A dark comedy remix mash-up bonanza about the end of industrial civilization.
Website http://crisisofcivilization.com Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/thecrisisfilm a film by Dean Puckett https://twitter.com/Deanpuckettfilm http://www.deaddeanfilms.co.uk
Listen to our response to some of the your comments here http://crisisofcivilization.com/podca…
Directed by Dean Puckett
Animations by Lucca Benney
Based on the Book by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed https://twitter.com/NafeezAhmed
Like the book on which it is based, the film consists of seven parts which explore the interconnected dynamic of global crises of Climate Catastrophe; Peak Energy; Peak Food; Economic Instability; International Terrorism; and the Militarization Tendency — with a final section on The Post-Peak World.
Featuring clowns, car crashes, explosions, acrobats, super heroes, xylophones and much, much more!
END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations.
Based in part on Endgame, the best-selling book by Derrick Jensen, END:CIV asks: “If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air, and contaminated the food supply, would you resist?”
Directors: Franklin Lopez
Studio: Mvd Visual
Release Date: 25 Jan 2011
Run Time: 75 minutes
If we examine much of the current debate in anarchist circles surrounding civilization, technology, progress, green anarchy versus red anarchy and so on, we are left with the impression that criticism of civilization has only recently arisen within anarchist and revolutionary thinking. But this impression is false, and harmful for those of us with a revolutionary anti-civilization perspective.
In fact, a revolutionary questioning of civilization, of technology and of progress can be found throughout the history of modern revolutionary thinking. Charles Fourier posed his utopian socialist “Harmony” against the disharmony of “Civilization”. A number of the most radical of the Romantics (Blake, Byron and Shelly among others) were distinctly distrustful of industrialism and its utilitarian reason.
But we can bring things closer to home by looking at anarchists of the 19th century. Certainly Bakunin had no problem with industrial technology. Though he didn’t share Marx’s almost mystical faith in the capacity of industrial development to create the technical basis for global communism, he also did not see anything inherently dominating in the structure of industrial systems. In fact, his concept of workers taking over the organization of society through their own economic and industrial organizations was to eventually become the basis of anarcho-syndicalism. (This development, however, is based on a misunderstanding, since Bakunin quite clearly stated that this organization was not something that could be developed on an ideological basis outside of the direct struggle of the workers, but rather that it was something that the workers would develop for themselves in the course of their struggles. He therefore did not suggest any specific form for it.) Nonetheless, Bakunin’s appeals to the “unleashing of the wicked passions” of the oppressed and exploited were seen by many of the more reasonable revolutionaries of the time as a barbaric call for the destruction of civilization. And Bakunin himself did call for “the annihilation of bourgeois civilization” along with “the destruction of all States” and the “free and spontaneous organization from below upward, by means of free associations”. But Bakunin’s French contemporary, Ernest Coeurderoy, was less conditional in his rejection of civilization. He says simply: “In civilization, I vegetate; I am neither happy, nor free; why then should I desire this homicidal order to be conserved? There is no longer anything to conserve of that which the earth suffers.” And he, along with Dejacque and other anarchist revolutionaries of that time, appeals to the barbaric spirit of destruction to bring an end to the civilization of domination.
Of course, the majority of anarchists at that time, as in our own, did not question civilization, technology or progress. Kropotkin’s vision of communized “Factories, Fields and Workshops” or Josiah Warren’s “True Civilization” inevitably have more appeal to those who are not prepared to face the unknown than the anarchist critiques of industrialism and civilization that often offer no clear vision of what will be after the revolutionary destruction of the civilization that they hate.
The early 20th century, and particularly the great massacre known as World War 1, brought a major overturning of values. Faith in the bourgeois ideal of progress was thoroughly eroded and the questioning of civilization itself was a significant aspect of a number of radical movements including dadaism, Russian anarcho-futurism and early surrealism. If most of the better known anarchists (such as Malatesta, Emma Goldman, Mahkno and so on) continued to see the possibility of a liberated industrial civilization, other lesser known anarchists saw a different vision. Thus, around 1919, Bruno Filippi wrote:
I envy the savages. And I will cry to them in a loud voice: “Save yourselves, civilization is coming.”
Of course: our dear civilization of which we are so proud. We have abandoned the free and happy life of the forest for this horrendous moral and material slavery. And we are maniacs, neurasthenics, suicides.
