Industrial Society and Its Future
"Industrial Society and Its Future"
Unabomber initiates a series of attacks that extends almost 17 years
By: Theodore Kaczynski
Date: September 19, 1995
Source: "Industrial Society and Its Future," sometimes referred to as the "Unabomber Manifesto," published by the Washington Post.
About the Author: Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski began his career as a promising mathematician on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. In the early 1970s, he left his job and eventually moved to the woods of Montana, where he launched a series of mail bomb attacks from 1978 to 1995, earning him the designation "Unabomber." In 1998, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to the terrorist bombings and began serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison.
The longest and most expensive manhunt in American law enforcement history began on May 25, 1978, when a security officer at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, was injured when a suspicious parcel he opened exploded. The United States Postal Service had returned the parcel to a university professor, but the professor had never mailed it. The university contacted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), which determined that the explosion was caused by a crude pipe bomb. The authorities could not know it, but the bomb was the first of 15 bombs that would become increasingly sophisticated, and lethal, over the next 17 years.
A second bomb detonated at Northwestern on May 9, 1979. On November 15, 1979, the bomber's target appeared to have shifted when an explosive device began to smolder in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight. Then on June 10, 1980, the president of United Airlines received a similar bomb in the mail. It was at this point that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) coined the term UnAbom, referring to Universities and Airlines bombings.
After a period of 16 months with no incidents, the bombings resumed. Bombs were found on October 8, 1981, at the University of Utah; in May 1982 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee; and on July 2, 1982, at the University of California at Berkeley. After a three-year hiatus, bombings began again on May 15, 1985, at Berkeley; on June 13, 1985, at a Boeing aircraft plant in Washington State; and on June 15, 1985, at the University of Michigan.
The first death occurred on December 11, 1985, in the parking lot of a computer store in Sacramento, California. After another hiatus, the bombings resumed with renewed force at the University of California at San Francisco on June 22, 1993, and the following day at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. At this point the UNABOM task force, consisting of the FBI, the ATF, and the U.S. Postal Service, was created, but it could not prevent two more fatal bombings, on December 10, 1994, when an advertising executive was killed, and on April 24, 1995, when the president of the California Forestry Association was killed.
Although in 1987, investigators had found a witness who was able to help artists create a now famous sketch of a suspect with sunglasses and a hood, by early 1995, investigators were seemingly no closer to identifying the Unabomber than they had been in 1978.
The case finally broke in 1995, only when the Unabomber began to communicate with the world. That year in June, in a letter to the New York Times, he threatened further violence, but promised to stop if the Times or another major newspaper would publish his manifesto, a 35,000-word essay that decried the Industrial Revolution and modern technology.
After consulting with the FBI—and agonizing over whether to give in to the request of an alleged murderer to publish his views—in September the Washington Post published the Unabomber manifesto, under Kaczynski's title "Industrial Society and Its Future." The New York Times shared the cost of publishing the Unabomber manifesto.
Although both the Times and Post editors expressed deep reservations regarding the journalistic ethics and implications of agreeing to a terrorist's demand to publish his views, the FBI was convinced that publication might provide clues about the Unabomber's identity. The FBI hoped that a reader somewhere would recognize the Unabomber's writing style, words, or ideas.
1. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in "advanced" countries.
2. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it MAY eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.
3. 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.
4. We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This revolution may or may not make use of violence: it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We can't predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a POLITICAL revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.
5. In this article we give attention to only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild nature, even though we consider these to be highly important . . .
180. The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we (FC) [Note: FC refers to Freedom Club; forensic investigators found these initials stamped in the metal of some of the Unabomber's bombs] don't think it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here some indications of how to go about stopping it.
181 . . . The two main tasks for the present are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. When the system becomes sufficiently stressed and unstable, a revolution against technology may be possible. The pattern would be similar to that of the French and Russian Revolutions. French society and Russian society, for several decades prior to their respective revolutions, showed increasing signs of stress and weakness. Meanwhile, ideologies were being developed that offered a new world view that was quite different from the old one. In the Russian case, revolutionaries were actively working to undermine the old order. Then, when the old system was put under sufficient additional stress (by financial crisis in France, by military defeat in Russia) it was swept away by revolution. What we propose in something along the same lines . . .
