Kaczynski’s manifesto outlines his cognitive reasons for doing this, but there’s another element as well. Generally speaking, people with a beef against how technology is used in society don’t live in a shack in the woods, shit in a hole, and become serial killers. They just post angry rants about it on Facebook. To do what Kaczynski did requires something else, generally something traumatic.
And that’s where the story gets really, really, really, really, really weird. I mean like super weird. Twilight-Zone-episode weird.
In fact, if it hadn’t been extensively documented, a lot of folks probably wouldn’t believe what happened to Kaczynski, it’s that weird.
In 1958, he enrolled at Harvard.
In 1959, he was approached by a dude named Henry Murray, a psychologist and researcher at Harvard.
During WWII, Murray worked at the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. After the war, he became a professor at Harvard, but he retained his government contacts.
Starting in 1959, Murray engaged in a bunch of extremely unethical research experiments on Harvard students at the behest of the US government. The government was investigating ways to traumatize people to the point of breaking their personalities, with an eye toward developing interrogation techniques that would break the will of suspected spies or enemy agents.Harvard and the Making of the UnabomberIn the fall of 1958 Theodore Kaczynski, a brilliant but vulnerable boy of sixteen, entered Harvard College. There he encountered a prevailing intellectual atmosphere of anti-technological despair. There, also, he was deceived into subjecting himself to a series of purposely brutalizing psychological experiments—experiments that may have confirmed his still-forming belief in the evil of science. Was the Unabomber born at Harvard? A look inside the files
Murray experimented on many Harvard students, one of them being Kaczynski.
One of the experiments he performed on Kaczynski involved having him write down all the things he considered his weaknesses and personality flaws…then brutally attacking him and abusing him using what he’d written as ammunition. Kaczynski was repeatedly abused and attacked by multiple people, all of them Harvard employees, using the material he himself had supplied about his own personal weaknesses, and then—I’m dead serious, you can’t make this shit up—forced to watch footage of himself being attacked and abused.
Over and over.
Henry Murray was never called to account for doing this, though modern academics tend to quietly not talk about his research.Did Ted Kaczynski’s Transformation Into the Unabomber Start at Harvard?Kaczynski was subjected to a controversial and disturbing psychological experiment as a young student at the Ivy League school.https://www.history.com/news/what-happened-to-the-unabomber-at-harvard
It’s not hard to draw a line between what happened at Harvard and Kaczynski targeting academic institutions in particular.
Would he still have been a terrorist if this hadn’t happened to him? Hard to say. Some folks claim his behavior shows the signs of schizophrenia, though some of the psychologists and psychiatrists who examined him after his arrest say he isn’t schizophrenic. There’s no way to wind back the clock and see what would’ve happened if he hadn’t been used in traumatic human experiments at Harvard.
But it’s really hard to look at that, look at the fact he specifically targeted universities (that’s the “u” in “unabom”), and say “nah, couldn’t have had anything to do with it.”
Harvard has sealed the results of Murray’s experiments on Kaczynski and refuses to reveal what Murray wrote about him, so who knows?