Why should I care that civilization has given humanity wings to fly so that it can bomb cities, why should I care if I know every star in the sky or every river on earth?
Today, the starry vault is a leaden veil that we vainly endeavor to pass through; today it is no longer unknown, it is distrusted.
I don’t give a damn for their progress; I want to live and enjoy.
Now, I want to be clear. I am not bringing all of this up in order to prove that the present-day anti-civilization current has a legitimate anarchist heritage. If its critique of the reality we face is accurate, why should we care whether it fits into some framework of anarchist orthodoxy? But Bakunin and Coeurderoy, Malatesta and Filippi, all of the anarchists of the past who lived in struggle against domination, as they understood it were not trying to create any ideological orthodoxy. They were participating in the process of creating a revolutionary anarchist theory and practice that would be an ongoing process. This process has included critiques of civilization, critiques of progress and critiques of technology (and often in the past these critiques were not connected, so that, for example, Bakunin could call for “the annihilation of bourgeois civilization” and still embrace its technological outgrowth, industrialism, and Marcus Graham could call for the destruction of “the machine” in favor of an unmechanized civilization). We are living in different times. The words of Bakunin or Coeurderoy, of Malatesta or Renzo Novatore, or of any of the anarchist writers of the past cannot be taken as a program or a doctrine to be followed. Rather they form an arsenal to be looted. And among the weapons in that arsenal are barbaric battering rams that can be used against the walls of civilization, of the myth of progress, of the long-since disproven myth that technology can save us from our woes.
We are living in a world in which technology has certainly gone out of control. As catastrophe follows catastrophe, so-called “human” landscapes become increasingly controlled and mechanized, and human beings increasingly conformed to their roles as cogs in the social machine. Historically the thread that has gone through all that is best in the anarchist movement has not been a faith in civilization or technology or progress, but rather the desire for every individual to be free to create her or his life as he or she sees fit in free association others, in other words, the desire for the individual and collective reappropriation of life. And this desire is still what motivates anarchist struggle. At this point it is clear to me that the technological system is an integral part of the network of domination. It has been developed to serve the interests of the rulers of this world. One of the primary purposes of large-scale technological systems is the maintenance and expansion of social control, and this requires a technological system that is largely self-maintaining, needing only minimal human intervention. Thus, a juggernaut is created. The recognition that progress had no inherent connection to human liberation was already recognized by many revolutionaries by the end of World War 1. Certainly the history of the 20th century should have reinforced this understanding. We look out now on a physically, socially and psychically devastated world, the result of all that has been called progress. The exploited and dispossessed of this world can no longer seriously desire to get a piece of this putrefying pie, nor to take it over and “self-manage” it. The reappropriation of life must have a different meaning in the present world. In light of the social transformations of the past few decades, it seems to me that any serious revolutionary anarchist movement would have to call industrialism and civilization itself into question precisely because anything less may not provide us with the necessary tools for taking back our lives as our own.
But my anti-civilization perspective is not a primitivist perspective. While it may indeed be inspiring to look at the apparently anarchic and communistic aspects of some “primitive” cultures, I do not base my critique on a comparison between these cultures and the current reality, but rather on the way in which all of the various institutions that comprise civilization act together to take my life from me and turn it into a tool for social reproduction, and how they transform social life into a productive process serving only to maintain the rulers and their social order. Thus, it is essentially a revolutionary perspective, and this is why I will always make use of anything in that arsenal which is the history of revolutionary theory and practice that can enhance my struggle. “Primitive” people have often lived in anarchic and communistic ways, but they do not have a history of revolutionary struggle from which we can loot weapons for our current struggle. Having said this, however, I do recognize those anarcho-primitivists who continue to recognize the necessity of revolution and class struggle as my comrades and potential accomplices.
Revolutionary struggle against the civilization of control and profit that surrounds us will not be the reasonable attempt to take over means of production. The dispossessed of this world seem to understand that this is no longer an option for liberation (if it ever was). If most are not clear about precisely who or what is the enemy, most do understand that they have nothing to say to those in power, because they no longer share a common language. We who have been dispossessed by this world now know that we can expect nothing from it. If we dream of another world, we cannot express that dream, because this world does not provide the words for it. And most likely many no longer dream. They just feel rage at the continuing degradation of their existence. So this revolution will, indeed, be the release of the “wicked passions” of which Bakunin spoke, the destructive passions that are the only door to a free existence. It will be the coming of the barbarians predicted by Dejacque and Coeurderoy. But it is precisely when people know that they no longer have anything to say to their rulers, that they may learn how to talk with each other. It is precisely when people know that the possibilities of this world can offer them nothing that they may learn how to dream the impossible. This network of institutions that dominate our life, this civilization, has turned our world into a toxic prison. There is so much to be destroyed so that a free existence may be created. The time of the barbarians is at hand.
