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Unabomber manifesto published

Unabomber manifesto published

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On September 19, 1995, a manifesto by the Unabomber, an anti-technology terrorist, is published by The New York Times and Washington Post in the hope that someone will recognize the person who, for 17 years, had been sending homemade bombs through the mail that had killed and maimed innocent people around the United States. After reading the manifesto, David Kaczynski linked the writing style to that of his older brother Ted, who was later convicted of the attacks and sentenced to life in prison without parole. All told, the Unabomber was responsible for murdering three people and injuring another 23.

READ MORE: Why the Unabomber Evaded Arrest for 17 Years

Theodore John Kaczynski was born May 22, 1942, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. As a student, he excelled at math, graduated from Harvard and received a Ph.D. in math from the University of Michigan. In 1967, he got a teaching job at the University of California at Berkeley, but quit two years later. In 1971, Kaczynski purchased some property in Lincoln, Montana, with his brother. There, the future Unabomber built a small, secluded cabin where he lived off the land as a recluse from the late 1970s until his arrest on April 3, 1996.

In May 1978, an un-mailed package was found in a University of Illinois, Chicago, parking lot; a security guard was later injured when he opened the package. The following year, another bomb exploded at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, injuring one person. In November of that same year, 12 people on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., were treated for smoke inhalation when a bomb in a mailbag aboard the plane caught fire. Investigators eventually linked the three incidents, as the bombings continued and spread around the country. In December 1985, the owner of a computer store in Sacramento, California, was killed by a bomb filled with nail fragments. After a similar explosion in Salt Lake City two years later, investigators got their first eyewitness description of the bomber after someone reported seeing a man in aviator sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt at the scene of the crime. In April 1995, The New York Times received a letter from the Unabomber stating that the killings would stop if the paper printed a 35,000-word manifesto. In September of that year, the Times and the Post complied, and David Kaczynski eventually recognized his brother Ted’s writing as that of the Unabomber and contacted the FBI.

In January 1998, Kaczynski agreed to a plea bargain with the government and was sentenced to life in prison.

Defying critics to publish the Unabomber ‘Manifesto’

It may not have been courageous necessarily, but the joint decision by the Washington Post and New York Times 20 years ago to publish the Unabomber “Manifesto” certainly cut against the grain of media criticism that warned against yielding to a terrorist’s demands.

Unabomber ‘Manifesto’ in Washington Post

The “Manifesto” was a 35,000 word screed written by a reclusive and anonymous serial killer who, from time to time over a 17-year period, mailed or placed bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others. Universities and airlines were his early targets, and he came to be called “Unabomber.”

The Unabomber’s final victim, Gilbert P. Murray, was killed April 24, 1995, by a parcel bomb sent to his office in Sacramento, where he was president of the California Forestry Association.

As I note in my latest book, 1995: The Year the Future Began, the year was “remarkable for the frequency with which terrorism intruded.” Five days before the attack that fatally injured Murray, the federal building in Oklahoma City was the target of a massive truck bomb that killed 168 people and injured more than 600 others. The month before that, members of a Japanese cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with Sarin gas, killing 12 people.

Less than two months after Murray’s death, the Unabomber sent his “Manifesto” (titled “Industrial Society and Its Future”) to the Post and Times, threatening to kill again unless the newspapers published the typewritten treatise that railed against evils of modern technology. In an accompanying letter, he gave the newspapers a three-month deadline to comply.

The terrorist’s demands set off a vigorous debate among journalists and media watchers, many of whom said they opposed publishing the document. To do so, they argued, would be tantamount to surrendering to blackmail, not to mention ceding news judgment to the demands of a serial killer.

“My instinct is that [publication] is a very bad idea, and takes the press down the wrong trail,” Everette E. Dennis, then head of a media studies center in New York, told the Post. “A news organization should really not be in the business of public safety and police work.”

Rem Rieder, then editor and senior vice president of the now-defunct American Journalism Review, pointed to a troubling precedent that publishing the screed might establish.

“My instinct is that this is the wrong way to go,” Rieder said after the “Manifesto” was published. “It sets a very dangerous precedent, particularly since there is so much anger out there, with people going to such a great extent to express their rage.

“This is like turning over a newspaper at gunpoint.”

The screed was published, unaltered, on September 19, 1995, as an eight-page pullout supplement in the Post. The newspapers shared printing costs and their publishers said in a joint statement that they had decided to publish the treatise “for public safety reasons.”

The FBI, which the Unabomber had taunted in a letter to the Times in April 1995, favored publication, as did then U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno.

Richard Ault, a former FBI agent who periodically worked on the Unabomber case, said after reading the “Manifesto”:

“The manuscript is as lovingly prepared as his bombs. Somewhere along the way, he has had these conversations before. Someone who would read this might say: ‘This sounds like so and so.’”

That, more or less, is what happened. David Kaczynski and his wife read portions of the “Manifesto” online, visiting a college library to do so.. They devoted weeks to scrutinizing the document, noting similarities to the views and writings of his estranged elder brother, a brilliant Harvard graduate and former college professor named Theodore J. (Ted) Kaczynski.

Through intermediaries, David Kaczynski eventually shared his suspicions with the FBI and in April 1996, Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his primitive cabin in the woods near Lincoln, Montana.

At trial in 1998, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to charges related to his campaign of bombings.

In statements in federal court before Kaczynski was sent to prison, Susan Mosser, the widow of one of his victims, implored the judge: “Please keep this creature out of society forever. Bury him so far down he’ll be closer to hell, because that’s where the devil belongs.”

Kaczynski was sentenced to eight life terms and is imprisoned at Super Max, the ultra-high-security complex in Colorado sometimes called “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” Serving time there, a Super Max former warden has said, is “much worse than death.”

THIS DAY IN HISTORY – Unabomber manifesto published – 1995

On this day in 1995, a manifesto by the Unabomber, an anti-technology terrorist, is published by The New York Times and Washington Post in the hope that someone will recognize the person who, for 17 years, had been sending homemade bombs through the mail that had killed and maimed innocent people around the United States. After reading the manifesto, David Kaczynski linked the writing style to that of his older brother Ted, who was later convicted of the attacks and sentenced to life in prison without parole. All told, the Unabomber was responsible for murdering three people and injuring another 23.

Theodore John Kaczynski was born May 22, 1942, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. As a student, he excelled at math, graduated from Harvard and received a Ph.D. in math from the University of Michigan. In 1967, he got a teaching job at the University of California at Berkeley, but quit two years later. In 1971, Kaczynski purchased some property in Lincoln, Montana, with his brother. There, the future Unabomber built a small, secluded cabin where he lived off the land as a recluse from the late 1970s until his arrest on April 3, 1996.

In May 1978, an unmailed package was found in a University of Illinois, Chicago, parking lot a security guard was later injured when he opened the package. The following year, another bomb exploded at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, injuring one person. In November of that same year, 12 people on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., were treated for smoke inhalation when a bomb in a mailbag aboard the plane caught fire. Investigators eventually linked the three incidents, as the bombings continued and spread around the country.

In December 1985, the owner of a computer store in Sacramento, California, was killed by a bomb filled with nail fragments. After a similar explosion in Salt Lake City two years later, investigators got their first eyewitness description of the bomber after someone reported seeing a man in aviator sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt at the scene of the crime.

In April 1995, The New York Times received a letter from the Unabomber stating that the killings would stop if the paper printed a 35,000-word manifesto. In September of that year, the Times and the Post complied, and David Kaczynski eventually recognized his brother Ted’s writing as that of the Unabomber and contacted the FBI.


Childhood Edit

Theodore John Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, to working-class parents, Wanda Theresa (née Dombek) and Theodore Richard Kaczynski, a sausage maker. [12] The two were Polish Americans, and were raised as Catholics but later became atheists. [13] They married on April 11, 1939. [13]

Kaczynski's parents told his younger brother, David, that Ted had been a happy baby until severe hives forced him into hospital isolation with limited contact with others, after which he "showed little emotions for months". [13] Wanda recalled Ted recoiling from a picture of himself as an infant being held down by physicians examining his hives. She said he showed sympathy for animals who were in cages or otherwise helpless, which she speculated stemmed from his experience in hospital isolation. [14]

From first to fourth grade (ages six to nine), Kaczynski attended Sherman Elementary School in Chicago, where administrators described him as healthy and well-adjusted. [15] In 1952, three years after David was born, the family moved to suburban Evergreen Park, Illinois Ted transferred to Evergreen Park Central Junior High School. After testing scored his IQ at 167, [16] he skipped the sixth grade. Kaczynski later described this as a pivotal event: previously he had socialized with his peers and was even a leader, but after skipping ahead of them he felt he did not fit in with the older children, who bullied him. [17]

Neighbors in Evergreen Park later described the Kaczynski family as "civic-minded folks", one recalling the parents "sacrificed everything they had for their children". [13] Both Ted and David were intelligent, but Ted exceptionally so. Neighbors described him as a smart but lonely individual. [13] [18] His mother recalled Ted as a shy child who would become unresponsive if pressured into a social situation. [19] At one point she was so worried about his social development that she considered entering him in a study for autistic children led by Bruno Bettelheim. She decided against it after seeing Bettelheim's abrupt and cold manner. [20]

High school Edit

Kaczynski attended Evergreen Park Community High School, where he excelled academically. He played the trombone in the marching band and was a member of the mathematics, biology, coin, and German clubs. [21] [22] In 1996, a former classmate said: "He was never really seen as a person, as an individual personality . He was always regarded as a walking brain, so to speak." [13] During this period, Kaczynski became intensely interested in mathematics, spending hours studying and solving advanced problems. He became associated with a group of like-minded boys interested in science and mathematics, known as the "briefcase boys" for their penchant for carrying briefcases. [22]

Throughout high school, Kaczynski was ahead of his classmates academically. Placed in a more advanced mathematics class, he soon mastered the material. He skipped the eleventh grade, and by attending summer school he graduated at age 15. Kaczynski was one of his school's five National Merit finalists and was encouraged to apply to Harvard College. [21] He entered Harvard on a scholarship in 1958 at age 16. [23] A classmate later said Kaczynski was emotionally unprepared: "They packed him up and sent him to Harvard before he was ready . He didn't even have a driver's license." [13]

Harvard College Edit

During his first year at Harvard, Kaczynski lived at 8 Prescott Street, which was designed to accommodate the youngest, most precocious incoming students in a small, intimate living space. For the following three years, he lived at Eliot House. Housemates and other students at Harvard described Kaczynski as a very intelligent but socially reserved person. [24] Kaczynski earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Harvard in 1962, finishing with a GPA of 3.12. [25] [26] [27]

Psychological study Edit

In his second year at Harvard, Kaczynski participated in a study described by author Alston Chase as a "purposely brutalizing psychological experiment" led by Harvard psychologist Henry Murray. Subjects were told they would debate personal philosophy with a fellow student and were asked to write essays detailing their personal beliefs and aspirations. The essays were turned over to an anonymous individual who would confront and belittle the subject in what Murray himself called "vehement, sweeping, and personally abusive" attacks, using the content of the essays as ammunition. [28] Electrodes monitored the subject's physiological reactions. These encounters were filmed, and subjects' expressions of anger and rage were later played back to them repeatedly. [28] The experiment lasted three years, with someone verbally abusing and humiliating Kaczynski each week. [29] [30] Kaczynski spent 200 hours as part of the study. [31]

