You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

February 18, 2010


When I started reading the manifesto of the guy who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin today, I was sure it would be full of standard-issue right-wing crazitude. I can't remember any person who's ever done something like this in America who WASN'T a standard-issue right-wing crazy.

That's partly because there's essentially no left in America for violent crazies to glom onto, and partly because left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations, spree killings, etc. Right-wingers think problems are caused by bad individuals, while left-wingers think they're caused by systems. And you can't assassinate the system, man.

But much to my surprise, the manifesto is 96% left-wing. It's like it was written by a slightly-lobotomized Jim Hightower:

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in...

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes…

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after.

I'm not sure what this means. In any case, I'm not surprised that when we finally get some left-wing political violence in this country, there's no body count except that of the perpetrator. In everything, apparently, we just can't plan and execute like the right.

UPDATE: Rereading it, it's more like 76% left-wing, 15% right-wing, and 9% miscellaneous.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 18, 2010 09:02 PM

Ted Kaczynski?

Posted by: Ben Dansby at February 18, 2010 10:27 PM

FWIW, my experience is that left-wingers feel politicians are too beholden to rich and powerful special interests, but they usually don't impugn the character of politicians to the degree and nastiness that I see on the right.

Posted by: Paul T. at February 18, 2010 10:28 PM

I think this sums it up pretty good:

Posted by: Jenny at February 18, 2010 10:36 PM

Anarchist Mario Buda blew up a cartload of explosives on Wall Street in 1920.

Marxist Lee Oswald shot the President.

The thing is that leftists understand that the state takes its monopoly on violence very seriously and that we aren't going to win that way.

Posted by: seth at February 18, 2010 11:02 PM

Right now it looks like a couple of people are badly injured and that at least one person other than the pilot is dead or missing. Really, though, it's sheer luck that more weren't killed.

Posted by: darrelplant at February 18, 2010 11:36 PM

I don't think that's a particularly left-wing screed, let alone 96% left-wing. Granted, the guy did think that the health care system sucks, but he didn't say that he wants to institute single payer. He was just observant enough to notice that things that help ordinary people don't get fixed as fast as things that help giant corporations. That's a very common observation on the right and in the center as well as on the left. Only true GOP cult members don't see that.

I couldn't tell whether that guy got screwed because he was classified as an independent contractor and had to pay his own social security taxes or because he had employees who he had been treating as independent contractors, but he clearly had a number of beefs about how he had been taxed over the years. That isn't so characteristically left-wing. It sucks to get knocked down every time you get up again, and I feel some sympathy for that guy, whose story is not unique whether or not he is blameless. The laws do screw ordinary working people, and the IRS and other agencies don't cut ordinary people slack. One doesn't need to be David Cady Johnston to see that.

The word "manifesto" does remind me of the Unibomber too, but Kaczynski was/is basically a genius and the research done on him at Harvard messed up his head. (Read Harvard and the Unibomber all you disbeilevers.) Chalk that one up to Langley. As far as I can tell, the boys at The Farm only get credit for this guy through their general contribution to our politics and culture. That's a gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by: N E at February 18, 2010 11:44 PM

Since when did bailing out the banks and GM become a left-wing thing? Teaparties have been screaming against it since they formed, and the takeover of GM is something the right has screamed about since it happened.

The difference between right and left wing doesn't seem to be a rich vs poor thing. Both sides seem to take a populist stance on this (the rich are leeches, the poor noble and downtrodden), it's just they approach the issue of how to solve it.

The only thing that really made me think he might be left wing (hard to say from just his suicide note) is his reference to the Communist creed and his mockery of capitalism at the end.

But as far as left-wing violence, there were some bombings in 60s. And lefties love executing heads of state when the REVOLUTION comes.

Posted by: Constantine at February 19, 2010 12:20 AM

"left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations"

Lee Harvey Oswald

Posted by: Manju at February 19, 2010 01:59 AM

Well now: i say anyone who criticizes our health care industry and our wall street bankers is probably dangerous and crazy! wee all need to be wary about folks like that, maybe even ban that kinda talk

Posted by: toolate at February 19, 2010 02:12 AM

People who criticize Wall Street and the financial oligarchy are angry, know-nothing, Luddite, Trotskyist, ungrateful, envy-filled people who don’t understand the modern world and would return us to a barter economy!

Posted by: now or never at February 19, 2010 02:15 AM

This guy's impassioned narrative of his years devoted to the cause of not having to pay any taxes seems like it accounts for more than 5% of the screed, to me at least.

Posted by: Es-tonea-pesta at February 19, 2010 03:33 AM

If reading conspiracy theorist sites has taught me anything, its that crazy is often where the right and the left meet.

Posted by: LT at February 19, 2010 06:22 AM

left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations, spree killings, etc

Oh, I don't know. I consider myself pretty left-wing and the list of people I'd love to see done away with is quite long. And getting longer all the time. It's really more an issue of practicality, in that the desire to prevent harm to innocents means that the time required to go through the list would give the State enough time to put a stop to the fun.

But there are crazies — on both sides, to be sure — who aren't nearly so discriminating.

Posted by: NomadUK at February 19, 2010 07:43 AM

The one thing left wingers and tea baggers have in common is a disgust with the corporatization of America. The difference is that tea baggers get angry and lash out at anything that will obstruct their enemy, while leftists realize that resistance is futile.

