Ted Kaczynski a.k.a. the Unabomber died earlier this year. As a tribute, in this episode we look at the latest film on Kaczynski – Ted K – and review the 2015 edition of his book The Anti Tech Revolution. I discuss the ways in which his philosophy evolved while he was in prison, and whether he was right or wrong.
Longer-time listeners will remember episode 133, Was the Unabomber Right? We looked at the original Ted Kaczynski manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, and the season of Manhunt devoted to the Unabomber case. Well, Ted died recently so to commemorate a fellow anarchist I thought we’d do a followup and look at his 2015 book and the 2021 film about his life.
First, a quick recap. Ted ‘Theodore’ Kaczynski was born in May, 1942. A maths genius, he was promoted two years ahead of schedule at school and went to university early as well. While this helped him develop his intellectual talents to a fairly extraordinary degree, it stunted him socially and socio-sexually, being around older teenage girls and young women who, themselves, typically go for older guys anyway.
He was also a test subject in psychological experiments run by Harvard psychopath – sorry, psychologist Henry A Murray, which were backed by the CIA. This was apparently part of MKULTRA, or at least the various programs and experiments that people lump together under that codename. While we don’t know if drugs, particularly LSD, were used on young Ted as part of these experiments, we do know they involved being emotionally abused, being made to write letters to himself from his parents that insulted and criticised him, things of that nature. And that this went on for around three years.
Nonetheless, he earned his PhD in 1967 and became a professor, lasting one year before he quit. Ted and his brother bought a small plot of land in rural Montana in 1971 and built a small shack or cabin, where Ted would live until his arrest decades later. He worked as a maths tutor, and in various short-term manual jobs, living cheaply and off the land.
He witnessed the destruction of the forests and lands around his home, by logging and mining companies. In particular, the sounds of industrial machinery, dynamite for oil exploration, and military jets flying overhead disturbed Ted. He began writing radical anti-technology and anti-technocracy materials, much of which has not been published, and making homemade bombs from very basic materials. He sent these to various people he considered responsible for the industrialisation of society, including universities, computer companies and airlines.
Though the FBI began their UNABOM investigation in 1979, it wasn’t until 1996 that a tip from his estranged brother following the publication of parts of the manifesto that they caught up with him. Ted was arrested at the cabin and put in jail.
This is where the legal case gets complicated – Ted’s lawyers were convinced he wasn’t sane and couldn’t be held responsible for his actions in a criminal sense. Ted objected, declaring he wasn’t mentally ill. He wrote a letter to the judge asking to represent himself, but the judge denied the request. His lawyers abandoned the insanity defence as a trial strategy and tried to persuade him to let them use it when the case got to sentencing. Ted insisted he was not mentally ill, again demanded to represent himself but in order to do so had to submit to a psychological evaluation.
The evaluation concluded he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and hence could not represent himself but likewise, couldn’t be prosecuted without a serious risk of mistrial, being found not guilty, or appeals. So the prosecution offered him a plea deal, taking the death penalty off the table, and Ted accepted. From then until his death in June 2023 he resided at the Federal Supermax prison in Colorado, alongside people like Ramzi Yousef and the Blind Sheikh. He died aged 81, apparently from suicide.
When it comes to the morality of Ted’s actions – bombings are bombings, but not all bombings are equal. Dropping a bomb on someone who is a region-wide serial killer is not the same as dropping a bomb on a wedding full of innocent people, though of course if you’re male and over a certain age you’re a de facto enemy combatant rather than an innocent victim.
For the most part, my objection to Ted’s terror campaign is that he chose a lot of the wrong targets. While he started out in Luddite style, sabotaging vehicles and equipment used by the companies to destroy the forest and the natural world, when he progressed onto sending letter bombs his aim got a little wobbly. I understand targeting universities, and in one case he managed to injure a police officer called to look at the suspicious package, so that’s all cool, but in some cases random students and secretaries were hurt. Similarly, he killed an executive at a PR firm who helped Exxon clean up their public image following the Exxon Valdez spill, at the time the largest oil spill in US history. Since then it’s been overtaken by Deepwater Horizon, and sadly Ted’s been in prison the whole time so no nail bomb for Peter Berg.
That is to say, revolutionary violence against an inherently violent system is not immoral, but culpability and targeting the people truly responsible is what distinguishes legitimate anarchist violence from illegitimate anarchist violence. When Auguste Coulon, the police informer who infiltrated and set up the Walsall Anarchists, was involved in the blowing up of a cow in Belgium, I consider that a crime against nature and an act of wanton stupidity. I imagine Ted would agree with me on that.
