Credit: Wikimedia Commons

PANTS ON FIRE: Two weeks ago, Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber who for 18 years made Americans change the way they boarded planes and opened their mail, checked out once and for all in a North Carolina prison, where he was serving a sentence of four lifetimes plus 30 years for good measure. While authorities aren’t releasing details, it’s known Kaczynski committed suicide. Based on a previous attempt, it’s likely Kaczynski hung himself with his prison-issue underpants. Given the extent to which the human species has so totally and literally hoisted itself by its own petard — which, translated, refers to a bombmaker blowing himself up with his own creation — this seems a perfectly fitting way for the Unabomber — was he a serial killer or was he a terrorist? — to turn out the lights. 

From 1978 to 1995, the Unabomber — indelibly seared into our collective consciousness by a police sketch artist who rendered him as a triangle-shaped face dominated by a pair of aviator sunglasses and framed by the perpetual cowl of his sweatshirt hood — delivered a total of 16 artisanal, hand-crafted pipe bombs throughout the country. These bombs, painstakingly crafted out of such DIY ingredients as match heads, razor blades, roofing nails, and household batteries, claimed the lives of three people and wounded 23 more.

By contemporary standards, these numbers pale in comparison to the body count of even the most underachieving mass shooter with the easily obtained military-style hardware to do it. Even so, the FBI had spent more time and money trying to track Kaczynski down than  they spent on any other manhunt in bureau history. Even with 150 investigators on the case at one time, they never got close. When Kaczynski was finally captured in his Montana cabin in the woods — no water, no electricity, no mattress — it was because his brother and sister-in-law dropped a dime on crazy Uncle Ted.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Over 18 years, Kaczynski — imagine Henry David Thoreau with an explosive case of ’roid rage and road rage — waged a one-man war against the blind arrogance of modern science coupled with the insatiable greed of American industry. He decried the ensuing violence this marriage inflicted on nature — it had not yet been rebranded as “the environment” — and the spirit of American individualism.

Clearly, whatever Kaczynski thought he was doing, he did in vain. Maybe that realization — and not advanced age and advanced cancer — did him in. Back when the Unabomber was on the prowl, the internet had not yet become The Thing that — this past May — would prompt executives of that Brave New World to issue a planetary warning that artificial intelligence threatened humanity with extinction. Back then, climate change was still a glimmer in the eyes of a few visionary scientists whom the rest of us could comfortably dismiss as hysterical. 

But this week, the governor of Arizona — one of the fastest-growing states in the union — announced her state’s groundwater basins were so depleted that desert development projects slated for the outskirts of Phoenix would be put on ice. In India, hundreds of people have been fatally impaled by triple-digit temperature spikes, and in Texas, residents are being warned to cut back on electrical consumption because of triple-digit temperatures of their own.

Credit: Courtesy

In Santa Barbara, a retired UCSB math professor — operating out of the makeshift think tank of his San Roque garage — would discover water temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean had hit record highs. At the same time, bean counters at City Hall were bemoaning the drop in tourist revenues inflicted by the nefarious May Gray and June Gloom. Should this continue — perhaps we can call it the July Sighs — I hope the council will see fit to declare the resulting “Sunshine Affective Disorder” — aka SAD — a public health emergency, thus providing the needed legal justification for the continuation of parklets downtown and throughout the city. The COVID-based emergency that gave initial rise to our parklets expires this December. 

In the middle of all this, General Motors announced it was investing more than $1 billion to expand production of mid-sized pick-up trucks that sell for $60,000. If company execs were to say — like Al Capone famously did — they were just giving the people what they want, they’d be telling the truth. But who really wants a nice, clean, electric car with a name like b24X or e:Ny1 when you can get something like an Avalanche or Silverado? Sometimes, artificial intelligence — no matter what the threat — is better than no intelligence at all

No wonder there was such a special place in Kaczynski’s hell for ad executives, PR professionals, lobbyists, and others engaged in the profession of “attitude adjustment,” all of whom he targeted for destruction.

Of course, the three years Kaczynski spent as a human guinea pig for a CIA–sponsored mind-control experiment while he was a precociously brilliant math undergrad at Harvard may have jaded his feelings about science-based behavior-modification schemes. The experiments consisted of intense and relentless verbal abuse delivered during a series of two-hour interrogation sessions. Remember that Kaczynski was a radioactively awkward 16-year-old when he entered Harvard, described by a classmate as “a brain on a stick.” The architect of this experiment described these sessions as “vehement, sweeping, and personally abusive.” Years later, the CIA itself would disown them as “disturbing” and “ethically indefensible.” 

In this context, you could say that Ted Kaczynski is the petard by which the mind-control-fixated CIA hoisted all of us, but especially those people he killed, mutilated, or otherwise spindled. As for climate change, that’s the petard we all choose to keep hoisting no matter the consequences. (To belabor the obvious, petard and petroleum share the same Latin root word.)

There’s only one solution, I suppose, if we don’t want to end up like Ted Kaczynski. Don’t wear underpants


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.