Category Archives: philosophy

>Children of the underworld

>There’s a crappy free paper here in Stockholm, Sweden, called City. They’re running this series about people who choose to live their lives without having kids. Should be pretty interesting. You can read the first article here (in Swedish, obviously).
I’ll give you my thoughts on the matter when they’re done, but if you’ve read this blog for a while I think you know what I have to say…

Until then:

>Escape from suppression – The school shooting in Finland

Ron Anderson – Escape From Suppression

The three dimensional empty straightjacket is incorporated into the painting of Planet Earth where all humanity resides. Does it imply that humanity is enslaved or does it imply that humanity has been released from suppression because the straightjacket is empty? When you view this from a distance, the jacket isn’t easily visible – and so is suppression often disguised and not easily seen. The decision to be free from the vested interests that would enslave humanity for their own purposes lies with every individual’s understanding of The Declaration of Human Rights and their resolve to make it a reality.

Yet another tragedy, this time in Kauhajoki, Finland. It seems to be pretty much the same kind of tragedy as when Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed eight people and injured twelve, so I urge you to read what I wrote back then.

Society’ sickness – November 13, 2007
Tool and die – April 17, 2007

And once again I quote Nikanor Teratologen (unfortunately in Swedish):

Det går inte att genom någon sorts överhetskampanjer eller mer omfattande kontroll-, övervaknings-, angivar- och stigmatiseringssystem heltäckande skydda skolor, arbetsplatser, offentliga platser överhuvudtaget mot enskildas planlagda och sedan lössläppta mordiska hämndraseri. Förändringarna måste inledas på individplanet, i människors beteende och attityder mot varandra. Man bör helt enkelt inte kränka och bete sig illa mot andra varelser på jorden. Allt är ett, sammanvävt, förgängligt.
Den grandiost sadomasochistiska och Kristusyrande självbilden som tröstande och upplyftande suggererar existensen av en andligt besläktad krets att höra hemma i och betyda något avgörande för har, imaginärt, förintat den invalidiserande känslan av att inte duga, inte räknas, inte vara älskad och inte tillåtas hysa känslor, inte finnas till…

>Theodore Kaczynski – The Unabomber, Part Five

Homemade gun, homemade bomb and the manifesto. (Click to enlarge)
(For supersized version click here)

Kaczynski’s bomb found by FBI:s top bomb expert James C. Ronay on American Airlines Flight 444 (November 15, 1979) is described in Harvard and The Unabomber:

Inside the container, Ronay found fragments of a meticulously constructed homemade bomb that had been mailed from Chicago. What struck him was how elaborately and carefully crafted it was – though made entirely from ordinary materials found in any hardware store.
These included a cheap aneroid barometer altered to measure ambient pressure changes in the aircraft and altitude changes. The bomb was designed to explode when the plane reached over 2,000 feet in elevation. A second, redundant triggering system was fixed to ignite if the package was opened. A large juice can contained the main explosive charge of smokeless power and fireworks chemicals. The fusing system consisted of four ”C” batteries wired to a modified barometer switch, all housed in a homemade wooden box. The postage on the box comprised several $1 ”Eugene O’Neill” and ”America’s Light Fueled by Truth and Reason” stamps.

For each and every bomb being made, the genius mad man came closer and closer to perfection. Though each bomb was made of pipe plugs and the fusing systems were powered by C- or D-cell batteries, each triggering mechanism was different. Old Ted was an imaginative man.

The Hauser bomb revealed the continuing evolution to ever more gratiously painstaking construction. The pipe was not the ordinary galvanized kind found at any plumbing supply store, threaded at each end and capped with threaded plugs. Rather, it was made of super-hard stainless steel that could only be cut, Ronay suspected, with a power saw. And the plugs were custom-made of a similarly hard material, crafted with care. At each end of the pipe were precisely sized square holes that coincided exactly with similar-sized notches in the plugs. The plugs were kept in place by square dowels carved out of hard steel. It took an excellent craftsman with a strong power drill and grinder to do this kind of work.
More troubling, the bomber was learning how to seal the explosives more tightly, thereby amplifying potential damage. And he was concocting more potent explosives. With the Hauser bomb, he had for the first time used a mixture of aluminium powder and ammonium nitrate, producing a much bigger bang and signaling to Ronay that worse was to come.

Reading this, and then looking at that tiny cabin he worked in, one becomes absorbed with fascination for the human mind. Or for this human mind, I should say. What really makes me wonder is how the hell he did manage to build his bombs when there was no electricity in the cabin? Ronay suspected he’d used a power saw and a power drill etc, but as far as I know no such tools have been found.
I hope I can find answers to that later on.

As for the final bomb, found in the cabin in April 1996, bomb-disablement expert Chris Cherry got a phone call from the FBI asking him to haul his ass over to the cabin. He lived in Albuquerque, whilst the cabin was located in Montana. Wasting no time the FBI flew down a special plane that night and picked him up immediately. He and his team were at the cabin for a week, and it took them three days to totally render safe the bomb itself.
”Our objective was not just to defuse the bomb but to surgically defuse it so that we would have all the evidence captured. We couldn’t just blow apart the bomb. We had to go into it to ensure that all the evidence was preserved and we understood the working functions of it”, says Chris in an interview.
The team used Kaczynski’s extremely detailed notes about all his devices and how they were put together. There were loads of them, but they were written in Spanish, so first they had to be translated.
The bomb was a fragmentation device designed to kill people. It was all home-made and designed to be rough-handled through the mail. The switch mechanisms Kaczynski used were hand-made switches that he would spend weeks building. He even machined his own screws.
Chris: ”The device was complicated in that it was guaranteed to work. It was not your basic pipe bomb. It was much more sophisticated than that. Every one of his devices functioned as designed.”

Some stuff found in the cabin:

>Theodore Kaczynski – The Unabomber, Part Four


In a time of intellectual crisis the culture of despair manifests anti-modernism. The Unabomber was extremely serious about his ideas and saw no other way to get attention to them than to resort to terrorism.

From the chapter ”The nature of freedom” in the manifesto (”we” is Kaczynski alone. He always referred to himself as ”we” or ”Freedom Club” (his bombs often carried the inscription ”FC” as well)):

96. As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of freedom of the press. We certainly don’t mean to knock that right: it is very important tool for limiting concentration of political power and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly exposing any misbehavior on their part. But freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen as an individual. The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect. To make an impression on society with words is therefore almost impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (FC) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of these readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.

As for the intellectual crisis and the culture of despair Alston Chase states:

There are many factors that go into it. To name a few of the more obvious ones, speaking of the atmosphere on campuses beginning in the late ’40s and early ’50s, carrying forward from that day right up to the present. In the 1950’s it was a strong fear that technology was destroying civilization, was a threat to civilization and by the 1960’s it had evolved into a strong feeling that technology was destroying nature and in that latter guise it is still very much with us.
So, by now it’s filtered down into the grade schools. I have for a number of years have given talks to high schools during Earth Day and that sort of thing, and it’s amazing to walk down the hallways of these high schools and see all these despairing posters on the walls about global warming and rain forest depletion and so forth. And I thought about how terrible it is to grow up where you are just being bombarded with it. I grew up during the Second World War and that was bad enough, but in any case for the 1950’s the culture of despair as Kaczynski encountered it and I encountered it—was in part the product of a generation of the professors who were teaching us who had fought in WW II or were adults and witnessed all the terrible, terrible killing and also Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And were very much impressed with the potential threat that technology posed to civilization. Also there was a legitimate and threat and concern that thermonuclear war was imminent.
So there was the war threat and the war experience and this filtered into the curriculum, but in addition to this, there was and is a more profound intellectual crisis of western civilization which the professors of the 1950’s were more aware of and talked about more. It’s still here, but people don’t talk about it as much. That has its origins in the rise of modern science in the 16th and 17th century.
Prior to that one might say that ethical ideas of western civilization were coherent and of a piece. They were largely Aristotelian mixed with Christianity. The basic idea was the belief that everything in nature plays a role in this larger system and to know a thing was to know what role it played and how it ought to behave. So in the ancient worldview fact and value were very much together to know something was to know how it ought to be. But the modern physics that arose was a discovery that simply by observing the quantifiable aspects of experience and manipulating these quantities with new mathematics one can arrive at generalizations which one could use to make accurate predictions.This was a modern science. It had no need of ethics or God. This was something that the philosophers of this period were immediately aware of and saw as a problem. And it led by the 1700’s to what one former colleague of mine, philosopher Allastair McIntyre referred to as the Enlightenment Enterprise. Which was an attempt by philosophers to try to bring, to glue, ethics and science back together again. This effort failed, and it took 100 years for anyone to notice it was failing, and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that this failure had worked its way into the curriculum of the university. Even though its origins were old, the realization of its implications was relatively new. It’s certainly true that the pessimism that I am talking about, you can find in the writings of thoughtful people in the 1920’s and ’30s.
So you could if you want to be overly simplistic—you could say that the 19th century was an era of optimism and the 20th century has been an age of pessimism. In the 19th century the glass was half full and in the 20th century it has been half empty. So Ortega y Gassett comes to mind and HG Wells by the end of his life was another and Thorsten Veblen and Spengler and there were a lot of these people who in the 1920’s were suggesting the end of civilization as they knew it, was near. This was their awareness of this intellectual crisis.
So that had worked its way thoroughly into the curriculum after WW II. That was what my generation, the Silent Generation was steeped in. That we could expect that civilization that lasted two thousand years was about to go under.

Alston Chase.

>Theodore Kaczynski – The Unabomber, Part Three

The Unabomber’s code sheet for encrypting his notes.

The media created a lot of myths about our Unabomber that still linger on. For example, his ”into the wild” thing wasn’t really that very wild. He lived six kilometres (four miles) out of Lincoln and the journalists who arrived from bigger cities to cover the story thought that was wilderness, even though he was in sight of his next door neighbour.
Still, there are many things that are fascinating about this guy. The line between the genius and the mad man is so very thin. As is the line between the mad man and the average Joe on the street…

Theodore Kaczynski was a man who had very broad intellectual interests. The book shelves in his small cabin contained hundreds of books and scholary papers spanning subjects in literature, science, the history of the German and Indo-European languages, math and so forth. He was fluent in Spanish and German, had studied Finnish, Egyptian, Chinese, Russian and French. He had deep knowledge of etymology, psychology and sociology, even though his deepest interests lay in history and literature.
His lab notebooks and other notes were written partly in Spanish, but more importantly in codes. A FBI cryptologist stated that ”no one, not even NASA computers could have broken this code”. Fortunately they found the key in his cabin…
His bombs were made out of old junk and abandoned car parts that he found in junkyards. He carefully documented the designs and constructions of the bombs, and when planting them he always wore disguises, such as different glasses, chewing gum under his lip, wigs, bulky jackets under his raincoat to appear heavier than he was, etc. Having read books on criminology and the science of fingerprinting, Kaczynski always wore gloves when building his bombs. He still soaked each and every piece in soybean oil and salt water to make absolutely sure there were no prints. To confuse the FBI he also put small parts of other peoples hair within the bomb packages. He also wore shoes with smaller soles attached to the bottom to make it appear as if a person with smaller footprints were walking in them.
He alone outsmarted the FBI for 17 years.

Notes/map on hidden food supplies.

>Theodore Kaczynski – The Unabomber, Part Two


Alston Chase, author of Harvard and The Unabomber, quotes Colin Wilson‘s The Outsider:

The Outsider’s case against society is very clear. All men and women have these dangerous, unnameable impulses, yet they keep up a pretense, to themselves, to others; their respectability, their philosophy, their religion, are all attempts to gloss over, to make look civilized and rational something that is savage, unorganized, irrational. He is an Outsider because he stands for Truth.
The Outsider is a man who cannot live in the comfortable, insulated world of the bourgeois, accepting what he sees and touches as reality. He sees “too deep and too much” and what he sees is essentially chaos. […] When he asserts his sense of anarchy in the face of the bourgeois’ complacent acceptance, it is not simply the need to cock a snook at respectability that provokes him; it is a distressing sense that truth must be told at all costs, otherwise there can be no hope for an ultimate restoration of order. Even if there seems no room for hope, truth must be told. […] The Outsider is a man who has awakened to chaos.
Colin Wilson, The Outsider (1956)

Kaczynski probably considered himself “sick in a civilization that doesn’t know it is sick”, as Wilson further writes. He obviously lived in extreme isolation and poverty to escape a sick society. “Only revolution by outsiders can save civilization”, he wrote in the manifesto.

Kaczynski worked and thought like a scientist, claiming that only scientifically testable statements are meaningful. Thus moral, spiritual judgements, religion and ethics are to him just emotional attitudes produced by social context, what he called brainwashing. Hence he referred to each of his terror attacks as “experiments”…

To be continued in Part Three.

>Theodore Kaczynski – The Unabomber, Part One

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.