiantly asked.
Heartbroken, Dave replied, “Yes, Ted. Go home.”
Ted did, shutting himself in his room for days. Dave worried he had forced some sort of “psychological break.”
Ted eventually knocked on Dave’s bedroom door and handed him a letter. “I’ll show this to you, only on the condition that you don’t discuss this with me,” Ted said.
It was a note Ted intended to send to the woman, explaining himself. It was an apology of sorts, but it also contained the disturbing claim that Ted was so enraged that he had waited in the woman’s car with a knife, planning to mutilate her. In the end, Ted wrote, he couldn’t do it.
Attacking someone face to face proved too much for him.
Kelley: And once again I think that probably made him extremely angry, if that is true and if indeed he did sit in the back of her car and wait for her and then sort of chicken out, that would add more to the fuel to his fire of feeling inadequate and like he just couldn’t do anything, so I think that could also play a part.
But, I was going to ask you, so going forward from that point, what is the basis for the targets that he chose because of course we know about his overall arching mistrust of technology and the industrial revolution, so how did that play a role in who he chose to send bombs to?
Theo: Yeah, so I can tell you about what he talked about afterwards in prison, about what he’s propagandizing other people do now, and then I can backtrack to maybe what he was thinking then, like now he’s arguing that people should take down electricity grids and target the scientists at the cutting edge of like biotech & nanotech science and engineering because they’re leading progress in technology and so they’re symbols.
But, he talked in an interview about how at the beginning of his bombing campaign, he didn’t even know there were environmentalists out there taking direct action. So, I think he was thinking that he was picking really good targets that some people would intellectually admire him for or at least he admired himself for picking, but it wasn’t political for him, it was anti-technology, it was about destroying the technological system. For example, even though he might have desired to be a hermit in the forest, he knew that the furthest back we could reasonably get to would be a level of technology akin to what we had in the middle ages of people with swords and arrows.
So, that’s where he focused his critique and action, on desiring to destroy assembly lines & electricity grids to make it so people are forced into a situation of survival where it’s not reasonable to try and rebuild electricity grids and factories.
So the environmentalist journals like earth first monkey wrenching manuals and newsletters he’d find on his travels were in part a convenient post hoc rationalization. His early bombs, like the attempting to blow up a jetliner because of the frustration he felt with planes flying over his cabin were more akin to the plan he had to kill a romantic interest. They couldn’t in any way be rationally thought of as strategic targets even for the evil goal he propagandizes for now, and according to his pen pal John Zerzan he renounced that attack, for that reason.
It is rationalized by eco-fascists groups that he inspired, some of whom are now extinctionists and just leave bombs in public places with the desire to wipe out all humans for being ‘species traitors’ to other animals and the wild. And it’s interesting no note that Ted in prison has critiqued the sometimes random attacks of these groups and argued to the extent they are organizing with others should be working to bring about a primitivist revolution in going after riskier targets like electricity grid stations. But it’s almost as if these groups feel being able to do random attacks is what’s owed to them by being free and that to listen to Ted now would be helping serve his needs as a theorist from prison, to the detriment of their own desires.
And he does have a lot of similarities with these eco-fascists, like he’s talked about how he thinks primitivists should reach out to groups like al qaeda and see if any co-operation can be found there, which is similar to a white seperatist talking point, in that they can have their little backward mono-culture dictatorship over there, and we can have ours over here. And he’s acted as a stepping stone for left-anarchist groups to go from the far-left to the far-right.
Kelley: Well lead us up to because I have some choice things to to say about what I read of his writing that really struck a chord with me, but I was curious to see the timeline from there until he got caught and then what his demands were. I don’t want to jump the gun or anything, but over how many years did his bombing campaign last?
Theo: 17 years, yeah because he had a break for a long time, but yeah 17 years in total.
Kelley: So he did a relatively decent job at covering his tracks for a while, so what ended up being kind of the downfall of that.
Offer to stop bombing for newspapers publishing his manifesto
Theo: Yeah right, so for anyone who didn’t know, he offered to stop bombing if newspapers would publish his manifesto.
He’d already written papers to universities advocating this anti-tech philosophy under his real name, but the FBI were still chasing leads imagining that he was some kind of wood fetishist, not that he was this primitivist wanting to take down the leaders of technological progress.
But, he wanted a wider readership, so he made this offer to stop bombing if newspapers would print his manifesto. I don’t think it was a genuine offer, he had made a bomb after they’d already published it. So, I think the bomb making was his anger and frustration and that was always going to carry on, he wasn’t gonna be able to keep his word. So, I don’t know whether he even made the offer genuinely believing he would stop making bombs.
Anyway, he wrote a letter to the New York Times saying, well, this is his propagandizing, he’s putting on like a voice of a revolutionary. He says:
“We are getting tired of making bombs. It’s no fun having to spend all your evenings and weekends preparing dangerous mixtures, filing trigger mechanisms out of scraps of metal or searching the sierras for a place isolated enough to test a bomb.”