[…] May the barbarians break loose. May they sharpen their swords, may they brandish their battleaxes, may they strike their enemies without pity. May hatred take the place of tolerance, may fury take the place of resignation, may outrage take the place of respect. May the barbarian hordes go to the assault, autonomously, in the way that they determine. And may no parliament, no credit institution, no supermarket, no barracks, no factory ever grow again after their passage. In the face of the concrete that rises to strike the sky and the pollution that fouls it, one can well say with Dejacque that “It is not the darkness that the Barbarians will bring to the world this time, it is the light.” — Crisso/Odoteo
We are not autonomous, we are everywhere and everyone. We are looking to set an invisible trend that is already here, that abandons the shackles of subculture, identity and ideology, and finds comfort in the revolutionary discomfort we all feel. The suicidal are in control, destroying the land that feeds us, mediating our relationships with each other and all life on this planet, and establishing a global reality that efficiently forces all life to survival as opposed to living. There is unity in our cynicism, skepticism, and common contempt. There is unity in our neglected passions, malnourishment, and feared temptations. While there is also a division set in their very existence, there is a unity in these feelings. There are those who share these feelings, and those who look to silence them, deceive them, or murder and imprison those feeling them. ‘Fire to the Prisons’
By Bob Black, 1992, AJODA #33
In 1979, four Australian anarchist and “libertarian socialist” organizations published a tract called You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship, presumptuously subtitled “The Anarchist Case Against Terrorism” — as if theirs was the only case against it and there was no case for it. The pamphlet has been reprinted and distributed by North American anarchist groups, usually workerists, and by default appears to enjoy some currency as a credible critique of terrorism canonical for anarchists.
In fact, the pamphlet is rubbish: incoherent, inaccurate, even statist. It makes sense only as an attempt to spruce up anarchism‘s public image. It clutters the question of violence and should be swept, if there is any room left there, into the trashcan of history from a perspective which is not pro-terrorist but on this occasion anti-anti-terrorist.
What makes the diatribe so wonderful is the way it refutes itself as it goes along. Opening with reference to obscure actions by Croatian fascists in Australia, the authors explain that the state uses right wing terrorism to justify the repression of the left. indeed, democracies “will even incite or conspire in terrorism to justify their own actions.” They cite “the famous American Sacco and Vanzetti case of the 1920s” as “an archetypal case of the preparedness of the police to frame dissenters on charges of political violence.” Apparently the case is not famous enough for the authors to notice the duo was not framed for “political violence” but rather — as they proceeded to tell us! — for “robbery and murder.” The Haymarket case would have made a better example but is perhaps not famous enough. The lesson, if any, to be drawn is that one way or another, the anarchists are going to be screwed. Sacco and Vanzetti, like the Haymarket anarchists (except Lingg) did not “take up the gun,” they “engage[d] in the long, hard work of publicizing and understanding of this society” as the Australians propose. Why not throw a bomb or two? (As Lingg was preparing to do when he was arrested… showing that something like Haymarket was inevitable.)
Here is how anarchists sound when they speak the language of the state:
“Around the world the word ‘terrorism’ is used indiscriminately by politicians and police with the intention of arousing hostility to any phenomenon of resistance or preparedness for armed defense against their own terroristic acts. Terrorism is distinguished by the systematic use of, violence against people for political ends.”
A usage which is indiscriminate when police- and politicians resort to it is presumably discriminate when, one sentence later, anarchists do it. By this definition, violent revolution is terrorism; even if it involves the majority of the population. Indeed collective self — defense, which the authors elsewhere imply they approve of, is the systematic use of violence for political (among other) ends. By way of added inanity, the definition leaves out the unsystematic assaults by individuals acting alone — Czolgosz‘s assassination of McKinley, Berkman’s wounding of Frick — which everybody has always agreed are fairly called terrorism. These Australians are not speaking proper English and it’s not a difference in dialect either.
