Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Unibomber in an Age of Limited Options

"We recognize that the rapid collapse of the USA Empire has been offered as a worthy goal by as disparate group of dissenters as Noam Chomsky, Grover Norquist and Guy McPherson, but rapid collapses are bloody and cruel, and so we continue to side with a soft landing approach, please, if that option is still being offered."

Carolyn Baker leads drumming at Age of Limits
When we first proposed speaking about the Unibomber at the Age of Limits Conference, Orren Whiddon, the event’s founder, asked, “Why?”
“I am puzzled with the Unibomber workshop [proposal], can you give me an idea of how it pertains? I am sure you are sick of talking about it, but a community workshop based on your experiences at The Farm would be good, could be combined with Patricia  [Allison] and myself. Your thoughts. Other ideas?”

We had become interested in Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber, after listening to a reading of his famous manifesto on the C-realm Vault, and being struck by how relevant it was to the current malaise, the Occupy movement, and the age of chaotic collapse that comes after you ignore long-running and very serious warnings about ecological systems failure.

We told Whiddon that Ted Kaczynski was an extraordinary genius whose sense of human dignity was profoundly altered, at age 16, by being secretly made the subject of an MKULTRA mind control experiment while a child prodigy undergrad at Harvard. He was a casualty of the Cold War.

During the test, gifted students who volunteered for the program were taken into a room and connected to electrodes that monitored their physiological reactions, while facing bright lights and a one-way mirror. Then they were brutally confronted with their inner demons, that they had provided the interrogators during months of screening tests. LSD or other drugs may have played a role.

This horrific experience fostered an abiding animus, not just in Ted Kaczynski, but in all the subjects, towards the secretive security state. It is a textbook example of the blowback that became so synonymous with the Allen Dulles reign at CIA (indeed, with Allen Dulles’ whole life, since he was the low-level State Department clerk in Switzerland who, in 1916, stamped V.I. Lenin’s visa application to the United States, “Rejected.”)

Kaczynski’s commentary, the manifesto he called Industrial Society and Its Future, stands by itself as a benchmark in collapse-ology. The manifesto is a critique of leftism and US ad-age politics, but it is also a deep thought exercise on why people are sheep, the mechanics of manufactured consent, who is doing the manipulation and why, and why, ultimately, there is likely no way out of our present dilemma apart from human extinction. The manifesto does not discuss the letter bombings or Ted Kaczynski’s motivations for his 18-year campaign of terror, but if you consider the victims — a California computer store owner, a computer science professor at Yale, behavioral geneticists at UCal and MIT, the PR executive who managed the Exxon clean up of its public image after the Exxon Valdez, the president of a timber industry lobbying group — they are all connected to the narrative, which is a defense of wilderness and dignity against the oppressive industrial state and its portents of grey goo singularity. Kaczynski was a Luddite. He defined Luddism.

Here is the Unibomber many of us remember:

— an unkempt evil bomber. From 1978 to 1995, Kaczynski sent 16 bombs to targets including universities and airlines, killing three people and injuring 23. The media narrative is that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and that there is nothing more about him to interest us.


This is the Unibomber as a young Harvard undergraduate. Kaczynski was born and raised in Chicago. He was accepted to Harvard at 15. He got his PhD in math at U-Mich and became an assistant professor at Berkeley in 1967, at age 25.

His assigned readings as a Harvard freshman included Margaret Mead (Coming of Age in Samoa), Ruth Benedict (Patterns of Culture), Sigmund Freud (The Future of an Illusion), Thorstein Veblen, Norbert Wiener, Lewis Mumford, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler, Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness, The Secret Agent), and Jacques Ellul (The Technological Society).

Spengler: "This machine-technics will end with the Faustian civilization and one day will lie in fragments, forgotten — our railways and steamships as dead as the Roman roads and the Chinese wall, our giant cities and skyscrapers in ruins like old Memphis and Babylon"

Harvard of the 1950’s message was a despairing depiction of the sinister forces that lie beneath the surface of civilization — witness the prior ten years — with emphasis on the alienation of the individual and on the threat that science poses to human values (e.g., the Wehrmacht and the A-bomb). All these were in his assigned readings. And the frank rationale behind the curricula was, ironically enough, to socially engineer the elite of the next generation, not as nihilists, but as doubters, skeptics, people unwilling to accept political, philosophical or religious dogma at face value. It was a 180° shift from the Harvard of years earlier. But, double irony either way, it represented elite-dictated culture, and that was the veil that LSD and dissociative sensory deprivation pierced (thank you, Dr. Leary).
Mumford: “We can no longer live, with the illusions of success, in a world given over to devitalized mechanisms, desocialized organisms, and depersonalized societies: a world that had lost its sense of the ultimate dignity of the person.”

