The Net: Ted Kaczinski, the CIA and the History of Cyberspace
Directed by Lutz Daumbeck
German (with English subtitles)
This is a fascinating German documentary about the so-called “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Between 1978 and 1995 Kaczinski, a former Berkeley math professor, sent a series of letterbombs (killing three people and injuring 23 others) to researchers involved in high profile cybernetics* and related fields. His brother would ultimately identify Kaczynski after the FBI persuaded the New York Times to publish his manifesto “Industrial Society and Its Future.” Following his 1996 arrest, his attorneys negotiated a plea bargain (without his consent) in which he pleaded guilty to all charges and received a life sentence without possibility of parole.
Warning against the future role of computers in absolute mind control and surveillance of all society, Kaczinski’s manifesto also outlines his desire to derail this process by targeting the main scientists responsible. Hard copies of the manifesto are still available various anarchist bookstores and online at Kaczynski the unabomber manifesto
The film intersperses investigation into Kaczynski’s personal history and an examination of the bizarre LSD-laced culture that would result in the personal computer,** the Internet, Esalon,*** and CIA mind control experimentation.
For me the most shocking revelation in the film concerns a CIA experiment Kaczinski participated in while a Harvard student. The lead researcher fed him and 19 other exceptionally gifted students LSD and filmed the bizarre behavior they subsequently engaged in. Although the videos of Kaczinski have “mysteriously” vanished, there is clear written documentation of his participation. It’s also apparent the government failed to inform his defense team of these mitigating circumstances.
Kaczynski, reported to have an IQ of 170, began studying math at Harvard at age 16. He began teaching graduate level math courses at Berkeley in 1965. In 1971, he resigned his job and built himself a cabin in the woods in Montana.
The most interesting segments of the film relate to a lengthy correspondence (in German) between Kaczynski and one of the filmmakers.
*Cybernetics is defined as the interaction between human beings and machines.
**Stewart Brand, known as the father of the personal computer, was a member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. The Merry Pranksters’ bus traveled widely during the sixties distributing free LSD and performing with a band that later became the Grateful Dead. As John Potash writes in Drugs as Weapons Against Us, Kesey and Grateful Dead band members were also CIA assets involved with a scheme to promote and distribute LSD among antiwar leftists.
***According to Wikipedia, the Esalen Institute is a Big Sur retreat center, founded in 1962, that focuses on “humanist” education and personal change. As the filmmakers suggest, they had strong links to the CIA, MKUtra, and similar mind control experimentation during the sixties and seventies. See https://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/5xf335/the_cia_esalen_and_mkultra_doctors/