writing the unabomber
July 31, 2008 12:59 PM   Subscribe

years ago i read an article in the village voice on mr. ted Kaczynski, the notorious unabomber. there have been many articles on the guy, but this one stands out as it was a detailed textual analysis of the messages he'd sent out prior to his capture. it was an intellectual adventure like what you'd expect from roland barthes deciphering an alchemical computation or taoist medicinal writings.

my problem is that i can't find this doc! and i have searched all over the village voice site. any ideas you large and disparate community of knowledge brokers?
posted by artof.mulata to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: why thank you, felix. that was a nice respite from my desperate search. in that the author i am searching for probably never bombed anyone and yet was able to extract meaning from the writings of a rather interesting professional kaboomist, i can see the connection you posit between senor lethem ('mr. brooklyn') and the king of soul as a function of analysis in regards to both authors only being capable of writing about their subjects. never being men of action themselves. it would probably take a david lee wroth to really give mr. brown his propers or a will smith to meet mr. kaczynski on honest ground.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:31 PM on July 31, 2008

sounds it might possibly be the work of michael hoffman?
posted by spyke23 at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: spyke23: i wish it had been mr. hoffman. his writings on the washington sniper back in the day were amazing and hilarious. but, no, i'm looking for something by a scholar who actually excuses ted from the narrative to exclusively focus on his writings. good try!
posted by artof.mulata at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2008

Alston Chase in The Atlantic has an article on Kaczinski and how he was shaped by his time at Harvard. Doesn't sound exactly like what you're after, but maybe worth a mention.

Another possibility: it might have been Donald Foster, an English professor who has made a career on "forensic linguistics", carefully comparing the way language is used in different documents to determine if their authors were the same. Foster worked on the Unabomber case, and discusses it in one chapter of his 2000 book Author Unknown. Here's a Village Voice profile of Foster which doesn't discuss the Unabomber case. Here's an excerpt from a review of the book; see if this jibes with your memory of the article you're thinking of:
With Ted Kaczynski Foster's examination is largely retrospective, looking back on how the Unabomber might have been identified earlier. It shows the possibilities of literary detective-work -- and the danger of publishing verbose manifestoes proclaiming one's world-view. While he was otherwise so careful about leaving physical identifying marks on his bombs, Kaczynski gave himself away with his unique writing and literary references. (And Foster even spins an interesting theory out of Kaczynski's use of Eugene O'Neill stamps.)
Another possibility is that it is an article called "Secret Sharers" by Tom Carson in the Village Voice, July 30, 1996. I found this excerpt from the article but can't find a copy of the article online:
So far, William J. Bennett et al. have kept inexplicably silent at the news-revealed in The Washington Post July 9-that suspected Unabomber Ted Kaczynski apparently egged himself on with excessive rereadings of Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent. Yet isn't this a clear case of exactly the sort of deleterious cultural influence that Bennett has been trying to warn us against? Among other things, Conrad wasn't even a true Englishman, but an outsider who slyly changed his name to put himself over on a trusting literary public, although why he opted for the sedate "Joseph Conrad" over a monicker with more scoot to it-"Snoop Doggy Sea Dog, sayis a mystery hidden by the mists of a ...
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:17 PM on July 31, 2008

Nope, it looks like that Tom Carson article isn't it. Here's the annotation it gets in one online catalogue:
Focuses on the 1996 American presidential candidates and their spouses. Role of Bob Dole's wife Liddy in his campaign; Public perception of Bill Clinton's wife Hillary; Electioneering strategies.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: oh lobstermitten, and i was so excited by your trace accounts. i know that foster wasn't responsible. this article has been weighing on my head for years, but only recently surfaced as a subject worth pursuing. it was as if this person were scrying through coffee grounds or tea leaves. every object was symbolic. pretty incredible take on the topic.
i just want to reread it and compare what we know now about ted and the supposed literary insights the author felt they'd gleaned.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:31 PM on July 31, 2008

If nobody gets it here, a good research librarian would be able to figure this out. My guess is that the free online Village Voice only goes back to 1997, so you'd want to find a library that has the earlier issues (or access to an online subscription database that has them), assuming you're confident it was the Voice rather than a similar magazine. If you are in big city, or near major university, a trip to the library might be worth the time.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:57 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: yes. the library. that has been my thought since i first posted this. i have a library and a university within sight range from my home. i was really hoping that someone out there could point that article out to me saving a lot of potential microfiching and ink smearing. thanks for the help, though, everyone!
posted by artof.mulata at 4:22 PM on July 31, 2008

There's an article "Don Foster Has a Way with Words", Smithsonian, Sept. 2001. Mentions Mr. Foster's memoirs, which had just been published.

A search for 'unabomber'/Village Voice in Proquest turns up:

Bombs away
Edmund Lee. The Village Voice. New York: Jan 13, 1998.

An explosive bestseller
Rubin, Mike. The Village Voice. New York: Jun 4, 1996.

Afghan wigout
Ledbetter, James. The Village Voice. New York: Apr 16, 1996.

Fuck computers
Dibbell, Julian. The Village Voice. New York: Jan 3, 1995.

plus a Feiffer cartoon. Abstracts don't sound like what you're describing, but they could be misleading or emphasizing something else.

There's also this cite from Ebsco:

Drawn to crime.
Fleischer, Matthew. Village Voice; 11/21/95.

which is about the FBI sketch artist who drew the well-known Unabomber pic.

There was a lot of stuff published back then; if you're willing to consider that it might have been in another publication, you'll at least have tons of possibilities.

The original April 1996 affidavit has a drier, court-ready version of what you're describing, starting around #105.

Finally, the National Geographic channel broadcast this just within the last day or two, and are going to show it again Sunday. I stumbled into the second half flipping through channels. They talk about the forensic linguistics aspects of the investigation, too.
posted by gimonca at 9:59 PM on July 31, 2008

My university library access got me two separate stores of "selected full texts" frem the Village Voice. One from 91, I think, the other from 97. Neither had what looked like your article when searched for "unabomber."
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:44 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: well, for anyone wondering, i've continued researching this and i've found absolutely nothing. which is, of course, disheartening. and since no one else found the infernal thing either i guess there's no right ('right?') answer to mark.

is that how you do it, though? this is my first posting to askask. i do want to thank everyUNA for pointing out so much cool stuff. and if anyone from the future ever looks at this question i just want to point out this on mefi for the bomb-throwing mess it is.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:32 PM on August 6, 2008

artof.mulata, you don't have to mark a best answer, and in this case since you didn't find what you were looking for, it's probably best not to mark anything yet. If you end up finding the article in the next 6 months (I think), you can come back and post the answer here, and everyone who commented will see it in their "recent activity".
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:19 PM on August 11, 2008

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