Having adopted a pejorative nonsense definition of their subject, the authors proceed to silly it further. “Just as the rulers” — and, as we see, certain anarchists — “prefer the word ‘terrorist’, terrorists prefer the description ‘urban guerrilla‘ as it lends them a spurious romantic air.” The authors explain that urban guerrillas are terrorists (just like “the rulers” say), but rural guerrillas are not: ’Especially in rural warfare these people can use non-terroristic armed action. This usually involves armed clashes with the police or army.” So an armed attack on police stations in a village is guerrilla warfare, but an armed attack on a police station in a city is terrorism? Do these anarchists think the police care how populous the locality is that they are killed in? Do they think the general population cares? Who’s beingromantic here? These guys are romanticizing peasants because they have never met one and maligning urban intellectuals like themselves because they know their own kind.
What, according to these tacticians, rural guerrillas can do is not all of what the successful ones actually do. The Vietcong were based in the countryside but carried out assassinations, bombings, and expropriations in the cities too. Guerrilla warfare is by definition opportunistic and elastic, wherever it happens. The fact that rural guerrillas can (and do) “use non-terroristic armed action” does not mean they don‘t also use terroristic armed action, such as the village massacres of the Khmer Rouge or Sendero Luminoso.
Lexicography aside, what‘s really put ants in these anarchists pants? The pamphlet has nothing, really, to do with terrorism as such. Instead it‘s a critique of urban armed struggle by mostly nationalist and/or Marxist-Leninist outfits in the ’60s and ‘70s: the IRA, PLO, RAF, SLA, etc. Understandably these leftists (as they repeatedly identify themselves) do not want to be confused with these terrorists, but surely their discrepant ends mark the distinction much more clearly than their often identical means? Most Marxist groups, they admit, denounce terrorism in favor of party-building and propaganda, pretty much what the Australians call for. The Red Brigades had no harsher enemy than the Italian Communist Party. Then again, maybe the Australians exaggerate their differences in method (all but ignoring the long history of anarchist terrorism) because they do not differ so much programmatically from the Marxists. They keep making puzzling remarks such as “a democracy can only be produced if a majority movement is built.” Typically, this generalization is false — that was not how democracy came to Japan and West Germany — but regardless, why are anarchists concerned to foster the condition in which democracy, a form of government, is produced? Or did the “libertarian socialists” slip that in?
“Terrorism does not conflict with such ideas” as authoritarianism and vanguardism, they say. Well, there are a lot of ideas terrorism doesn’t conflict with, considering that terrorism is an activity, not an idea. Terrorism does not conflict with vegetarianism either: Hitler was a vegetarian and so were the anarchist bank robbers of the Bonnot Gang. So what? In other words, even if the authors make an anarchist case against terrorism (they don’t), they haven’t made a case againstanarchist terrorism, which means they can‘t excommunicate the anarchist terrorist and usurp the label for their own exclusive use. Which seems to be what this all comes down to.
The authors’ treatment of anarchist terrorism is shallow, deceptive, and incomplete. If their definition of terrorism as systematic political violence was meant to dispose of many embarrassing assassinations, bombings, and bank robberies by verbal sleight of hand, they are smarter than they seem, but they’re really just changing the subject (political violence) to an artificiality of no practical interest. They are talking to themselves with no claim to anyone else‘s attention. More likely they aren’t articulate enough to say what they mean.
To state the obvious, anarchists have practiced terrorism in the “Australian” sense collective politically motivated violence directed at persons — for over a century. The bungled anarchist insurrections in Italian towns in the 1870s involved gunfire with the carabinieri. Soon these local revolts became recurrent features of peasant anarchism in rural Spain. By the 1890s the anarchists were killing heads of state all over the Western world and if they were not delegated to do so by authoritative anarchist organizations, does that not sever the link between ‘terrorism’ and ‘vanguardism’?
The authors allude to Stalin’s bank robberies but not to those of the Bonnet Gang or Durruti. More recently, the noted Italian anarchist Alfredo Bonanno has pled guilty to bank robbery. They ignore Berkman’s attentat against Frick, Dora Kaplan’s attempt to assassinate Lenin and Stuart Christie‘s aborted attempt to assassinate Franco. Some of these, certainly the last one, involved conspiracies and thus should be ‘collective’. To equate anarchists with bomb throwers is grossly unfair. To ignore anarchists who were bomb-throwers, often at the cost of their lives, is dishonest and despicable.