The flipside is who among us can say we’ve never been guilty of misdirecting anger? Anger, rage, fury – these are the emotions that are perhaps the easiest to misdirect, to visit upon the wrong people. Rather than directing them towards the people who’ve got it coming to them, we often take things out on others. I’ve broken more than one household appliance because of this, though also because deep down I am a bit of a Luddite.
I guess we should also clarify that term – it comes from a guy called Ned Ludd who may or may not have existed but allegedly smashed two knitting machines in 1779 and helped spawn a movement of radical textile workers protesting against automation and industrialisation. This kind of anarchism goes back to the very earliest years of the industrial revolution in this country. Indeed, it precedes the first anarchist text in this country – William Godwin’s An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice.
So, Ted is in good company both as a writer and as an activist. I myself refuse to use self-service checkouts precisely because they’re a big step towards fully automated supermarkets with fucking ED-209s at the door to mow down suspected shoplifters. I do sometimes try to explain this to the staff who badger me to use the self-service tills, that they’re basically selling their own redundancy, but it rarely gets through to them. I’d like to say I don’t use sex bots for the same reasons, but it wouldn’t be true. Not that I do use sex bots, I don’t, but for other reasons. Though if anyone wants to make that action comedy about a group of underemployed sex workers who become Luddites attacking the sex bot industry, the email contact box is on my site.
Admittedly, I’ve never sent a mail bomb to a PR executive. Hate mail, sure, the occasional bit of grotesque pornography, of course, but no letter bombs. I do wish Ted had gone more Weather Underground, sent a couple to the Pentagon, maybe one to the CIA, but none of us is perfect and people in glass houses shouldn’t throw letter bombs. It’ll hit the glass wall and bounce back.
Ted K – The Latest Unabomber Film
Naturally, Ted’s antics drew the attention of the culture industry as soon as he was arrested. A flick through IMDB shows up a film from 1995, before he was even picked up by the FBI. Then we got the TV movie Unabomber: The True Story with Dean Stockwell, from Quantum Leap, The Story First: Behind the Unabomber, episodes of Time and Again, The F.B.I. Files, 20/20, Undercover History, Aftermath with William Shatner – you get the idea.
I haven’t seen all of these, but the best depiction I’ve watched is the opening season of Manhunt. Indeed, the second season which is all about the Olympic Park bombing in 1996 – just a couple of months after Ted was arrested – and how it was wrongly blamed on Richard Jewell, a man who saved lives, is also very good. The Unabomber season stars Paul Bettany as Ted, and it portrays him very sympathetically, at least in terms of his life, if not his mischievous misdemeanours. I felt sorry for him in moments, totally understood most of the decisions he made – it isn’t the demonisation you get in all the endless true crime serials. As per usual, you get more truth from non-factual entertainment based on real life than you do from so-called documentaries.
For example, many of these documentaries portray Ted as a sociopath, someone who targeted innocent people in a totally uncaring way. This isn’t true – from his own writings we know that he felt guilt and shame, regretted some of what he had done and not done. He was an introverted anti-civilisation type, not an outgoing sociopath who charmed people and lied his way into a position of influence. I bring this up because it is not just an issue of who gets labelled a sociopath, but why. If you’re a cop or FBI agent or CIA black ops specialist who moonlights as a racist serial killer – or just does that as part of your job – you’re a bad apple. But if you’re someone who withdraws from normal society and sends bombs to people you hold responsible for the technocratic-industrial nightmare being inflicted on all of us, you’re a dangerous lunatic.
As per usual, true crime is propaganda for the police state.
The latest film that I’ve seen about Kaczynski is Ted K, from 2021. It claims to be based on tens of thousands of pages of his writings recovered from his cabin in Montana, but to my knowledge that stuff is all held by the Feds, so I’m guessing that’s a bit of cinematic bravado. It was, however, filmed in the area in Montana where Ted lived, with the help of the US Forest Service, and the town of Lincoln, so some local authorities are credited too.
It stars Sharlto Copley as Kazcynski, who you may remember playing the lead in District 9. He does a very good job, certainly a compelling performance and a compelling film, and I can understand reviewers praising him, and Tony Stone, the director. You get a real sense of life in the wilderness, interrupted by industrialisation. There are some magnificent shots of the logging vehicles with giant chains on their tires, ripping up the land. The noise, too, is a big part of the film, whether it’s the jets flying overhead or the snowmobiles roaring around.