That’s him trying to mislead the investigation as well, like he would write letters to victims owning up to being the perpetrator, and dropped hints to throw the FBI off, for example pretending to be a person who hadn’t gone to university, but luckily the FBI saw through that and only helped their profile of him, that he was more likely university educated than not.
Kelley: And part of an actual movement, ‘we’re this group of people’.
Theo: Yeah, that’s a funny & sad irony because he was so alone. Anyway he said:
“So we offer a bargain. We have a long article, between 29,000 and 37,000 words, that we want to have published. If you can get it published according to our requirements we will permanently desist from terrorist activities.”
Theo: And that led to his arrest because as a result his brother recognized his writing in the manifesto, and of course his borther knew where he was because he had helped build his cabin.
Like we talked about earlier he lived a life close to nature himself, but wasn’t fundamentalist about it in the way Ted was and so Ted had written lots of ranting letters to him about his wife having changed him and how he felt betrayed by that. He’d also written lots of diaries which were at his parents home and an earlier draft of the manifesto, so as soon as the FBI profiler got that, they knew they had the right person. Through a new science of linguistic comparison.
Contents of the manifesto
Theo: Shall we talk a bit about what manifesting contained?
Kelley: Yeah, that would be great.
Theo: So, it starts with “the industrial society and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race” and then that pretty much is the motto of the whole essay.
It lays very detailed blame on technology for destroying human scale communities,
So, referring to how our psychology is still linked to hunter-gatherer times, where a tribe would maybe split into bands of 150 people because it was the only way we could maintain healthy relationships with all those people.
He contends the Industrial Revolution harmed the human race by developing into a sociopolitical order that subjugates human needs beneath its own. This system, he wrote, destroys nature and suppresses individual freedom. In short, humans adapt to machines rather than vice versa, resulting in a society hostile to human potential.
He indicts technological progress with the destruction of small human communities and rise of uninhabitable cities controlled by an unaccountable state. He contends that this relentless technological progress will not dissipate on its own because individual technological advancements are seen as good despite the sum effects of this progress. Kaczynski describes modern society as defending this order against dissent, in which individuals are adjusted to fit the system and those outside it are seen as bad. This tendency, he says, gives rise to expansive police powers, mind-numbing mass media, and indiscriminate promotion of drugs. He criticizes both big government and big business as the ineluctable result of industrialization, and holds scientists and “technophiles” responsible for recklessly pursuing power through technological advancements.
He argues that this industrialized system’s collapse will be devastating and that quickening the collapse will mitigate the devastation’s impact. He justifies the trade-offs that come with losing industrial society as being worth the cost. Kaczynski’s ideal revolution seeks not to overthrow the government but the economic and technological foundation of modern society. He seeks to destroy existing society and protect the wilderness, the antithesis of technology.
Kelley: Yeah, I find it super interesting because for instance in the documentary series there’s a gentleman I think he was some kind of scholar or professor who was talking about how if you were reading it on its own it’s not necessarily going to be something that’s going to start shocking you immediately, there’s some really good points being made. But, I got through the first three pages and had so many notes I was like well I can’t just dissect this whole thing because there’s just not enough time, but I do I agree with the gentleman that there are some really good points that are made and valid points that if any other individual were making them wouldn’t seem shocking.
So, in a sense I agree with his sense of urgency to act when he’s talking about how technology is speeding up the process of the destruction of the natural world around us. For instance, in his introduction he articulated, pretty intelligently I think, that “technology has greatly increased the life expectancy of those of us who live in advanced countries, but they have destabilized society, made life unfulfilling, subjected human beings to indignities, led to widespread psychological suffering” and then he also said “it will certainly subject human being to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world.”
All true, all very true okay, but what I start to have problems with in my opposition to that would be that technology is going to continue to progress, it’s progressing extremely quickly and I think that we have to turn our attention to utilizing technology to turn some of these things around and to help salvage our planet because we’ve come this far, no one is just going to go back to that monastic lifestyle and drop all of technology and just live off the grid, we already know that there’s just no way that that’s gonna really happen, so I don’t know what you think about that?
Theo: Yeah, well the world could only possibly sustain a 100 million people as living as hunter-gatherers and we’re at seven, almost eight billion now, so it’s an argument for genocide basically, but, yeah technology is this pandora’s box, you can try to force one country not to have some technology, but if there’s no inherent harm to it, and other countries are using it to out-compete them in efficiency, democracies are going to cave to that pressure, so I think better to regulate it, than try force no one to use it.
So, primitivists can have lots of good critiques about psychology and social alienation, and it can be very tantalizing because it’s this all encompassing simple principle that you can apply to all things, but then they apply that critique even to every single other strategy of moving away from this status quo, so they’re incredibly self-destructive to every political movement they’re a part of because they will critique even the most ardently principled far-left utopian as not being principled enough in desiring to set aside ‘only’ 50% of the planet for wildlife habitat or something, and ‘only’ not allowing cars within cities. They’ll critique that as still oppressive towards people’s individual freedom, imagining that anyone who would even want to live a low-tech lifestyle is indoctrinated.