Kaczynski's lawyers later attributed his hostility towards mind control techniques to his participation in Murray's study. [28] Some sources have suggested that Murray's experiments were part of Project MKUltra, the Central Intelligence Agency's research into mind control. [32] [33] Chase and others have also suggested that this experience may have motivated Kaczynski's criminal activities. [34] [35] Kaczynski stated he resented Murray and his co-workers, primarily because of the invasion of his privacy he perceived as a result of their experiments. Nevertheless, he said he was "quite confident that my experiences with Professor Murray had no significant effect on the course of my life". [36]

Mathematics career Edit

In 1962, Kaczynski enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics in 1964 and 1967, respectively. Michigan was not his first choice for postgraduate education he had applied to the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago, both of which accepted him but offered him no teaching position or financial aid. Michigan offered him an annual grant of $2,310 (equivalent to $19,763 in 2020) and a teaching post. [27]

At Michigan, Kaczynski specialized in complex analysis, specifically geometric function theory. Professor Peter Duren said of Kaczynski, "He was an unusual person. He was not like the other graduate students. He was much more focused about his work. He had a drive to discover mathematical truth." George Piranian, another of his Michigan mathematics professors, said, "It is not enough to say he was smart". [37] Kaczynski received 1 F, 5 Bs and 12 As in his 18 courses at the university. In 2006, he said he had unpleasant memories of Michigan and felt the university had low standards for grading, as evidenced by his relatively high grades. [27]

For a period of several weeks in 1966, Kaczynski experienced intense sexual fantasies of being a female and decided to undergo gender transition. He arranged to meet with a psychiatrist, but changed his mind in the waiting room and did not disclose his reason for making the appointment. Afterwards, enraged, he considered killing the psychiatrist and other people whom he hated. Kaczynski described this episode as a "major turning point" in his life: [38] [39] [40] "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." [39]

In 1967, Kaczynski's dissertation Boundary Functions [41] won the Sumner B. Myers Prize for Michigan's best mathematics dissertation of the year. [13] Allen Shields, his doctoral advisor, called it "the best I have ever directed", [27] and Maxwell Reade, a member of his dissertation committee, said, "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 men in the country understood or appreciated it." [13] [37]

In late 1967, the 25-year-old Kaczynski became an acting assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught mathematics. By September 1968, Kaczynski was appointed assistant professor, a sign that he was on track for tenure. [13] His teaching evaluations suggest he was not well-liked by his students: he seemed uncomfortable teaching, taught straight from the textbook and refused to answer questions. [13] Without any explanation, Kaczynski resigned on June 30, 1969. [41] The chairman of the mathematics department, J. W. Addison, called this a "sudden and unexpected" resignation. [42] [43]

In 1996, reporters for the Los Angeles Times interviewed mathematicians about Kaczynski's work and concluded that Kaczynski's subfield effectively ceased to exist after the 1960s as most of its conjectures were proven. According to mathematician Donald Rung, if Kaczynski continued to work in mathematics he "probably would have gone on to some other area". [41]

After resigning from Berkeley, Kaczynski moved to his parents' home in Lombard, Illinois. Two years later, in 1971, he moved to a remote cabin he had built outside Lincoln, Montana, where he could live a simple life with little money and without electricity or running water, [44] working odd jobs and receiving significant financial support from his family. [13]

His original goal was to become self-sufficient so he could live autonomously. He used an old bicycle to get to town, and a volunteer at the local library said he visited frequently to read classic works in their original languages. Other Lincoln residents said later that such a lifestyle was not unusual in the area. [45] Kaczynski's cabin was described by a census taker in the 1990 census as containing a bed, two chairs, storage trunks, a gas stove, and lots of books. [21]

Starting in 1975, Kaczynski performed acts of sabotage including arson and booby trapping against developments near to his cabin. [46] He also dedicated himself to reading about sociology and political philosophy, including the works of Jacques Ellul. [28] Kaczynski's brother David later stated that Ellul's book The Technological Society "became Ted's Bible". [47] Kaczynski recounted in 1998, "When I read the book for the first time, I was delighted, because I thought, 'Here is someone who is saying what I have already been thinking.'" [28]

In an interview after his arrest, he recalled being shocked on a hike to one of his favorite wild spots: [48]

It's kind of rolling country, not flat, and when you get to the edge of it you find these ravines that cut very steeply in to cliff-like drop-offs and there was even a waterfall there. It was about a two days' hike from my cabin. That was the best spot until the summer of 1983. That summer there were too many people around my cabin so I decided I needed some peace. I went back to the plateau and when I got there I found they had put a road right through the middle of it . You just can't imagine how upset I was. It was from that point on I decided that, rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system. Revenge.

Kaczynski was visited multiple times in Montana by his father, who was impressed by Ted's wilderness skills. Kaczynski's father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1990 and held a family meeting without Kaczynski later that year to map out their future. [21] In October 1990, Kaczynski's father committed suicide. [49]

Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski mailed or hand-delivered a series of increasingly sophisticated bombs that cumulatively killed three people and injured 23 others. Sixteen bombs were attributed to Kaczynski. While the bombing devices varied widely through the years, many contained the initials "FC", which Kaczynski later said stood for "Freedom Club", [50] inscribed on parts inside. He purposely left misleading clues in the devices and took extreme care in preparing them to avoid leaving fingerprints fingerprints found on some of the devices did not match those found on letters attributed to Kaczynski. [51] [a]

Initial bombings Edit

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. [52] Kaczynski had returned to Chicago for the May 1978 bombing and stayed there for a time to work with his father and brother at a foam rubber factory. In August 1978, his brother fired him for writing insulting limericks about a female supervisor Ted had courted briefly. [53] [54] The supervisor later recalled Kaczynski as intelligent and quiet, but remembered little of their acquaintanceship and firmly denied they had had any romantic relationship. [55] Kaczynski's second bomb was sent nearly one year after the first one, again to Northwestern University. The bomb, concealed inside a cigar box and left on a table, caused minor injuries to graduate student John Harris when he opened it. [52]

FBI involvement Edit

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. [52] Kaczynski sent his next bomb to Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines. [56]

Kaczynski left false clues in most bombs, which he intentionally made hard to find to make them appear more legitimate. Clues included metal plates stamped with the initials "FC" hidden somewhere (usually in the pipe end cap) in bombs, a note left in a bomb that did not detonate reading "Wu—It works! I told you it would—RV," and the Eugene O'Neill one dollar stamps often used to send his boxes. [51] [57] [58] He sent one bomb embedded in a copy of Sloan Wilson's novel Ice Brothers. [52] The FBI theorized that Kaczynski's crimes involved a theme of nature, trees and wood. He often included bits of a tree branch and bark in his bombs. His selected targets included Percy Wood and Professor Leroy Wood. Crime writer Robert Graysmith noted his "obsession with wood" was "a large factor" in the bombings. [59]

Later bombings Edit

In 1981, a package that had been discovered in a hallway at the University of Utah was brought to the campus police, and was defused by a bomb squad. [52] In May of the following year, a bomb was sent to Patrick C. Fischer, a professor teaching at Vanderbilt University. Fischer was on vacation in Puerto Rico at the time and his secretary, Janet Smith, opened the bomb and received injuries to the face and arms. [52] [60]

Kaczynski's next two bombs targeted people at the University of California, Berkeley. The first, in July 1982, caused serious injuries to engineering professor Diogenes Angelakos. [52] Nearly three years later, in May 1985, John Hauser, a graduate student and captain in the United States Air Force, lost four fingers and vision in one eye. [61] Kaczynski handcrafted the bomb from wooden parts. [62] A bomb sent to the Boeing Company in Auburn, Washington, was defused by a bomb squad the following month. [61] In November 1985, professor James V. McConnell and research assistant Nicklaus Suino were both severely injured after Suino opened a mail bomb addressed to McConnell. [61]

In late 1985, a nail-and-splinter-loaded bomb placed in the parking lot of his store in Sacramento, California, killed 38-year-old computer store owner Hugh Scrutton. A similar attack against a computer store took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 20, 1987. The bomb, disguised as a piece of lumber, injured Gary Wright when he attempted to remove it from the store's parking lot. The explosion severed nerves in Wright's left arm and propelled over 200 pieces of shrapnel into his body. [b] Kaczynski was spotted while planting the Salt Lake City bomb. This led to a widely distributed sketch of the suspect as a hooded man with a mustache and aviator sunglasses. [64] [65]

In 1993, after a six-year break, Kaczynski mailed a bomb to the home of Charles Epstein from the University of California, San Francisco. Epstein lost several fingers upon opening the package. In the same weekend, Kaczynski mailed a bomb to David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale University. Gelernter lost sight in one eye, hearing in one ear, and a portion of his right hand. [66]

In 1994, Burson-Marsteller executive Thomas Mosser was killed after opening a mail bomb sent to his home in New Jersey. In a letter to The New York Times, Kaczynski wrote he had sent the bomb because of Mosser's work repairing the public image of Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. [67] This was followed by the 1995 murder of Gilbert Brent Murray, president of the timber industry lobbying group California Forestry Association, by a mail bomb addressed to previous president William Dennison, who had retired. Geneticist Phillip Sharp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received a threatening letter shortly afterwards. [66]

Table of bombings Edit

Bombings carried out by Kaczynski
Date State Location Explosion Victim(s) Occupation of victim(s) Injuries
May 25, 1978 Illinois Northwestern University Yes Terry Marker University police officer Minor cuts and burns
May 9, 1979 Yes John Harris Graduate student Minor cuts and burns
November 15, 1979 American Airlines Flight 444 from Chicago to Washington, D.C. (explosion occurred midflight) Yes Twelve passengers Multiple Non-lethal smoke inhalation
June 10, 1980 Lake Forest Yes Percy Wood President of United Airlines Severe cuts and burns over most of body and face
October 8, 1981 Utah University of Utah Bomb defused N/A N/A N/A
May 5, 1982 Tennessee Vanderbilt University Yes Janet Smith University secretary Severe burns to hands shrapnel wounds to body
July 2, 1982 California University of California, Berkeley Yes Diogenes Angelakos Engineering professor Severe burns and shrapnel wounds to hand and face
May 15, 1985 Yes John Hauser Graduate student Loss of four fingers and severed artery in right arm partial loss of vision in left eye
June 13, 1985 Washington The Boeing Company in Auburn Bomb defused N/A N/A N/A
November 15, 1985 Michigan University of Michigan Yes James V. McConnell Psychology professor Temporary hearing loss
Yes Nicklaus Suino Research assistant Burns and shrapnel wounds
December 11, 1985 California Sacramento Yes Hugh Scrutton Computer store owner Death
February 20, 1987 Utah Salt Lake City Yes Gary Wright Computer store owner Severe nerve damage to left arm
June 22, 1993 California Tiburon Yes Charles Epstein Geneticist Severe damage to both eardrums with partial hearing loss, loss of three fingers
June 24, 1993 Connecticut Yale University Yes David Gelernter Computer science professor Severe burns and shrapnel wounds, damage to right eye, loss of right hand
December 10, 1994 New Jersey North Caldwell Yes Thomas J. Mosser Advertising executive Death
April 24, 1995 California Sacramento Yes Gilbert Brent Murray Timber industry lobbyist Death
References: [68] [69]

In 1995, Kaczynski mailed several letters to media outlets outlining his goals and demanding a major newspaper print his 35,000-word essay Industrial Society and Its Future (dubbed the "Unabomber manifesto" by the FBI) verbatim. [70] [71] He stated he would "desist from terrorism" if this demand was met. [10] [72] [73] There was controversy as to whether the essay should be published, but Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh recommended its publication out of concern for public safety and in the hope that a reader could identify the author. Bob Guccione of Penthouse volunteered to publish it. Kaczynski replied Penthouse was less "respectable" than The New York Times and The Washington Post, and said that, "to increase our chances of getting our stuff published in some 'respectable' periodical", he would "reserve the right to plant one (and only one) bomb intended to kill, after our manuscript has been published" if Penthouse published the document instead of The Times or The Post. [74] The Washington Post published the essay on September 19, 1995. [75] [76]

Kaczynski used a typewriter to write his manuscript, capitalizing entire words for emphasis in lieu of italics. He always referred to himself as either "we" or "FC" ("Freedom Club"), though there is no evidence that he worked with others. Donald Wayne Foster analyzed the writing at the request of Kaczynski's defense team in 1996 and noted that it contained irregular spelling and hyphenation, along with other linguistic idiosyncrasies. This led him to conclude that Kaczynski was its author. [77]

Summary Edit

Industrial Society and Its Future begins with Kaczynski's assertion: "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race." [78] [79] He writes that technology has had a destabilizing effect on society, has made life unfulfilling, and has caused widespread psychological suffering. [80] Kaczynski argues that most people spend their time engaged in useless pursuits because of technological advances he calls these "surrogate activities" wherein people strive toward artificial goals, including scientific work, consumption of entertainment, political activism and following sports teams. [80] He predicts that further technological advances will lead to extensive human genetic engineering and that human beings will be adjusted to meet the needs of the social systems, rather than vice versa. [80] Kaczynski states that technological progress can be stopped, in contrast to the viewpoint of people who he says understand technology's negative effects yet passively accept it as inevitable. [81] He calls for a return to primitivist lifestyles. [80]

Kaczynski argues that the erosion of human freedom is a natural product of an industrial society because "the system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function", and that reform of the system is impossible as drastic changes to it would not be implemented because of their disruption of the system. [82] He states that the system has not yet fully achieved control over all human behavior and is in the midst of a struggle to gain that control. Kaczynski predicts that the system will break down if it cannot achieve significant control, and that it is likely this issue will be decided within the next 40 to 100 years. [82] He states that the task of those who oppose industrial society is to promote stress within and upon the society and to propagate anti-technology ideology, one that offers the "counter-ideal" of nature. Kaczynski goes on to say that a revolution will only be possible when industrial society is sufficiently unstable. [83]

A significant portion of the document is dedicated to discussing left-wing politics, Kaczynski attributing many of society's issues to leftists. [82] He defines leftists as "mainly socialists, collectivists, 'politically correct' types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like". [84] He believes that oversocialization and feelings of inferiority primarily drive leftism, [80] and derides it as "one of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world". [84] Kaczynski adds that the type of movement he envisions must be anti-leftist and refrain from collaboration with leftists, as in his view "leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology". [78] He also criticizes conservatives, describing them as fools who "whine about the decay of traditional values, yet . enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth". [84]

Other works Edit

University of Michigan–Dearborn philosophy professor David Skrbina helped to compile Kaczynski's work into the 2010 anthology Technological Slavery, including the original manifesto, letters between Skrbina and Kaczynski, and other essays. [85] Kaczynski updated his 1995 manifesto as Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How to address advances in computers and the internet. He advocates practicing other types of protest and makes no mention of violence. [86]

According to a 2021 study, Kaczynski's manifesto "is a synthesis of ideas from three well known academics: French philosopher Jacques Ellul, British zoologist Desmond Morris, and American psychologist Martin Seligman." [87]

Because of the material used to make the mail bombs, U.S. postal inspectors, who initially had responsibility for the case, labeled the suspect the "Junkyard Bomber". [88] FBI Inspector Terry D. Turchie was appointed to run the UNABOM (University and Airline Bomber) investigation. [89] In 1979, an FBI-led task force that included 125 agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was formed. [89] The task force grew to more than 150 full-time personnel, but minute analysis of recovered components of the bombs and the investigation into the lives of the victims proved of little use in identifying the suspect, who built the bombs primarily from scrap materials available almost anywhere. Investigators later learned that the victims were chosen indiscriminately from library research. [90]

In 1980, chief agent John Douglas, working with agents in the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, issued a psychological profile of the unidentified bomber. It described the offender as a man with above-average intelligence and connections to academia. This profile was later refined to characterize the offender as a neo-Luddite holding an academic degree in the hard sciences, but this psychologically based profile was discarded in 1983. FBI analysts developed an alternative theory that concentrated on the physical evidence in recovered bomb fragments. In this rival profile, the suspect was characterized as a blue-collar airplane mechanic. [91] The UNABOMB Task Force set up a toll-free telephone hotline to take calls related to the investigation, with a $1 million reward for anyone who could provide information leading to the Unabomber's capture. [92]

Before the publication of Industrial Society and Its Future, Kaczynski's brother, David, was encouraged by his wife to follow up on suspicions that Ted was the Unabomber. [93] David was dismissive at first, but he took the likelihood more seriously after reading the manifesto a week after it was published in September 1995. He searched through old family papers and found letters dating to the 1970s that Ted had sent to newspapers to protest the abuses of technology using phrasing similar to that in the manifesto. [94]

Before the manifesto's publication, the FBI held many press conferences asking the public to help identify the Unabomber. They were convinced that the bomber was from the Chicago area where he began his bombings, had worked in or had some connection to Salt Lake City, and by the 1990s had some association with the San Francisco Bay Area. This geographical information and the wording in excerpts from the manifesto that were released before the entire text of the manifesto was published persuaded David's wife to urge him to read it. [95] [96]

After publication Edit

After the manifesto was published, the FBI received thousands of leads in response to its offer of a reward for information leading to the identification of the Unabomber. [96] While the FBI reviewed new leads, Kaczynski's brother David hired private investigator Susan Swanson in Chicago to investigate Ted's activities discreetly. [97] David later hired Washington, D.C. attorney Tony Bisceglie to organize the evidence acquired by Swanson and contact the FBI, given the presumed difficulty of attracting the FBI's attention. Kaczynski's family wanted to protect him from the danger of an FBI raid, such as those at Ruby Ridge or Waco, since they feared a violent outcome from any attempt by the FBI to contact Kaczynski. [98] [99]

In early 1996, an investigator working with Bisceglie contacted former FBI hostage negotiator and criminal profiler Clinton R. Van Zandt. Bisceglie asked him to compare the manifesto to typewritten copies of handwritten letters David had received from his brother. Van Zandt's initial analysis determined that there was better than a 60 percent chance that the same person had written the manifesto, which had been in public circulation for half a year. Van Zandt's second analytical team determined a higher likelihood. He recommended Bisceglie's client contact the FBI immediately. [98]

In February 1996, Bisceglie gave a copy of the 1971 essay written by Ted Kaczynski to Molly Flynn at the FBI. [89] She forwarded the essay to the San Francisco-based task force. FBI profiler James R. Fitzgerald [100] [101] recognized similarities in the writings using linguistic analysis and determined that the author of the essays and the manifesto was almost certainly the same person. Combined with facts gleaned from the bombings and Kaczynski's life, the analysis provided the basis for an affidavit signed by Terry Turchie, the head of the entire investigation, in support of the application for a search warrant. [89]

David Kaczynski had tried to remain anonymous, but he was soon identified. Within a few days an FBI agent team was dispatched to interview David and his wife with their attorney in Washington, D.C. At this and subsequent meetings, David provided letters written by his brother in their original envelopes, allowing the FBI task force to use the postmark dates to add more detail to their timeline of Ted's activities. David developed a respectful relationship with behavioral analysis Special Agent Kathleen M. Puckett, whom he met many times in Washington, D.C., Texas, Chicago, and Schenectady, New York, over the nearly two months before the federal search warrant was served on Kaczynski's cabin. [102]

David had once admired and emulated his older brother but had since left the survivalist lifestyle behind. [103] He had received assurances from the FBI that he would remain anonymous and that his brother would not learn who had turned him in, but his identity was leaked to CBS News in early April 1996. CBS anchorman Dan Rather called FBI director Louis Freeh, who requested 24 hours before CBS broke the story on the evening news. The FBI scrambled to finish the search warrant and have it issued by a federal judge in Montana afterwards, the FBI conducted an internal leak investigation, but the source of the leak was never identified. [103]

FBI officials were not unanimous in identifying Ted as the author of the manifesto. The search warrant noted that several experts believed the manifesto had been written by another individual. [51]

Arrest Edit

FBI agents arrested an unkempt Kaczynski at his cabin on April 3, 1996. A search revealed a cache of bomb components, 40,000 hand-written journal pages that included bomb-making experiments, descriptions of the Unabomber crimes and one live bomb, ready for mailing. They also found what appeared to be the original typed manuscript of Industrial Society and Its Future. [104] By this point, the Unabomber had been the target of the most expensive investigation in FBI history at the time. [11] [105] A 2000 report by the United States Commission on the Advancement of Federal Law Enforcement stated that the task force had spent over $50 million throughout the course of the investigation. [106]

After his capture, theories emerged naming Kaczynski as the Zodiac Killer, who murdered five people in Northern California from 1968 to 1969. Among the links that raised suspicion was the fact that Kaczynski lived in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1967 to 1969 (the same period that most of the Zodiac's confirmed killings occurred in California), that both individuals were highly intelligent with an interest in bombs and codes, and that both wrote letters to newspapers demanding the publication of their works with the threat of continued violence if the demand was not met. Yet Kaczynski's whereabouts could not be verified for all of the killings. Since the gun and knife murders committed by the Zodiac Killer differed from Kaczynski's bombings, authorities did not pursue him as a suspect. Robert Graysmith, author of the 1986 book Zodiac, said the similarities are "fascinating" but purely coincidental. [107]

The early hunt for the Unabomber portrayed a perpetrator far different from the eventual suspect. Kaczynski consistently uses "we" and "our" throughout Industrial Society and Its Future. At one point in 1993 investigators sought an individual whose first name was "Nathan" because the name was imprinted on the envelope of a letter sent to the media. [57] When authorities presented the case to the public, they denied that there was ever anyone other than Kaczynski involved in the crimes. [93]

