The Unabombers Manifesto Proves Prophetic

The Unabomber’s Manifesto Proves Prophetic

On this date (September 19), 24 years ago, the Washington Post, following the FBI’s advice, printed one of the most controversial newspaper issues of all time. Its contents included your typical, day-to-day sports articles, a few movie reviews and an entire manifesto written by Ted Kaczynski a.k.a the Unabomber. For what purpose? It was dual-faceted, really. Reason number one: the FBI, per the advice of forensic linguist Jim Fitzgerald, thought that getting the manifesto out into the public might cause somebody who knew Kaczynski to recognize it and call in a tip. Reason number two: Kaczynski told them to. He sent in an ultimatum saying that if a credible news source didn’t publish his manifesto, he’d plant a bomb in the mail. We don’t negotiate with terrorists? Looks like everything just changed.

So, who is this Unabomber? Well, meet Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski, born in Chicago, had an IQ of 167. So, he’s what we call a genius (considering Stephen Hawking had an IQ of 160). In middle school, he was so smart that he skipped two grades and then attended college at just 16 (that college was Harvard). Once he graduated from Harvard, he then went to Michigan for graduate school and attained his PhD. What is he known for? Essentially, he was a hermit who lived in the woods of Montana — most famous for sending 16 highly advanced bombs through the mail, killing three people and injuring over 20. But what is his legacy? Primarily, it was his manifesto entitled “Industrial Society and its Future.”

What is Kaczynski’s message in that manifesto? Since most people aren’t going to drop what they’re doing to read the over 25,000-word document, I’m going to explain it. Mainly, because he made some points worth our contemplation. The main point: the prevalence of technology in this world has reached a catastrophic level. 

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“The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race,” he wrote. What Kaczynski is saying here is that ever since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has learned to rely on technology. We’ve become dependent. As it used to be something to provide us with assistance, technology now provides us with the necessities of life. Without it, we would face a great catastrophe. Since we have grown such a tolerance to the modern-day industry, to take it away from us would be disastrous. However, Kaczynski makes the point that there is one thing worse than if we were to lose all technology today. That would be if we lost it further down the line. He claims that every year, we become more and more reliant on technology. The longer we wait for it to (possibly) crash, the larger the effects will be. 

He wrote, “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.” When did he make this realization of our over-technologizing nature? The documentary series Manhunt: Unabomber puts it best in the scene where Kaczynski is talking about the mockingbird to his convicting officer, James Fitzgerald. In urban Chicago, Kaczynski was outside one day and heard a mockingbird singing its song, except it wasn’t singing its usual ballad; instead, it was crying out an all too familiar tone: a car alarm. The mockingbird was mimicking a car alarm. This (apparently) is when Kaczynski decided that industrial society had made its detriment. 

Going to live in a 12-foot-by-ten-foot cabin in the woods of Montana and mailing bombs across the country isn’t exactly my idea of sanity. However, Kaczynski had a point in his manifesto. His analysis on leftists and conservatives was spot-on, in that the former’s ideology is based on guilt and internal doubt, and the latter’s is an oxymoron of economic advancement and tradition that cannot coexist. His assessment of our goals (survival, procreation, happiness) versus our surrogate goals (hobbies to fill in the open time) was groundbreaking. His rejection of modern-day culture, contrary to popular belief, was amazingly advanced. Kaczynski hated the present day, and while his hatred was mostly irrational, his point still remains: if everybody chose to live like him, in perfect simplicity, there would be no war, no famine, no mass murder, no corruption. Nature would be allowed to run its course. 

Kaczynski was spot on about our technological reliance. His problem, however, is that he thought that we needed a revolution to address it. He believed that sending bombs through the mail was his only avenue to gain publicity. He was wrong, dead wrong, and because of this irrational mistake, three people lost their lives, and many others were critically injured. In order to save his ideas, he refused to plead for insanity, and instead, admitted to his crimes. Because of this, he is now serving life in solitary confinement at a maximum-security prison in Colorado. What he wrote isn’t to be discarded, however. His points hold too much validity. It is hard for me to look myself in the mirror and say that society is headed in the most positive direction. All it takes is a spark. One spark to provoke any one of us. One spark, and we will see the true nature of human animosity. 

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  • J

    JuanJun 19, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Kaczynski’s manifesto ignores the consequences of a reversion to a primitism. Vast numbers of people would die in such a revolution, and the lives of the survivors would be nasty, brutish and short.

