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David A. Schwinghammer

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Harvard and the Unabomber (book review)
By David A. Schwinghammer
Last edited: Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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David A. Schwinghammer

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• Missoula, book review
• Another Shakespeare Doubter, book review
• Flights of Passage, book review
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• The Lusitania, book review
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Alton Chase argues that the Unabomber wasn't crazy.

Alston Chase argues that Ted Kaczynski was not insane, that he was not a hermit, and that his Unabomber Manifesto was a well-written and well-thought out critique of our technological society.
Chase is especially hard on the news media, whom he claims got just about everything wrong. He names names, the NEW YORK TIMES, NEWSWEEK, AND TIME MAGAZINE garnering their share of criticism. Chase claims Kaczynski was no worse than any other math whiz until he got to Harvard, where he volunteered for Henry A. Murray's "Multiform Assessments of Personality Development" experiment with twenty-one other elite students. The subjects were told to write an essay expounding on their philosophy of life which would be debated by an aggressive young lawyer. According to Chase, Kaczynski was humiliated by this experience, having nightmares about psychologists chasing him. Eventually Kaczynski would target psychologists versed in behavior modification.
Chase doesn't spend much time on biography, but he does show Kaczynski growing up in Evergreen Park, Illinois, the first child of intellectual parents, whom he later blames for pushing him too hard. After skipping two grades in school, he arrives at Harvard totally lacking in social skills. Apparently he never grew up. We see him later on writing obscene lyrics on the walls at Foam Cutting Engineers after a woman he had fallen in love with spurns him.
Alston Chase indicts the curriculum at Harvard during the time Kaczynski spent there as co-conspirators, especially something called positivism, the theory that only empirically verifiable statements are meaningful, that moral and spiritual judgments, not being verifiable, are mere "cognitively meaningless expressions of emotion." Kaczynski would use this as a philosophical underpinning for what he did.
Chase's argues that Ted Kaczynski is far from alone in his hatred toward technology. Most all terrorists hate modern technological civilization, many of them living right here in the United States. Just one example the December 1999 "Battle of Seattle" at the World Trade Organization meeting, where ecosaboteurs ran amok.
This sort of happening may be closer to home than you might think. I have to admit that I wasn't aware of the Earth Liberation Front's 2002 attack on the University of Minnesota's future genetic research center that caused $630,000 in damages.
Chase's conclusion sums things up quite effectively. He cautions against intellectual pride, that seduces people (politicians, psychologists, educators) into believing "that they have a right to decide what's best for others." Right on, brother!

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