Guilty plea Edit

A federal grand jury indicted Kaczynski in June 1996 on ten counts of illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs. [108] Kaczynski's lawyers, headed by Montana federal public defenders Michael Donahoe and Judy Clarke, attempted to enter an insanity defense to avoid the death penalty, but Kaczynski rejected this strategy. On January 8, 1998, he asked to dismiss his lawyers and hire Tony Serra as his counsel Serra had agreed not to use an insanity defense and instead promised to base a defense on Kaczynski's anti-technology views. [109] [110] [111] After this request was unsuccessful, Kaczynski tried to kill himself on January 9. [112] Sally Johnson, the psychiatrist who examined Kaczynski, concluded that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. [113] Forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz said Kaczynski was not psychotic but had a schizoid or schizotypal personality disorder. [114] In his 2010 book Technological Slavery, Kaczynski said that two prison psychologists who visited him frequently for four years told him they saw no indication that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and the diagnosis was "ridiculous" and a "political diagnosis". [115]

On January 21, 1998, Kaczynski was declared competent to stand trial by federal prison psychiatrist Johnson, "despite the psychiatric diagnoses". [116] As he was fit to stand trial, prosecutors sought the death penalty, but Kaczynski avoided that by pleading guilty to all charges on January 22, 1998, and accepting life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He later tried to withdraw this plea, arguing it was involuntary as he had been coerced to plead guilty by the judge. Judge Garland Ellis Burrell Jr. denied his request, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld that decision. [117] [118]

In 2006, Burrell ordered that items from Kaczynski's cabin be sold at a "reasonably advertised Internet auction". Items considered to be bomb-making materials, such as diagrams and "recipes" for bombs, were excluded. The net proceeds went towards the $15 million in restitution Burrell had awarded Kaczynski's victims. [119] Kaczynski's correspondence and other personal papers were also auctioned. [120] [121] [122] Burrell ordered the removal, before sale, of references in those documents to Kaczynski's victims Kaczynski unsuccessfully challenged those redactions as a violation of his freedom of speech. [123] [124] [125] The auction ran for two weeks in 2011, and raised over $232,000. [126]

Kaczynski is serving eight life sentences without the possibility of parole at ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. [123] [127] Early in his imprisonment, Kaczynski befriended Ramzi Yousef and Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, respectively. The trio discussed religion and politics and formed a friendship which lasted until McVeigh's execution in 2001. [128] In 2012, Kaczynski responded to the Harvard Alumni Association's directory inquiry for the fiftieth reunion of the class of 1962 he listed his occupation as "prisoner" and his eight life sentences as "awards". [129]

The U.S. government seized Kaczynski's cabin, which they put on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., until it closed at the end of 2019. [130] In October 2005, Kaczynski offered to donate two rare books to the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University's campus in Evanston, Illinois, the location of his first two attacks. The Library rejected the offer on the grounds that it already had copies of the works. [131] The Labadie Collection, part of the University of Michigan's Special Collections Library, houses Kaczynski's correspondence with over 400 people since his arrest, including replies, legal documents, publications, and clippings. [132] [133] His writings are among the most popular selections in the University of Michigan's special collections. [85] The identity of most correspondents will remain sealed until 2049. [132] [134]

Kaczynski has been portrayed in and inspired multiple artistic works in the realm of popular culture. [135] These include the 1996 television film Unabomber: The True Story, [136] the 2011 play P.O. Box Unabomber, [137] and Manhunt: Unabomber, the 2017 season of the television series Manhunt. [138] The moniker "Unabomber" was also applied to the Italian Unabomber, a terrorist who conducted attacks similar to Kaczynski's in Italy from 1994 to 2006. [139] Prior to the 1996 United States presidential election, a campaign called "Unabomber for President" was launched with the goal of electing Kaczynski as president through write-in votes. [140]

In his book The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), futurist Ray Kurzweil quoted a passage from Kaczynski's manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future. [141] In turn, Kaczynski was referenced by Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in the 2000 Wired article "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us". Joy stated Kaczynski "is clearly a Luddite, but simply saying this does not dismiss his argument". [142] [143] Professor Jean-Marie Apostolidès has raised questions surrounding the ethics of spreading Kaczynski's views. [144] Various radical movements and extremists have been influenced by Kaczynski. [87] People inspired by Kaczynski's ideas show up in unexpected places, from nihilist, anarchist and eco-extremist movements to conservative intellectuals. [50] Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, [145] published a manifesto which copied large portions from Industrial Society and Its Future, with certain terms substituted (e.g., replacing "leftists" with "cultural Marxists" and "multiculturalists"). [146] [147]

Over twenty years after Kaczynski's imprisonment, his views have inspired an online community of primitivists and neo-Luddites. One explanation for the renewal of interest in his views is the television series Manhunt: Unabomber, which aired in 2017. [148] Kaczynski is also frequently referred to by ecofascists online. [149] Although some militant fascist and neo-Nazi groups idolize him, Kaczynski described fascism in his manifesto as a "kook ideology" and Nazism as "evil", and never tried to align himself with the far right. [148]

Unabomber's writings raise uneasy ethical questions for Stanford scholar

French Professor Jean-Marie Apostolidès finds link between blood and ink in Ted Kaczynski's "Manifesto" – but should we listen to a killer?

Great crimes don't end neatly with a trial. Uneasy questions linger: Should we disqualify ideas when they come from a killer's lips? Is it right to disseminate the killer's ideas – even while denouncing them – if the criminal killed precisely to give them weight and force?

For French Professor Jean-Marie Apostolidès, briefly a penpal of the notorious Unabomber and a translator of his writings, these very questions are a scholar's terroir.

He was intrigued by the killer's anti-technology stance, and says that on that score, Theodore Kaczynski may have been right. "Technology transformed humanity into something different than it was before, into a new creation – flesh and technè," he said.

"We are mutants now. What will come out of it nobody knows. It's something unprecedented – and scary," he said. Science fiction, in many cases, is simply "presenting the fears of the metamorphosis."

Apostolidès recently published in book form a French translation of the Unabomber's manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future. He is currently working on a philosophical and psychological study, Of Ink and Blood: The Writings of Theodore Kaczynski. The author of 1999's L'Affaire Unabomber also has written the recently published The Metamorphoses of Tintin: Or, Tintin for Adults.

French Professor Jean-Marie Apostolidès briefly corresponded with the notorious Unabomber.

For Apostolidès, Kaczynski has been a 15-year interest. For most of us, the Unabomber is frozen in the image that gripped America on April 3, 1996: an unkempt, bearded recluse from the Montana wilderness, a man who by all appearances could have been a backwoods yokel or a hermit-saint, arrested following a 17-year spree of deadly bombings (many targeted at universities) that had earned him the tag "Unabomber."

Apostolidès, who has a background as a psychologist as well as a playwright and scholar of French classical literature and drama, was not surprised by the profile of the killer – a brilliant, Harvard-educated mathematician who had been a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

Apostolidès had become intrigued with the Unabomber's screed, which critiques the pervasive effect of technology on our world and humanity's increasing dependence on it. He had already translated Kaczynski's "audacious" manifesto for the Parisian press a few weeks before the killer's arrest. (Kaczynski said he would halt the killings if his Industrial Society and Its Future was published the Washington Post and the New York Times obliged in 1995.)

Despite some sympathy for Kaczynski's views on industrial society, Apostolidès embraces technology – "because I think there is no other way. It brings positive and negative things. They cannot be separated.

"Our global history as animals is to go beyond our animality in order to create something we don't know. It has been the case since the caveman," he said.

"There is a great leap leading God knows where," he said.

Inevitably, technology's takeover has its casualties. Kaczynski created them, and became one of them – a former professor now an inmate of a maximum-security prison. Kaczynski was haunted by the notion of the noble savage, a myth that has echoed through Western thought from Rousseau to today's blockbuster Avatar. The Unabomber, said Apostolidès, is a direct heir of the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, the way back to the wilderness is a fantasy: "There's no way we can return. No way to go back to the frontier man. Ted Kaczynski is a hundred years too late," he said.

A secret that has expired

The translation of Kaczynski's 1995 manifesto, which Apostolidès began the day after he read it in the Washington Post, was the first step in a longer journey. The next began with a secret.

"In the past, I was in a certain way tied to a secret that I think has no more value," he explained. Shortly after the arrest, Apostolidès was approached by Kaczynski's team of lawyers, who said they were concerned for the prisoner's sanity and well-being in prison.

"They thought I would be a perfect penpal," he said. Apostolidès was told to keep the correspondence secret even from his family. Thus began a brief, lopsided correspondence screened by Kaczynski's lawyers and the FBI.

The brief correspondence did not go smoothly: "He did not want to talk to me he wanted to preach. I detest that," he said. "On one side he was scolding me, on the other side complimenting me."

In retrospect, Apostolidès thinks the lawyers wanted him to help certify Kaczynski was insane. Yet, he said, "I'm convinced he has neurotic problems – but no more than anyone else. He has to be judged on his ideas and his deeds." Our insistence on his insanity may be a way to avoid grappling with that, he said.

In an interview, Apostolidès leaned forward across the desk in his campus office and his voice dropped: "This will shock you. He's a very nice guy, sweet, open-minded. And I know he has blood on his hands. You cannot be all bad – even if you kill, even Hitler."

We would like our villains to be 100 percent evil, psychotic Snidely Whiplashes counting money in the backroom. (Look at the outcry at the portrayal of Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall.) We are uncomfortable when they look even a little bit like us, but such ambiguity is the stuff of life, said Apostolidès.

The most obvious ambiguity may be centered within Apostolidès himself. He admits he has a longstanding interest in avant-garde ideas – but he writes about radical thoughts from the safe perch of a university professorship and his comfortable home on the Stanford campus. In short, as a part of the petite bourgeoisie Kaczynski despises.

Kaczynski's manifesto argues that the leftist liberals who present themselves as rebels are, in fact, obedient servants of the dominant society – a symptom of "oversocialization." He singles out "university intellectuals" as prime examples.

Apostolidès, who says he wouldn't kill a fly, finds the criticism "absolutely appropriate."

'Our words have no power'

"It's the problem of scholars, even artists: Our words have no power. We think we are changing the world – particularly on the left," he said, and paused. "You accept your symbolic castration – that your writing will take time to have a modest influence on your contemporaries." In other words, he accepts the compromises necessary to live a normal life, with an income, collegial support, home and family.

Yet Kaczynski's writings and life have intrigued Apostolidès by emphasizing "the relationship between writing and killing, ink and blood."

"From a cynical perspective, I write books without killing anyone – my writing will have no impact. The only way I can be listened to is to associate my writing to something." That is, "either your own blood or someone else's."

For instance, he cited Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, whose meticulously planned seppuku in 1970 triggered an avalanche of interest in his works.

Kaczynski is following in these footsteps, rejecting the petit bourgeois alternative that Apostolidès has knowingly embraced and instead "linking blood and ink."

If Apostolidès' contention seems eggheaded, consider a Jan. 8 New York Times article on the Jordanian doctor who killed nine people, including himself and seven CIA officers, in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan: "My words will die if I do not save them with my blood," he posted pseudonymously on a blog before his death.