We see how Ted begins by breaking into a holiday chalet and busting up some snowmobiles, before taking on bigger targets, as well as his life, some nice scenes of him assembling these primitive yet clever bombs – it’s a good watch. Done in a European style, there isn’t much dialogue (which is also realistic), it relies on visual storytelling which, for the most part, is very well executed. I certainly enjoyed a lot of things about this film, especially the opening act where we’re getting to know Ted and see his life, feel his anger about the destruction of nature and the fucking noise of industrial machinery.
The two elements I had problems with were the attempts to characterise Ted’s mindset, and the fantasy sequences that play into this. There are several sequences where the film-makers employ surrealism or magical realism to try to explain what’s going on inside Ted’s mind as he amps up the violence and begins his terroristic bombing campaign. I found this wholly unnecessary and they took me out of the remote, but very real location of the rest of the story.
Overriding this stylistic gripe, there’s a serious thematic concern here. Early on, the film tries to establish that Ted is some kind of incel misogynist, presumably to try to appeal to all the Twitter feminist movie critics out there. He is seen spying on a couple with his hunting rifle, the woman in underwear, commenting to himself about her body. To my knowledge there’s no evidence of this happening. Then there’s a bit where he gets a job with one of the logging firms, doing manual labour on the wood, but he gets bitchy with the boss lady so she fires him. To my knowledge, this didn’t happen but may be a reworking of an incident in Chicago that did happen, where Ted was briefly involved with a female supervisor but got into trouble for writing dirty limericks about her.
There’s a long phone conversation where he’s ranting at his mother about how he’s never had sex, only had two relationships with women and neither went very far physically. There’s a whole load of stuff about him fantasising romantically, and hallucinating that women he interacts with are the woman from his fantasies. They go to such lengths in this film to try to portray Ted’s actions as somehow the result of his sexual inexperience and frustration, which isn’t something he ever cited himself. If anything, the real Ted comes across to me as asexual – possibly as a consequence of his experiences in the education system.
But of course, in Industrial Society and Its Future he took a shot – a very accurate shot in my opinion – at the liberal Left and feminists, saying:
Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals) or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not mean to suggest that women, Indians, etc. are inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology.)…
Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as strong and as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women may not be as strong and as capable as men.
He explicitly says he doesn’t believe women are inferior but because this is the post-metoo world, you have to work that crap in there somewhere. As I say, I don’t think it applies to Ted, however much it may apply to some men, and it has become a hateful cliché.
Let me explain.
Much like the original metoo movement, the original use of the term ‘incel’ was a kind of online support group for men who were struggling for a date, struggling to get laid. Noticeably, this started in America, where everyone is obsessed with sex and who is fucking who and who isn’t fucking who and where everything from children’s bathing suits to military helicopters is sold using sex, or sexual implication. There is an enormous pressure in American society, originating in high school, to prove that you’re successful – either by making lots of money or fucking lots of people or otherwise doing something easily quantifiable. Hence why almost everyone in their 50s in that country is miserable and three-times divorced.
My point being that in both cases these phenomena started out as empathetic – metoo was an ad hoc online support network for victims of sexual and domestic violence, ‘incel’ was a term used to self-identify as a ‘victim’ (if you like) of this rather sad and adolescent dating culture which is extremely shallow and reduces sexual partners to status symbols and ‘hook ups’. I have no problem with either of these things, as such.
Then, the feminists got involved and turned both things into a means of generating hatred and fear towards men, trying to eradicate any right they have to the presumption of innocence, and reducing them to pure sexuality. That is to say, the term ‘incel’ and particularly ‘incel misogynist’ is itself rapey, misogynistic and misandristic. It echoes the old lie that mothers tell their daughters about how men are only interested in one thing, that they want it all the time with any woman they can get their hands on.
This is not only a nasty and wrongful stereotype (albeit true of some men), it teaches young women that men’s sexual consent isn’t a thing. Not just that it doesn’t matter, but that it doesn’t even exist. This coming from a bunch of feminists for whom women’s sexual consent is so sacrosanct that women can withdraw it after the fact. The implication that the only problem men have with women’s behaviour is that women ‘won’t sleep with them’ is insulting, and totally lacking in empathy regarding men’s actual feelings. But of course, I doubt any of the men or women saying this crap have ever actually spoken to a man about he feels, they’ve simply presumed how he feels and then used that to demonise him. Because they’re vile bigots.