Later, Kaczynski’s students at Michigan all said he was an excellent instructor, but the opposite was reported at Berkeley. His goal by then was not to teach, but to save up to get a cabin in Montana. Berkeley in the 60s was still very button-down and serious, but with a strong cultural counter-current. The Free Speech Movement took place in Berkeley in 1964-65. It launched the political careers of Ed Meese, who conducted the mass arrests, and Ronald Reagan, who used the backlash to become governor of California, his first elected office. At the time Kaczynski left California he still had some hope of achieving society-transformative goals by peaceful means.

Kaczynski built the cabin himself, lived with very little money, and without electricity, telephone or running water. He studied tracking and edible plant identification and gained primitive skills. The ultimate catalyst that drove him to begin his bombings was when he went out for a walk to one of his favorite wild spots, only to find that it had been destroyed and replaced with a Forest Service road. He stopped studying nature and began studying bomb-making.

Kaczynski: “As I see it, I don't think there is any controlled or planned way in which we can dismantle the industrial system. I think that the only way we will get rid of it is if it breaks down and collapses.”

Ned Ludd may have been a fictional character but the Luddites were real. At one time, there were more British soldiers fighting the Luddites than fighting Napoleon on the Iberian Peninsula. The protests from 1811 to 1817 were against new labor-saving milling machinery, but the real spark was the hardships suffered by the working class. The popular myth is that the Luddites tried to prevent the Industrial Revolution. In fact, they were more akin to the rioters we are seeing now in Greece and Spain.Kaczynski had to make a strategic decision. He could get his ideas published without killing everyone. If he were as strategic at book marketing as he was at serial killing, he would probably have had a best seller. But he decided instead he needed to have real skin in the game. He needed to walk his talk about revolution versus reform. So he started selecting targets.
Nietzsche: "Morality is the herd instinct of the individual."

The first bomb was sent in 1978 to a professor at Northwestern University. It injured a campus policeman. Kaczynski sent bombs to airline officials and in 1979 came close to blowing up a commercial jetliner en route from Chicago to Washington DC. This is the point the FBI became involved and called him UNABOM for University and Airline Bomber. The FBI profiler characterized him as a “neo-Luddite holding an academic degree in the hard sciences.” Victims included an Air Force Captain, a computer science professor at Yale, a computer store owner, professors at Berkeley, Vaderbilt, Univ of Utah, U-Mich, a geneticist at MIT, and the public relations executive whose firm handled the ExxonValdez oil spill. His final bomb (3 dead and 23 injured) killed a forest industry lobbyist in 1995.

In 1995, he offered that if his 50-page essay Industrial Society and Its Future (abbreviated to "Unabomber Manifesto" by the FBI) were printed verbatim by a major newspaper or journal he would end his bombing campaign. The pamphlet was published by The New York Times and  The Washington Post on September 19, 1995. He was captured when his brother recognized the writing style and called the FBI.

The premises of entire manifesto are neatly summarized in the first few lines:

“The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.”

“The continued development of technology will worsen the situation.”

“There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.”

After this, Kaczynski goes into why exactly a revolution, rather than peaceful evolution, is required. He criticizes the modern left for essentially being “House Niggers,” working to prop up the tyranny while being made to feel powerless and inferior. He criticizes intellectuals and anti-intellectuals, evangelists and moralizers for propagating memes of low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism that are at the root of conformism to a violent and self-destructive system. He criticizes the right saying “The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can't make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.”

“If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.”

At the core of the Manifesto is what Kaczynski calls the Power Process. He sees power as an instinctive need, and when we take away people’s ability to provide for themselves their own fundamental requirements and make them dependent on the society to provide those, people substitute surrogate activities, many, indeed most, of which are destructive of humanity, ecology, and society.

“[I]n many or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly strives for more and more wealth... The long-distance runner drives himself to run always farther and faster. Many people who pursue surrogate activities will say that they get far more fulfillment from these activities than they do from the ‘mundane’ business of satisfying their biological needs, but that is because in our society the effort needed to satisfy the biological needs has been reduced to triviality.

“We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior.

“Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society are excessive density of population, isolation of man from nature, excessive rapidity of social change and the breakdown of natural small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or the tribe.”
Orren Whiddon (in beret) at Age of Limits 2013

“Crowding, rapid change and the breakdown of communities have been widely recognized as sources of social problems” Kaczynski says, but people have gone through all of those things at various times and in various places and still retained their humanity and tribal cohesion. What industrial technological society does that is different is to supplant the power process with a machine that demands uniformity and conformity and to remove the inate feel for what is real -- what are the sources in nature for our food and water, for instance. This is the problem of artificial matrix reality, and it breeds ignorance of the dangers of gene splicing and nuclear power.

Kaczynski recognized decades before most people that rather than recognizing that humans currently live in "conditions that make them terribly unhappy," "the system" (i.e. industrial society) develops ways of controlling human responses to the overly stressful environment in which they find themselves; gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness, television, videos, etc.

“If you think that big government interferes in your life too much NOW, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings,” he wrote. An identical point has just been broached by Al Gore in his latest book, The Future, where he outlined China’s brain research and the prospect for genetically modified humans, like it or no. We are in a military race for superintellect, Gore realizes, and, so apparently does Barack Obama, whose $100 million Human Brain Project just went to the House Appropriations Committee.

Kaczynski is serving life without possibility of parole in the Florence Colorado Supermax. He is an active writer, and his current writings are stored at the Univ. of Michigan’s  Special Collections Library. They are embargoed until 2049. His Montana cabin, transplanted board for board, is on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. On May 24, 2012, Kaczynski submitted his current information to the Harvard University alumni association. He listed his eight life sentences as achievements, his current occupation as prisoner, and his current address as No. 04475-046, US Penitentiary—Max, P.O. Box 8500, Florence, CO 81226-8500.

Today many of Ted Kaczynski’s predictions have come to pass and he has not yet been shown wrong. We don’t yet have compulsory genetic engineering (unless you consider nuclear energy) but we have bacteria and plant GMO labs in many, if not most, high schools in the US, China and India and FabLabs or 3D printers can be accessed with a college student ID.

The weapons used by most of the random rampage killers in recent years, like Ted Kaczynski’s, have been based on gunpowder — a 7th century invention. So what happens when a disgruntled teenager gets his hands on a GM bacteria and the ability to insert that into a strand of recombinant DNA?

Was Ned Ludd right?

Like Brando’s Captain Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, Ted Kaczynski’s no-holds-barred take-it-all-down philosophy was shared by Rumsfeld & Cheney, Eric Prince (Blackwater) and Cofer Black (hired from Black Industries to be Bush’s torture czar, now the Veep of Blackbird Technologies). Personally, we prefer the advice of Tolstoy: “The difference between revolutionary violence and state-condoned violence is the difference between dog shit and cat shit.”

In an earlier post here, we quoted Dr. M.L. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963): “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.” Kaczynski went to great lengths to accomplish steps 1, 3 and 4. He repudiated step 2 as unethical and counterproductive.

We recognize that the rapid collapse of the US Empire has been offered as a worthy goal by as disparate group of dissenters as Noam Chomsky, Grover Norquist and Guy McPherson, but rapid collapses are bloody and cruel, and so we continue to implore for soft landings, please, if that option is still being offered.

Humans have apparently not reached peak capacity to conceive theories or philosophies that promote violence or murder in order to avert supposed injustices or catastrophes, to acquiesce in historical necessity, or to find the final solution to the world's problems — or to dehumanize our enemies. We become like Raskolnikov, in Crime and Punishment, who declares, "I did not kill a human being, but a principle!" Guided by theories, philosophies, and ideologies, the worst mass killers of modern history transformed their victims into depersonalized abstractions, making them easier to kill. Stalin ordered the murder of millions of farmers toward "the elimination of the Kulaks as a class," So Kaczynski rationalized his murders as necessary to solve "the technology problem."

The conditions that produce violence, so well described by Kaczynski, continue to flourish. Despite their historically unprecedented affluence, many middle-class Americans, particularly the educated elite, are still gripped by despair. The education system and popular culture from Game of Thrones to World War Z continues to promote bleak visions of the future. Winter is coming. We, dear friends, feed this beast at our peril.

More is being posted on other sites about the Age of Limits conference and some of the controversies it stirred, but we’d venture to say that offering a deeper examination of Ted Kaczynski’s bombing campaign was likely one of the more controversial topics yet undertaken at that venue. The conference has intentions of being repeated again next Memorial Day weekend, and we’ve offered to host it down here in Tennessee some time in the future, as well. Stay tuned. 

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