    He seems to believe that primitive Man lived a harmonious existence, although archaeological evidence would seem to suggest that homo rapiens has always existed.

    Society is a reflection of what we are, no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. Still, he makes a fair number of valid points, even if his “solution” is deluded.

  • R

    Robert S OBrianApr 12, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    Kaczynski was right. Kaczynski was a man that was turned into the “Unabomber” by the CIA at 16 years of age. What he did is unspeakable and evil. That does not change the fact that what he wrote about was correct. So who’s hands hold the blood of the victims? Kaczynski’s? Or the very machine that Kaczynski wrote about. I think we all know the answer to that question.

    • J

      JohnApr 19, 2022 at 2:48 pm

      I don’t doubt you but I have no familiarity with this. Can you offer any detail, or a link?
      Are you aware of Zuckerberg’s Alma Mater, the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins?

  • B

    Blake LussoMar 8, 2021 at 9:33 pm

    The Unabomber was part of the LSD studies performed by the CIA on unsuspecting people without their consent while he was studying at Harvard. While his victims may not have been responsible for the damage done to his mind at the hands of the CIA I believe he deserves a certain degree of sympathy none the less. He too was a victim which makes his victims also the responsibility of the CIA and the Federal Government.

  • R

    Roland DeschainFeb 11, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    Well, it seems odd to heap praise on a terrorist, but the man was certainly a visionary. Think of the smart phone. 10 years ago, you could get one if you wanted, or not. Now they’re all but mandatory. China has used AI to build the most advanced surveillance system in the history of the world. If you don’t think these technologies are going to be used in “democratic Western” countries, I have a bridge to sell you. Jobs and credit are determined by AI. There is a vast political divide due to social media’s influence and information silos, which will only escalate past the point of no return. With the advent of AI, the world has reached a turning point, and techno-ethics are rarely considered. Monopoly Capitalism is combined with technological control and manipulation to siphon every last dollar out of the working class. I don’t think a sabo-cat revolution is necessarily the answer to these problems. What is missing is an honest discussion of the pros and cons of unending technological innovation, and how they can be used to manipulate, control, and ultimate subjugate entire populations. The tech giants do not want any such discussion, as technological progress is the goal of it’s own sake, never mind the consequences, the people it puts out work. Technology has become a living organism, and it’s goal is to reproduce and grow, until man has no choice and little understanding of how the machines they designed even work. The tech giants are multinational, bound to no nation state, with the only code of loyalty being profit, monetizing human behavior. Eventually they will figure out a way to read thoughts. They are already working on it. Information is being encoded in DNA, which has a high storage capacity. In this society, man has become more like a machine that the machines have become like men. But, if not for this tech, we would not be posting on this page. It’s high time we have a talk about where we are and where we want to go, as all indicators to me seem to point towards dystopia. It is possible that Kaczynski could have gotten his ideas published without having to resort to terrorisim, as many of his arguments stand on their own merit, and are descended from Jacques Ellul’s “The Technological Society.

  • E

    Eric AndersonOct 16, 2020 at 9:19 am

    It has everything to do with being slaughtered in his psyche at 9 months of age (by technologists), just as it was with Jesus at his eighth day of life. It has very little to do with telling us what we already know. Author-Jesus & the Unabomber

  • H

    Hank WordsworthSep 26, 2019 at 2:41 am

    I would not trust a text whose author is willing to blow me up to make his point. People who sympathized for him—his ideas, his loneliness– would likely have been on that airliner he almost dropped from the sky. Did he care? Besides, other books have already made his argument, but coherently and humanely without indulging sociopathy—for example, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition.

  • F

    FlorvilleSep 19, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Wrong. He is serving a life sentence because of a judge who let him wriggle out of a death sentence because he either attempted suicide in jail or feigned a suicide attempt. His legacy is not the idiotic Luddite manuscript he wrote, it’s the death and mutilation of innocent victims he delivered bombs to in the most cowardly way possible

    • N

      Ned LuddSep 23, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      No, his legacy is the greatest masterpiece that will change the world, Industrial Society and its Future. There will be no remembrance for the worms he crushed.

      • V

        Victor VaughnSep 25, 2019 at 4:58 pm

        Agreed. Also his masterworks, the books “Technological Slavery” and “Anti-Tech Revolution”