"My articles will be against me if I don't prove to them that I am not a hypocrite," the posting read. "One has to die to make the other live. I wish I could be the one to die."

That said, aren't there moral reservations in advancing Kaczynski's writings? After all, he killed to get an audience.

"I do not agree with his ideas, let alone his means to spread them," Apostolidès said. Nevertheless, "The role of a scholar is to go beyond my own emotions and analyze everything.

"It does not mean we are unaware of the ethical dimension. But we have to go beyond. It is a necessity."

How publishing a 35,000-word manifesto led to the Unabomber

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the role played by Washington private investigator Terry Lenzner. Ted Kaczynski’s brother, David, did not contact Lenzner when the manifesto aroused his suspicions, and it was not Lenzner who hired criminal profiler Clint Van Zandt to investigate. David Kaczynski’s wife, Linda Patrik, recruited Susan Swanson, a childhood friend who worked for Lenzner’s firm, after the couple read the manifesto and grew concerned about its similarity to Ted Kaczynski’s letters to family members. Swanson led the private investigation and hired Van Zandt and attorney Anthony Bisceglie. This story has been updated.

On Sept. 19, 1995, The Washington Post published more than 35,000 words spread over eight pages of a special section. (The Washington Post Archive)
The writer of the “manifesto” was a mysterious criminal known as “the Unabomber,” later identified as Ted Kaczynski. (The Washington Post Archive)

Twenty years ago to the day Saturday, readers of The Washington Post woke up to one of the strangest items the newspaper — or maybe any newspaper — had ever published.

In more than 35,000 words spread over eight pages of a special section, an anonymous author laid out his complaint against the “industrial-technological system” and his desire to destroy it by sparking a revolution. The essay bumped and blundered through a forest of dark themes and discontent, from a lengthy lament about environmental destruction to a brief critique of golf and bowling.

The writer of the self-described “manifesto” was a mysterious criminal the media had dubbed “the Unabomber.”

Over a 17-year span, the anonymous terrorist had mailed or planted 16 explosive-laden packages, killing three people and injuring 23. A long FBI manhunt had produced little more than a few bomb fragments, a sketch of a shadowy character in a hoodie and a clutch of theories about his identity, motives and whereabouts.

Two decades later, the events surrounding the publication of the Unabomber’s manuscript seem both distant and eerily familiar. Some elements suggest a bygone age. The manifesto, for example, was perhaps one of the last newsworthy documents to appear only in print. Although the Internet was starting to seep into everyday life, few Americans relied on it for news. Within a few years, that would change irrevocably.

But the episode also stands out as an early milestone in the current age of anxiety. The Unabomber’s manifesto appeared just as Washington was beginning its long preoccupation with terrorism and national security. As the news media and the public fixated on the Unabomber drama, a much bigger story was quietly dawning. That same year, in a classified National Intelligence Estimate, the CIA warned that Islamic extremists were intent on striking targets inside the United States.

The Unabomber story had as happy an ending as possible. In April 1996, the FBI raided a shabby cabin in Montana and arrested its inhabitant, a recluse named Theodore Kaczynski. His capture brought the Unabomber’s campaign of terror to an end.

But it wouldn’t have happened if a bizarre newspaper “article” hadn’t been published seven months earlier.

A photocopy of the transcript sent to The Washington Post. (FBI)

The packages, ordinary in each respect, showed up in the mailrooms of the New York Times and The Post on consecutive days in June 1995.

The first was addressed to Deputy Managing Editor Warren Hoge at the Times. The second was sent to Deputy Managing Editor Michael Getler at The Post. Getler’s bore a return name and address: “Boon Long Hoe, 3609 Reinoso Ct., San Jose, Calif. 95136.”

Inside both packages were
56 typed, single-spaced pages, plus 10 more with footnotes and typographical corrections, all under the heading “Industrial Society and Its Future.” The author referred to himself as “FC,” for Freedom Club.

The sender offered the Times and Post an ominous choice: If they published his manuscript, he would stop harming people. If they declined, he said he would “start building our next bomb.”

Within days, the FBI determined that the name and return address listed on the envelopes were fakes and that the packages were most likely the work of the Unabomber. (The nickname was derived from the FBI’s UNABOM case file, which combined “university” and “airline,” two of his early targets.)

They had no doubt that the threat to kill again was real.

Post publisher Donald E. Graham and his top editor, Leonard Downie Jr., quickly agreed to coordinate their response with their Times counterparts, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and editor Joseph Lelyveld. “We had no great desire for this to be an exclusive story,” Graham recalled in an interview this week.

The four men, along with The Post’s president, Boisfeuillet “Bo” Jones Jr., agreed to meet with the FBI’s director, Louis J. Freeh, and members of the agency’s
UNABOM task force. The group met three times that summer, the last two with Attorney General Janet Reno.

“We said, ‘We’d like your recommendation,’ ” said Graham, who now runs Graham Holdings after the sale of The Post to ­Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos in 2013. “We told them: ‘We’re absolutely not public safety experts and we’d like to know what you think best. We’ll decide what to do and get back to you.’ ”

Freeh and Reno advocated publishing the document, arguing that doing so could save lives. They suggested producing it in pamphlet or book form, an idea the newspaper people rejected because distributing it widely would have been difficult.

The FBI — and a few others — also thought publication could entrap the bomber. Gene Weingarten, a Post editor, suggested to his boss, Mary Hadar, that the newspaper publish the manifesto and have the FBI track the handful of copies that would be sent to Northern California, where the Unabomber was believed to be living, and question anyone buying the paper who fit the Unabomber’s description. Hadar took the idea to Jones.

As it happened, the FBI had the same idea and proposed it to representatives of the Times and Post. Although it’s not clear whether the FBI ever monitored newsstands, Weingarten, now a Washington Post Magazine columnist, said the idea may have contributed to the decision to publish the manifesto. “I would like forever to be known as the man who caught the Unabomber,” he joked.

There was one other possibility: “I do remember thinking that [if it was published] there was a remote chance someone would see it and recognize the author,” Graham said.

After the third meeting with Freeh and Reno, the newspaper group retired to a coffee shop near the Justice Department and pondered the options. The five men agreed that publishing the manuscript was the best option — or at least was the decision they “felt the most comfortable making,” as Sulzberger put it in an interview this week.

Graham volunteered to have The Post print and distribute it, but as a stand-alone section separate from the paper’s regular news and opinion pages and set in a special typeface.

Sulzberger agreed to pay for half the printing costs, about $15,000 (the Times itself never published the manuscript). Sulzberger joked that Graham and Jones would have the check from the rival newspaper framed. They cashed it.

The manifesto’s appearance Sept. 19 unsettled some media critics. As the American Journalism Review wrote soon after, “Media managers nationwide are troubled by the long-term implications of the decision, wondering if copycats will now take advantage of murder and mayhem to get their 15 minutes of fame.”

But Sulzberger noted that the Unabomber wasn’t like others who had made transitory threats. “Here we are dealing with an individual with a 17-year record of violent actions,” he told the Times at the time. “Hard experience proves that his threat to send another bomb . . . must be taken absolutely seriously.”

The reaction among readers was considerably milder than the press critics. People from outside the Washington area flooded the paper with phone calls, recalled Jones, but most weren’t calling to complain. Instead, he said, “they wanted reprints and souvenir copies. We had to tell them we didn’t have any extra.”

In retrospect, the newspapers “made the right call,” said W. Joseph Campbell, a media historian and American University professor who recounts the Unabomber episode in a new book, “1995: The Year the Future Began.” The major difference between then and now, he said, is that a terrorist wouldn’t need a newspaper to distribute his rantings. As the Islamic State has shown, the Internet has given killers their own publishing platforms. Today, a document such as Kaczynski’s manifesto “would find its way online quickly.”

This county assessor’s file photo from the early 1980s shows the home of Unabomber suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski outside Lincoln, Mont. (Lewis and Clark County, Mont., Assessor via AP)
Ted Kaczynski, 53, is shown during his booking shot at the Lewis and Clark County Jail in Helena, Mont., on April 3, 1996. (AP)

A few weeks after the manifesto appeared, a man in New York state began to feel uneasy.

At the urging of his wife, Linda Patrik, David Kaczynski had read what The Post had published and was struck by how much it reminded him of the letters that he and family members had received from his older brother, Ted.

A brilliant mathematician who rejected a promising academic career, Ted Kaczynski had moved to Montana in 1971 to live a hermit’s life alone in a cabin.

The younger man began to ponder the unthinkable: Could his estranged brother be a serial killer? And could David Kaczynski bring himself to turn him in?

After the couple discussed it, Patrik turned to a childhood friend, Susan Swanson, an investigator who worked for Terry Lenzner, a prominent lawyer and private investigator in Washington. Swanson led the private investigation and hired Clint Van Zandt, a criminal profiler, and Anthony Bisceglie, a lawyer who represented David Kaczynski and his wife.

Van Zandt compared the manifesto with David Kaczynski’s letters from his brother. His conclusion: There was a strong chance that both were written by the same man.

David Kaczynski (who did not respond to phone calls this week) next turned to Anthony P. Bisceglie, a Washington attorney. Bisceglie approached the FBI to discuss what the Kaczynski family now knew.

Ted Kaczynski, then 53, was arrested at his cabin April 3, 1996.

He was tried in federal court in Sacramento in 1998 and convicted on multiple felony counts. He is serving eight lifetime sentences in a Colorado “supermax” prison.

In the end, the best detectives in the country couldn’t catch a clever sociopath. It took luck, a criminal’s ego and a crucial decision to publish an article to bring down the Unabomber. As Downie says today: “We solved the case. The FBI didn’t.”

PAGE ONE -- Unabomber Sends Manifesto To 3 Publications / 56-page article mailed to N.Y. Times, Washington Post and Penthouse

The Unabomber has sent the New York Times and the Washington Post his long-awaited manifesto, demanding that the lengthy article be published in one of the two newspapers as a condition for ending his deadly terrorist attacks, publishing executives said last night.

The serial bomber said the newspapers have three months to publish the full text of the manuscript -- a scathing indictment of industrial society -- and should print three annual follow-up messages. And he reserved the right to kill at least once again under certain conditions.

The bomber, according to Post executives, also sent a copy of the article to Penthouse magazine publisher Robert Guccione, who had volunteered his pages to the Unabomber earlier this year. As of last night, Penthouse said it had not received it.

In his latest letter to all three publications, which arrived this week on

the heels of a letter to The Chronicle, the UNABOM suspect indicated he is concerned that the two powerful East Coast newspapers might both refuse to publish the article -- an unusually long piece that could take up to seven complete pages of a newspaper.

If he is forced to have his work published in the risque Penthouse, the Unabomber said, he might well kill again.


"To increase our chances of getting our stuff published in some 'respectable' periodical we have to offer less in exchange for publication in Penthouse," he wrote. "We promise to desist permanently from terrorism, EXCEPT that we reserve the right to plant one (and only one) bomb intended to kill, AFTER our manuscript has been published."