So, yeah I see lots of holes in the argument for primitivism, for instance ‘Kaczynski’ says that primitive man can deal with the harsh realities of primitive life stoically, but there’s no reason why we can’t just deal with technology stoically and so, find ways of having a balance between living a low-impact lifestyle, but also being able to pour our passions into a technical job if we if we desire to do it and if it’s a democratically organised workers co-op with low work-hours, etc.
Kelley: Well I think one thing that really strikes me is, well, I try my best to stay away from politics because most people don’t love my politics, but when he says that; “this is not to be a political revolution, its object will be to overthrow not governments, but the economic and technological basis of the present society.” To me, unfortunately I think he’s viewing this from a perspective that’s purely from the 90s and before because if you look at today’s climate and everything in this current stage of history we find ourselves enmeshed in both a political and economic related revolution.
At least here in the states anyway and I’m sure everywhere big business interests invest so much money in buying our politicians, just look at the whole Joe Mansion scandal with the oil industry recently, all that news is coming out, but just knowing that it’s so enmeshed that you really can’t separate the two, and so any revolution in my head would have to look like a complete dismantling of the way money is allowed to be used in government decision making.
So, there’s too much corruption for us all as citizens to be able to go live lifestyles like he was living, it’s still not going to stop corporations, it’s not going to stop people from working for these corporations. Kaczynski believes that a violent war should be waged against big industry and technology, but I see the root of much-needed change needing to be made in our political system first, taking the big money out of politics, the bribery, lobbying and corporate donations, etc. That’s where we should be focusing our energies and motivations to change it, instead of becoming angry withdrawn and anti-social. There’s a way to get our voices out there to make change happen, but the system that we’re in right now it’s making too many people comfortable at the top that it’s not going to change if you send bombs to people, it’s just going to solidify that stronger for them.
Theo: Yeah, it’s a recipe for provoking fear in even the working class, and fear leads people to want protection and so will even desire more punitive policing.
So yeah, there’s all kinds of like philosophical justifications that people will like fall into to think this way, like for Ted it was that the longer you leave technology developing, the worse the collapse will be when it comes, so, if the collapse is inevitable, you need to provoke it to happen sooner as a kind of altruistic act, so ends justifying the means logic.
But, yeah I just see that causing more chaos, so more environmental inefficiency and then and even if you could bring down electricity grids worldwide, industrial revolutions happening again and causing even worse environmental problems.
Kelley: Well, one last thing that just stuck out to me as an overall theme to his writing is how he views leftists as emasculated, self-loathing pansies and to me therein lies the danger of lumping all of the radical left into the same category because there’s so many different tendencies, it’s like a web.
It’s something that we do very well as a society, we like to put people in boxes and groups, and categorize them all as the same thing and I think he hits correctly identifies important problems within the left, and he knows it so well but more because it’s a reflection of his own feelings of inferiority towards himself.
So when he says:
By “feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits; low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have some such feelings (possibly more or less repressed) and that these feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.
All of that just seems like you’re just taking a quick look at yourself and writing it down because I think people who tend to be damaged in this way have a difficult time of seeing that within themselves, but everybody else has that problem.
I think though that some of it does ring true and that’s the last thing I’ll say about the manifesto is that I see kind of the opposite coming out and it’s giving me a lot of hope for the future, which you can see in people like Bernie Sanders or AOC or Rasheeda Talib, among many, many others I see recently who have a strong and passionate voice and are unyielding to corporate greed and these powers that be. They’re finally putting their their money where their mouth is and that’s important, we need more people like that to be filling up our government spaces, but you know that doesn’t seem to be just a load of self-loathing pansy who think they have to be politically correct you know? I think you have on both sides irritating things that people tend to fall back on and political correctness on the left, you know everybody has to be validated, but I do think it’s one of those things where he may have a slight point there, but I’m a little curious about where he would come down currently about what’s happening in the world, or at least the united states in the past year to four years, like where would he be in all of this, I have a few thoughts but what do you what do you think?
Theo: Yeah I mean I just think far-right, I mean it’s a weird one, fascism is this psychology of hate, it’s not theory-based, have you heard of atom-waffen division, it’s this weird neo-nazi terror group who want to attack nuclear power stations in order to cause enough chaos in the world to have everything go to shit, so that can build up their new thousand year Reich from the ashes they really value Kaczynski because they’re envisioning this primitive life that they’ll have to lead to which will refine them in such a way that they’ll be the best ones to lead people out of the chaos they created.
And that’s very similar to many primitivists, it’s this contempt for the disabled and the people that will die in a primitive world. So, they both have the same founding premise that there are this large segment of the population who are holding back another segment, they just focus on scape goating different groups.
As for the ‘sensative left’ accusation, that can be harmful, but I’m also seeing that be pushed back against with the so called ‘dirtbag left’ using comedy in debates as a weapon again. Also, as well as no bullshit socialist politicians, the more inter-connected we get, the more we’re getting news from and travelling internationally, the more brave campaigners internationally are feeding into our politics on the left. So, I’d like to see Ted try to form an argument critiquing the Internationalists who went out to fight with the Kurds against ISIS.
Ethical justifications for guerrilla war
Kelley: I can’t help but think about… there’s something that I saw that you had written that made me think in this direction… you were talking about how if someone had been able to assassinate Hitler early on, it goes into that… do you want to explain that thought that you had?
Theo: Yeah, so depending on different time periods you live in, people can be more or less sympathetic to different direct actions, so for instance, I think most people would agree that anyone who took it upon themselves to assassinate Hitler a day before the break out of WW2 would be seen as committing an ethical act, no matter who follows, because throwing a wrench into the cult of personality spell built around Hitler would be a significant set back for the fascist state’s grip over the people. And given all the evidence pointing to the inevitability of war, such an act could easily be seen as a necessary preemptive act.
So, yeah there’s a whole spectrum of justifications for direct action going from civil disobedience, to revolutionary direct action and sometimes it is a slippery slope, where there’s groups who have bought into like some dire election tactics here and then because of Kaczynski’s writing have begun to feel fine being a terroristic force, because maybe they think the state is terrorizing people like in Guantanamo Bay like or even going back to Vietnam, dropping white phosphorus on villages, so saying if the state is going to be this terrorizing force against people, then people should be allowed to act as a terrorizing force back against those state actors.
But, so long as there are ways to inspire people to your cause during democratic peacetime, I think you have stick to those non-violent tactics, as soon as you start to see people as the problem, instead of the systems that create people, then you’ve gone over to the right, in that you think the only solution is to hurt one group of people, to save another.
Kelley: Yeah, and when I think about what the practical reality of Ted’s vision would be like if it existed and the closest thing that my mind can think of is a dictatorship much like North Korea, where everything is shut down, we don’t know what’s going on, there’s a certain stringent story that everybody is being told and everything is highly regulated in that you’re not allowed to be seen using advanced technology, so to me I think it correlates a little bit with North Korea.
And I’ve read that we have people like spies or military in place there, that if we so desired we could take out Kim Jong-Un. So, with that in mind, it’s like well everybody wants to ask why don’t you do it right now? But you know, in addition to all of the complexities that that would kind of kick off, even if that is the right thing to do, I mean you’ve got people starving, you have people you know being mass murdered, it’s almost like another holocaust happening, but we just don’t know the extent of it. I’m sure our government does know, but it’s just so locked down, I think one thing that we can’t disregard is the fact that the US specifically, we’re not going to act upon a moral imperative and I’m not trying to sound super depressing here, but we’re not going to act on a moral imperative of bringing down oppressive dictatorships due to the fact that taking action would save lives, it’s gonna be more of an economic thing. If they don’t have oil, it’s not something we care about, so we like to use this moral imperative ‘well we had to invade Iraq because of blank blank’, no it’s it comes down to middle east equals oil, and we want that oil, so what does he have to say that’s going to explain all of that, that I think our society is forever driven by not just technology but by money and what we can get out of it.
Theo: Yeah and the CIA had a report where they advocated that we put the Baathist party back back in power after we’d taken over, their advice was that the problem with the Baath party wasn’t that it was a horrible, authoritarian regime, it was that Saddam Hussein wasn’t doing what America wanted them to do, so remove Saddam, but keep all the people who carried out his evil commands in power.
So, Ted is cheer-leading ISIS and the kind of reaction that comes as a result of these imperial blunders, but it’s not cheer on a useful opposition to America for their own people, who can create a better society, it’s cheer just chaos in hopes of getting back to primitive hunter-gatherer life.
Kelley: That’s what it seems like to me and that’s where my confusion lies because it’s hard to imagine that if chaos were allowed to just tear everything down, then somehow we’d get back to a better way of living, it just sounds like a dystopian nightmare. I’d rather live in the walking dead than that.
Theo: Yeah, it’s weird, people will get bought into this ideology by getting scared of the news and being sure that a collapse will come and it’ll just be inevitable anyway and so they need to prepare and they need to encourage other people to hold this philosophy, and hold this like idea of needing to get ready to defend their area from starving masses.
Theory vs. Action
Theo: For Kaczynski, how he rationalizes it is he definitely didn’t like mass movements, he had a disgust for the university elite’s ideology disconnected from the world. Had the desire to share with the world some useful philosophical theory and some not so useful action killing various people to do with technology, but because his childhood was about being forced to conform to an ideal of academic success at the expense of mental health and community, he thought he was only one of few people who had woken up to the downside of this conformity, so no mass movement of people breaking with the system was possible.
But I think that idea in itself reveals a naivety about human potential and a naive optimism about an elite underclass who will always be willing enough to risk their lives to tear down industrial society, to even stop it re-emerging if it ever could be destroyed.
To an extent social movement membership is tied to events which are hard to predict, like the children who grew up in the formerly fascist countries after WW2 formed the most active left wing militant movements, which can be understood to be in part an anger at their parents generation for buying into fascism. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just about learning those lessons, to counsel people to take only the actions which are ethical and the consequences they are comfortable living with, to make the movement as sustainable as possible.
