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Pen Pals With The Unabomber

George M. Bergman, 1968 (GDFL license)

For 17 years, the Unabomber held the media spotlight as he planted and mailed bombs to people in order to gain publicity (UNABOM is an FBI acronymn derived from his UNiversity and Airline BOMb targets). He hoped to draw attention to his manifesto, a screed denouncing our adoration of technology.

For the most part, he failed. Upon his eventual discovery, much of  the press seemed distracted by his shaggy appearance, the tiny cabin where he lived and his unusual habits. One newspaper piped incredulously: Lacking a car, he rode an old bicycle into town! He spread feces on his garden! (Could it have simply been composted manure?)

Now, a professor at University of Michiganis trying to revive some of Kaczynski’s ideas without the violence. He reached Kaczynski by mail in the Unabomber’s maximum security prison cell. Over the years, the professor and his infamous pen pal have explored and updated Kaczynski’s ideas in a collection of letters and published them in a book. But can Kaczynski The Philosopher be separated from Kaczynski The Terrorist? Or did Kaczynski’s willingness to kill those who disagreed with him reveal a fatal flaw at the core of his philosophy?

Other stories on KUOW Presents, Thursday, March 21: