Pacifica Radio: Unapack in Chicago
Monday, September 9, 1996
I'm Amy Goodman, and this is Democracy Now. In 1968, as the whole world
was watching the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, anti-war yippies
captured media attention by nominating a pig for president. This silly piece
of guerilla theater actually made a serious statement about the corruption
of politicians, the power of the police, and the irrelevance of national
elections. In 1996, a couple of activists are taking a similar tactic, by
promoting a far more controversial candidate for the White House. Lydia
Eccles and Chris Korda are waging a write-in campaign for the Unabomber for
president. Eccles and Korda were able to get into the Democratic National
Convention in Chicago as members of the press. They invented a network called
TVTV and a program called "News News", and so they were credentialed to be
on the inside. That's where Pacifica's Julie Drizen met Lydia Eccles and
Chris Korda as they campaigned on behalf of the Unabomber.
Drizen: The two of you are running a campaign Unabomber for president.
Why the Unabomber?
Eccles: Because the Unabomber represents a complete reversal in perspective
from the consensus of the main candidates who run. The Unabomber also recognized
that the modern media system doesn't allow for a discussion of real alternatives
to unlimited technological development, and that's why he did what he did
to get attention. So he symbolizes attacking the monologue, the monopoly
of the press as well as the anti-industrial concept of society.
Drizen: Isn't the Unabomber a terrorist?
Korda: The Unabomber has been called a terrorist. Terrorist is a funny
word. Usually when we talk about terrorists, we talk about people who are
killing people. Of course the Unabomber killed three people, but we might
favorably compare the Unabomber to other people who've been considered for
the presidential office: General Colin Powell comes to mind, I know at one
point he was in the front runners for the Republicans, and he probably killed
more people in thirty seconds than the Unabomber killed, so actually there's
a certain point of view from which you could say that the ability to use
violence could almost be considered a prerequisite for running for presidential
office. I don't think we could think of too many presidents who've actually
been elected who didn't use violence in one way or another, but even all
that is not really the important point. The important point here is that
we're not a Unabomber fan club. We're not interested in the man, you notice
it's not the Kaczynski for president campaign, it's the Unabomber for president
campaign, and obviously we don't know that Kaczinski isn't the Unabomber,
we don't know that he is, the point here is that if he's nominated he can't
run, and if elected, he can't serve, so it's not about the man. It's about
his ideas, and whatever the Unabomber did to get his ideas more widely recognized,
has nothing to do with us: we didn't do that. We are here at the convention,
trying to get wider for support for his ideas, and in that sense we're using
the actual violence that he may have used, simply as a wedge, as a way of
opening the door, because let's face it, let's be honest about this, he has
tremendous mass appeal: a lot of people know who is.
Eccles: This is intended also just to be fundamentally the most negative
possible vote, to vote for someone who can't be in office. Even people who
don't subscribe to a critique of industrial society, we would like people
to outright reject the political system as it's going now, in other words
to acknowledge that they actually do not have participation in determining
the form society takes. The mainstream candidates differ only on trivialities
such as whether or not smoking is addictive.
Drizen: Which you say as you're smoking your Marlboro cigarette...
Eccles: The reason why we're seeing them talking about such trivial things
is because they actually really agree in general about the shape our society
should take, so that people who don't feel our society should continue along
the path that it's going, which is unlimited economic growth and destruction
of the human community and the environment, have absolutely no way of expressing
themselves in the election. So they're left sitting on their hands. This
is like the thinking man's "none of the above" vote, and even if someone
just wants to voice their total alienation from what they've seen at the
convention this week, this would be an option for them, to make this vote,
and to try create an unpredictable element in the outcome in November.
Korda: We have a huge Internet world-wide web site, which is www.paranoia.com/unapack,
and you can just dial that up and get all kinds of information about the
campaign, and about our positions, which of course are distinct from the
Unabomber's positions. We're not just talking about sticking the Unabomber's
manifesto up on a web site, we're talking about an entire vision, a vision
of an alternative kind of society, a society that's constructed along entirely
different lines from the industrial society that we've been creating here
for the last 200, or possibly 400 years, depending on how you look at it.
This society would not be, as our society is now, centered around the idea
of adapting the environment to the needs of technological expansion and domination,
but rather...a more utopian society, in which man perhaps might find his
proper relationship with the other creatures that exist on the planet, and
in which we might have a less corporate view of the planet.
Eccles: I want say also that we're distributing materials over the internet:
bumper stickers which go to feed the cost of the campaign. But also, we
want this vote to be seen vote as an anti-propaganda vote, because we see
propaganda as being the main source of political paralysis for all groups
that are trying to oppose what's going on. They cannot continue talking
about their issues and wondering why they're not getting through the media.
They have to deal first with the fact that this whole campaign is a propaganda
exercise, and our campaign is intended to ride on the propaganda event, and
create a juxtaposition that shows how ridiculous and limited the political
conversation is. This isn't about left and right, it's about centralization
versus breaking down of centralization. In fact most of the left groups
totally accept the idea of centralized industrial society and jobs and wage
slavery. Our campaign is primarily concerned with liberty, secondarily concerned
with social justice. That's where we are different from the left, and we
think that the left is, in a sense, trying to equalize oppression, but that
the centralized industrial system is the most important impediment to our
freedom at this point.