And obviously sometimes getting caught isn’t a total loss to the movement, the publicity received for a worthwhile act of civil disobedience, like for a Nelson Mandela can be a net gain, but it does have to be a struggle people can sympathize with.
I just don’t see people being inspired by primitivist terror attacks ever catching on as this even minor movement.
Primitivists, Conspiracists & The Fascist Creep
Kelley: And with primitivists in general, what do you think is the most important thing for people to know about his beliefs in that department.
Theo: Well, just that it’s a really bad rabbit hole to get down, like you get techno-skeptics and conspiracists on all sides of the political spectrum, and you can even get centrists conspiracy theorists who just think everything would be fine and we could go back to the normal centrist status quo, if only it wasn’t for this big tech shadow government.
But to the extent there are these irrational rabbit holes people can fall down anywhere on the political spectrum, they can act as a kind of wormhole which fast tracks people to diametrically opposite political positions.
So how this can happen on the far-left is if you’re struggling with the contradictions of having say a personal trauma which leads you to primitivism plus a kind of far-leftism which isn’t inherently against people finding value in highly technical work. So, you might be worried that you could be overthrowing the current government, but will still be socially alienated from a demeaning factory work job, that is just slightly more democratic. And then from that point, find more common cause with anarcho-capitalists for just desiring to hoard what they can and kill anyone who comes onto their property, or fascists who want to hoard all the wealth for white people say.
So yeah and that’s definitely happened with the Unabomber inspiring groups to jump from left to fascist far right terrorists.
Kelley: Well before we talk about prison reform real quick, I do want to just say, I see a lot of what he talks about through here, as stuff that I saw as pretty accepted thought processes for a lot of the families that I grew up with in the home-schooling community. Where they became more isolationist, and just had a total mistrust of the government, and the whole concept of the quiverful movement I grew up in where it’s about having as many kids as possible to raise up for god’s army.
And the whole implication behind that is what he’s talking about is to rise up, and a lot of people don’t see the evangelical right as being a big problem, but they’ve gotten their roots in deep and when you have people who are living off the grid. I know a family that had like 12 kids and the mom never went to the hospital for any of the kids, they were all born without birth certificates, one of them is grown up now and he was talking about that process and it was just incredible to me that this kind of extremism and I feel like his words are kind of precursors to everything I saw and their fear of y2k and the bunkers, and I’m like this is insanity, they’re preparing for something and nobody who would meet these families would think these people have a bunker and they’re getting ready for this weird war or for the apocalypse or whatever.
It’s a strange thing once you’ve been around people of that extremism, to ignore it and to discount it in any way because I see it as being still pretty strong and I’m just surprised that well I’m really lucky that I got out of it but there’s just a shocking amount of people who I know of who this would speak to really deeply, like they would really connect with these ideas.
Theo: Yeah there is that really strong us versus them in some parts of the world, especially with religion, kids growing up with the fear that even doubting your own community would be an insult to god. It’s a hard one, like we really need more auditors checking kids are learning to a high standard if they’re being home-schooled and are not just being indoctrinated. But, also just leading by example in forming home-schooling networks and meeting other families at gatherings where other parents can hopefully be inspired by how emotionally and intellectually developed your kids are and what’s working for you.
What’s at the root of a desire for a primitive way of life is often a desire for a more innocent time in one’s childhood,
Some activities connecting you to feelings you had as a child can be absolutely essential though, like the joy of experimentation where you can more easily enjoy the wonder of a forest by making up which path you’ll take as you go along.
Part of recruiting people to our political side on environmental protest sites, was turning the camp into an action playground with low down walkways for people to practice on, for people to get in touch with their younger/animal self again.
Kelley: OK, so yeah I’ve talked about prison reform before on our podcast and it’s something I feel really strongly about, so I mean it’s not the least important thing we’re talking about, even though it is sort of the last thing we are covering, but what are your thoughts about how this story kind of plays into that theme.
Theo: Yeah, so I mean I thought it might be interesting to end on where he is at the end of his life, to just think about how he’s still alive, he’s still where he is now and question what his life is like?
He said a really interesting thing in an interview which was that he worries that he will acclimatize to prison life and it will just become his new normal. And I wonder, I would love to see like psychological evaluations on him in prison and over the years and whether he has found more peace of mind or not.
So, he wanted to be a hermit, who could read a lot of books undisturbed in a very small 1 room cabin and take short breaks to bathe in the beauty of the forest. Now he had a perfectionist mindset about desiring to find mental well-being in the forest, which was never being disturbed by other people. So it’s interesting to note that short of buying vast acres of wildlife habitat for him, guarding it so no one can get in and not letting planes fly over head, we’ve pretty much helped him achieve the next best thing in a prison cell as far as he is a manifestation of his traumas.
The same is true for violent people who get to extort and be violent with other prison inmates without much consequence.