Furthermore, this thinking encourages women to see men in solely sexual terms, and to see themselves in those same terms. The only meaningful interactions between men and women are supposedly soaked in sexual effluvia and no other kind of relationship becomes possible. Do you think this might be because this myth originated in a bunch of rapey women who want to convince men of this so as to increase sexual supply while making other women scared and hateful of men so as to reduce sexual competition? It would add up, since they’re projecting that exact attitude onto everyone and then blaming them for it, which is exactly what people like that do with literally everything.
Getting back to Ted – as I say, there isn’t much sign in his writings of this mentality. In Industrial Society and Its Future he writes:
One who believes that women, homosexuals, etc., should have equal rights is not necessary a leftist. The feminist, gay rights, etc., movements that exist in our society have the particular ideological tone that characterizes leftism, and if one believes, for example, that women should have equal rights it does not necessarily follow that one must sympathize with the feminist movement as it exists today.
Indeed, one might argue that if you believe men and women have equal rights – or should have – then you’re at odds with the feminism that existed when Ted was writing this, let alone today. As I say, I don’t hear a lot of feminists even acknowledging men’s right to sexual consent and bodily autonomy, let alone promoting them as equal to women’s rights regarding the same things.
When it comes to the film’s depiction of Ted’s alleged paranoid schizophrenia, Ted K is lurid and nicely crafted, but much as with the undercurrent of ‘incel misogyny’ it trivialises the film’s powerful opening act, that shows the very real reasons for his mindset and his actions. It trivialises the destruction of nature to make way for industrial society, or in many cases just to keep fuelling it. The metaphor of permanent destruction to keep something going temporarily, and how insane that is, comes across well in the first half of the film, but then Ted starts sneaking around stealing underwear or whatever and the point gets lost.
So, we see in Ted’s imagination a world where he’s living on a tiny patch of green land with two trees and his cabin, while all around him giant vehicles turn the land into nothing but mud and dust. A powerful image, but it makes it seem like this is all in his head, that there isn’t a real problem here, when there clearly is. Look at how much worse pollution, air quality, water quality has become since the Unabomber’s campaign of violence. Look at the loss of biomass and biodiversity, green spaces and wildlife. Look at how sick everyone is, with constant afflictions and illnesses.
So, while I appreciated Ted K and felt around half of the film is excellent, two hours is too long for the story they’re telling and the things they added both padded it out and made it longer, while also detracting from the story and playing into a bunch of tired, cruel stereotypes. Ted didn’t go around blowing things up because he ‘couldn’t get a girlfriend’ but because he felt deeply that human society, or at least industrial society, was a horrible mistake. Call him insane, call me insane, but he wasn’t wrong.
The Anti-Tech Revolution
Back in episode 133 I offered some criticisms of Ted’s philosophy as expressed in his manifesto. Nowhere near the criticisms I have of Anders Breivik’s manifesto, which is largely just a bunch of copy-pasted crap about immigration and cultural Marxism and other incoherent, repetitive right wing drivel.
Whereas Kaczynski’s manifesto isn’t fundamentally wrong, it is philosophically immature, in part because its writer was emotionally stunted. As I said in that episode, his biggest mistake is attributing technology some kind of autonomy in itself, while constantly fetishising his own autonomy due to his inability to attain it. Many scientists and other STEMs think like this – they see technology as the driving force behind politics and history because that’s all they know. It’s the typical engineering mindset of being able to relate to a mechanical creation more easily than another human being.
In reality, technology does serve authoritarian, colonialist, capitalist societies just as it serves captive market state-run societies, but it is also enabled to do that by those societies. Martin Heidegger, the Nazi-sympathising philosopher defined technology as that which extends human capabilities, or enhances them in some way. But all technology is created by humans, it isn’t an end in itself, it doesn’t have its own agency. A toaster left to its own devices has no political influence.
For all Ted is labelled a terrorist and a madman and all the rest, this mistake in his manifesto has become more popular the more technocratic our societies have become. Increasingly, we talk as though the technology is in charge and we have no choice in the matter. Endlessly I hear journalists talk about the influence of ‘social media’, which irritates me for several reasons:
- All these fucking journalists are social media addicts, desperate for the attention and following and most of them define their success as human beings by the size of their following and their public reputation as expressed on an integrally dishonest platform.
