Tag Archives: Ted Kaczynski

we’re all gnostics now

At tQ, scathing words from Darran Anderson on the ongoing rehabilitation of Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber:

… there is no group anywhere on the political spectrum that is not gnostic now. By which I mean, that every single position from furthest left to ‘moderate’ centre to furthest right believes they are the sole possessors of hidden conspiratorial knowledge, and that every other position are dupes. All are anti-establishment now, including the establishment. All are mavericks and rebels, especially those who prop up the status quo. That’s not to say that there is moral equivalence across the board but when every party believes it has uniquely awoken or been [insert colour]-pilled, we have to accept that the Spectacle has absorbed the very idea of escaping the Spectacle. To put it another way, we escape Plato’s Cave and are celebrating our liberation in another cave, perhaps one where we make the shadow puppets but a cave nonetheless. Or to put it another way again, as the sideshow trick goes, the most credulous marks are the ones who think everyone else is a mark.

I find it hard not to agree with Anderson, here, though that troubles me for two reasons. The first is that while I deplore his methods, I can understand Kaczynski’s choice of path, and have some sympathy with Evan Malmgren’s recent piece at Real Life, which I think does a better job of getting at why Kaczynski retains his cultural cachet than does Anderson:

Popular media accounts try to have it both ways, condemning Kaczynski’s terror campaign while elevating his otherwise derivative critique of technology, all while leaning into the bombings as an audience draw. In retreading Kaczynski’s story again and again, they merely underscore his provocative contention that violence was, in fact, an effective means of getting industrial society’s attention.

While Anderson is scathing about the manifesto as well as about the methods, he’s still caught in the cycle Malmgren identifies: deplore his methods as we might, indeed as we must, that we are obliged and driven so to do remakes Kaczynski’s point, which is that violence cuts through the Spectacle in a way that nothing else does.

My second concern is that Anderson seems to be taking aim at specific nihilistic positions from a more generalised nihilism, which is (as I understand it) a contradiction inherent to leftist readings of Nietzsche—which is not to say that Anderson is drawing on Nietzsche here, so much as to say I recognise something of Anderson’s “everyone now claims to be a rebel, and it is by pointing this out that I implicitly become the true rebel and transcend the dialectic” vibe in my own thinking, as well as in ol’ Friedrich. It also feels like the flipside, or at least a phenomenon closely connected to, the paradox of tolerance, which is bugging me in the context of a book I’m reading for review, and the more general issue of epistemology, not so much in the specific Foucauldian sense of the term, but in the more general sense that it’s being used in the literature on teaching and learning in higher education that I’m encountering in an ongoing course.

All of which may amount to little more than the pattern-imposing lobe of what passes for my brain doing a more active job than usual at trying to make connections between things that I just so happen to be encountering at roughly the same time… but there may be something more to it. I guess we’ll see what (if anything) falls out here over the days ahead.