The Unabomber's ideas are spreading from the online world to the real one
Theodore John Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, is still alive. He was a maths prodigy who abandoned academia in 1969. He moved to a remote cabin in the Montana woodlands, there to return to a more primitive life. In horror, he watched as his personal Eden was invaded by developers and tourists.
He began a terrorist campaign. Bombs, increasingly sophisticated, in parcels and letters that were sent to airline headquarters, university labs, computer stores. Three people were murdered, others were maimed. Like any academic he had big ideas and he wrote a manifesto — Industrial Society and Its Future. He posted it to newspaper editors: publish this or more people will die. In 1995 the Washington Post published the entire thing. Kaczynski’s brother recognised the tone, and the FBI found the Unabomber with his help.
The Unabomber, committed to eight life sentences, has become a pop cultural icon, in the way only infamous American killers can be. There have been movies and documentaries; the ideas of Industrial Society and Its Future have found a home among communities of anarchists, primitivists, neo-Luddites, and ecofascists.
Now the first extensive study of Kaczynski’s ideology has been undertaken by the University of Cambridge’s Sean Fleming. The study is full of revelations. Fleming demonstrates that Kaczynski’s ideas have been misunderstood by his green anarchist and neo-Luddite followers on the Left, and fans on the far-Right, like the Norwegian Anders Brevik and the fascist party Golden Dawn, which translated Industrial Society into Greek in 2018. According to Fleming:
Fleming argues that Kaczynski’s ideas are drawn from three well-known academics: French philosopher Jacques Ellul, British zoologist Desmond Morris, and American psychologist Martin Seligman. Industrial Society and Its Future makes the following arguments:
The spread of these ideas, for Fleming, makes Kaczynski more than another lone wolf terrorist. He has become “the leader of a pack”:
Fleming believes that the novel ‘anti-tech radicalism’ that Kaczynski inspired will continue to grow and spread in the future. Fears about biotechnology, automation, mass surveillance, artificial intelligence, climate change, and nanotechnology will lead some radicals back to Kaczynski’s manifesto.
There are terrorism scholars and futurists who’ve already predicted a wave of ‘technophobic’ terrorism in this century. Fleming warns that: