Ted KaczynskiTheodore Kaczynski, PhD was no poseur. He wasn't one of those fake Luddites, who only claim to hate modern technology but can't go three days without HBO. Ted practiced what he preached. You have to give him that.
The Unabomber's manifesto, submitted to Penthouse magazine and a couple of newspapers, identified a bunch of pet peeves: overcrowding, dissociation from nature, social conformity, rapid pace of technological change, consumerism, corporate domination, etc.
Ted was a true believer. He cranked out that diatribe in a one-room, 10-by-12 plywood shack situated on 1.4 acres of Montana forest. The cabin had no electricity or plumbing. He used a manual typewriter.
It took the FBI 17 years to track the guy down, and they never would have caught him if his brother hadn't recognized Ted's writing and squealed. And that couldn't have happened if Ted hadn't insisted on publishing that manifesto. So really this is Ted's own damn fault.
But he felt compelled to write his essay, which won kudos from the establishment it attacked. One professor at the University of Wisconsin praised the Unabomber's masterful grammar and punctutation. "It's good prose. The sentences flow well into one another, the paragraphs are coherent. The Unabomber even knows how to punctuate, and that's a very rare gift." (That's right, people: he said gift.)
When it appeared initially that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post were willing to publish the manifesto in full, Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione stepped forward. He took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to send an open letter to the Unabomber. In it, Guccione pledged not only to publish the essay in its entirety, he also offered a regular column. To get over any misgivings the Unabomber might have, Guccione pointed out the tremendous popularity his magazine held in the corridors of power:
"Penthouse is one of the biggest and most quoted magazines in the history of our industry. For 25 years it was and continues to be the single, biggest selling magazine in the Pentagon. If it's attention you want, you'd be hard-pressed to do better."
Ted made contact with Guccione a couple of times, via mail and phone, but they drifted apart after the newspapers finally complied and printed "Industrial Society and Its Future" in unexpurgated form.
His brother David Kaczynski read the thing and got a sinking feeling. David's wife contacted a childhood friend of hers working as a detective at Investigative Group International, the same agency that smeared tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand. The detective lined up some writing analysis experts, and then they went to the FBI.
In jail awaiting trial, Ted attempted to hang himself with his underwear to avoid submitting to a psychiatric evaluation. Well, he got one anyway. The court appointed Sally Johnson, M.D. to determine whether Ted was too nuts to stand trial. This is the same doctor who examined John Hinckley and Jim Bakker.
The shrink's report included a biographical sketch of her subject. Ted was your ordinary 16-year-old Harvard freshman. He went through all the typical traumas, such as suffering through severe depression and "acute sexual starvation," ultimately culminating in what the doctor described as "several weeks of intense and persistent sexual excitement involving fantasies of being a female. During that time period he became convinced that he should undergo sex change surgery."
As a matter of fact, Ted scheduled an appointment with a campus shrink to get the ball rolling. But he chickened out in the waiting room and settled on telling the doctor that he was just afraid of getting drafted. When we walked out the door, Ted's outlook suddenly zigzagged, as described in his diary:
As I walked away from the building afterwards, 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. I thought I wanted to kill that psychiatrist because the future looked utterly empty to me. I felt I wouldn't care if I died. And so I said to myself why not really kill the psychiatrist and anyone else whom I hate. What is important is not the words that ran through my mind but the way I felt about them. What was entirely new was the fact that I really felt I could kill someone. My very hopelessness had liberated me because I no longer cared about death. I no longer cared about consequences and I said to myself that I really could break out of my rut in life an do things that were daring, irresponsible or criminal.
Ted made the decision to keep a diary in the first place primarily because he was worried that people might believe that he was mentally ill:
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!) there will be some speculation in the news media as to my motives for killing (As in the case of Charles Whitman, who killed some 13 people in Texas in the '60s). If such speculation occurs, they are bound to make me out to be a sickie, and to ascribe to me motives of a sordid or "sick" type.
At his sentencing hearing, Ted told the judge: "I ask that people reserve their judgment about me." He received four life sentences, no parole.
After he wound up in a federal supermax in Florence, CO, Ted built a friendship with fellow inmate Timothy McVeigh. During their shared one-hour-per-day exercise period, Ted and Tim would chat about all kinds of crap. "On a personal level I like McVeigh and I imagine most people would like him."
Oh! Did I mention that he killed a bunch of people over the years with homemade bombs? Aw, shit. Well, he did.
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