And I think that presents a really interesting problem for conservatives who like to think prison is retribution, because sometimes prison can be what the traumatized person desires, so they don’t have to wrestle with as much choice. And that although that may only be true of a minority of people, it can be reflective of emotional states of mind within the majority of us.
So the only real solution for me is not to be satisfied with giving traumatized people to an extent emotionally what they want, but to heal the trauma and learned patterns of behavior that lead them to that point in their life.
Kelley: I like that you put it that way because in my mind what I’ve just been seeing so much of and learning about at least the US incarceration system is that most people see it as a punishment whereas the whole idea of prison is supposed to be reforming people and putting them in a place where when they are released they’re not going to go back and continue on that same path that there’s going to be other options, but we’ve done it in a way where it’s not about that anymore it’s about purely just putting someone away, punishing them and like ‘you get what you’re deserved’ and then that doesn’t help the recidivism.
How they’re pretty much set on a path to just repeat rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat and we don’t give any thought towards their mental health or you know really using this as an opportunity to impact. Some people of course are so violent or just so far gone that they’re not really somebody who’s ever gonna live in society again, like there’s certain things that I understand can’t happen, but it is such a problem and there is such an issue with even prisoners rights, we’re seeing that right now with covid, all these stories coming out now about there not being heat or people having heat strokes in the summertime.
I think there’s like a prison in Texas that doesn’t have any air conditioning and the warden sees it as a ‘well this is what you deserve’ even though they could afford to do it. So, we’re just treating them as less than human beings, so what do we expect in return, you’re kind of pushing them continuously further in the direction that brought them there in the first place and that’s a huge issue that I don’t think we like to talk about.
Theo: Yeah, slavery is still legal in in the constitution for incarcerated people, which tells you everything about what status we treat these people as, people are pressured into work in prison which pays a lot of money because they can undercut the market because they can get their products made so cheaply.
So, yeah there’s really simple holes in people’s arguments when they think like even for liberals who think we’re sorting out the trauma in temporarily holding them in prisons, like yeah okay, you’ve solved temporarily them not hurting as many people, but are you actually going to do anything to heal the trauma? Are you going to put any therapeutic measures in place as preventative measures or not because your economy can’t see the short-term benefit in helping people, but if you actually look long-term you prevent way more crime and create a more healthy robust society because you actually get people on a good path.
Kelley: One thing I just urge everybody to watch and think about and digest is the HBO series called ‘The Night Of’ by J Gandolfini, it was the last thing he produced before he died, but it’s basically about this guy who’s a taxi cab driver and an immigrant from the middle east who ends up taking the cab out for a night trying to impress a girl, they both take drugs and he ends up being accused of her murder, and he has no idea if he did it, the whole time you’re not sure, but it takes you on a journey through the prison system and how it turns somebody who possibly was not guilty of this crime into worse than he was before and just how this prison system and our incarceration system is not meant to rehabilitate or to fix what’s going on.
It’s mainly to just shove somebody somewhere and it’s like you’re in here forever or you know if you do get out you’ll most likely repeat again, but it just blew my mind that you know our system is like that, where before a person’s even necessarily been deemed guilty they can be put away in that form or fashion and you see this evolution of this guy that seems pretty likable becomes something that’s not likable and even if he ends up being completely exonerated in the end his life is ruined, his life is done.
Theo: Yeah its in auch desperate need of regulation. America is funny because it’s really invested in court room dramas because I think politics is so money bought already, so in watching court cases, they think they’re getting more of a fair and balanced situation where all their facts are being presented, but yeah the system is still rife with people getting pressured into plea deals because they don’t think they can afford a decent lawyer to defend their case and lots of people spending years in prison crimes they didn’t commit.
What lessons can we learn about how to do activism better?
Kelley: Well, we we’ve talked about a lot of things today, everything needs to be fixed, well as a way to end, how would you recommend people kind of take what we talked about today and maybe hopefully turn it into something a little bit more positive or educational?
Theo: In terms of campaigning?
Kelley: Or anything anything the average person can do to make a difference in their own part because that’s the thing it’s like we have lots of people shouting, but we need to make sure that we as individuals are you know really supporting the causes that we find important and not just talking about them, we can talk all day, but how do people get involved in some positive stuff.
Theo: Well, the organization I love the most is food not bombs, but just any dual power campaigns where you’re seeing a problem in your environment, for instance it can be food deserts, where the nearest shop that people have to buy their food if they need to walk there is a garage which only has candy bars, rice and lots of processed food that’s not good for you, no fresh vegetables or fruit.
So, you see a situation like that where the neighborhood is constantly walking back and forth to the shop because it’s easy and not getting very good food and you put up urban gorilla gardens and greenhouses, if you search edible and greater gardeners, you can try and find groups in your area already.
Just try and connect to some groups in your region where you’re having this effect of meeting the needs of the poorest people and then either that becomes a really beautiful thing and you’re swapping seeds and helping each other out or in part it it shames the leaders of the state or local council into seeing that they are not providing for this area.
