Obituary /

Theodore John Kaczynski Dead at 81

"The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race."

Theodore John Kaczynski Dead at 81

Theodore John Kaczynski, the Unabomber, passed away early Saturday morning.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Kaczynski was discovered unresponsive in his cell around 12:30 a.m. ET. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Kaczynski was 81 years old and, according to a letter he had sent to a pen pal, had been suffering from cancer.

In 1958, at just 16 years old, Kaczynski began attending Harvard University. For three years of his time at the Ivy League establishment, he was subjected to a horrific psychological experiment at the hands of Henry A. Murray, a psychologist studying stress's effects on the human psyche.

The tests were described in a lengthy article published in The Atlantic in 2000. The author, who was corresponding with Kaczynski through letters to the prison, wrote, “Murray subjected his unwitting students, including Kaczynski, to intensive interrogation—what Murray himself called ‘vehement, sweeping, and personally abusive’ attacks, assaulting his subjects’ egos and most-cherished ideals and beliefs.”

Murray had worked for the Office of Strategic Services, an intelligence agency that was the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, during World War II.

While conducting his Harvard experiment, Murray recruited 22 students and had them write about their deepest ideals, hopes, and dreams. The recruits were then hooked up to monitors as they were scolded and tormented with highly personal and brutal criticisms based on their writing — in the style of aggressive interrogation. Afterward, the subjects were forced to repeatedly watch videos of what was done to them and their reactions.

Kaczynski was subjected to 200 hours of the abusive experiment, which would, by all accounts, be considered unethical if conducted today. It has long been a subject of speculation, including by members of the corporate media, that these tests were part of the CIA’s Project MKUltra.

During this time, Kaczynski is believed to have started dreaming of isolation — and resenting science and technological advancement. According to a 2012 report from Psychology Today, “Kaczynski’s anti-technological fixation and his critique itself had some roots in the Harvard curriculum, which emphasized the supposed objectivity of science compared with the subjectivity of ethics.”

The math prodigy went on to work at the University of California, Berkeley, as an assistant math professor when he was 25 years old. He abruptly resigned in 1969 after being employed there for less than two years. Many students and peers described him as being very shy, anti-social, and awkward.

A couple of years later, in 1971, Kaczynski moved to a small cabin in the woods of Lincoln, Montana — where he would begin practicing primitivism. He planned to live off the land with no running water or electricity and began sabotaging any developments near his new home — including by arson.

Kaczynski killed three people and injured 23 others in a bombing campaign from 1978 to 1995. His targets were people he believed were destroying the environment and advancing technology. He would either personally deliver or mail the bombs to his targets. There were sixteen in total.

The first bombing victim to lose his life was Hugh Scrutton, a computer shop owner, in 1985. Next was Thomas J. Mosser, an advertising executive who had rebuilt Exxon Corp’s image following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He was killed in 1994. The final victim to not survive was Gilbert Brent Murray, a lobbyist for the timber industry, who was killed in 1995.

Before his identity was known, Kaczynski was nicknamed “Unabomber” because the FBI referred to him as the “University and Airline Bomber” based on his chosen targets.

While living in his cabin and carrying out the bombings, Kaczynski authored a 35,000-word manifesto titled Industrial Society and Its Future, which offered piercing criticism of leftism and technological advancements. In 1995, he wrote to the New York Times and promised to "desist from terrorism" if they or the Washington Post agreed to publish it in full.

After urging from Janet Reno and the FBI, the manifesto was ultimately printed in an eight-page Washington Post spread. They had hoped that someone would recognize the writing and turn him in.

"The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race," Kaczynski’s work infamously began. He argued that these advancements had “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.”

He wrote that a technologically advanced society would erode human freedom because “the regulation of our lives by large organizations is necessary for the functioning of industrial-technological society. The result is a sense of powerlessness on the part of the average person. It may be, however, that formal regulations will tend increasingly to be replaced by psychological tools that make us want to do what the system requires of us.”

Kaczynski also took aim at the left, arguing that “if our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.”

The left, he said, was not strong enough to take on mainstream issues in opposition — so instead, they support uncontroversial issues while claiming that the rest of society is not doing so at their level.

“Generally speaking, the goals of today’s leftists are NOT in conflict with the accepted morality,” Kacyznski asserted. “On the contrary, the left takes an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes for a long time.”

For example, he noted that “by their own account, violence is for them a form of ‘liberation.’ In other words, by committing violence, they break through the psychological restraints that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized these restraints have been more confining for them than for others; hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.”

Kaczynski wrote that the most dangerous leftists do not advertise their political views “but work quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values, ‘enlightened’ psychological techniques for socializing children, dependence of the individual on the system, and so forth.”

Kaczynski asserted that threats to freedom come from too many sides to take them each on individually, and thus a revolution would be necessary to protect liberty. He cited “crowding, rules and regulations, increasing dependence of individuals on large organizations, propaganda and other psychological techniques, genetic engineering, invasion of privacy through surveillance devices and computers” as some of the threat examples.

“To hold back any ONE of the threats to freedom would require a long and difficult social struggle,” he wrote. “Those who want to protect freedom are overwhelmed by the sheer number of new attacks and the rapidity with which they develop, hence they become apathetic and no longer resist. To fight each of the threats separately would be futile. Success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological system as a whole; but that is revolution, not reform.”

Though much of his ire was directed at the left, he referred to the right as "fools who whine about the decay of traditional values, yet ... enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth."

The publication led to the Unabomber being identified and turned in by his own brother, David, who recognized some of the phrasing. The FBI arrested him at his cabin on April 3, 1996.

Kaczynski was serving eight life sentences without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in 1998 to avoid the death penalty. He later tried to revoke his plea, arguing that the judge coerced him, but his request was denied.

In 2006, a judge ordered that items seized from his cabin be sold in an online auction to pay restitution to his victims. The government-run auction of the murderabilia brought in a total of $232,000. His personal journals sold for over $40,000 and the typewriter which he used to write his manifesto sold for $22,000. The infamous hoodie and sunglasses resembling the ones in his wanted photo sold together for $20,025.

While imprisoned, Kaczynski befriended Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

In 2021, Kaczynski was moved from ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.

Following news of his death, "RIP King" trended on Twitter.

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