The Unabomber Essay, Research Paper
On May 26, 1978 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois a bomb was detonated. A university police officer opened a package that had been handed to him by a professor whose name was written on the package. The officer suffered minor injuries. This was the first of sixteen bombs planted by Theodore John Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber and Unabom. His reign of terror spanned seventeen years and resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. The people or places he decided to bomb were not based on random selection. Years later, when the FBI searched the Unabomber?s cabin, they found a hit list with twenty or so names on them. Each of these people held beliefs which did not coincide with the ideology of the Unabomber. These findings led many to conclude that aspects of Theodore John Kaczynski’s psychological makeup and political beliefs influenced the construction of his explosive devices and the selection of his victims. One of the driving impetus of the Unabomber political belief system was his hatred of the United States Government.
Theodore Kaczynski’s political views were simple and straight forward. He despised the government and everything it stood for. Specifics are not known about the Unabomber’s hatred, only that it consumed him with passion. The Unabomber portrayed the government as “either stupid or incompetent, or lairs who twist the law to commit any injustice.”(http://www.nando.net
/newsroom/nt/411rage.html) The reason why specifics are not known about the underlying hatred of the government and which government officials he hated is attributed to the fact that Kaczynski wrote to a Mexican farmhand, Juan Sanchez Arreola, who threw away the letters he had written to him about Sanchez?s difficulty in resolving a pension dispute with the Mexican government. Kaczynski wrote over fifty letters to his friend in Mexico. He began writing letters in 1988 after initiating the correspondence with Sanchez. In these letters, many of Kaczynski’s beliefs on politics and the United States Government were described. He wrote these letters in perfect formal Spanish to the barely literate Sanchez. At times, Sanchez laughed at Kaczynski when he raged against the government calling them “soulless and lying officials.”( http://www.nando.net /newsroom/nt/411rage.html) When the man suspected as the Unabomber was caught, police asked Sanchez to surrender the letters that Kaczynski had written. Sanchez made a tearing motion with his hands to show that he had thrown the letters away.
Particular aspects of Kaczynski’s personality can be observed through the letters he wrote to Sanchez. When Sanchez wrote of the pension dispute with the Mexican Government, Kaczynski replied by saying,
“Although what the officials are going is a great injustice, consider that your fortune is not all bad, because you have a wife and three children and they are all healthy. Even though you have to endure these difficulties, you will probably overcome them in the end, and your children will thrive and some day they will have children of their own. I wish I had a wife and children!” (http://www.nando.net/newsroom/nt/411rage.html)
With these comments one can truly observe another aspect of the Unabomber which is the opposite of a cold, evil, killing machine. Sanchez also had some comments regarding the Unabomber?s statements. Kaczynski often complained about not having a job, not having food for the winter, and getting fired from job because of his unkept appearance. Sanchez replied by saying: ” In Mexico, we have a word for people like that–perezosos–lazy!”( http://www.nando
The letters that Kaczynski wrote to Sanchez apparently were not limited to his views on
politics, but they also revealed a lighter side of Kaczynski’s personality. Other than his political beliefs, Kaczynski also held anti-technology convictions. His opinion on this topic emerged from the FC, a group that he belonged to, and also from the Manifesto which he authored.
The driving force in the construction of many of the Unabomber?s bombs was his views on anti-technology. Kaczynski belonged to a group called the “FC,” which stood for “Freedom Club.” This revolutionary group has an unknown number of members, but the group is known to have thousands of people who share its ideology. The FBI discovered this group because “FC” was written on the bombs that the Unabomber planted. It was also written on some of the letters he wrote. The “FC” believes in devolution. Devolution is the breaking down of society and bringing it back to a simpler times, without a lot of technology. In the Manifesto, Kaczynski wrote that it was appropriate to use technology in some cases:
“202. It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the system without using SOME modern technology. If nothing else they must use the communications media to spread their message. But they should use modern technology for ONE purpose: to attack the technological system.”( Kaczynski)
The strongest and most apparent belief that Kaczynski had was the view on devolution. Devolution strongly influenced both the choice of bombs and as well as victims. Each of the victims he chose and the names that were on the hit list had something to do with technology. Many of the people whom he bombed were professors at universities who were studying or developing new technology. It is apparent that Kaczynski chose his victims because of the differences in the ideology of devolution and evolution, which was the opposing belief of his victims.