What about the Spanish Revolution? The anarchist armed groups, it is said, “drew much of their specific justifications” — what they are, we are never informed —“from the Spanish revolution and war and the urban warfare that continued there even past the end of the Second World War.” Yes, exactly, the urban guerrillas- the terrorists — had some “specific justifications,” valid or not. Which is just to say nobody takes up the gun without reasons, a conclusion as banal as it is evasive.“For our argument the civil war in Spain is exemplary because the slogans ‘win the war first’ was used against politics, to halt the revolution and then to force it back under Stalinist dominated but willing republican governments.” This is asinine coming and going. It equates falsely what the Aussies call ‘politics’ with what the Spaniards made, ‘revolution’. For the wimps Down Under, politics means alternative institution building (presumably the usual leftist stuff, constituency lobbying, food coops, etc.) plus propaganda. For all the Spanish revolutionaries it meant far more, and it certainly included taking up the gun. The revolution no less than the war was done with the gun. When Durruti and his column occupied the town of Fraga and executed 38 police, priests, lawyers, landlords etc. that was politics, that was revolution, and that was political violence. That was, to hear some people talk, terrorism. That was anarchist revolution also. If that upheaval is exemplary what is it an example of pray tell?
It is true that anarchist violence has often backfired and never won any lasting victory. But this is but to say that anarchism is a failure to date. Anarchist propaganda is a failure. Anarchist organizing is a failure (vide the IWW). Anarchist schooling is a failure. If anything, anarchists have accomplished more by violence than in any other way, in the Ukraine and in Spain, for instance. The fact is anarchists have not accomplished anything by any means to compare with their leftist and fascist and liberal rivals. Their propaganda, for instance, has not come close to the efficiency of propaganda by Nazis, televangelicals, and Fabian Socialists. Their institution-building (touted by the Australian consortium) amounts to nothing but anarchists bagging granola in food coops or supplying warm bodies for demonstrations claimed by Stalinists or Green yuppies or whomever. Anything they can do, others do better. Could it be that anarchism itself scares most people away, stirs up their fear of freedom such that they seize upon media spoon-fed slanders like ‘terrorism’ as excuses for looking the other way?
My purpose has been limited and negative, merely cutting some weeds, not planting anything. If anarchists have an image problem — and it they care — it attaches to their anarchism, not to their occasional terrorism. The Australian anarchists seem to have been most concerned not with an anarchist approach to so-called terrorism but with assuring their government they are harmless. To their everlasting shame, I’m quite sure they are. An anarchism that wants to be anything but harmless to the state and to class society must deal with terrorism and much more in another, more radical way.
Wild Reaction MORTE
August 14 2015
This past Full Moon, somewhere in the Old Northern Mesoamerica, was held the general meeting of Wild Reaction [RS] and it’s affinity groups, in which the following points were concluded:
1.- It is necessary to continue separately with the individual and group initiatives of those who came together in RS a Gregorian year ago (1). Wild Reaction more than a formal group was a meeting of thoughts and practices relating to the extreme defense of wild nature and against the artificiality imposed by the modern technological system, which selectively reunited valuable individualists breaking off from groups and cells active in sabotage and terrorism since 2007. Those who got involved in it take with them learnings and wisdom, strategies, operativity, and some other things.
2.- It could be said that some individuals within RS, did not entirely agree with what was stated by the communiques or with what was being done from the beginning. Points of view were always respected, of course, provided when criticism had a valid basis. This is another reason why RS ceases to exist to begin a NEW phase of struggle and extremist resistance against the scientific and technological system, against the artificiality of human progress and against civilization. After fruitful internal discussions, the cycle ends for Wild Reaction, and another begins.
3.- RS was nourished by the propaganda work of its direct dissemination bodies such as “Ediciones Aborigen” from Hidalgo in charge of the “Carbon Ink Groupuscule”, the “Regresión” publication of Michoacan in charge of the “Coyote-skin Cloak Groupuscule”, and the website “El Tlatol” from Guanajuato by the “Council of Uehuetlatolli Groupuscule”. Each of these bodies served at the time with a work of analysis, study, statement, and the spreading of eco-extremism both in the territory called Mexico and outside of it. After separation of RS, “Ediciones Aborigen” and “El Tlatol” have dissolved to start other projects of dissemination or not.
The only project of its kind that remains is the “Regresión” publication, the editors will continue to be on the lookout for what happens during the “Post Mortem” of RS.
4.- Wild Reaction has divided into four groups:
A) Anonymous groups or individuals unwilling to claim their acts of terrorism or sabotage, with no interest in a fixed name or standing by initials.
B) Groups or individuals with no direct claim by Internet of the attacks carried out, but they WILL be leaving small claims of action with the detonating explosives, and graffiti in places where they act, etc.
C) Groups with distinctive names and claims on the internet and/or at the location of the attacks, these may be terrorist or sabotage. We wont mention names now, these groups will be revealed in their own time and guidelines.
D) Individualists Tending to the Wild will continue executing acts of terrorism, as it did before RS.
The cycle ends but the war is ongoing, remaining in the history of RS are the propaganda strategies, the detonation of explosive devices, the rhetoric put into action, the activation of incendiary devices, the mockery of the authorities, the sending of parcel bombs, the damage, the injuries, the psychosis, the bomb threats, the exaltation of paganism, the use of firearms, the participation in riots to create tension and provoke the idiotic masses, the sadistic romanticism, the answered criticism by joint communiques, the propaganda of terror, the armed robberies at convenience stores and banks which were never claimed, the symbolism in images and pictures, the construction of eco-extremist discourse based on the resistance of the native hunter-gatherer and nomadic warriors, the international conspiracies, etc. Although it is certain that all this will continue with the groups that have broken off from RS, each will create their own history.
Without further explanation, long speeches or unnecessary analysis:
Kill or Die
Rain of Arrows
Until your death or mine!
Lord of the Green Fire
Of the Occult
Council of Uehuetlatolli
Ignoring that this article was sourced from one of the most shit-for-brains, poseur sites on the Internet, here’s a few interesting words about Saint Ted.
The Unabomber, known as Ted Kaczynski, was not a fan of technology. To expose the world to his anti-technology philosophy, from the years 1978 to 1995, Kaczynski sent 16 bombs to universities and airlines, killing three people and injuring 23, before he was eventually caught and sent to prison. He remains there today. At one time, he was possibly the most famous criminal in the world.
He said of technology’s role:
The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity.
In his essay Industrial Society and Its Future, Kaczynski argued that while his bombings were “a bit” extreme, they were quite necessary to attract attention to the loss of human freedom caused by modern technology. His book Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski, a.k.a. “The Unabomber” breaks all of his philosophies down for those of us that just know him through corporate news stations.
I talked to David Skrbina, confidant of Kaczynski, and philosophy professor at the University of Michigan. Skrbina wrote the intro to Technological Slavery.
Can you tell me a bit about how you and Kaczynski began to communicate? Are you still in touch with him today?
Back in 2003, I began work on a new course at the University of Michigan:‘Philosophy of Technology.’ Surprisingly, such a course had never been offered before, at any of our campuses. I wanted to remedy that deficiency.
I then began to pull together recent and relevant material for the course, focusing on critical approaches to technology. These, to me, were more insightful and more interesting, and were notably under-analyzed among current philosophers of technology. Most of them are either neutral toward modern technology, or positively embrace it, or accept its presence resignedly. As I found out, very few philosophers of the past four decades adopted anything like a critical stance. This, for me, was highly revealing.
Anyway, I was well aware of Kaczynski’s manifesto, “Industrial society and its future,” which was published in late 1995 at the height of the Unabomber mania. I was very impressed with its analysis, even though most of the ideas were not new to me (many were reiterations of arguments by Jacques Ellul, for example—see his 1964 book The Technological Society). But the manifesto was clear and concise, and made a compelling argument.
After Kaczynski was arrested in 1996, and after a year-long trial process, he was stashed away in a super-max prison in Colorado. The media then decided that, in essence, the story was over. Case closed. No need to cover Kaczynski or his troubling ideas ever again.
By 2003, I suspected he was still actively researching and writing, but I had heard nothing of substance about him in years. So I decided to write to him personally, hoping to get some follow-up material that might be useful in my new course. Fortunately, he replied. That began a long string of letters, all on the problem of technology. To date, I’ve received something over 100 letters from him.
Most of the letters occurred in the few years prior to, and just after, the publication of Technological Slavery. Several of his more important and detailed replies to me were included in that book—about 100 pages worth.
We’ve had less occasion to communicate in the past couple years. My most recent letter from him was in late 2014.
You have said that his ideas “threaten to undermine the power structure of our technological order. And since the system’s defenders are unable to defeat the ideas, they choose to attack the man who wrote them.” Can you expand on that?
The present military and economic power of the US government, and governments everywhere, rests on advanced technology. Governments, by their very nature, function to manipulate and coerce people—both their own citizens, and any other non-citizens whom they declare to be of interest. Governments have a monopoly on force, and this force is manifest through technological structures and systems.
Therefore, all governments—and in fact anyone who would seek to exert power in the world—must embrace modern technology. American government, at all levels, is deeply pro-tech. So too are our corporations, universities, and other organized institutions. Technology is literally their life-blood. They couldn’t oppose it in any substantial way without committing virtual suicide.
So when a Ted Kaczynski comes along and reminds everyone of the inherent and potentially catastrophic problems involved with modern technology, “the system” doesn’t want you to hear it. It will do everything possible to distort or censor such discussion. As you may recall, during the final years of the Unabomber episode, there was very little—astonishingly little—discussion of the actual ideas of the manifesto. Now and then, little passages would be quoted in the newspapers, but that was it; no follow-up, no discussion, no analysis.
Basically, the system’s defenders had no counterarguments. The data, empirical observation, and common sense all were on the side of Kaczynski. There was no rational case to be made against him.
The only option for the defenders was an ad hominem attack: to portray Kaczynski as a sick murderer, a crazed loner, and so on. That was the only way to ‘discredit’ his ideas. Of course, as we know, the ad hominem tactic is a logical fallacy. Kaczynski’s personal situation, his mental state, or even his extreme actions, have precisely zero bearing on the strength of his arguments.
The system’s biggest fear was—and still is—that people will believe that he was right. People might begin, in ways small or large, to withdraw from, or to undermine, the technological basis of society. This cuts to the heart of the system. It poses a fundamental threat, to which the system has few options, apart from on-going propaganda efforts, or brute force.
What do you think of the fact that when our government, or any figure in authority such as a police officer, kills in the name of the established belief system, it is thought of as just. But when a guy like Kaczynski kills in the name of his belief system, he is thought of as a deranged psychopath?
As I mentioned, governmental authorities have a monopoly on force. Whenever they use it, it is, almost by definition, ‘right.’ Granted, police can be convicted of ‘excessive force.’ But such cases, as we know, are very rare.And militaries can never be so convicted.
At best, if the public is truly appalled by some lethal action of our police ormilitary, they may vote in a more ‘pacifist’ administration. But even that rarely works. People were disgusted by the war-monger George W. Bush, and so they voted in the “anti-war” Obama. Ironically, he continued on with much the same killing. And through foreign aid and UN votes, Obama continues to support and defend murderous regimes around the world. So much for pacifism.
Let’s keep in mind: Kaczynski killed three people. This was tragic and regrettable, but still, it was just three people. American police kill that many citizens every other day, on average. The same with Obama’s drone operators. Technology kills many times that number, every day—even every hour. Let’s keep things in perspective.
Kaczynski killed in order to gain the notoriety necessary to get the manifesto into the public eye. And it worked. When it was published, theWashington Post sold something like 1.2 million copies that day—still a record. He devised a plan, executed it, and thereby caused millions of people to contemplate the problem of technology in a way they never had before.
Does the end justify the means? It’s too early to tell. If Kaczynski’s actions ultimately have some effect on averting technological disaster, there will be no doubt: his actions were justified. They may yet save millions of lives, not to mention much of the natural world. Time will tell.
You recently wrote a book,The Metaphysics of Technology. Can you tell us a little about that?
Sure. In thinking about the problem of technology, it struck me that there was very little philosophical analysis about what, exactly, technology is. We’ve had many action plans, ranging from tepid and mild (think Sherry Turkle), to Bill Joy’s thesis of “relinquishment” of key technologies, to Kaczynski’s total revolution. But if we don’t really understand what we’re dealing with, our actions are likely to be misguided and ineffectual. In short, we need a true metaphysics of technology.
On my view, technology advances with a tremendous, autonomous power. Humans are the implementers of this power, but we can’t really guide it and we certainly can’t stop it. In effect, it functions as a law of nature. It advances with an evolutionary force, and that’s why we are heading toward disaster.
I see technology much as the ancient Greeks did—as a combination of two potent entities, Technê and Logos (hence ‘techno-logy’). For them, these were quasi-divine forces. Logos was the guiding intelligence behind all order in the universe. Technê was the process by which all things—manmade and otherwise—came into being. These were not mere mythology; they were rational conclusions regarding the operation of the cosmos.
Like the Greeks, I argue that technê is a universal process. All order in the universe is a form of technê. Hence my coining of the term ‘Pantechnikon’—the universe as an orderly construction, manifesting a kind of intelligence, or Logos. Our modern, human technology is on a continuum with all order in the universe. (Harvard astrophysicist Eric Chaisson has argued for precisely the same point, incidentally; see his 2006 book Epic of Evolution.)
The net effect of all this is not good news for us. Technology is like a wave moving through the Earth, and the universe. For a long while, we were at the peak of that wave. Now we’re on the downside. Technology is rapidly heading toward true autonomy. Our opportunity to slow or redirect it is rapidly vanishing. If technology achieves true autonomy—we can take Kurzweil’s singularity date of 2045 as a rough guide—then it’s game over for us. We will likely either become more or less enslaved, or else wiped out.And then technology will continue on its merry way without us.
This is not mere speculation on my part, incidentally. Within the past year, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have all come out with related concerns. They don’t understand the metaphysics behind it, but they’re seeing the same trend.
How has your experience communicating with Kaczynski changed you as a person and as a philosopher?
As a philosopher, not that much. Kaczynski generally avoids philosophy and metaphysics, preferring practical issues. In a sense, we are operating on different planes, even as we are working on the same problem.
As a person, I have a greater understanding of the basis for the ‘extreme’ actions that he took. It’s not often in life that you get a chance to communicate with someone with such a total commitment to their cause. It’s impressive.
Also, the media treatment of his whole case has been enlightening. When his book, Technological Slavery, came out in 2010, I expected that there would be at least some media coverage. But there was none. The most famous “American terrorist” publishes a complete book from a super-max prison—and it’s not news? Seriously? Compare this topic to the garbage shown on our national evening news programs, and it’s a joke. NPR, 60 Minutes, Wiredmagazine, etc.—all decided it wasn’t newsworthy. Very telling.
One last thing: Expect to hear from Kaczynski again soon. His second book is nearing completion. The provisional title is “Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How.” But don’t look for it on your evening news.
Things are not as simplistic as you think.
Brian Whitney’s latest book is Raping the Gods.
Authorities have yet to nail down a motive or culprit for more than a dozen breaches in the Bay Area
here’s a bad problem hitting the internet out west: someone’s been deliberately slicing through the cables that carry data between providers. And after looking into it for months, the FBI still has basically no idea who’s doing the damage or why. While everyone worries about high-tech hack attacks taking down networks, the attacks highlight that all it really takes is one determined person with a couple of cheap tools.
Damage to fiber-optic cables is, on some level, inevitable. Cars and trucks hit poles and take out above-ground wiring from time to time. Construction projects, large and small, put equipment in the wrong place and accidentally dig up a bundle of wires instead of a shovel of dirt. And then there are the squirrels, which seem to have a taste for destruction.
But what’s going on in California isn’t part of that low-level background chaos of being. Instead, it’s some kind of very deliberate series of attacks on heavy-duty cables that have been happening in the Bay area for at least a year.
The FBI has been investigating the acts of sabotage — now over a dozen — for months, but so far is no closer to any useful information, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The cuts have generally happened around midnight, give or take, and so far there are no known eyewitnesses who have seen any of the slicers doing the deed. Experts told the WSJ that all the attackers need is a hacksaw, a manhole lifter, and a rough idea of where to find the cables. Nobody knows how many people are involved. The timing and geography says that it could potentially be a single individual, but that they’d have had “little time to spare” to reach every spot in the same night.
Beyond that, the FBI’s got basically nothing: no motive, no suspects, and no understanding.
John Lightfoot, assistant deputy in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco field office, told the WSJ, “Everyone recognizes that there seems to be a pattern of events here … we really need the assistance of the public to reach out and help solve this one.”
Attacks on Fiber Networks in California Baffle FBI [Wall Street Journal]