How the CIA created the Unabomber


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I wonder how many others we have to look forward to.

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Direct link to the Atlantic article:

Oh wow, that Listverse article linked to is terrible. Lots of discredited conspiracy theories (e.g. missing cosmonauts) and urban legends (e.g. Gloomy Sunday) presented as fact.

Though my favourite bit is that to support the “weight of the soul” conclusion — which they don’t even summarize correctly; 21 grams wasn’t an average, but a single result that he decided was the most accurate — the author links to a Snopes entry that has this to say at the end:

What to make of all this? MacDougall’s results were flawed because the methodology used to harvest them was suspect, the sample size far too small, and the ability to measure changes in weight imprecise. For this reason, credence should not be given to the idea his experiments proved something, let alone that they measured the weight of the soul as 21 grams. His postulations on this topic are a curiosity, but nothing more.

(That said, the article from the Atlantic linked to is quite interesting.)


Well, you can’t protect your omelette from international communism without breaking a few heads.


Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist by Alston Chase is a very good book about Ted Kaczynski’s time at Harvard and the psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of Henry Murray. Remember that Kaczynski was 16 years old when he was accepted at Harvard.

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Likely just another case of correlation =/= causality. From “immunizations causes autism” to “lsd causing schizophrenia”, the fact that certain syndromes manifest at certain ages when certain other experiences are typically happening has led people to wrong conclusions. Psychotic breaks such as bipolar and schizophrenic disorders typically emerge in late adolescence and early adulthood, just when much experimentation and environmental changes take place. The drug related one are most sketchy, since often the subject is trying to self medicate the emerging symptoms. It’s easy to place the blame on externals for these biological syndromes.

Did you read the article or the book about the matter?


Yes, I know, the CIA has done evil things and all, but the stock MkUltra conspiracy theory is basically “LSD made people crazy” – basically the plot of Reefer Madness only with acid instead of pot. Not a fan of either drug, but I thought the party line here was Timothy Leary was great and LSD opens the mind, etc.

I think it might be closer to “LSD and psychological torture make people crazy”.


The actual story is that people who had likely never heard of LSD, and did not know they were about to trip on the stuff, were dosed. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Its worlds of difference from knowingly taking LSD and knowing what you are experiencing is a product of a drug versus just going about your day and then suddenly WHAM! You’re tripping. That could make a lot of people lose it.


You are just scratching the surface.

The Alston Chase article seemed to reach a lot of improbable conclusions. For example, apparently Harvard’s Gen Ed turned Kaczynski into the Unabomber:

The Unabomber philosophy bears a striking resemblance to many parts of Harvard’s Gen Ed syllabus.
Gen Ed had more than an intellectual impact. According to a study of
Harvard and Radcliffe undergraduates that included Kaczynski’s class of
1962, conducted by William G. Perry Jr., the director of the
university’s Bureau of Study Counsel, the undergraduate curriculum had a
profound impact on the emotions, the attitudes, and even the health of
some students.


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At least when it comes to Uncle Ted, he apparently wasn’t given LSD, and the researcher in question didn’t apparently use LSD:

Kaczynski thinks he was never given LSD. And after exhaustive research I
could find no evidence that LSD was ever used in Murray’s research.

Yeah, that’s it, the CIA single-handedly pushed the brilliant and promising Kaczynski to becoming the crafty, deranged, long-lived serial killer they eventually caught, disheveled, in rags, in a shack.

Why do I bother reading boingboing at all?

Why don’t I just stick with Alex Jones and

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I wonder what the CIA did to Dick Cheney?


Well that site sure is credible.


Cause or coincidence, it seems likely to have been exacerbating.

Yeah. I don’t think anyone was implying it was the LSD. Did you read about the psychological abuse?

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Oh I wasn’t speaking particularly about the Unabomber, just the Leary-led “experiments”, which to me are reminiscent of Dr Mengele in terms of the ethics involved.