- Social media is just a bunch of websites. That are anti-social. And produce no media themselves. All the content is produced by people, not by social media companies.
- The platforms are designed to incite narcissism, insecurity, jealousy, infantilism, inattention, addiction, desperation, neuroses, bigotry and simple-mindedness. The answer to this problem is not to generically blame ‘social media’, but to stop using them because they’re a poor technology.
- The main reason people don’t stop using them is their own weakness, egoism, insecurity and so on. That did not originate in social media, it originates in each of us, social media companies just incite it and exploit it because they’re parasites.
- It is the corporations in charge of these platforms, and the people in charge of those corporations, who should be blamed for this, first and foremost. But instead people blame ‘social media’ as though it isn’t a bunch of people using a website or app owned and controlled by other people. As though people aren’t at the centre of every point in the causal chain.
- The net result of this, like all delusionary deflections, is that no one addicted to social media will ever address these things within themselves and so the whole damn cycle continues. And trust me, the psychopaths – sorry, psychologists hired by social media companies know this very, very well. Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage. Indeed, perhaps because of my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
I do wonder what Kaczynski would make of Twitter. I hope that – like me – his first instinct would be to blow it up.
Naturally, having been locked up since before the days of Friendster and MySpace, Ted lived out his days blissfully unaware of the feeling of being turned into a serial killer in slow motion that is the Twitter experience. Indeed, had he stayed in his cabin in Montana he’d probably have avoided it too.
Anyhow, after the episode where I laid out some of my criticisms of Ted’s philosophy in Industrial Society and its Future, a listener (or reader) got in touch asking if I’d read Kaczynski’s later works, especially The Anti Tech Revolution, which he obviously wrote while in prison. Ted, that is, who wrote it, not the listener.
At that time I had not read it but it’s freely available on archive.org, at least the 2015 edition that we’ll look at, so I downloaded it and gave it a look. It is much better than Industrial Society, a far more human and intelligent book that recognises many of the limitations of Ted’s earlier works and addresses them. Call me insane, call the listener insane, but they weren’t wrong about that. It is far more stoic in its emotional articulations, possibly a result of Ted calming as he got older, or possibly him realising that without the ability to send bombs to people he had to find another way, namely, radical philosophy.
I particularly enjoy his arguments about why centralised, supposedly rational human control cannot produce a well functioning society, and he lists various examples from ancient and modern history demonstrating this. The folly of so many political idealists, supposedly rational people who managed to impose their will on the world, only to meet with totally unexpected consequences, is a recurring motif of human society.
The story of Otto von Bismarck, the statesman who united Germany and thereby created the German empire, helping cause World War 1 and the destruction of that empire, is my favourite of the illustrations in The Anti Tech Revolution. While Ted doesn’t go as deeply into these examples as I might like, he isn’t wrong. Enlightened monarchs, benevolent despotism, market capitalism, state socialism – all of these things have been tried, and all have produced unexpected, unpredicted consequences.
Why? Well, Ted blames what is popularly known as the Butterfly Effect, a principle of Chaos Theory whereby complex systems are subject to sometimes large scale change very suddenly, due to a seemingly tiny, irrelevant event. A butterfly flaps its wings in Hong Kong and the weather in Abidjan is different as a result.
Thus, to try to predict how human society will react to any given policy decision, or any specific implementation of policy, is essentially impossible. As Ted puts it:
Problems in economics can give us some idea of how impossibly difficult it would be to predict or control the behavior of a system as complex as that of a modern human society. It is convincingly argued that a modern economy can never be rationally planned to maximize efficiency, because the task of carrying out such planning would be too overwhelmingly complex. Calculation of a rational system of prices for the U.S. economy alone would require manipulation of a conservatively estimated 6×1013 (sixty trillion!) simultaneous equations. That takes into account only the economic factors involved in establishing prices and leaves out the innumerable psychological, sociological, political, etc., factors that continuously interact with the economy.
As I’m sure you can see, this book is a little drier than Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, but it is no less anarchistic. While it might appear at first blush that Ted is still trying to cling onto some notion of self-aware autonomy or rational self-interest, he goes on:
A society’s ability to predict its own behavior moreover would seem to require something like complete self-knowledge, and here too one runs into paradoxes. We need not discuss these here; some thought should suffice to convince the reader that any attempt to envision a system having complete self-knowledge will encounter difficulties.
