Theodore Kaczynski, June 21, 1996.
The story of civilization is […] the story of engineering. […]
Civilization is a matter of power over the world and nature and skill in exploiting this world. It has nothing to do with kindness, honesty, or peacefulness.
L. Sprague De Camp, The Ancient Engineers (1987)
I just read Industrial Society & Its Future a.k.a. The Unabomber Manifesto by Theodore John Kaczynski (born 1942), the infamous Unabomber (dubbed so by the media and the FBI because his early victims were associated with universities and airlines). It’s really nothing special. It’s filled to the brim with philosophical and environmental clichés that pretty much every sane person thinks about now and then; how science and technology alienate man from nature, how to raise awareness about the ecological crisis we’re facing, and how the system is wearing us down, limiting our freedom. It’s definitely not the work of a mad man, since his thoughts and beliefs are entirely reasonable.
What’s written in the manifesto is of great importance though, since it contains a lot of ugly truths. It’s too bad the manifesto has been written off as insane. Even activist groups such as Earth First! were shocked by this man who actually took their ecological jihad ideas serious…
And that’s what’s so very special, that’s what makes him a mad man; Ted Kaczynski was so very serious about his ideas that he ended up a terrorist leading a bombing spree that lasted for seventeen years where three people were killed and twenty-three seriously injured.
Psychiatrist Robert I. Simon writes in his book Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream:
”Every twenty-two seconds an American is beaten, stabbed, shot, robbed, raped, or killed.”
During the seventeen years that Kaczynski sent out bombs, 1978-95, more than 388,000 murders occured in America. Over 22,000 bombings killed 386 people and injured 3,634 others. Forty million people were injured by criminals during this period. These numbers are insane, but they speak of something very important: The difference between murderers and the ordinary citizens is merely a matter of degree.
Simon writes: ”After 32 years of work as a treating and as a forensic psychiatrist, I am absolutey convinced that there is no great gulf between the mental life of the common criminal and that of the everyday, upright citizen. The dark side exists in all of us…”
We think pretty much the same awful thoughts about our fellow citizens, but the bad man gives in to these dark impulses more easily. Many reach that line that Kaczynski did cross, but few of us step over it. A lot of murders are motivated by money, power, jealousy, lust, anger for being rejected… The Unabomber murdered for an idea.
He’s been labelled ”the most intellectual serial killer the nation has ever produced” by criminologists. He is the genius who entered the elite university of Harvard at age sixteen where he majored in mathematics (he scored at the top of his class with a 98.9% final grade), he earned a Ph.D. specializing in geometric function theory (”I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 people in the country understood or appreciated it”, said Maxwell O. Reade, a retired math professor), and then went on to become an assistant professor at the age of 25 at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked for two years and then abruptly quit to move to Lincoln, Montana, where he went into the wild, built himself a cabin and began making bombs. He speaks several foreign languages, and all of his many letters (including the 35,000-word manifesto) contain no spelling or grammatical errors – even though they’re written on a shitty typewriter. Despite his case being one of the most expensive investigations in FBI history, running for seventeen years, he was never caught as a result of this investigation. Instead, his brother, who recognized his style of writing after the manifesto had been published by The New York Times and The Washington Post on September 19, 1995, tipped off the FBI, and so on April 3, 1996 agents arrested him at his remote cabin. 17 years of American terrorism had come to an end.
In short, he’s a dangerous man.
Today, 66 years old, he’s serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
—Inspired by the book Harvard and The Unabomber by Alston Chase.
To be continued in Part Two.
Jeanne Boylan’s famous drawing of The Unabomber.