So, through your publicity, through your advocacy you’re showing them that they’re not meeting people’s needs and then you can organize that mass of people around voting in more left libertarian candidates that are willing to put funding into these under-served neighborhoods that will help everyone out because they’ll become more educated, become more skilled and live better lives and contribute more to the world.
Kelley: I agree completely and it reminds me of Charles Booker’s campaign to unseat Rand Paul where I’m from in Kentucky and I saw his campaign ad where he’s talking about these under-served communities and I want to see more of these people in places of power who care about their communities and know they come from these under-served areas and they know what suffering means and they’re willing to fight for what we as a you know general collective people need versus what we’re seeing right now.
And I think the whole lesson to be learned from any story like this is that there is a lesson to be learned and it’s something that we should take and not just listen and consume, we need to start putting some real action behind things, so if you do feel any kind of urgency in helping the environment or helping people around you I think that that’s something I take comfort in is that people can still care about people and our environment and that’s where we each have a role in our responsibility to play, but Theo I know you’re a big activist and thank you for what you do.
Theo: Well, your channel’s amazing advocacy, like it’s really inspiring to listen to your expertise in child psychology and where home-schooling culture can be improved.
Kelley: Yeah, I mean there’s stuff everybody can do, we can’t save the world on our own, but we can do stuff on our own to support people who can get that done. So, in whatever way you can, whether you can donate, whether you can spend some time physically volunteering, there’s stuff that all of us can do, so we just have to find our form of activism that we can really invest some time and energy into.
Theo: Actually on that, I sent my book to to Dawn Botkins, the person that Aileen sent all those letters to who we talked about in the last episode. So, that’s something that she could do from home which was just mental health support of a prisoner going through a tough time and she did an amazing job, she was a great friend, so I’m glad I got to organize those memories into the story of her life and hopefully that brightened up her day.
Kelley: That’s fantastic, and remind me of the title of of the book.
Theo: The Unfinished Autobiography of Aileen Wuornos.
Kelley: Awesome, we can all make a difference in whatever way we can. So, thank you for walking me through that case today.
Extra Details We Didn’t Have Time To Cover
More Details About The First Parcel Bomb
Kaczynski’s first mail bomb was directed at Buckley Crist, a professor of materials engineering at Northwestern University. On May 25, 1978, a package bearing Crist’s return address was found in a parking lot at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The package was “returned” to Crist, who was suspicious because he had not sent it, so he contacted campus police. Officer Terry Marker opened the package, which exploded and caused minor injuries.
In answer to a letter sent in to him asking ‘how/when did he decide to bomb people?’ Kaczynski answered:
It would take too much time to give a complete answer to the last part of your ninth question, but I will give you a partial answer by quoting what I wrote for my journal on August 14, 1983:
“The fifth of August I began a hike to the east. I got to my hidden camp that I have in a gulch beyond what I call “Diagonal Gulch.” I stayed there through the following day, August 6. I felt the peace of the forest there. But there are few huckleberries there, and though there are deer, there is very little small game. Furthermore, it had been a long time since I had seen the beautiful and isolated plateau where the various branches of Trout Creek originate. So I decided to take off for that area on the 7th of August. A little after crossing the roads in the neighborhood of Crater Mountain I began to hear chain saws; the sound seemed to be coming from the upper reaches of Roaster Bill Creek. I assumed they were cutting trees; I didn’t like it but I thought I would be able to avoid such things when I got onto the plateau. Walking across the hillsides on my way there, I saw down below me a new road that had not been there previously, and that appeared to cross one of the ridges that close in Stemple Creek. This made me feel a little sick. Nevertheless, I went on to the plateau. What I found there broke my heart. The plateau was criss-crossed with new roads, broad and well-made for roads of that kind. The plateau is ruined forever. The only thing that could save it now would be the collapse of the technological society. I couldn’t bear it. That was the best and most beautiful and isolated place around here and I have wonderful memories of it.
One road passed within a couple of hundred feet of a lovely spot where I camped for a long time a few years ago and passed many happy hours. Full of grief and rage I went back and camped by South Fork Humbug Creek.
The next day I started for my home cabin. My route took me past a beautiful spot, a favorite place of mine where there was a spring of pure water that could safely be drunk without boiling. I stopped and said a kind of prayer to the spirit of the spring. It was a prayer in which I swore that I would take revenge for what was being done to the forest.”
Relief At Being Able To Kill People With His Bombs
In 1979, a bomb was placed in the cargo hold of American Airlines Flight 444, a Boeing 727 flying from Chicago to Washington, D.C. A faulty timing mechanism prevented the bomb from exploding, but it released smoke, which caused the pilots to carry out an emergency landing. Authorities said it had enough power to “obliterate the plane” had it exploded. Kaczynski sent his next bomb to Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines.
This was done simply due to planes flying over his cabin bothering his peace.
These first few attacks against Universities and Airlines was how he got the name UnAbomber.
He was using match heads and other scraps he could find in people’s garages while they were out. So as he was still learning he wasn’t able to make any lethal bombs. He wrote in his diary that he wished he could get his hands on some dynamite.