This is not only a problem for statist systems but also for anarchistic societies, especially anarcho-capitalism. The notion that ‘the market’ (which, like ‘social media’ just means ‘a bunch of people doing some stuff’) will make rational, efficient decisions presumes that people have perfect knowledge – not just of the products or services available for different prices, but also of themselves and their own motivations.
And while the professional psychopaths – sorry, psychologists – will claim that self-knowledge is possible, and even I concede that some degree of emotional self-awareness is absolutely possible, one cannot be both the observer and the thing being observed at the same time. This is the paradox Wittgenstein pointed out – I cannot see myself because I cannot draw a line around myself and then step outside of it.
Ted goes on to quote Friedrich Engels, the benefactor of Charlie Marx and co-author of the Communist Manifesto, who wrote:
History is made in such a way that the final result always arises from the conflicts among many individual wills, each of which is made into what it is by a multitude of special conditions of life; thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite collection of parallelograms of forces, and from them emerges a resultant-the historical event-which from another point of view can be regarded as the product of one power that, as a whole, operates unconsciously and without volition. For what each individual wants runs up against the opposition of every other, and what comes out of it all is something that no one wanted.
Welcome to the Hotel California, folks. I would go further than Ted and argue, as I did when we looked at Touch of Evil and If and some other favourite movies of mine, that it isn’t simply about predictability. No surprise a mathematician focuses on this, but to me it goes deeper. Government, technology, technocratic markets and so on are attempts to bypass or escape the dark side, what Jung called the Shadow. Instead of confronting it, we seek to evade it and create edifices of deluded rationalism then stand around denying that it’s failing while it collapses around us.
Hence, modern society.
I am left wondering as I read The Anti Tech Revolution whether Ted has seen and read Jurassic Park and been deeply influenced by Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcolm. I know I was. When you consider that Jurassic Park is a story of trying to create, through scientific rationalism or secular humanism, an idealised version of the past that’s also an idealised version of the future, but it all breaks down unexpectedly, and you’ll see the parallels I’m seeing.
Indeed, the whole vibe of the book reminds me of the line in the latest Jurassic World movie, where Ian says ‘As expected, the sum of our human endeavors has led to our annihilation, and the only play now is to take the time that we have left and, uh, you know, just like we always do, squander it.’
However, that’s not quite what Ted is saying – he does advocate for sabotage, resistance, non compliance, disengagement and other fairly well established anarchist tactics. If only the French anarchists were still around, they’d have been putting sugar into the concrete used to build the Supermax prison and it’d have fallen down before it even opened to the criminal public. Then what would they have done, stick Ted in a cell next to Epstein?
Just as an aside, if anyone wants to write an odd couple comedy about Ted Kaczynski and Jeffrey Epstein being cellmates, the email contact form is on my site.
Of course, Ted is applying these subversion and resistance tactics specifically to technologised society, but it echoes a lot of what anarchists have been saying since day one. And when he says that there is no overall strategy, just fluid tactics aimed at an end goal – the elimination of centralised, technocratic society – he’s right. This is where supposed opponents of the system such as liberals and socialists go so badly wrong. They think that protest and demonstration and the occasional boycott is going to get the job done.
And it might, if you’re dealing with the occasional racist or homophobic bakery, but we’re taking on something much bigger and more powerful than that. We can’t protest billionaires out of their positions of wealth and power any more than we can infiltrate the UN and dismantle it from within. However, if some bright spark decided to, say, cut off the electricity to the UN headquarters every day for a year, they’d get the message. Especially if this was combined with other insurgency, asymmetric warfare tactics.
When you don’t have the power and wealth, and are taking on the people with power and wealth, you cannot play by the established rules. This has been shown time and again in the last couple of decades – people petition and protest and these days descend into clicktivism and trying to create big social media moments. While in the past these things made the centres of power nervous, they’ve come to realise that if they wait it out and just carry on doing what they’re doing, most people won’t evolve onto doing more effective things.
Whether that’s subversive entryism, whereby you try to use the systems tools against itself (crowdfunding lawsuits being a great, and sometimes effective, example) or direct action from outside (cutting off electrical supply being a non-violent but extremely effective example), there are options. Imagine if the Weather Underground reformed and attacked those massive data centers that drive google and twitter and facebook and youtube and consume literal percentage points of the global electricity consumption.
It’d certainly be more consequential than hashtags and waving signs at the White House.