183. But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideals well [sic] as a negative one; it must be FOR something as well as AGAINST something. The positive ideal that we propose is Nature. That is, WILD nature; those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society but are products of chance, or free will, or God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions) . . .
185. As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society—well, you can't eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.
186. Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and they like to have such issues presented to them in simple, black-and-white terms: THIS is all good and THAT is all bad. The revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels . . .
190. Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc.). It should NOT be drawn between the revolutionaries and the mass of the people. For example, it would be bad strategy for the revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption. Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn't need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally avoid blaming the public . . .
193. The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not involve physical violence, but it will not be a POLITICAL revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics . . .
197. Some people take the line that modern man has too much power, too much control over nature; they argue for a more passive attitude on the part of the human race. At best these people are expressing themselves unclearly, because they fail to distinguish between power for LARGE ORGANIZATIONS and power for INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS. It is a mistake to argue for powerlessness and passivity, because people NEED power. Modern man as a collective entity—that is, the industrial system—has immense power over nature, and we (FC) regard this as evil. But modern INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS OF INDIVIDUALS have far less power than primitive man ever did. Generally speaking, the vast power of "modern man" over nature is exercised not by individuals or small groups but by large organizations. To the extent that the average modern INDIVIDUAL can wield the power of technology, he is permitted to do so only within narrow limits and only under the supervision and control of the system. (You need a license for everything and with the license come rules and regulations). The individual has only those technological powers with which the system chooses to provide him. His PERSONAL power over nature is slight.
198. Primitive INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS actually had considerable power over nature; or maybe it would be better to say power WITHIN nature. When primitive man needed food he knew how to find and prepare edible roots, how to track game and take it with homemade weapons. He knew how to protect himself from heat, cold, rain, dangerous animals, etc. But primitive man did relatively little damage to nature because the COLLECTIVE power of primitive society was negligible compared to the COLLECTIVE power of industrial society.
199. Instead of arguing for powerlessness and passivity, one should argue that the power of the INDUSTRIAL SYSTEM should be broken, and that this will greatly INCREASE the power and freedom of INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS.
200. Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries' ONLY goal. Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal. More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to use technology as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological trap, because modern technology is a unified, tightly organized system, so that, in order to retain SOME technology, one finds oneself obliged to retain MOST technology, hence one ends up sacrificing only token amounts of technology.
After a series of bombings that left three dead and twenty-nine injured over the span of seventeen years, the New York Times and Washington Post's publication of the Unabomber's manifesto, "Industrial Society and Its Future," was the critical factor in breaking the case.
FBI hopes were realized when Kaczynski's brother, David Kaczynski, read the manifesto and concluded that it had to be the work of his brother, Ted. One detail in particular stood out for David: In paragraph 185, the author used the phrase "you can't eat your cake and have it too," a variation on the expression "you can't have your cake and eat it too" that David and Ted's mother had frequently used.
Six weeks after David Kaczynski came forward, on April 3, 1996, a dirty and disheveled Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his tiny cabin in the woods outside Lincoln, Montana. After two years of legal wrangling, during which Kaczynski refused to enter an insanity plea, he pleaded guilty to the charges on January 22, 1998, and was sentenced to life in a Colorado prison. Evidence introduced in court by a forensic psychiatrist indicated that Kaczynski has a long-term, episodic mental disorder known as paranoid schizophrenia, which has as its characteristics abnormal thoughts, distorted perceptions, social withdrawal, and feelings of persecution. The psychiatrist who examined Kaczynski concluded that he was competent to stand trial despite his mental illness because he clearly understood the nature and consequences of the charges and proceedings against him, and could participate in his defense. The case of Theodore Kaczynski sparked debate about the insanity plea, criminal behavior, and terrorism that appears to have a social or political agenda attached, but is actually the work and philosophy of one mentally ill person.
Some extremist environmental groups have since adopted some of the Unabomber's rhetoric.
Chase, Alston. Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist. New York: Norton, 2003.
WashingtonPost.com. "The Unabomber Case: The Manifesto." <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/unabomber/manifesto.htm> (accessed May 16, 2005).