20 Years Later: A Look Back at the Unabomber Manifesto

Brett A. Barnett


On September 19, 1995, The New York Times and The Washington Post submitted to “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski’s demand to publish his manifesto, a treatise that would come to be known as the “Unabomber Manifesto.” While Kaczynski has been serving a life sentence for the letter-bombing campaign that he perpetrated between 1979 and 1995, the radical environmentalist rhetoric contained within his manifesto has become available to an even wider audience of current and would-be environmental extremists than when it was first published. Given its availability online, the Unabomber Manifesto has become one of the most well-known rhetorical artifacts endorsing environmental extremism. Using Herbert Simons’ “rhetorical requirements” approach, this study demonstrates that the Unabomber Manifesto represents Kaczynski’s rhetorical efforts to animate like-minded environmental extremists. The article concludes by discussing how the Unabomber Manifesto resonated with some radical environmentalists and may have even served as a catalyst for later acts committed by U.S.-based environmental extremists. By utilizing a framework for examining the rhetoric of violent revolutionary social movements, this study provides further insight into what motivates environmental extremists of today.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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