For weeks this spring I was obsessed with the (alleged) Unabomber. I scoured the daily stories about him in the paper, and found myself checking all those indistinguishable TV newsmagazine shows just for Unabomber features. The Kaczynski story has become for me one of those odd little items in our history that speaks volumes about our culture and our country.
The wise guys at Time mag were calling the story “The Unabomber Saga,” and I think I know why: It has family conflicts worthy of a Greek tragedy, played out under the Big Sky of Montana and on the frontiers of counter-culturalist ideology.
Most of the mass media Unabomber coverage that gets beyond the contents of Kaczynski’s cabin has tended to focus on the brother vs. brother—Cain and Abel—aspect of the story. The tale of the accused Ted Kaczynski and the accuser, brother David, certainly holds the material for a grand American novel or film. It is a post-industrial East of Eden, or Dallas with introspective intellectuals instead of oil barons. Cross all that with strong elements of The Fugitive. (Richard Kimball’s family never ratted him out. Were they right?)
This understandable fascination with the family story has so far obscured the strong and twisted ideological undercurrents of the Unabomber story. (That may change when or if Kaczynski, the putative manifesto author, speaks for himself at trial.) The only serious attempt at drawing these kinds of connections came when a variety of right-wing flacks smelled the opportunity to paint the alleged Unabomber in shades of Green. When Earth First! literature supposedly turned up in the Unashack, a round of stories labeled the Unabomber an eco-terrorist—some even hinting at a broader eco- conspiracy.