Posted by: Charles at February 19, 2010 08:33 AM

"The one thing left wingers and tea baggers have in common is a disgust with the corporatization of America. The difference is that tea baggers get angry and lash out at anything that will obstruct their enemy, while leftists realize that resistance is futile.
Posted by Charles at February 19, 2010 08:33 AM"

I guess I've been away too long, because I can't tell if this is supposed to be sarcasm or a matter-of-fact observation.

Posted by: grimmy at February 19, 2010 09:23 AM

It's funny hearing this kind of pseudo-populist talk about the poor and middle class from a guy that owned his own plane and bitched (endlessly, if that manifesto is anything to go by) about taxes. Not a lot of people I know can drop a hundred grand on a plane -- not to forget the fuel and the maintenance and the hanger fees and the insurance and the flying lessons -- even the ones that own their own businesses.

Posted by: Svlad Jelly at February 19, 2010 09:45 AM

"Ted Kaczynski?"

Nah. Read the Unibomber Manifesto: the very first thing in it is a lengthy attack on "the pyschology of modern leftism." It sounds like Rush Limbaugh, only more lucid.

The most recent example I could think of was the Weather Underground, except, like Jon says, they only ever managed to kill themselves. (And frankly, they could have done better on that front too.)

I look forward to hearing from Mark Ames at the eXile. This is his kind of meat.

Posted by: Chris E. at February 19, 2010 10:26 AM

For those wondering what he was talking about tax-wise, there's a very good post by someone under the moniker semi-adult at C&L that lays it out, and I'll cross post it here:

"In 1986, during the Reagan Insanity, under the guise of "revenue neutrality", congress subjected "tax revision" to monstrous trickery. Basically, to get one loophole into the game, someone else had to be screwed.
Stack explicitly noted the provision of Section 1706, which essentially made it practically impossible for contractors in most technical fields to remain independent. This piece of work is still in the law. What is NOT a part of the public discussion, because it's just not sexy enough for the "media", is how it got there, what it really does, who was responsible for it and supposed benefits from it.
First the context of the time. In the 80s there was a huge community of "independent contractors" who may or may not have paid taxes on all earnings. This was a major part of the LA market, as every layoff in the defense industry generated hundreds or thousands of new "independent contractors". The IRS had no way to adequately track such monies, and believed (probably correctly) that a lot of taxes were being avoided by unattributed, unreported cash transactions. Many individuals did not form corporations, made handshake deals for work, and simply left some (or all) of their income off the record. The IRS wanted some way to capture those dollars. This was before computers were a real entity for them, beyond making lists and totals, and the paperwork for a couple of hundred thousand audits was considered impossible. At the same time large consultancies for technical projects (Andersen, EDS, etc.) were chafing at the upstart independents who could run rings around their suits, and do it far more cheaply than their rates. Likewise, simple headhunter outfits wanted the independents on their books, too. Taking 20% or more off the top is a powerful incentive.
Section 1706 neatly combined these greeds, by making being independent a crime, in fact a felony. It was and remains a cruel trick. Even if money is completely reported and taxes completely paid, anyone who doesn't work on a W-2 basis in selected professional capacities can be declared illegal. Have a corporation? Have a defined benefit retirement plan? Too bad... your corporation can be stricken and your money taken (as fines, penalties and fees). Filing mistake? Poof........
Companies and contractors were attacked in the process. If a company used consultants on projects, and even one of them was even suspected by the IRS of improper reporting, the 'interpretation' the IRS made was that they could simply declare ALL the consultants to be employees of the company and force the company to cough up all deductions for every dollar paid, even if the consultants had paid to the penny and had records to prove it. It was a powerful weapon; many companies refused for years to consider any independent for work. And if you're declared an employee, your own retirement plan becomes illegal...."

My apologies for the size. Again, all credit goes to semi-adult; I'm just cross posting.

Posted by: Julian at February 19, 2010 10:27 AM

"Ted Kaczynski?"

Another post made the point that "Industrial Society and Its Future" (the actual title of what the media and FBI declared "The Unabomber Manifesto") attacks the "Left", but there are a few caveats...

1. Even though his bar for "leftist" may have been askew of most people's, Tim McVeigh's last 60 Minutes interview said, "They found they had a lot in common although, as McVeigh says, Kaczynski is 'far left' while he is 'far right' politically. 'I found that, in a way that I didn't realize, that we were much alike in that all we ever wanted or all we wanted out of life was the freedom to live our own lives however we chose to.'"

Which seems to gel with this ATR article and Greenwald's recent piece on Salon. Also...

2. Even if Kaczynski had a had in writing IS&IF, he was only one of many given the use of "we" throughout. But that's a whole other subject in itself.

3. The description of and invective against "Leftists" could just as easily apply to another social type; my guess would be "Bourgeoisie". Semantics, schmemantics.

In any case, this also links up with the media's annoying insistence of equating "independent" with "Teabagger". If you're not a Far Right "git yer Guvmint outta mah Medicare!" type or a semi-"Left" Bernie Sanders/Dennis Kucinich type, their heads explode trying to come up with a label and they just assume you're a John Birch Society reject.

Posted by: the pair at February 19, 2010 11:39 AM

partly because left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations, spree killings, etc.

dude.. I'm a big leftie and love your work here and this blog.. but this is a pretty ignorant, ahistorical statement. Zealotry and political violence are not limited to the right-wing. Do I even have to mention the unmentionable.. and what remains a blot on the left-wing and from which the American and Western left has never recovered, i.e., the Bolshevik revolution, which was as close as anything to a left-wing revolution (at least in the beginning), the embrace of communism and the Soviet state by Western intellectuals and left-wingers. And yes, I know there were many Western left-wingers who were skeptical from the beginning (anarchists come to mind) and others who criticized the betrayal of "the revolution" based on the evidence but there were also many more leftists who were genuine believers and couldn't see part their ideological blinders and we have to be honest about it if we want to learn from the mistakes the left has made in the past.

