Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Theodore Kaczynski

Theodore Kaczynski (born May 22, 1942) is an American terrorist who attempted to fight against what he perceived as the evils of technological progress by engaging in an almost eighteen-year-long campaign of sending mail bombs to various people, killing three and wounding 29.

Before his identity was known, the FBI referred to him as the UNABOM (from "university and airline bomber"). Variants of the codename appeared when the media started using the codename, including Unabomer, Unabomber, and Unibomber. [1]

Early life

Born in Chicago, Ted Kaczynski was a loner as a child. Extremely gifted, he went to Harvard College at the age of 16, received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and held a position as assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1969. He worked in complex analysis. He quit the position and did not hold permanent employment after that. He lived in a remote shack on very little money, occasionally worked odd jobs and received some financial support from his family.

The bombings

The first mail bomb was sent in late May 1978 to Prof. Buckley Crist at Northwestern University. The package was found in a parking lot at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with Prof. Crist's return address (and a send to address of Prof. E.J. Smith at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state). The package was sent 'back' to Crist. Suspicious of a package he never sent, Crist notified campus police. A campus police officer by the name of Terry Marker opened the package, and it exploded; Marker sustained minor injuries.

The initial 1978 bombing was followed by bombs to airline officials and bombs designed to explode on airplanes. Initially, the bombs were of amateur quality and did not cause much harm.

The first serious injury occurred in 1985, when a Berkeley graduate student lost four fingers and vision in one eye. The bombs were all hand crafted and carried the inscription "FC" -- at one point reported to stand for "Fuck Computers," but later found to mean "Freedom Club". A Californian computer store owner was killed by a nail and splinter loaded bomb lying in his parking lot in 1985. A similar attack against a computer store occurred in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 20, 1987.

After a six-year break, Kaczynski struck again in 1993, mailing a bomb to David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale and developer of the Linda distributed programming system. Gelernter has written a book on the subject, Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Another bomb in the same year maimed the geneticist Charles Epstein. Kaczynski wrote a letter to the New York Times claiming that his "anarchist group" called FC was responsible for the attacks.

In 1994, an advertising executive was killed by another mail bomb. In a letter, Kaczynski justified the killing by pointing out that the public relations field is in the business of developing techniques for manipulating people's attitudes. This was followed by the murder of a forestry association president in 1995.

The manifesto

In 1995, Kaczynski mailed several letters, some to his former victims, outlining his goals and demanding that his paper "Industrial Society And Its Future" (commonly called the "Unabomber Manifesto"), be printed verbatim by a major newspaper; he stated that he would then end his bombing campaign. After a great deal of controversy, the pamphlet was indeed published by the New York Times and Washington Post in September 1995, with the hope that somebody would recognize his writing style.

The main argument of "Industrial Society And Its Future" is that technological progress is undesirable, can be stopped, and in fact should be stopped in order to free people from the unnatural demands of technology, so that they can return to a happier, simpler life close to nature. Kaczynski argued that it was necessary to cause a "social crash", before society became any worse. He believes a collapse of civilization is inevitable, and thus, it is best to end things now, rather than later.

It is a neo-luddite tract, but by no means out of sync with the ideas of the contemporary anti-technological movement. If not for the stigma attached to its author's criminal activities, it might be more widely used as a source. Indeed, Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, quoted it in his April 2000 Wired magazine article on the dangers of technology, "Why The Future Doesn't Need Us." This point was also made through the widespread distribution during 1999 of a quiz inviting respondents to distinguish quotations from Kaczynski from those of the environmentally sensitive US Presidential Candidate Al Gore.

Apprehension and trial

Kaczynski's younger brother David recognized Ted's writing style from the published manifesto and notified authorities, who sent officers to arrest Kaczynski on April 3, 1996 at his remote cabin outside Lincoln, Montana. David Kaczynski had once admired and emulated his elder brother but had later decided to leave the survivalist lifestyle behind and become an 'everyman'. David had received assurances from the FBI that he would remain anonymous and that in particular his brother would not learn who had turned him in. A professor of English noticed that the Manifesto resembled the outlook of the protagonist Verloc from Joseph Conrad's novel Secret Agent. It was discovered that Kaczynski grew up with a copy of the book in his home.

Kaczynski's lawyers attempted an insanity defense, which he rejected; a court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia but declared him competent to stand trial. Kaczynski avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty on January 22, 1998. He later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing it was involuntary. Judge Garland Burrell denied his request, and that denial was affirmed by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As of 2003 Kaczynski was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

External Links