Ted Kaczynski (“the Unabomber”) was a brilliant mathematician turned terrorist. Kaczynski carried out a terror campaign from 1978 to 1995, which he stopped only after publication of his manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future (the “Unabomber Manifesto”). His controversial manifesto raises interesting questions.
Kaczynski was a brilliant mathematician. He was a child prodigy who was accepted to Harvard at age 16. He earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan and was briefly an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kaczynski reportedly had an IQ of 167, when tested in the fifth grade. He skipped two grades, only to face bullying by the older boys. He became more socially withdrawn. His mother considered having him studied for autism.
Prof. Henry Murray
At Harvard, Kaczynski was the subject of an arguably brutalizing and ethically questionable psychological experiment by Harvard psychologist, Henry Murray. Murray was said to be the former chief psychologist for US military intelligence, “the wizard of personality assessment” who “had monitored military experiments on brainwashing and sodium amytal interrogation.” Murray’s Harvard experiments reportedly focused on “psychic deconstruction by humiliating undergraduates and thereby causing them to experience severe stress”.
Kaczynski left Berkeley for Montana to live as a recluse. He dedicated himself to studying political philosophy, notably the French philosopher Jacques Ellul. Ellul was a “Christian Anarchist”, who criticized technological society but opposed violence.
Kaczynski carried out a terror campaign that murdered three and injured 23 others. He mailed homemade bombs to his victims, including pipe bombs and nail bombs. Kaczynski also attempted but failed to blow up a passenger airliner. His victims included professors, students, scientists, businessmen, and computer store owners.
Kaczynski, now aged 75, is serving out 8 life terms at a federal supermax prison. The FBI apprehended him with the help of his brother, David Kaczynski. A court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed Ted Kaczynski as paranoid schizophrenic but Kaczynski rejected an insanity defense. (Prison psychologists rejected the claimed mental illness as “ridiculous”.) Kaczynski pled guilty to the charges in order to avoid the death penalty and spare his brother any guilt for aiding law enforcement.
Industrial Society and its Future
The following is a condensed summary of the Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future. It is presented to help provide insight into Kaczynski’s mind and motivations. Was he paranoid schizophrenic, as the court-appointed psychiatrist claimed? Or was he sane, as the prison psychologists argued? Kaczynski committed terrible acts for a purpose. What was that purpose?
The ideas, below, are Kaczynski’s. The headings and numbers are his. His manifesto is lengthy. So, the arguments are condensed and restated to be concise. This is no endorsement of violence or anarchy. The document is presented in parts.
- Technology is a disaster for man, the planet, and society. In advanced nations, people suffer long and unfulfilling lives. In developing nations, people suffer shorter lives.
- Our system may fail. Its survival will cost us our humanity, dignity, and autonomy.
- If the system fails, we will suffer. As it grows, we will suffer more when it fails. So, it it better for us that it fails sooner rather than later.
- Revolution against industrial society is necessary. This is economic, not political revolution.
Psychology of Modern Leftism
- Leftism is a symptom of a deeply troubled society.
- Leftism includes various psychological types – socialism, collectivism, feminism, and [radical] activism (LGBT, animal rights).
- This definition is unclear and incomplete. But, it helps identify the psychological drivers of these movements.
- Leftism has two psychological drivers: “feelings of inferiority” (all of leftism) and “oversocialization” (only an influential segment).
Feelings of Inferiority
- Leftism is mainly driven by “feelings of inferiority” – low self-esteem, feeling powerless, depression, guilt, self-hate.
- Hypersensitivity to [trigger words] (ethnicity, gender, disability, culture) is motivated by feelings of inferiority.
- Political correctness comes from a white, privileged academic elite, not the “oppressed”.
- Many leftists unconsciously view “oppressed” groups as “inferior”. They identify with that inferiority.
- Feminists secretly fear that men are more strong and capable.
- Leftists hate the West because it appears strong, good, and successful. They condemn western militarism, imperialism, and racism, but excuse these in socialist countries or “primitive cultures”.
- They reject individualism (self-reliance, initiative, optimism). They want collectivism to care for them because they doubt their own abilities. They fear competition because they feel like losers.
- Leftist intellectuals prefer sordid, desperate, or hedonist art.
- They argue for cultural relativity. They attack objective reality, science, and reason, because of hostility driven by feeling inferior. They reject reject scientific truth and biological bases for human behavior.
- Leftists can only feel strong as members of a mass movement because they deeply feel inferior.
- They feel self-hate. This explains their masochistic tactics, such as lying down in front of vehicles, and provoking police.
- Their motives are hostility and power – not compassion or moral principle. That’s why they engage in hostile, counter-productive confrontations.
- If society had no social problems, leftists would invent them.
- This doesn’t accurately describe every leftist. It’s just a general indicator of leftist tendencies.
- We learn to conform to society through socialization. The well-socialized function well in society and obey society’s morals. Leftists are oversocialized, and only seem to rebel against society.
- Society’s demands (morality, social norms) make us feel morally inadequate because we all have failings. The oversocialized feel severely burdened, rationalize their shortcomings, and resort to self-deception.
- Overuse of shame makes us ashamed as beings. Our thoughts and actions fall short of social norms and morality. This makes the oversocialized feel shame, self-hatred, and powerless. This places a seriously cruel psychological leash on them.
- Important and influential leftists are oversocialized, notably university intellectuals and the upper-middle class. They are the most highly socialized and most left-wing.
- The oversocialized left struggles to break society’s psychological leash, but doesn’t rebel. Instead, they align with societal norms and (rightly) accuse society of falling short of its own norms.
- The oversocialized left enforces conformity to society. For example, affirmative action enforces white upper middle class norms, leaving minorities only superficial minority religion and culture (music, dress).
- The most oversocialized leftists may rebel against society, to break their psychological leash. They may resort to to violence, but justify themselves based on social norms (such as racism).
- This rough thumbnail sketch of leftist psychology can’t completely capture complex reality. It is only a rough indicator.
- These problems are widespread, especially on the left – low self-esteem, depression, defeatism. Socialization pressure is greater today than ever, and is ever more intrusive (diet, sex, fitness, parenting).