And I don't think we need to regurgitate the bloody, brutal and repressive track-record of communist regimes like the Khmer Rouge or Mao's China. And no, if you want to be intellectually honest, it isn't valid to claim these weren't "genuine" left-wing political movements and regimes. They were based on left-wing, Marxist ideals and thinking, and they failed spectacularly. If the left wants to learn from its mistakes, we have to be honest about our mistakes and learn from them..

And if we want to get into more recent examples of left-wing violence, let's not forget the left-wing wasn't always a pathetic, spent force. In the 1960s and 1970s, the bad-asses were from the left. You had left-wing terrorist groups in the US (Weather underground, SLA) and left-wing Marxist terrorist groups in Europe, i.e., the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy.

In fact, what makes left-wing and "liberal" violence more dangerous in many ways is that it is infused with moral zealotry. See Richard Seymour's The Liberal Defence of Murder, for example, and what should be now a well-known critique to everyone here of liberals using moral arguments like "humanitarian intervention" and "human rights" and "women's rights" to delude themselves they're actually doing good. And not only that, to be so enamored by the theoritical "morality" of their ideology and intentions that they allow the "ends" to justify the "means". See communism for many examples of that thinking.

Posted by: hv at February 19, 2010 12:16 PM

this is a pretty ignorant, ahistorical statement

I didn't say it doesn't lend itself to state violence, just assassinations and spree killings. (And the state violence tends to be indistinguishable from right-wing state violence -- ie, we must kill the Enemy Within who is allied with our Enemy Without!)

I was also talking specifically about political violence in America in my lifetime, which has been almost exclusively right-wing. Moreover, if you took a close look at political violence in either America or Europe during the sixties and seventies, you'd find the large majority of political violence was STILL coming from the right. The reason any of us even know about the Weather Underground, Red Army Faction, etc. is because they are happily promoted in order to make the left, broadly-defined, look bad. If they'd been right-wing, they would have been completely forgotten by now.

Finally, all kinds of political violence are infused with moral zealotry. It's just that left-wing or "liberal" violence involves the kind of zealotry that people like us respond to.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 19, 2010 12:29 PM

"Ted Kaczynski?"

If I remember correctly Chomsky was on Kaczynski's hit list.-Tony

Posted by: tony at February 19, 2010 01:24 PM


You are correct. Read Harvard and the Unibomber! The book does not explain that directly, but your intuition should fill in the blanks. Besides, it's a really interesting book.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 01:27 PM

As to violence by "the left" or supposed anarchists such as Mario Buda, here's an excerpt from Red Scare by the historian Regin Schmidt at 34-35:

"In the summer of 1919, at the beginning of the government's anti-radical campaign, Francis Fisher Kane, the US artorney in Philadelphia, wrote to Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and informed him that a number of the most extreme agitators, who had been kept under surveillance
by the Bureau of Investigation, had turned out to be spies employed by private detective agencies who had "been actively stirring up trouble, formenting it by their activity, and even at times creating, as I believe, evils that did not exist." According to Kane, the purpose of
the provocations was to increase business: "of course, it is the meat they feed on - they know on which side their bread is buttered." Kane's opinion, much of the revolutionary activity may have been caused by these ambitious agencies: "If the Philadelphia situation is a sample of what exists in other large cities, it would certainly indicate that the danger from Bolshevism in America is not as great as the newspapers would have us believe it to be." The FBI files show that
the Bureau suspected that at least some of the anarchist bombs in 1919 were caused by private detectives. For example,the Los Angeles
field office reported that private detectives were the most likely perpetrators of a number of terrorist bomb attacks against Southern California oil fields in order to be employed to guard the installations: "I know that these things have happened before, and we done by unscrupulous detectives and agencies, and no doubt these 'frame-ups' will continue for some time."

Schmidt's book is excellent, and can be obtained by interlibrary loan by those interested.

Or take a look at Robert Hunter's Violence and the Labor Movement (1914 and downloadable free online like most such old books), dedicated to Eugene Debs and D. Douglas Wilson. At 281, Hunted wrote that "[i]n the most stealthy and insidious manner there has grown up within the last fifty years an extensive and profitable commerce for supplying to the lords of finance their own private police. And the strange fact appears that the newest, and supposedly the least feudal, country is today the only country that allows the oldest anarchists to keep in their hands the power to arm their own mercenaries and, in the words of an eminent Justice, to expose "the lives of citizens to the murderous assaults of hireling assassins." It is with these 'hireling assassins," who, for the convenience of the wealthy, are now supplied by a great network of agencies, that we shall chiefly concern ourselves in this chapter. . . . That rich and powerful patrons should be allowed to purchase in the market poor and desperate criminals eager to commit any crime on the calendar for a few dollars, is one of the most amazzing and incredible anachronisms of a too self-complaisant Republic. For some reason not wholly obscure the American people generally have been kept in such ignorance of the facts of this commerce that few even dream that it exists. . . ." (It's a chapter worth reading, for those interested in learned about things that "few dream exists" for reasons "not wholly obscure.")