In any event, the Unabomber, who has never been publicly identified during his 17-year reign of terror, did not promise to end property destruction.

Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. said his newspaper is still considering whether to publish the Unabomber's article.

Post publisher Donald E. Graham said, "The Post takes this communication very seriously. We are considering how to respond, and we are consulting with law enforcement officials."

Word of the article's arrival at the two newspapers capped 48 hours of chaos and uncertainty that began Tuesday, with a letter the Unabomber sent The Chronicle, threatening to blow up an airliner flying out of Los Angeles International Airport.

In a letter to the Times the next day, the Unabomber said he was only playing "a prank" and there were no bombs. The long manuscript accompanied that letter.

Post officials said they were notified Wednesday night by the FBI that "we could be receiving a package from the Unabomber. We asked our security to search the building, particularly the newsroom. We found a package that matched the description given by the FBI it was put in a safe place and held until the FBI came (yesterday)."

The Post's package listed a return address in San Jose. The address included the name of a man who was later found to be the owner of the house. The Post did not reveal further details, although it said the owner rents out the house and could not be reached last night.


The return address on the parcel mailed to the Times was Calgene Inc. in Davis (Yolo County), a biotechnology company best known for its development of a genetically engineered tomato. In earlier letters, the Unabomber has criticized biotechnology companies and genetic engineering.

The manuscript sent to the Post contains 56 pages of text, plus 11 pages of footnotes and other material. It expresses anarchistic sentiments, calling for worldwide revolution against the effects of modern society's "industrial-technological system."

The letters included in the package to the Post -- one addressed to each of the three publications -- provide a glimpse into the thinking of a killer who has provoked the longest and most frustrating domestic terrorism investigation in modern history.

Until recently, investigators have lacked not only any suspects, but any real hint of the bomber's motivation. "It's been difficult to get inside his mind," Peter Smerick, a former FBI agent who once worked on the case, told the Post.


In the letter to the Times, the most detailed of the three, the Unabomber expressed no remorse for the fact that the explosive package that killed a timber industry lobbyist in Sacramento in April was addressed to another man. Gilbert Murray, the third man to die at the hands of the terrorist, "was pursuing the same goals" as the intended victim, the letter said.

On the other hand, the Unabomber wrote, he is glad now he failed to set fire to an American Airlines flight in 1979. An incendiary device planted on the plane detonated and injured many passengers, but the aircraft landed safely.

"The idea was to kill a lot of business people," the letter said. "But of course some of the passengers likely would have been innocent people -- maybe kids or some working stiff going to see his grandmother. We're glad now that that attempt failed."

In his manifesto, the Unabomber asked for the kind of revolution that would provoke destruction of factories, the burning of all technical manuals and a return to "wild nature." He rails against politicians and activists of both stripe -- left and right -- and mourns the "breakdown" of what he sees as traditional values.

In the letter to the Times, the Unabomber denied the Oklahoma City bombing has inspired him to greater activity. On April 20, one day after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber mailed a 1,300-word letter to the Times and a bomb to a Sacramento timber lobby firm.

Criminologists and psychiatrists have said these actions showed a kind of desperate envy that the Unabomber had of those who bombed the Oklahoma City federal building. But he saw it differently, he said in his newest letter.

"We strongly deplore the kind of indiscriminate slaughter that occurred in the Oklahoma City event," he wrote.

But "as for people who willfully and knowingly promote economic growth and technical progress, in our eyes they are criminals, and if they get blown up they deserve it," he wrote. He said he was motivated by one thing -- "anger."


A great deal of the manifesto revolves around what the Unabomber calls the sources of social problems in modern life: overcrowded cities, man's isolation from nature, and the breakdown of traditional family and community values. A technological society, he argues, must crush those values, and especially human freedom, to sustain itself.

The definition of freedom, he wrote, is "being in control" of one's own life, free from the power of others "no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised." On the other hand, constitutional rights are not as important as they are made to seem -- personal freedom is determined more by economics and technology than law.

"Freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen," he said. "The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system." What one person has to say "will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media."

The man suspected of bombing at least three people to death makes only a few oblique references, in his article, to his bombings. He does not say they are opening shots in a revolution but sees them more as part of an effort to draw attention.

"Take us for example," he said. "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. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of those readers would soon have forgotten."

"In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression," he added, "we've had to kill people."

The Unabomber's Ethics

Abstract : In this paper I present and criticize Ted Kaczynski’s (‘The Unabomber’) theory that industrialization has been terrible for humanity, and that we should use any means necessary, including violent means, to induce a return to pre-industrial ways of living. Although Kaczynski’s manifesto, ‘Industrial Society and its Future,’ has become widely known, his ideas have never before been subject to careful philosophical criticism. In this paper I show how Kaczynski’s arguments rely on a number of highly implausible philosophical premises. I further make the case that although his theory as a whole should be rejected, Kaczynski raises a number of worries about technological development that ought to receive serious attention. Some of these worries have recently come to be shared by prominent defenders of human enhancement, including Nick Bostrom and Julian Savulescu. In the last section I indicate why I believe it is important that academic philosophers scrutinize ideas that motivate acts of violence.


My first aim in this paper is to reconstruct Kaczynski’s core arguments in ‘Industrial Society and its Future‘ (1995) and Anti-Tech Revolution (2016). [3] I then show how his arguments rely on a number of highly implausible ethical premises that have hitherto not been made explicit and criticized. Thereafter I examine where Kaczynski’s arguments lead given more reasonable ethical premises.

There are obvious downsides to discussing ideas that are spread by means of violence. We do not, after all, want to contribute to making violence an effective means to get ideas across. I think, however, that the present discussion is justified. One reason is that Kaczynski’s views are already widely known. Recently, the television series Manhunt: Unabomber has received significant attention. [4] Although it would perhaps have been best if they were not widely known, the worst situation is one in which they are widely known, yet are never subject to careful criticism. I hope that by making his philosophical shortcomings explicit, I can help demystify Kaczynski and perhaps help dissuade some of those who would otherwise be attracted to his views. I shall return to this point in the conclusion.


In Kaczynski’s view, we nevertheless need to feel that we do something meaningful, that we are in control, and that we sustain ourselves through our actions. For this reason, he explains, we engage in ‘surrogate activities.’ Surrogate activities are activities that aim, not at satisfying real needs, but at giving us ‘fulfillment.’ Kaczynski suggests that the pursuit of wealth (beyond the minimum required to live) is a typical example of a surrogate activity. We do not really need excess wealth, but we tell ourselves that we do and thus create a goal that we can strive to achieve. Scientific research, he thinks, is also largely a surrogate activity:

Kaczynski argues that actions that aim at fulfillment, rather than at the satisfaction of real needs, will never be truly fulfilling. Only real struggle gives real fulfillment. In being denied real struggle, and made to submit to large social structures, modern humans suffer.

Kaczynski thinks technological progress is out of control. Soon, he speculates, we will have intelligent machines, the result of which will either be that humans are eradicated or, if we are not, that we will all (perhaps with the exception of a small elite) live like domesticated animals in a society resembling the one described by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World:

The only way to avoid eradication or Brave New World, Kaczynski suggests, is to bring human societies back to their pre-industrial state. We should return to live ‘close to nature’ and accept nothing more advanced than ‘small-scale technology’ which ‘can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance,’ such as water wheels and the works of blacksmiths. [14] Kaczynski argues that in order to reach this goal ‘factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.’ He acknowledges that a large-scale fight against technology will cause significant suffering, but in his view suffering and even death are preferable to ‘liv[ing] a long but empty and purposeless life.’ [15]

Rather than pursuing reform and moderation, Kaczynski seeks to initiate a revolutionary movement that will aim to ‘kill’ technological civilization. This is a good aim for a revolutionary movement, he argues, since it is a simple aim that has a clear criterion for success, and once success is achieved, the revolution will be irreversible. These features, he suggests, will make the anti-tech revolution more likely to succeed than the 20th Century Socialist revolutions. The Socialist revolutionaries had a complicated goal and a vague success criterion. Eradicating technology is more clear-cut. Moreover, since the Socialist revolutions only changed the structure of society, the revolutions could be undone. The anti-tech revolution, by contrast, essentially involves the destruction of all advanced technological tools.

How can the anti-tech revolution be achieved? Kaczynski recommends the formation of a small and committed group that will work to erode respect for technology, and that should see future failures and crises as windows of opportunity. During crises, Kaczynski writes, ‘desperation and anger will soon degenerate into despair and apathy — unless the revolutionaries are able to step in at that point and inspire them with a sense of purpose, organize them, and channel their fear, desperation, and anger into practical action.’ [18] The members of the movement, however, should not just convince people through debate and political action: They should be prepared to die. To find inspiration, Kaczynski suggests that ‘[w]e need only think of the early Christian martyrs, of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic suicide bombers, or of the assassins of the Russian Revolution.’ [19] Through the efforts of the revolutionaries, ‘the existing power-structure will be in disarray, disoriented, and riven by internal conflict,’ and then the revolutionaries can take charge, like revolutionaries once did in Russia and Cuba. [20] Kaczynski thinks that ‘when revolutionaries have brought the technological system to an abrupt halt in the United States, the economy of the entire world will be severely disrupted and the acute crisis that results will give the anti-tech revolutionaries of all nations the opportunity that they need.’ The anti-tech revolutionaries must then have no ‘scruples,’ proceed ‘no matter what,’ and be afraid of nothing, not even nuclear war. [21] The idea is that, through a coordinated effort, a committed minority will bring down technological civilization and allow humanity to start from scratch in small-scale communities in their natural surroundings. There is, Kaczynski thinks, no other way to stop the rapid growth of technology, and unless we stop it, humanity as we know it will either be wiped out or we will end up in a society resembling that envisioned in Brave New World.


Kaczynski’s views are radical and dangerous. Nevertheless, it is difficult to deny that some of his concerns are reasonable. Over a short time-span, technology and industrialization have indeed brought about radical changes, many of which are negative. There is, moreover, little reason to believe that technological progress is slowing down, and admittedly, we know very little about the long-term consequences of the technological innovations that we make use of today.

So what are the problems with Kaczynski’s argument? One striking problem is that in assessing the effects of technology on human life, Kaczynski considers only the negative effects. This makes him leave out from his inquiry a number of very important facts, such as the fact that prior to the industrial revolution, all countries in the world had a living standard comparable to today’s standard in Africa south of Sahara, and that since the late 18th Century, the global average life expectancy at birth has more than doubled. [22] It is hard to deny that these are real improvements and that they were made possible by technologies, perhaps most centrally artificial fertilizers, agricultural machinery, water chlorination, sewer systems, antibiotics, and vaccines. It is also hard to deny that a wide range of other technologies—reading glasses, painkillers, printing presses, light bulbs, pianos, music recordings, trains—have enriched the lives of billions. [23]

Why doesn’t Kaczynski include these benefits in his assessment of technology? One reason might be that he thinks the benefits are widely known, and that his specific job is to list the harms. I think, however, that another reason should be also considered, namely that Kaczynski assumes an ethical theory according to which the benefits of technology have little or no real value.