The construction of his bombs was influenced by devolution. The bombs that he constructed were not high-tech that terrorists of today use, but simpler pipe bombs. One of the clearest examples of Kaczynski’s devolution beliefs took place on May 5, 1982. A simple pipe bomb inside a wooden box detonated when a secretary opened in the computer science department at Vanderbilt University. This clearly shows that the Unabomber did not believe in technology because wood, a fairly basic and simple material, has been around for a long time. The wooden box shows that Kaczynski is trying to go back to a simpler time, a time without technology. The use of homemade screws as shrapnel was another example of the influence of devolution on the construction of Kaczynski?s bombs. These homemade screws were major evidence because they were found at the cabin and also at bombing sites.
Kaczynski?s psychological makeup heavily influenced the choices in his reign of terror. The best medical term that describes Kaczynski’s behavior is Narcissistic Personality Disorder also known as Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. The American Psychiatric Association?s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes this disorder as “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”(Scarf, 20) The characteristic features of this type of disorder is an overinflated sense of uniqueness, self-importance and personal entitlement. In general, the person has a severe lack of self-esteem due his grandiosity. As a result the person has only two views of themselves: he is either great, powerful, the very best, or he is nothing , someone who is not at all special, a nobody. A narcissistic person experiences a ever-present tension and inner pressure, which at times the person can keep it under control, but at other times it is completely unbearable. Even when the narcissistic person receives praise or recognition the amount the narcissistic person requires is
never enough to satisfy themselves, often leaving them feeling even more empty and depressed. If
a narcissistic person receives an insult, he takes it as a major attack on himself. He is deeply hurt by it. As time progresses the narcissistic person becomes angry because he is not receiving the recognition he deserves. He looks for a situation or a person to blame for his current condition. Eventually the narcissistic person?s anger is too much and eventually the person commits rash acts.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is clearly related to Kaczynski in multiple instances.
Kaczynski was an incredibly intelligent man. At age eleven he read Romping Through Mathematics from Addition to Calculus. Five years later he entered Harvard at the age of sixteen. He graduated from Harvard when he was only twenty. He received his doctorate by solving problems that amazed his mentors. He published six papers, and he won prestigious fellowships. He ultimately received a teaching job at the distinguished math department at the University of California at Berkeley where he taught four courses. However in the summer of 1969 he fled to the mountains in Montana. Perhaps his Narcissistic Personality Disorder was the reason why he fled. Kaczynski was a genius. Even though he received much recognition, it was not enough to satisfy his needs. When he taught at the university, his students often harshly criticized his lectures by complaining that it was “straight from the text book and useless”.(http://www. berkeleynetcentral.com/DrPseudocryptonym/kaczynski.html) Because of these criticisms, Kaczynski probably left Berkeley and moved to Montana to start his bomb making career. Eventually the anger built up inside of him, and on May 26, 1978 he mailed his first bomb. It is obvious that Kaczynski follows the pattern for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He was a genius, but he felt that he did not receive the recognition he deserved. He was criticized and fled to a lonely cabin in Montana in 1969. Again in 1978 his anger was too much, and he lashed out by sending the first of sixteen bombs.
Kaczynski?s bombing career lasted seventeen years and included a variety of targets and victims.
1. May 26, 1978- Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois: a bomb detonated when a university police officer opened a package handed over by a professor whose name was written on the package. The officer suffered minor injuries.
2. May 9, 1979- Northwestern University: an explosive device left on the university?s student commons exploded, slightly injuring a graduate student who opened it.