Of course, all that is more distant history amounting to little more than our hidden legacy. During the more recent red scare of the Cold War, the antiwar movement of Vietnam, the brief appearance of Weather Underground and then the Symbionese Liberation army, the heyday of an out-of-control drug culture and cults like the Moonies (Reverend Moon = Washington Times) and the People's Temple of Jim Jones, the temporary rise of black nationalism and the Black Panthers--during all that there was probably some violence that wasn't initiated or planned by government agents and infiltrators, or actually carried out by them and simply blamed on the left, as happened so often as part of COINTELPRO and the Huston Plan and whatever the CIA has never had to tell us.

But frankly, it isn't that easy to find violence by the left without some very suspicious fingerprints on or near it. Give it a try.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 02:11 PM

It's definitely disturbing when 'crazy' people (e.g., Kaczynski, Stack) write these entirely sensible manifestos. I find myself wondering, should I be blowing people up?

Particularly in Kaczynski's case, I have some difficulty reconciling my mental image of the author, as evoked by their manifesto, with their real-world bomber/kamikaze campaign. Of course, after the fact, there is no shortage of psychiatrists for whom it is crystal clear that these people were ticking time bombs.

Posted by: SunMesa at February 19, 2010 02:11 PM


In Kaczynski's case, the psychiatrists (or Harvard psychologists, as the case may be) MADE him a ticking time bomb, or so it would seem. From the Publishers Weekly (how radical) review of Harvard and the Unabomber:

"In Cambridge he faced the typical Harvard pressures but, more importantly, was a subject of three years' worth of what many will agree were wildly irresponsible psychological experiments led by maverick psychology pioneer Henry A. Murray. While the conclusions Chase (the author) draws are unimpeachable, his description of the fateful experiments feels truncated, no doubt because some records remain sealed."

Actually, Harvard wouldn't produce ANY records, so yes, the discussion of what Murray did was necessarily a bit "truncated." You can ask Harvard why the psychological experiments on Kaczynski shouldn't be part of the public record.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 02:25 PM

Jonathan Schwarz,

thanks for the clarification. I guess I incorrectly read your post as a claim that the left-wing aren't capable of the same level of political violence and zealotry as the right, when in fact you were simply stating the type of violence tends to differ.

sorry for using the word "ignorant" ... even though I didn't mean to imply in any way that you were ignorant.. just that the comment you made about left-wing versus right-wing violence came across that way (based on my incorrect reading of it). I've been reading this blog and your posts for quite a while and I know you are far more knowledgeable and well-read than I am, and more importantly, wiser and more humane. There's a reason you actually have a blog while I'm just a humble reader.

But I still disagree that "left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations, spree killings, etc". That's why I included the Red Brigade and the Red Army Faction as examples of left-wing violence. Those 2 groups used precisely that kind political violence, i.e., assassinations, killings, etc. And there are many more examples of similar left-wing political violence (assassinations, killings, etc) elsewhere in the world and in the West (e.g. the radical period in the late 19th century that saw political violence by anarchists).

I also think this comment by you is a bit of a simplification:

Right-wingers think problems are caused by bad individuals, while left-wingers think they're caused by systems.

The right is quite capable of making systemetic critiques. It just happens their critiques are different from those of the left, and perhaps even that their critiques are wrong, or very limited because they are driven by different interests than the left (see below for more elaboration on that). So for example, the right believes that the US needs to go back to a more "laissez-faire" approach rather than "government intervention". This is a systemetic critique, even if I think it's completely wrong. So not all elements of the right believe that the problems are caused by one person, i.e., Obama.

Similarly, the left is just as capable of believing that all problems are caused by individuals. See the completely moronic behavior by liberals who for the longest time seemed incapable of seeing the systemetic problems with the American power structure, with capitalism, with American imperialism, and with both political parties. Many of them were fixated on Bush, and stupidly believed Obama would heal the world and what-not. Some liberals still do.

Getting back to political it happens that the left-wing has been pretty much a spent force for a long time and had been ideologically discredited because of its associations with communism/Marxism and the USSR, and the savage barbarism and spectacular failure of the Soviet state and other communist regimes and of the supposed triumph of the West and of the liberal capitalist world-order after the Cold War ("End of History and all that).

So yes, you are correct that political violence during our lifetimes has been exclusively right-wing but I think it's fair to say the reason for that has more to do with historical circumstance, the collapse of communism and of the USSR as an ideological alternative, the subsequently discredited left and the ideological dominance of the right-wing and conservatism than it has to do with whether the left-wing is capable of similar types of political violence (assassinations, etc), which I believe the historical record shows they certainly are.

Given the current uncertain period we are entering now where that "End of History" thesis has been discredited and the Marxist critique of capitalism as an inherently unstable, exploitative political and economic order is being revealed once again to be accurate, and with the looming climate change catastrophe we are facing, not to mention environmental degradation, I wouldn't be surprised to see a resurgence of left-wing political violence in one form or another. Not immediately... but I think it's only a matter of time. I don't know what form it will take.. as there isn't really a "leftist" ideology currently at hand, like there was with Marxism, for the left to gravitate towards and be inspired by. The left has nothing at this point and I think the left will likely devolve into various disparate and divided "revolutionary" organizations with no coherent ideology or solutions, and in in an increasingly Hobbesian world where climate change will cause great human suffering, food and water shortages, and inevitable military conflicts over those issues, I can see left-wing political violence once again looming large again.

I don't really blame the left for their failure and for having no solutions.. because these are difficult problems, and perhaps even impossible ones. The right doesn't care about creating a better and more just world and constantly adjusting to an ever increasing human population on a bounded planet with limited resources. The right is only about protecting elite interests, appealing to the lowest-common denominator and to the worst of human traits (racism, divide and conquer) and employing the old purging, violent means, i.e., war, repression, etc, to retain their power, privilege, and wealth, and to retain the current world-order that is beneficial to them. That's pretty straightforward and simple to do. You don't need new ideas or solutions or an ideology for that. On the other hand, the left has the far harder tasks and that they have no answers at this point given the failure of socialism/communism to create a more just world, and with the Marxist critique of capitalism revealing itself once again to be accurate, isn't really their fault. It's the tragedy of the human condition, and of the arbitrary and even inherently cruel forces of existence, of the natural world, of Darwinian struggle, natural selection and survival of the fittest, and of a human and biological population that reproduces geometrically on a finite world with limited resources.

Anyway.. sorry for going on and perhaps going-off topic.

Finally, all kinds of political violence are infused with moral zealotry. It's just that left-wing or "liberal" violence involves the kind of zealotry that people like us respond to.

This is very true.. and thank you for correcting me on that. I was starting to worry I was sounding too much like a right-winger with my post so I appreciate this important and correct rebuttal.

Posted by: hv at February 19, 2010 02:34 PM

NE, you're saying the unabomber's targets were justified? Really?

Posted by: Jennt at February 19, 2010 03:02 PM

I did read Harvard and the Unabomber, and I can't say I recall anything about Chomsky being a target. I would think that would have jumped out at me.

And am I the only one who remembers that Ted K. admitted later on (or had confessed helpfully in his journals) that he was not politically motivated at all? He bragged about how he didn't even care about the supposed environmental ethics he used as a rallying cry, that he littered in parts of the woods he didn't use, etc. For him, it was an extra layer of irony, that he might lead a nihilistic revolution of mostly-leftists, whom he loathed, who could do much more destruction than he could do alone. He'd have the added ego-stroking satisfaction of being able to pride himself on manipulating them so easily. He said that his only motivation was revenge, that he basically just hated the world and wanted to lash out and cause pain and suffering. I mean, really; it's hard to see any significance, political or otherwise, to blowing up a retail computer store owner or a college student.

Posted by: . at February 19, 2010 03:07 PM

It reads like a Howard Beale sort of thing. Before his meeting with Jensen.

Posted by: abb1 at February 19, 2010 03:17 PM


For the "fingerprints" of state action all over the Red Brigades and the nefarious activities of P2, Ordine Nuovo, and Licio Gelli, see:

Puppet Masters, The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy, Philip Willan (1991); Nato's Secret armies, Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Daniele Ganser (2005).

(Daniel Ganser thanked Professor Chomsky in his acknowledgements, by the way.)

On page 81 of his book, Ganser quotes the 1995 Italian senate investigation of Italian terrorism, including the Bologna bombing conducted by the right but blamed on the Red Brigades. Although the Italian right carried out most of the terrorism in Italy, it did so pursuant to a broader plan that had initially started with Operation Gladio, an early Nato post-WWII plan to defend Western Europe against Soviet invasion. The Italian Senate concluded:

"It emerges without the shadow of a doubt that elements of the CIA started in the second half of the 1960s a massive operation in order to counter by the use of all means the spreading of groups and movements on the left on a European level."

That was the 'strategy of tension.' Although sometimes the left may resort to extreme provocation and violence, typically it does not, because the goal of the true left is more and better democracy, and violence undermines the effort to obtain it. The right also knew (and knows) that violence undermines the effort for more democracy, and because that was (is) the last thing the right wants, the right employed the "strategy of tension." The CIA coordinated and supervised the effort. The goal was simply to engage in acts of terror that would be blamed on the left and fill people with fear of "revolutionary" violence." This is not speculative--it happened.

I presume the Rote Arme Faktion was just the German version of the Red Brigades, though I haven't really looked into it. That being said, the fact that the RAF tried to blow up Al Haig's car back in the summer of 1979, when Haig was pretty much the least favorite person of George H.W. Bush of Langley fame, well, that makes me think that the hypothesis that the RAF was CIA-directed has some explanatory power.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 03:20 PM
In Kaczynski's case, the psychiatrists (or Harvard psychologists, as the case may be) MADE him a ticking time bomb, or so it would seem.

I'm not sure of the details, but his brother (who ultimately fingered him) attributed substantial import to an incident in Ted's infancy, in which he was placed in hospital isolation (TB?) with no parental contact for an extended period (weeks?). It's alleged that he virtually never smiled again.

Posted by: SunMesa at February 19, 2010 03:22 PM


I didn't say the bombings or the targets were justified--murdering people isn't justified. That's always my position, and I don't bother with hypotheticals. I know that game all too well and refuse to play.

What I was saying is that Kaczynski was basically tortured for a few years at Harvard as part of Professor Murray's experiments, which seem to hsve been CIA funded. (Murray went way back into the OSS, and if I recall correctly wrote the psychological profile of Hitler for the OSS.) When somebody is tortured until they are crazy, I think they deserve sympathy. If, as the crazy person they have become, they then do something criminal, I don't think they are morally responsible for the crime. If someone else tortured them so that they would commit that crime, then that someone IS morally responsible. I'd certainly love to know more about what Professor Murray did, and what the CIA asked him to do. But Chase learned and reported enough to make the general picture clear.

no name commenter

Lots of sources identify Chomsky as on Kaczynski's list, but I don't remember if Chase put that in Harvard and the Unabomber. It wouldn't have been important to the book, which is fascinating even apart from what Professor Murray and the CIA were up to. Ted Kaczynski was/is one smart guy, and just from the standpoint of waste, apart from how badly he was mistreated and how many other people died because of what that mistreatment did to him, it's a damn shame that Kaczynski is crazy. If somebody ever writes another Inferno, I hope they save a special place for mental health sadists in it.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 03:42 PM


Lots of people have bad experiences in infancy, and some people don't smile much ever, but very few people are victimized by prolonged psychological experimentation conducted by a psychologist working for an intelligence agency for some undisclosed purpose that does not correspond to the best interests of the student (patient?).

Whether the experiments conducted by Dr. Murray did actually cause Kaczynski's mental illness is hard to show conclusively without the files that Harvard refused to produce, or the documents at Langley that might match up to them (which also will never be produced), but Kaczynski never blew anyone up before the three years of personality destruction that Dr. Murray inflicted on him. Truncated though Chase's version was, what happened to Kaczynski in Dr. Murray's experiment didn't sound very human to me.

The great thing about secrecy is that it makes it impossible to conclusively prove anything. I sometimes think that Tom Sawyer must have invented it.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 04:01 PM
Lots of people have bad experiences in infancy, and some people don't smile much ever, but very few people are victimized by prolonged psychological experimentation conducted by a psychologist working for an intelligence agency for some undisclosed purpose that does not correspond to the best interests of the student (patient?).

My point is that he was, by various accounts, decidedly morose, even sociopathic, well before the incident you describe (not to say the latter didn't exacerbate matters and/or serve as a trigger). The guy was just plain different, as often observed (indeed, by definition) in an exceptional genius.

Posted by: SunMesa at February 19, 2010 04:23 PM


Fair point. (By the way, Chomsky is NOT mentioned in Chase's index.)

Chase's book is just excellent--I have pulled it out and looking through it reminds me that I should re-read at least parts of it. One of Chase's main points is that everyone had an opinion about Kaczynski, and Chase found that those opinions were all wrong. "He has been charaterized as a hermit, a nut, a genius, and an environmental martyr or apostate. And every one of those views is mistaken." (Hmmm, he's 'brilliant' but not 'a genius'--that's hair-splitting.)

Chase wrote: "He is not the extreme loner he has been made out to be, nor is there any clear evidence that he is clinically insane. His unhappy childhood was not markedly different from the unhappy childhoods of many others. His social life in school and college was average. . . . Why, then, did this strangely emblematic man turn to murder?"

I have already told you what Chase suggests. Henry Murray's experiments involved the disintegration of personality, and Murray did his work when the CIA was very interested in the human mind and how it could be manipulated and controlled. Experiments like those done by Murray also have been damaging to those subjected to them, and Kaczynski was especially vulnerable. (He was just a kid from a blue-collar background who only owned two pairs of pants when he got to Harvard.)

What Chase can't tell us is the specifics of the experimentation done by Murray on Kaczynski (without informed consent, in violation of professional ethics and Nuremberg principles).
But Chase tells us plenty.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 06:01 PM

I mean, really; it's hard to see any significance, political or otherwise, to blowing up a retail computer store owner or a college student.

Tell that to the Isrealis.

Or, well, almost anybody, at this point. The "bring down a system by blowing up arbitrarily chosen civilian targets" strategy is a venerable and much used one.

I'm not saying it's justifiable, or even useful for furthering a cause, I'm just saying there are many, many instances of people blowing up exactly those kinds of people for demonstrably political purposes.

Posted by: Christopher at February 19, 2010 08:41 PM

left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations, spree killings

See Mark Ames on rage shootings (I'll bet he's already had something to say about this guy over at the Exile Online) as an expression of resistance to workplace bullying, oppressive economic circumstances, etc. As he explains in Going Postal, many of these sprees are conducted in a manner that attempts to ensure not the deaths of any particular individuals but of the institution - the workplace - itself. Sure, the perpetrators get portrayed as loons by our contemporary media; they thought the same at the time of Nat Turner, and not just because he talked to God and his rebel crew spent most of their time killing women and children. To his contemporaries, he was crazy because he resisted slavery, whereas a modern audience recognises even his apparent lunacy and reprehensible methods don't make slavery any less of a monstrous institution or the rebels' grievances any less legitimate. People driven to anger by an unjust and oppressive situation tend to react angrily; they don't form a pressure group and start organising bake sales. (On the other hand, if there was an American left to glom onto, potential spree killers would do that bake sale stuff instead and there'd be less violence.)

Which is to say, it's not that there is no left-wing violence - violence agaoinst corporate power or its state proxies is inherently left-wing - it's just that those committing the violence don't define their acts in those "classical" leftwing terms, as they are acting spontaneously in circumstances of personal grievance and, in any case, most Americans have no training in the terminologies or philosophies (not even unionism) that would allow the application of a left wing frame to the grievance. Which is why the current guy a) though hating on Goldman Sachs and the insurance industry thought it sensible for him to burn down his own house and attack a tax office, b) wrote a manifesto which isn't entirely comprehendable as left-wing. On the other hand, perhaps he was just a tax bore with a populist turn of phrase.

Apart from doing a word search on Ames to see if he had already been mentioned, I haven't read the rest of the above thread. But I'm sure it's super.

Posted by: weaver at February 19, 2010 09:58 PM

On the other hand, if there was an American left to glom onto, potential spree killers would do that bake sale stuff instead and there'd be less violence.

Dang. In the process of editing, a vital "perhaps" was excised from this sentence.

Posted by: weaver at February 19, 2010 10:03 PM

I was waiting for someone to bring up the PFLP.

Or propaganda of the deed.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at February 19, 2010 10:12 PM


Well, go ahead and bring it up . . .


"Violence against corporate power or its state proxies" is NOT "inherently left-wing" unless it is defined that way, which isn't the best definition because it doesn't explain enough. The state has not always been a proxy for corporate power, and notwithstanding Mussolini's definition of fascism, significant elements of fascism and Nazism were a reaction against liberal capitalism. That fascist and Nazi violence isn't best viewed as "left wing," and I don't know in what sense you could call the tea party movement left wing either, even though it is a rebellion against state and corporate power.

Posted by: N E at February 19, 2010 11:06 PM

That fascist and Nazi violence isn't best viewed as "left wing," and I don't know in what sense you could call the tea party movement left wing either, even though it is a rebellion against state and corporate power.

Fascist movements did not attack corporate power, they enhanced it. Fascism is, in fact, a corporatist system, which was well understood up until hacks tried to disguise its historical alliances with the business class and the mainstream Right.

The tea party movement is an astroturf concoction of corporate power brokers, their media enablers and apparatchiki from their party of choice, and its useful idiots are incoherent Republican dead-enders whose problem is that they're way too heavily invested in their fantasy narrative about the Kenyan Islamobolshevik in the White House. A bunch of middle class white folks reciting PR front-group talking points isn't a rebellion against fucking anything.

Posted by: weaver at February 19, 2010 11:51 PM

the bulk of taxes are spent on the military but none of our anti-statist heroes go after the troops. why IS that.

Posted by: hapa at February 20, 2010 02:34 AM


The business class and mainstream right did in the 30s, and will again, throw their support behind populist movements on the right, even if those movements support "revolutionary" change that might get out of hand, but don't make the mistake of thinking of those movements as just pawns of the business class. Sure there are lots and lots of dupes in the tea bagger movement, but many people on the left in the 20s and 30s weren't able to distinguish fascists from capitalists because of an outlook like that you express.

Fascism is, as Mussolini famously defined it, a union of state and corprate power, but there is a lot more to it than that as a political ideology, especially among its adherents, as opposed to those like Mussolini who simply used it to obtain power.

All those delusions the tea baggers have--they're as real as other ideas. Corporate power backs the right because the right tends to advance corporate interests, and at a minimum it's a counterweight to the left, which doesn't favor profit-maximizing policies or embrace the ideology of the corporatist system. But fascist movements really do favor right-wing revolutionary violence, and right-wing revolutionary change too, and they really do oppose some corporate and state interests, even in revolutionary ways. They don't like government. They don't really like banks. They don't even like giant monopolistic corporations, and they do contain some egalitarian ideology even if it is often tinged with nostalgia for an earlier, simpler, more racist time. Don't think these ideas and the politics they may give rise to aren't real.

Most important of all to remember is that in the final analysis, what facists really hate is being weak and afraid, and what they are really about is obtaining power so that they can be strong and powerful instead of weak and afraid. Then, with their newfound power they can take revenge against the sources of their former humiliating weakness, whether Jews or communists or blacks or Hispanics or banks or liberals or women or all of the above. The people who support fascist movements may not want to do all that as individuals, but the leaders, people who sound a lot like Tancredo, are likely to be more ruthless and have steelier resolve.

If you read that "manifesto" again, try to detect some of its author's rage about the humiliation of being unable to make his life work the way he had been taught it should. Some "left wing" ideas are there to be sure, just as National Socialism was infused with some "left wing" ideas, especially in the more working class SA led by Ernst Roehm. But predominantly, the undertone of that manifesto reeks of fascism, which did not arise, not even in its Nazi variant, as a hateful desire to commit genocide and destroy the world. Those who think of fascism that way won't recognize its real roots, understand its development, or see its revolutionary potential, which could well bring devastation on an unprecedented scale. Fascism is not just an extension of corporate power, and it will not behave that way. It didn't, and it won't. That is really important to understand.

There is a lot of fascist potential in the tea bagger movement, even if they are a bunch of white, middle-class folks supplied with corporate talking points, and really, even if they do sound like leftists in many ways. Most of Germany was left-leaning as late as 1932, and a whole bunch of those people became supporters of the Nazis and even members of the Nazi party. It doesn't matter that most of the supporters of the movement are just middle-class white folks. Don't forget that throughout history, white, middle-class folks have left plenty of ruin in their wake.

IMO, as journalists/writers go, Dave Neiwert at his Orcinus blog and in his books is as good as it gets to understand American fascist tendencies. For understanding Nazism, Sebastian Haffner, a German journalist who lived through the 30s, is the best I've ever read.

Posted by: N E at February 20, 2010 09:54 AM


Major Hasan went after soldiers just this past November. And his effort was a lot more lethal, even if some of the casualties were due to so-called friendly fire( a distinct possibility, although if that's how it happened they'd never tell us).

Posted by: grimmy at February 20, 2010 11:10 AM

Employed adults say they have seriously thought that someone in their workplace was capable of mass violence. If you are not too busy "partying" with the filth of American drunks, their sloth and twits, police bullies and their lying informants, their punks, hooligans, derelicts and those of the banality of low mental acumen, check out and you will learn why.