After he read news of managing to injure an airline executive, he wrote in his diary “I feel better, I’m still plenty angry, I’m now able to strike back.”
After reading in a newspaper that his first murder victim, computer salesman Scrutton, had been “blown to bits,” Kaczynski wrote in his journal, “Excellent. Humane way to eliminate somebody. He probably never felt a thing. $25,000 reward offered. Rather flattering.”
Told lawyers they could adopt any defence they like other than an insanity defence. And they ran only the insanity defence. So fearing having his bombings labeled the work of an insane man and potentially having to take anti-psychotic drugs which might change him, first he attempted suicide, then he accepted a plea deal. A year after the sentencing he said death would be preferable to life, but the reason he stopped the first attempted suicide was fear of just becoming brain damaged.
- The Philosophy of the Unabomber (15 min philosophy breakdown video)
- The Unabomber: The Devastating Use of a Brilliant Mind (20 min biography)
- A brother lost, a brotherhood found (article)
- From the Unabomber to the Incels: Angry Young Men on Campus – Eileen Pollack Considers Their Rage and Our Responsibility (article)
- Children of Ted Two decades after his last deadly act of ecoterrorism, the Unabomber has become an unlikely prophet to a new generation of acolytes. By John H. Richardson (article)
- Running to Do Evil (podcast with recorded snippets of Kaczynski)
- Unabomber – In His Own Words (2 h 55 min documentary series with recorded snippets of Kaczynski)
- Manhunt (true-crime drama)
- Rational Wiki Profile (wiki article)
- Unabomber: the secret life of Ted Kaczynski (book biography by his neighbour)
- Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and His Family (book biography by his brother)
- Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (book biography by the FBI profiler who caught him)
- Hunting the Unabomber: The FBI, Ted Kaczynski, and the Capture of America’s Most Notorious Domestic Terrorist (a new book biography on the case)
Effect on the left-wing
- The Left-Overs: How Fascists Court the Post-Left (30 min read time – history article)
- The Politics of Attack: Communiqués and Insurrectionary Violence (well researched book which covers groups inspired by the Unabomber)
- AFed statement on kneecapping of nuclear executive by Informal Anarchist Federation by The Anarchist Federation (article)
- Anarcho-Nihilism Review || The Ideology of Insurrection (15 min comedy/educational video)
Individualists Tending toward the Wild (ex-leftist, eco-fascist terror group inspired by the Unabomber)
- There’s Nothing Anarchist about Eco-Fascism: A Condemnation of ITS
- Not Our Comrades: ITS Attacks on Anarchists
- “Eco-extremism and the indiscriminate attack – The Church of ITS Mexico” by L (UK) (critique of wild reaction an eco-fascist group inspired by the Unabomber)
- Of Indiscriminate Attacks & Wild Reactions An Anti-civ Anarchist Engages with ITS and Atassa, Their Defenders and Their False Critics by Edelweiss Pirates – Text & PDF
- Against the World-Builders: Eco-extremists respond to critics (An ex-leftist defends eco-fascism)
- Comments on the communiques from Individualists Tending toward the Wild — by Último Reducto 20 pp.
- Apostles and Heretics by John Jacobi (Eco-fascist journal)
- The New Wave of Eco-Terrorism and Nihilist Militancy by Popular Front (podcast)
- Communiques of ITS — 132 pp.
- Interview with Individualists Tending toward the Wild — 9 pp.
Effect on the right-wing
- Inside the Unabomber’s odd and furious online revival plus pictures left out of the editors edition & response by the twitter eco-fascists called Who are the pines? – Wired article
- Eco-Fascist ‘Pine Tree Party’ Growing as a Violent Extremism Threat – Terrorist watchdog site
- The Dark Side of Environmentalism (Eco-fascism) (8 min video)
Ted Kaczynskis’ Writing
- Industrial Society and Its Future – 120 pp. (manifesto)
- Hit where it hurts — 17 pp. (call to violence written from prison)
- Technological Slavery (book of essays)
- Afterthoughts to Technological Slavery – 14 pp.
- Why the Technological System Will Destroy Itself (essay)
- Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How (an updated version of the manifesto)
Key Life Events
- How I Blew Up Harold Snilly
- Letter to a Turkish anarchist — 27 pp.
- An Interview with Ted Kaczynski — 16 pp.
- The Communiques of Freedom Club — 34 pp.
- Truth & Lies – Part 1 & Part 2 (Book written just after his sentencing, never published in print, just photocopied online)
- Ted Kaczynski’s Comments on Timothy McVeigh — 7 pp.
- Ted Kaczynski’s Interview with the John Jay Sentinel — 10 pp.
- Ted Kaczynski Letter to an Anonymous German — 17 pp.
- Ted Kaczynski Letter to A.O. — 5 pp.
- Ted Kaczynski letter to M.K. — 9 pp.
- Ted Kaczynski on Individualists Tending Toward Savagery (ITS) — 4 pp.
- Ted Kaczynski’s Letter to the Saturday Evening Review (1970) — 3 pp.
- Answer to Some Comments Made in Green Anarchist — 9 pp.