When one reads ‘Industrial Society and its Future’ and Anti-Tech Revolution, it is hard not to notice that Kaczynski evaluates problems caused by technology very differently than how he evaluates problems that arise in technology’s absence. This is most apparent in the middle paragraphs of ‘Industrial Society and its Future,’ in which Kaczynski compares industrial and pre-industrial life. After he has given an elaborate account of human powerlessness in industrial societies, he makes a concession: ‘It is true that primitive man is powerless against some of the things that threaten him disease for example.’ [24] Kaczynski does not, however, seem to think that this is a very significant problem. Instead he writes: ‘But he can accept the risk of disease stoically.’ This response invites a follow-up question: If the badness of the problems faced by ‘primitive man’ can be avoided if one accepts them stoically, then why can’t the badness of the problems faced by people in industrialized societies also be avoided through stoicism? The only explanation given by Kaczynski is that whereas a problem caused in the absence of technology ‘is part of the nature of things, it is no one’s fault,’ a problem caused by technology is ‘imposed.’ [25] Of course, it makes sense to hold that while no-one is responsible for what nature does, someone might be responsible for what humans do. Kaczynski, however, does not seem to be concerned with assigning responsibility or blame he is concerned with comparing the quality of human life in industrial versus pre-industrial societies. It seems, therefore, that Kaczynski holds that while a problem caused by technology is very bad indeed, a problem caused by nature, though it can be frustrating, is not nearly as bad, at least not in an ethically relevant way. It appears that on Kaczynski’s view, two equally hopeless situations can differ dramatically in how bad they are depending on whether the situation is caused by technology or caused by things in nature that count as non-technological.

This evaluative asymmetry can help explain several of Kaczynski’s priorities and areas of focus. It can explain why he is worried that our lives now depend on the operation of power plants that might fail, but not worried that pre-industrial lives depended on rain showers that might fail to come as expected worried that people today are oppressed by bureaucracies, but not worried that people were previously oppressed by their tribes worried that people now do tedious office work but not worried that work in pre-industrial societies could also be tedious. The picture that emerges is that in Kaczynski’s view, the harms that are averted by technology were not ethically relevant harms to begin, and that what we gain from technology today does not count as ethically relevant benefits. Given this picture, it makes sense why Kaczynski counts only the downsides of technology: There are few or no ethically relevant upsides to count.

On Kaczynski’s terms, therefore, industrial society simply cannot win: All that it touches, and indeed all that it refrains from touching, is contaminated.

These evaluative standards are not incidental to Kaczynski’s argument. He crucially relies on these standards to get from his empirical observations to his normative conclusions. He does not, however, make the standards explicit and he never produces arguments to support them. When one first reads ‘Industrial Society and its Future’ and Anti-Tech Revolution, one is struck by how empirically oriented the works are. Although this might perhaps be viewed as a strength, it serves to hide the fact that Kaczynski reaches his conclusions by appeal to ethical principles that rig the game strongly in the disfavor of technology.

In order to understand Kaczynski’s world-view, it would have been useful to know what specific normative theory he assumes. Judging from his written work, he might be read as a perfectionist, as someone who believes in the ultimate value of naturalness, or as someone who believes in the ultimate value of struggle or freedom. He might perhaps also be read as believing in the ultimate value of fulfillment, and to hold that struggle and freedom are valuable as means towards fulfillment, or to hold a pluralist theory. Sadly, however, he is never explicit about his ethical standards. Neither is he explicit about why the things that he takes to be valuable are threatened by, yet cannot be enhanced by, technology.

Let us now say that we reject Kaczynski’s sharp asymmetry between how the problems caused by technology and the problems that arise in the absence of technology should be assessed. Does this give us reason to reject his argument as a whole, or might some aspects of his theory survive even if we employ standards of evaluation that count the harms and benefits of technology and non-technology more evenhandedly? Although, as I shall argue, most of Kaczynski’s practical suggestions would need to be changed, some of his points remain forceful.

Technology clearly is a powerful force that develops rapidly, and today’s technological developments are bound to have effects—including negative effects—beyond what we are presently able to predict. No-one knew, or could have known, beforehand that the printing press would trigger the Reformation, that the industrial revolution would trigger the rise of Communism, or that the splitting of the atom would trigger the invention of the atomic bomb. In this sense, technological progress is, and has always been, out of control, since as Kaczynski rightly points out, control presupposes prediction. Even if we could predict the effects of technology more accurately, however, it would still not be clear that we would have the power to control its development. Technological progress is indeed an arms-race in which individuals and groups face incentives to develop and use technologies before they can be properly regulated. If one group does not develop and use a technology, other groups will, and that will give them an advantage. We therefore face both an epistemic problem and a coordination problem when we seek to control technological progress.

Interestingly, worries similar to these have come to be raised by theorists that are commonly taken to be at the opposite side of Kaczynski in the debate about the ethics of emerging technologies. One early example is the computer scientist Bill Joy who, in ‘Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us’ (2000), voices concerns about the risks posed by genetic engineering and nanotechnology. [28] Such technologies, Joy argues, are tools that we cannot yet know how will be used, which is worrisome given that, arguably, they have the potential to eradicate humanity. More recently, Nick Bostrom, a prominent defender of human enhancement and transhumanism, has argued that the development of artificial intelligence exposes humanity to a significant risk of eradication. [29] Like Kaczynski, Bostrom is concerned that as a result of a technological arms race, more powerful forms of artificial intelligence will be developed and put to use, including in the development of autonomous weapons, before we know how to handle them. Another leading defender of enhancement, Julian Savulescu, frames his worry in a way that seem even more in line with Kaczynski’s view, namely that human nature is incompatible with rapid technological progress. In Unfit for the Future (2012), co-authored with Ingmar Persson, Savulescu argues that technology increasingly gives us powers far beyond what our evolved moral psychologies are equipped to handle. Human shortsightedness, aggression, and xenophobia, although they were adaptive when we lived in small tribes on the African savannah and the most powerful weapons at our disposal were spears and clubs, can lead to catastrophic consequences in a technologically advanced society. [30] We are, Savulescu thinks, unfit for the future. Kaczynski’s view, we might say, is that the future is unfit for us.

Although it is noteworthy that Kaczynski, Bostrom, and Savulescu share a number of worries, they diverge strongly both in their views on what futures are possible and in their views on what actions we should take. In the case of possible futures, Bostrom and Savulescu believe that technology can also bring about a very good future: a future in which we live longer, richer, and more enjoyable lives, and are better shielded from violence, suffering, and disease than we are today. [31] Kaczynski, on the other hand, thinks that the range of possible futures is very limited: unless we return to pre-industrial life, he thinks, there are only two available outcomes: eradication and Brave New World. Although it could perhaps be argued that these are the two most likely outcomes, he provides no arguments that support this, and his prediction seems to sit uncomfortably with his broader views on social change and his conviction that ‘[n]o society can accurately predict its own behavior over any considerable span of time.’ [32]

Regarding what steps humanity should take, Bostrom’s and Savulescu’s suggestions are that we should invest heavily in research on existential risk, seek to build stronger institutions, and facilitate stronger international cooperation in order to enable more effective regulation of new technologies. [33] In addition, Savulescu defends increased surveillance and ‘moral enhancement,’ the use of social and (if feasible) biological means to make us more cooperative, impartial, rational, and empathetic. [34] Interestingly, Kaczynski touches on a suggestion bordering on moral enhancement in the manifesto when he argues that eradication is a likely outcome for humans ‘unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt to such a way of life.’ [35] In Kaczynski’s view, however, interventions like these are off the table, presumably not because he believes that they are technologically impossible (in that case he would not need to be worried about them), but because he believes that a life altered by technology would, almost by definition, not be a good life.

It is difficult to estimate the extent to which Bostrom’s and Savulescu’s suggestions provide feasible ways to secure a good future. The feasibility of Kaczynski’s suggestion is easier to estimate. On the one hand, Kaczynski does nothing to hide the brutality of his proposals. He is ready to use terrorism to achieve his goal, and writes that ‘factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.’ [36] That is a far-reaching ‘etc.’ In order to render it impossible for any part of society to return to industrialization, his revolutionaries would presumably need to burn all advanced libraries, destroy all computers that contain Wikipedia or scientific articles, and either imprison, brainwash, or execute everyone with an advanced scientific education. Recall that the revolutionaries should have no ‘scruples’ and proceed ‘no matter what.’ [37] Moreover, for the anti-tech revolution to lead to a successful outcome, it would seemingly need to be part of a coordinated shutdown of industrial civilization in every country on Earth. Unless the shutdown is well coordinated, then by Kaczynski’s own admission, some countries would be likely to continue to use advanced technologies and would gain a comparative advantage by so doing. Interestingly, Kaczynski recommends that his own revolutionaries make use of technology to gain the upper hand. He suggests, however, that they will nevertheless phase out technology and give up their power. [38]

Does Kaczynski believe that this will work according to plan? Although it is of course possible that he does, such a belief sits uncomfortably both with his skepticism about our ability to predict the future and his more general outlook on society, which is decisively cynical and pessimistic. Whatever Kaczynski’s shortcomings are, he is not a naïve do-gooder. If he doesn’t believe that his proposed solution is likely to be successful, however, then why would he propose it? My hypothesis is that, yet again, Kaczynski’s conclusions are not driven by his empirical premises, but by the theoretical assumptions that he brings to the discussion. One of these is the already stated assumption that unless humanity returns to pre-industrial ways of living, we face either eradication or Brave New World. This assumption admittedly concerns an empirical matter, but it is one for which Kaczynski does not provide any support. Another assumption, which is evaluative, is that both of these outcomes are so bad that they are worth avoiding at any cost. Recall that life in pre-industrial society involves very little that, on Kaczynski’s view, is bad in an ethically relevant way (he thinks that one can always remain stoic), and that life in industrial society includes very little that is good in an ethically relevant way (he does not count the benefits of industrialization). Therefore, given Kaczynski’s ethical outlook, we have nothing to lose in the fight against industrial society. Indeed, fighting industrial society becomes structurally similar to escaping a concentration camp: Although the escape might not be successful, and although it might involve a lot of suffering, we should nevertheless try, since all that is good exists on the outside. On this interpretation, Kaczynski does not have to believe that the anti-tech revolutionaries will be successful. Rather, his justification can be driven—as I believe it is—by the assumption that any bombed-out world, and any amount of suffering that is necessary to get there, is ethically superior to any future technological civilization. The devil, we might say, is in the ethics.


In this paper I have sought to give a concise presentation of Ted Kaczynski’s views as stated in ‘Industrial Society and its Future‘ (1995) and Anti-Tech Revolution (2016). I have further argued that although he raises a number of legitimate worries, his assessment as a whole is unconvincing. It is unconvincing, first and foremost, because it rests on evaluative standards according to which technology is almost automatically taken to be bad and non-technology is almost automatically taken to be good (or at least not bad). These standards, on which both his estimation of the state of the world and his practical recommendations rest, are at once highly revisionist and unsupported by argument.