Posted by: Kini Cosma at February 20, 2010 05:53 PM

My guess is that most ordinary people(and CNN, ABC, the Huffy Post, etc) won't pay much heed to his actual words and just look at the fact that he was a middle-aged white guy and that his target was the IRS, and summarily dismiss him as a right-wing loon. Besides, wasn't his manifesto way over 140 characters?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 20, 2010 10:56 PM

"My guess is that most ordinary people(and CNN, ABC, the Huffy Post, etc) won't pay much heed . . ."

--no need to go any further with that thought

Posted by: N E at February 21, 2010 11:43 AM

''--no need to go any further with that thought''

Oh, really? I don't want to sound brusque, but the only content cop I recognize here is Jon Schwarz.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 21, 2010 10:58 PM

Aren't you forgetting about old Lee Harvey?

Posted by: Coldtype at February 22, 2010 07:07 AM

Jonathan Versen:

I may be so unfunny that you didn't get it, but i just meant to intimate that most people listen to music or watch movies or play fantasy football or drink or gamble or anything other than "pay much heed" to ANYTHING. So I meant that you could finish the sentence any way you want, which is I guess kind of what you seemed to be saying too by observing that he was too long-winded himself.

by the way, brusque is ok with me anyway. i wish i could do brusque better.

Posted by: N E at February 22, 2010 03:27 PM

I guess humor is often too difficult to express dryly on the internet, although I hate to fall back on :^), etc. (I made a couple of jokes about shopping for a cheap second-hand airplane on my blog, but I got one semi-anonymous email suggesting it didn't go over well.)

I was just kidding about how people tune out after 140 characters, per our conditioning via MTV, texting, twitter, etc.

My point was that very few people will read it, and even if they do most will rely on comparatively superficial signifiers to assess his meaning, so they can tidily box it off and forget about it.

I can see establishment lefties assessing him as being of the tea-party ilk, and Fox News and their minions calling him a terrorist, and so forth.

My impression was you were saying you didn't want to hear my argument about what ordinary people and the mass media were likely to glean from Stack's words, so I took that as brusque.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 22, 2010 04:11 PM

jonathan versen

I didn't mean to indicate I didn't want to hear you out. I get what you meant, which is right.

I'll try to master my little keyboard symbols !:)! #*%

Posted by: N E at February 22, 2010 06:21 PM

More of Stack's true nature written here:

He also railed against unions thus I don't think he can necessairly be called left wing either.

Posted by: Jenny at February 22, 2010 09:02 PM

N E, above points out extensive evidence of CIA/rightist provocation re: the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy.

I think we can find their fingerprints all over, especially western left terrorism. The east is another matter, but not immune to CIA manipulation.

To some degree, we are actually discussing the tactic of torror, more than ideology. Much as our gubmint has done with the WOT.

Anyway, I still see plenty of historical evidence of the right using provocagtion and manipulation of left "terror" to their own ends, and not so musch the other way around.

That's pretty important.

Anybody see it differentlty?

Posted by: cripes at February 23, 2010 04:45 PM


One of the basic reasons is numbers. The poor outnumber the rich by about 100 to 1 and always have. So from the time of the rise of democracy as a political system/movement at the end of the 18th century onward, the authoritarian right was put on the defensive. The Italian situation in the 1960s and 1970s seems like a pretty good example. Without the stratgy of tension, people in Italy were turning toward the left because, well, that was in their interests. When the right blew things up and blamed it on the left that helped the right level the political playing field, so to speak. Same with labor violence/anarchism fifty years earlier, including in the US. Excuses for cracking down on labor were needed. It wasn't exclusively a case of the Pinkertons and other security agencies needing to drum up work, though as I said that was part of it.

Another factor is that the major communist countries--Russia and China--were generally under siege in the last century. For the most part, even their aggressiveness was motivated by defensive concerns. I know that Khruschev felt that the best defense against Western aggression was a strategy of dispersion of conflict around the world, essentially preventing a build-up and concentration of forces. (They fought the last war too--the massive build-up of forces had been what Hitler did.) It was risky, but I'm not sure Khruschev wasn't right. There was a tremendus military feeling in the Pentagon that we should win a winnable war even if we needed to use nukes (which we would have needed), and several Presidents had to prevent that from happening. One of Eisenhower's best qualities as President, a quality so useful that even New Dealer Henry Wallace favored his reelection, was that the crazy generals in the Pentagon would listen to him. Just about every President has had to hold the whackos running the Pentagon (and Langley). It's really astonishing how easily and often it is forgotten that what military people are trained to do is kill. This seems to affect their views about conflict resolution in some disquieting ways.

People really don't realize how much sabotage we did in China, and how often the navy and air force tried to provoke wars with "Red" China in the 50s and 60s. It was almost routine for them to try to provoke a war that could be used to drag China in, and there was a real willingness to use nukes. Both Korea and Vietnam got going that way, and in both cases there were serious efforts made to escalate. The JCS tried to get Eisenhower to use nukes something like 5 times in 1953 alone, and he commented that he had to tell them that they were crazy because we couldn't nuke another Asian country for the second time in ten years. I don't know whether that was that otherwise savage bastard Foster Dulles whispering that practical wisdom in Ike's ear or whether he came upon that bit of humanity all by himself, but that really was one of Eisenhower's good decisions. Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon--they all had to deal with the same problem of warmongers running our military, each and every one of them.

So maybe I could have been more concise: The Right is crazy. Batshit crazy.

Posted by: N E at February 23, 2010 07:11 PM