By forcing people to conform to machines rather than vice versa, the manifesto states, technology creates a sick society hostile to human potential. Because technology demands constant change, it destroys local, human-scale communities. Because it requires a high degree of social and economic organization, it encourages the growth of crowded and unlivable cities and of mega-states indifferent to the needs of citizens.
This requirement, the manifesto continues, has given rise to a social infrastructure dedicated to modifying behavior. This infrastructure includes an array of government agencies with ever-expanding police powers, an out-of-control regulatory system that encourages the limitless multiplication of laws, an education establishment that stresses conformism, ubiquitous television networks whose fare is essentially an electronic form of Valium, and a medical and psychological establishment that promotes the indiscriminate use of mind-altering drugs. Indeed, the system will probably collapse on its own, when the weight of human suffering it creates becomes unbearable.
But the longer it persists, the more devastating will be the ultimate collapse. The Unabomber's manifesto was greeted in by many thoughtful people as a work of genius, or at least profundity, and as quite sane. By , however, when Kaczynski's trial opened, the view had shifted. The document, they argued, revealed a paranoid mind.
Theodore John Kaczynski. To a degree this is true. Anxious to save Kaczynski from execution, David and Wanda gave a succession of interviews from onward to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Sixty Minutes, among other outlets, in which they sought to portray Kaczynski as mentally disturbed and pathologically antisocial since childhood. Meanwhile—against his wishes and without his knowledge, Kaczynski insists—his attorneys launched a mental-health defense for their client.
But Kaczynski was no more unkempt than many other people on our streets. His cabin was no messier than the offices of many college professors. The Montana wilds are filled with escapists like Kaczynski and me. Celibacy and misanthropy are not diseases. Nor was Kaczynski really so much of a recluse. Any reporter could quickly discover, as I did through interviews with scores of people who have known Kaczynski classmates, teachers, neighbors , that he was not the extreme loner he has been made out to be.
And, surely, a refusal to admit to being insane or to cooperate with people who are paid to pronounce one insane cannot be taken seriously as proof of insanity. Why were the media and the public so ready to dismiss Kaczynski as crazy? Kaczynski kept voluminous journals, and in one entry, apparently from before the bombing started, he anticipated this question.
I intend to start killing people. If I am successful at this, it is possible that, when I am caught not alive, I fervently hope! Michael Mello suggests that the public wished to see Kaczynski as insane because his ideas are too extreme for us to contemplate without discomfort. He challenges our most cherished beliefs. Mello writes,. The manifesto challenges the basic assumptions of virtually every interest group that was involved with the case: the lawyers, the mental health experts, the press and politics—both left and right. Then they forgot about the man and his ideas, and created a curative tale.
Mello is only half right. It is true that many believed Kaczynski was insane because they needed to believe it.
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But the truly disturbing aspect of Kaczynski and his ideas is not that they are so foreign but that they are so familiar. The manifesto is the work of neither a genius nor a maniac. Except for its call to violence, the ideas it expresses are perfectly ordinary and unoriginal, shared by many Americans. And if concepts that many of us unreflectively accept can lead a person to commit serial murder, what does that say about us? We need to see Kaczynski as exceptional—madman or genius—because the alternative is so much more frightening. But in September of , when Ted Kaczynski, just sixteen, arrived at Harvard, 8 Prescott Street was a more unusual place, a sort of incubator.
Earlier that year F.
Skiddy von Stade Jr. But in so doing he isolated the overly studious and less-mature boys from their classmates. He inadvertently created a ghetto for grinds, making social adjustment for them more, rather than less, difficult. Yet I swear I never ever even saw the guy. In the unsocial society of 8 Prescott, that was a big distance. Francis Murphy, the Prescott Street proctor, was a graduate student who had studied for the Catholic priesthood, and to Kaczynski it seemed the house was intended to be run more like a monastery than a dorm.
Whereas other freshmen lived in suites with one or two roommates, six of the sixteen students of Prescott Street, including Kaczynski, lived in single rooms. All but seven intended to major in a mathematical science. All but three came from high schools outside New England, and therefore knew few people in Massachusetts. Snobbism was indeed pervasive at Harvard back then. A single false sartorial step could brand one an outcast.
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And Kaczynski looked shabby. He owned just two pairs of slacks and only a few shirts. Although he washed these each week in the coin-operated machine in the basement of the house next door to 8 Prescott, they became increasingly ragtag.
Most public high schoolers at Harvard in those days, including Kaczynski, viewed the tweedy in-crowd as so many buttoned-down buffoons who did not realize how ridiculous they looked. And the evidence is that Kaczynski was neither exceptionally a loner nor, at least in his early years at Harvard, alienated from the school or his peers. I threw myself into this.
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Freshmen were required to participate in sports, so Kaczynski took up swimming and then wrestling. He played the trombone, as he had in high school, even joining the Harvard band which he quit almost as soon as he learned that he would have to attend drill sessions. He played pickup basketball.
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He made a few friends. One of his housemates, Gerald Burns, remembers sitting with Kaczynski in an all-night cafeteria, arguing about the philosophy of Kant. The health-services doctor who interviewed Kaczynski as part of the medical examination Harvard required for all freshmen observed,. Good impression created. Attractive, mature for age, relaxed. May have many acquaintances but makes his friends carefully.
Prefers to be by himself part of the time at least. May be slightly shy. Usually very adaptable. May have many achievements and satisfactions. Apparently a good mathematician but seems to be gifted in this direction only. Plans not crystallized yet but this is to be expected at his age. Is slightly shy and retiring but not to any abnormal extent. Should be [a] steady worker. In , when Kaczynski was ten, his parents moved from Chicago to the suburban community of Evergreen Park—in order, they later explained to Ted, to provide him with a better class of friends.
The community into which the Kaczynskis moved would soon be in turmoil. Evergreen Park was a mixed neighborhood of Irish, Italians, Czechs, and Poles who now felt themselves under siege by yet another group of new arrivals. On May 17, , the U. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregated schooling was unconstitutional. To many people in Evergreen Park this was tantamount to a declaration of war.
African-American communities stood just next door, and black families came to town to shop and eat at Evergreen Park restaurants. Black teenagers hung around Evergreen Plaza. This environment tended to isolate the Kaczynskis, who by several accounts were liberal on race matters. Until the town had no public high school building, and students were bused to high schools in surrounding communities.