My challenge to those who find Kaczynski’s ideas appealing is that they should either defend his revisionist standards of evaluation (which would be a philosophical endeavor) or, alternatively, show that that the same conclusions can be reached even if we apply less revisionist standards. Until or unless such a case has been made, Kaczynski’s distinctive normative conclusion—that we should seek to end industrialization, through terrorism if necessary—must be rejected. If we are genuinely concerned about the negative effects of technological development, and our aim is to secure a good future for humanity, recommendations along the lines of Bostrom and Savulescu seem far more promising.

In addition to being an interesting case in its own right, Kaczynski’s writings and actions can serve to highlight a more general point, namely that intelligent people can have glaring philosophical blind spots, and that philosophical errors can have grave practical consequences, including terrorism. Since the continuing development of bioweapons, nanoweapons, and AI weapons increases the potential threat (including existential threat [39] ) posed by terrorists, we urgently need to find new ways to discourage people from committing acts of terrorism. I believe academic philosophers can contribute to discourage terrorism by scrutinizing the ideas that motivate terrorists. Philosophers should work to reconstruct the positions of dangerous ideologues and religious extremists, identify their supporting arguments, distinguish their empirical premises from their normative premises, and use the tools philosophical argumentation to explain where, precisely, they err and how their positions can be amended in ways that avoid error.

Although philosophers can only play a modest role in fighting terrorism, it is striking that, today, the most obvious line of response to one’s adversaries — to listen carefully, to show that one has understood their position, and to explain why one believes they are mistaken — is hardly even attempted as a means to discourage terrorists. To the extent that ideological violence is indeed ideological, however, I believe that in many cases, philosophical scrutiny can discourage terrorism more effectively than condemnation and threats of retaliation. This paper is intended as one example of how one might engage philosophically with ideas that have motivated deadly violence in the past, and that might do so again — possibly with even more serious consequences — if the sloppy philosophical reasoning on which they are based is never pointed out.

[1] T. Kaczynski. Industrial Society and its Future. Available at: theanarchistlibrary.org [Accessed 30 April, 2018.] The manifesto has numbered paragraphs. Since these remain constant across all editions, while page numbers vary, I have chosen to refer to paragraph numbers.

[2] T. Kaczynski. 2016. Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How. Scottsdale, AZ: Fitch & Madison Publishers. Available at: we.riseup.net [Accessed 30 April, 2018]

[3] Kaczynski also contributed to the book Technological Slavery, published in 2008. In the foreword, however, Kaczynski expresses dissatisfaction about the book and claims that he has had limited control over its making. Partly for this reason, and partly because I cannot find any ideas in Technological Slavery that aren’t discussed in more detail in Anti-Tech Revolution, I ignore Technological Slavery in this paper. See T. Kaczynski. 2008. Technological Slavery. Port Townsend, WA: Feral House.

[4] Sodroski, A., Clemente J. & Gittelson T. (2017). Manhunt: Unabomber. Discovery Channel.

[5] The book is Technological Slavery (see footnote 3). See D. Skrbina. A Revolutionary for Our Time. Available at theanarchistlibrary.org (accessed 30 April, 2018.) Skrbina also discusses Kaczynski’s ideas in D. Skrbina. 2014. The Metaphysics of Technology. New York: Routledge: 168-72.

[6] J. Q. Wilson. 1998. In Search of Madness. New York Times. 15 Jan. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/15/opinion/in-search-of-madness.html [Accessed 4 Nov, 2018). Kaczynski was a student at Harvard while Wilson taught there. Kaczynski also mentions Wilson in his manifesto: ‘Eminent social scientists (e.g. James Q. Wilson) have stressed the importance of ’socializing’ people more effectively.’ (§139) Given the context, this should be read as a disapproving remark.

[7] Kaczynski. Industrial Society and Its Future: §46-47.

[9] Ibid: §65. Sigmund Freud raised very similar worries in Civilization and Its Discontents. Notice the structural similarities between Freud’s and Kaczynski’ titles. See Freud, S. (2002). Civilization and its discontents. London: Penguin.

[10] Ibid: §89. In order to defend the view that scientific research is largely a surrogate activity, Kaczynski writes that ‘[s]ome scientific work has no conceivable relation to the welfare of the human race most of archaeology or comparative linguistics for example.’ (§88) This is an interesting choice of examples. Presumably, archaeology is important to understand the societies that Kaczynski wants to re-establish. Comparative linguistics, moreover, helped get Kaczynski convicted: Linguistic idiosyncrasies in his writings were crucial to connecting Kaczynski to the manifesto.

[16] Kaczynski. Anti-Tech Revolution: 17, 31.

[22] J. Norberg. Progress. Oneworld: London 2016: 3-4 M. Roser. ‘Life Expectancy.’ OurWorldInData.org. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy/ [Accessed 30 April, 2017]

[23] For a recent case for the positive impact of science and technology, see S. Pinker. 2018. Enlightenment Now. New York: Viking: Part II.

[24] Kaczynski. Industrial Society and Its Future: §69. Kaczynski rejects Anarcho-Primitivist views according to which ‘primitive’ life was idyllic. See T. Kaczynski. The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarchoprimitivism. Available at: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/ted-kaczynski-the-truth-about-primitive-life-a-critique-of-anarchoprimitivism.pdf [Accessed April 30, 2018).

[25] Kaczynski. Industrial Society and Its Future: §69.

[28] B. Joy. 2000. Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us. Wired. 4 Jan. Available at: www.wired.com Joy acknowledges that he was influenced by Kaczynski: ‘Kaczynski's actions were murderous and, in my view, criminally insane. He is clearly a Luddite, but simply saying this does not dismiss his argument as difficult as it is for me to acknowledge, I saw some merit in the reasoning [. ]’

[29] N. Bostrom. 2014. Superintelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[30] I. Persson & J. Savulescu. 2012. Unfit for the future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[31] See, in particular, N. Bostrom. Letter from Utopia. Stud Ethics Law Technol, 2008: 1: 1-7 J. Savulescu, A. Sandberg & G. Kahane. Well-Being and Enhancement. In J. Savulescu, G. Kahane & R. Meulen, ed. 2011. Enhancing Human Capacities. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 3-19.

[32] Kaczynski. Anti-Tech Revolution: 17.

[33] See N. Bostrom, A. Dafoe & Carrick Flynn. Policy Desiderata in the Development of Superintelligent AI. Working paper. Available at: https://nickbostrom.com/papers/aipolicy.pdf (Accessed 30 April, 2017)

[34] Persson & Savulescu. Unfit for the Future: Chap. 10.

[35] Kaczynski. Industrial Society and Its Future: §176.

[38] Kaczynski. Anti-Tech Revolution: 175.

[39] For a recent paper on this threat, which briefly discusses Ted Kaczynski, see P. Torres. Moral bioenhancement and agential risks: Good and bad outcomes. Bioethics 2017 31: 691-696.


Even before federal agents converged on Theodore J. Kaczynski's remote Montana cabin last April, they had substantial circumstantial evidence that he might be the elusive Unabomber, the serial killer responsible for an 18-year span of deadly terror, court documents released late yesterday show.

DNA analysis of saliva on a letter that Kaczynski had sent his brother, David, was similar to DNA recovered from saliva on a Unabomber letter mailed last summer. A number of letters and a 25-year-old essay written by Kaczynski that were handed over to investigators by his brother also appeared strikingly similar to writings sent to a number of news publications, including The Washington Post and the New York Times, supposedly by the Unabomber.

For instance, in a 1971 essay written by Theodore Kaczynski, the suspect penned the phrase, "Direct physical control of the emotions via electrodes and chemitrodes' inserted in the brain." In the so-called Unabomber manifesto published jointly by The Post and the Times last September, the Unabomber used the sentence, "It presumably would be impractical for all people to have electrodes inserted in their heads."

Some of the documents also contained identical misspellings. For instance, Kaczynski and the Unabomber spelled analyze as "analyse," used "wilfully" rather than willfully, and spelled installment as "instalment."

These details and others are contained in an affidavit of more than 200 pages by FBI Assistant Special Agent Terry D. Turchie in which the federal government outlined to U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell in Helena, Mont., why it wanted to search Kaczynski's primitive cabin in Lincoln, Mont. The cabin is where the Harvard-trained mathematician lived a reclusive mountain existence for 26 years until his arrest there April 3.

The affidavit, released by Lovell in response to a request by news organizations in April, is the first official acknowledgment that the government believed Theodore John Kaczynski, 55, was the Unabomber. Three people were killed and 23 others injured in coast-to-coast bombings that began in 1978 and have been linked to the Unabomber.

The documents offer a glimpse of a case built largely on painstaking analysis of forensic evidence recovered from Unabomber explosive packages and the serial bomber's voluminous alleged writings, including the 35,000-word manifesto, more than 100 letters to Kaczynski's family, and several letters to various publications.

In an undated letter to his brother David, according to the affidavit, Theodore wrote, "As you know, I have no respect for law and morality. . . . As you know, I have a good deal of anger in me and there are lots of people I'd like to hurt."

FBI forensic experts have also matched typewriter impressions on letters sent to The Post and the Times claiming credit for some of the Unabomber attacks to the type on packages containing seven explosive devices sent by the Unabomber, including the one that killed advertising executive Thomas Mosser in December 1994 in New Jersey.

Sources said the print from typewriters and letters seized from Kaczynski's cabin appear to match those analyzed earlier. Prosecutors will argue that these matches directly tie Kaczynski to the string of bombings that led to the largest manhunt in U.S. history.

The affidavit says that Kaczynski worked as an unskilled carpenter's helper for about six months in Salt Lake City, where in February 1987 a man was injured by a bomb linked to the Unabomber. The widely distributed FBI composite of the hooded Unabomber wearing sunglasses was developed from a witness who spotted a suspect around the time of that attack.

Kaczynski has been jailed in Helena since his arrest on a charge of illegally possessing bomb parts. He has not been charged in the Unabomber attacks, but a federal grand jury in Sacramento, where one of the bomber's packages killed a forestry association executive, is expected to hear evidence against Kaczynski by the end of the month linking him to the killing. If convicted, Kaczynski could face the death penalty.

Federal agents were led to Kaczynski as a prime suspect in the bombing case by his brother David, 46. He contacted authorities in February, alerting them to his suspicions based on similarities he noticed between his brother's writings and published Unabomber documents.

In addition to providing authorities with 86 personal letters he received from his brother over 30 years, David gave investigators a copy of the 23-page essay written by Theodore in 1971. In it, Theodore discusses the necessity of forming an organization to bring about the end of federal and corporate funding for scientific research -- themes that are contained in the manifesto. David told federal agents that his brother discussed with him in about 1971 the possibility of heading such a group, according to the documents.

In addition, the documents revealed that Kaczynski, who basically did not hold a steady job after moving to Montana, received $16,802 from his mother, Wanda, 79, and brother over a 10-year period. The affidavit indicated that three of the checks sent to Kaczynski were received by him shortly before bombs were mailed or left at designated locations.

That offers a possible explanation of where Kaczynski may have found money to travel to cities where the bombs exploded or were postmarked, authorities said.