3. Nov. 15, 1979- Chicago: a bomb wrapped in a parcel mailed from Chicago exploded in an airplane?s cargo department. Twelve people suffered from smoke inhalation.
4. June 10, 1980- A Chicago suburb: a bomb placed inside a package mailed to an airline executive?s home exploded as he opened it, and therefore injured him.
5. Oct. 8, 1981- University of Utah, Salt Lake City: an explosive device was found in a classroom building hallway. Bomb squad personnel disengaged the bomb, rendering it safe.
6. May 5, 1982- Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee: a pipe bomb inside of a wooden box, detonated when the box was opened by a secretary in the computer science department, injuring the secretary.
7. July 2, 1982- University of California at Berkeley: a small pipe bomb found in the coffee room by a professor of electrical engineering and computer science exploded, injuring the professor.
8. May 15, 1985- University of California at Berkeley: a bomb exploded in a computer room, impairing the vision and tearing off fingers of a graduate student who opened it. The bomb was believed to have been placed there days earlier.
9. June 13, 1985- Auburn, Washington: a parcel bomb received in the mail at Boeing Co. exploded when employees discovered it and opened it. No one was injured.
10. Nov. 15, 1985- Ann Arbor, Michigan: a parcel bomb was mailed from Salt Lake City to the
home of a University of Michigan professor injured a research assistant who opened it.
11. Dec. 11, 1985- Sacramento, California: the owner of a computer store was killed when he picked up a bomb disguised as a road hazard maker. Shrapnel tore into his heart.
12. Feb. 20, 1987- Salt Lake City, Utah: another bomb disguised as a road hazard marker was left near a computer store. It exploded and injured the store owner.
13. June 22, 1993- Tiburon, California: a renowned geneticist received a package in the mail containing a bomb. It exploded when he opened it, seriously injuring him.
14. June 24, 1993- Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut: a package received by a computer science professor exploded when he attempted to open it, severely injuring him.
15. Dec. 10, 1994- North Caldwell, New Jersey: a New York City advertising executive was killed in his home when he opened a package addressed to him.
16. April 24, 1995 – Sacramento, California: the president of the California Forestry Association was killed when he opened a package addressed to someone who once worked in his office.
17. June 28, 1995 – San Francisco: The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper received a letter threatening to bomb a flight out of Los Angeles International Airport.
18. June 1995 – The Unabomber contacted The New York Times and The Washington Post saying that if they would print his manifesto of ideas within three months, he would stop killing.
19. Sept. 19, 1995 – Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post and The New York Times published the 35,000-word manifesto.
20. April 3, 1996 – Theodore Kaczynski, former university math professor who was identified by law-enforcement officials as the prime suspect in the bombings, was taken into custody for
questioning as FBI agents searched his Montana home.
21. April 4, 1996 – Kaczynski made his first court appearance and was formally charged with illegal possession of bomb-making components. He did not enter a plea and a federal judge ordered him held in U.S. custody pending further proceedings.
History will remember the presidential terms of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. These presidents however all had to deal with the terror of Kaczynski – his bombings and fear that the nation endured until his arrest in April of 1996. His hatred of technology and belief in devolution became his driving force for his actions. His narcissistic psychological disorder caused the poor self-esteem which led him to his irrational actions. Theodore John Kaczynski could have been a renowned university Mathematics professor, admired and respected by both colleagues and students, but instead people will remember him for his heinous and despicable crimes. The name Kaczynski will be etched in our memory as the Unabomber in this millennium.
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Kaczynski, Theodore John, Industrial Society and Its Future.
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Scraf, Maggie. “The mind of the Unabomber, narcissism and its discontents,” The New Republic. June 10, 1996: 20.
“Ted Kacynski?s evaluations” http://www.berkeleynetcentral.com/ DrPseudocryptonym/kaczynski.html
“Unabomber reign of terror spanned 17 years” http://www.nando.net/newsroom/nt/404reign.html