1942 – ????
Why are we doing a profile on a terrorist? Well Ted Kaczynski’s story is an interesting one that raises a lot of questions about sanity, intelligence, psychology and the importance of ethics in experiments.
Let’s start at the start.
Ted Kaczynski was a prodigy, graduating from high school at 15 and going to Harvard College at 16. This was in 1958. The most interesting, and perhaps disturbing, thing about his time at Harvard was the psychological study Kaczynski participated in led by Harvard psychologist Henry Murray.
No one knows exactly what Murray’s experiments involved, just that critics unanimously regarded the experiment as an unethical one which deliberately seeked to induce severe stress on the unwitting patients, with attacks Murray himself described as “vehement, sweeping and personally abusive.” The experiment went on for three years with Kaczynski – a teenager away from home all by himself – being abused and humiliated on a weekly basis. Despite this, Kaczynski graduated with his bachelor in 1962 with a 3.12 GPA.
He pursued a PHD at the University of Michigan, writing a dissertation that was so complex his doctoral advisor couldn’t even comprehend the piece but still called it “the best I have ever directed”. The dissertation was received well and won a few awards, although there were only about 10 people in the whole United States who could actually understand the piece.
After this, Kaczynski became UC Berkeley’s youngest ever professor at the age of 25. However, he only taught there for 2 years before suddenly disappearing.
This is where things take a sinister turn. Or more sinister than the unethical psychological experiment anyway.
Kaczynski fled to an isolated and remote cabin he had built himself in Montana and became a survivalist, living without electricity or water and hunting his own food and plants. When a real estate developer destroyed what Kaczynski described as “the best spot” to hike through, Kaczynski decided “rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system. Revenge”
Over the next 17 years Kaczynski carried out 16 bombings which killed 3 people and injured 23. This led to the most expensive FBI manhunt ever at the time. Kaczynski sent his bombs through the mail and targeted academics, airlines and the media. In 1995, Kaczynski contacted the New York Times and promised to end his campaign of terror if they published his manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future”.
This was his downfall. The contention of the manifesto was that the industrialisation of the human race led to a decrease in their freedoms, and that radical leftists are idiots. Despite the manifesto reading like a long winded rant, it holds a 3.8/5 star rating on Goodreads and was widely hailed as “a work of genius” by a wide range of people including academics, philosophers, journalists, authors, politicians, activists and revolutionaries.
Personally, I can attest to the accurate description of what Kaczynski calls “Oversocialized” “Leftists” with “Feelings of Inferiority” – people we call Social Justice Warriors today. Take this one (of many alarmingly apt) paragraph from the manifesto:
“12. Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghettodweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual white males from middle- to upper-middle-class families.”
The New York Times published Kaczynski’s Industrial Society and Its Future and the writing was first recognised by Kaczynski’s sister-in-law and then brother who contacted the FBI with their suspicions and ended one of the FBI’s longest ever investigations.
On trial, Kaczynski insisted he was completely sane which caused tension with his court-appointed lawyers who wanted Kaczynski to plead insanity. He received 8 life sentences and is still in jail today without the chance of parole.