Swallow the Ted pill on Unabomber stan TikTok
“HELLO FELLOW TRIBE MEMBERS.” The friendly greeting is superimposed over a familiar image of a rust-colored A-frame cabin with a green roof. Below it, a teen waves and strikes poses along with the on-screen text while percussion music plays in the video’s background. “Some of my beliefs: unga bunga > ooga booga. the industrial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. anti civ CHAD. i cannot wait to tear down some power lines with you guys!”
Of all the contemporary internet’s innumerable hovels, few are as bewildering as the shambly shanty of Tedpilled TikTok. There, content creators meet the platform’s trending memes in a densely ironic effort to elevate Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Through song imitations, dialogue reenactments, reaction videos, voiceovers, and dances, TikTokers broadcast the incarcerated terrorist’s views about the necessity of dismantling industrial society through property destruction and murder.
Using the hashtags #tedpill, #tedk, and #tedkazcynski—which have collectively garnered millions of views—the Tedpilled place photographs of the Unabomber in “duets” with other videos, creating a counterpoint between Kaczynski’s views and the supposed excesses of influencer culture. With the Wombo.AI, they face-morph Kaczynski into goofily singing songs about Fortnite. Elsewhere, shaggy anarchists riff on the #DontBeSurprised trend—in which TikTokers share images representing their hopes and dreams with the text “Don’t be surprised if one day I just . . . ”—juxtaposing the peppy indie-folk song “Go Down On You” by The Memories with pictures of Ted Kaczynski standing next to his off-the-grid cabin. Light-hearted jokes about personal body counts and depopulation fantasies coexist alongside more earnest defenses of anarcho-primitivist politics.
To swallow the “Ted pill” is to embrace the romance of a return to a pre-industrial, hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
It’s a strange, if organic, world. It blurs the line between the hyperbolic adoration of online stan culture and a critique of the same, all unfolding in the vernacular of the young and extremely online: Ted was right. Ted is daddy. Ted is a based God. In one since-deleted video, a mop-topped kid mouths along to a hip-hop song and points to a text bubble reading, “the Industrial Revolution lowkey be cringe,” followed by a string of emojis. Another entry in the canon is labeled “ted is so fine i’m sorry”; in it, a doe-eyed teen who has superimposed herself over a photo of a young, fresh-faced Unabomber sits in front of the stars-and-stripes while lip-syncing the Counting Crows “Accidentally in Love” (originally composed for the motion picture Shrek 2).
To swallow the “Ted pill” is to embrace the romance of a return to a pre-industrial, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It is to reject modernity, agriculture, and civilization itself. It offers a dystopian diagnosis of modern life, embracing a utopian fantasy of some prelapsarian state-of-nature. More paradoxically, Ted-pilling means using TikTok—a culturally dominant, globalized, Chinese-owned social networking techno-bauble—as a means of agitating for a radical political philosophy that is, among much else, vehemently anti-technology.