Drizen: It sounds like your political philosophy is kind of a push-me pull-you:
you're libertarian and you're luddite. How do those things coexist?
Korda: I would not describe us as libertarian at all. I would be proud
to be considered a luddite, in the sense that I definitely oppose the rampant,
unchecked technological progress that we've seen in the last 200 years.
I feel that the result of that technological progress has been that not only
animals, but also humans themselves, have been domesticated, and adapted
to the needs of industrial society, and I think it's very important to understand
that we can see clearly the effects that technological society has on animals.
When we see those pictures from PETA, of the rabbits getting their skin
peeled off, or getting the perfume sprayed on their eyes, or when we see
the pictures of the pigs in their pens for their entire lifetime, or a cow
that's not allowed to take a single step, we can see that that's cruel, we
can see that those animals are suffering, and that that's inhumane. What
a curious use of the word, because what we're not able to see is that our
lives have been equally affected, and that humans in their own way also suffer
at the hands of industrial society, that we too are forced into pens, that
we are deprived of our freedom, that we suffer degradations and humiliations
that the native people whom we replaced 400 years ago never suffered. I
think it's very important to be able to see the similarities between ourselves
and the animals that we domesticate, and see that we too are domesticated,
and that that is the future for us. If we listen to the left, and we listen
to the right, and we continue to do what the Republicans and the Democrats
tell us to do, we're going to wind up with a society in which humans are
essentially genetically engineered vegetables.
Drizen: So what are we supposed to do, go back to the farm, have a life
of breeding, no electricity, and growing our own food?
Eccles: What we're supposed to do right now is detach from participating
in a charade of participatory politics by voting for a pre-selected candidate
that is not ever going to deal with real human freedom. This is really about
people altering their awareness to stop having the illusion of politics,
that by voting, they're actually doing anything. In terms of the rest of
it, what we're looking for is people to become much more autonomous, and that
means trying to unplug themselves from the plumbing system of propaganda
as much as possible, trying to do things for themselves, trying to do things
instead of having things, also trying to insert and trespass on corporate
communications in every way they can. We're endorsed by the vandals, billboard
guerrillas, street poster people, we're also endorsed by Sexpol and the Debtor's
Union. We encourage people to default on their credit cards, everything
that people can do to keep society from functioning normally. One of slogans
is "If you think the system's working, as someone who is." So we support
people trying to be as unproductive as possible in the workplace to the extent
that they have to be there.
Korda: It makes me think, there's something funny I saw the other day...I
was talking with somebody out there in the protest pen, notice I use the
word pen, it kinds reminds you of veal a little bit, and this guy was saying
that he thought that this was okay, you know, that these people were exercising
their first amendment rights. So I asked him, I said listen, what if we
had a slightly different arrangement next time, in 2000, what if instead
of having this concrete parking lot here, which the delegates can inspect
at their leisure, what if we had a little cell, a little padded cell, with
a picture of Bill Clinton in it, and the protesters were allowed to march
into the cell one at a time, and either rail at the picture and throw bottles
at it, or get down on their knees and worship it, or read their rants and
hand out their flyers and so forth, and they they'd be hustled out and the
next protester would walk in, would it still be first amendment? Would we
still have first amendment rights? Would we still have freedom of speech?
He got real confused, and gave me a puzzled look, like he'd never really
contemplated that, and what I'm trying to say here, is that it is a charade,
that this entire process that's taking place in that building...it's a charade,
and not only that, but it's a heavily protected, armed charade. It's not
a coincidence that this area we're standing in bears a strong resemblance
to an army barracks. The media are the most protected institution in the
United States right now, because they are the real power, and that's what
the Unabomber was so brilliant in recognizing. Whether his ideas were brilliant
or not is not important: his ideas came from other people, he borrowed ideas
from people, but the thing he recognized that no one else really recognized,
is that the media are the fortress, and he went after that fortress, and
he forced the media to directly publish his ideas without any mediation.
That's an amazing thing, that's something really to take notice of, and
we applaud that, and we'd like to see more of that.
Drizen: Yes, but this is not like the 1990's version of running a pig for
president. I mean the person that you're running, killed people for, really,
no apparent reason, and by running somebody named the Unabomber, even though
he is in part a media creation, and we don't know for a fact that he is Ted Kaczinski,
you're almost encouraging, aren't you, other people to take it into their
own hands and perhaps commit acts of violence on their own.
Eccles: The Unabomber clearly felt that it was absolutely impossible for
ideas that he felt were critical to the fate of the human race to ever be
discussed within the political system. Whether he was right or not, I don't
know, but he did this as an act of guerilla warfare. Now if someone is a
total pacifist (as opposed to a passive-ist), then they could condemn that,
but the fact is that we're not actually putting him into office anyway, unlike,
say, Colin Powell, where we're actually putting the killer into office.
There are other people who believe that you can work within the system, such
as the Green party, and effect change that way. Unapack's position is halfway
straddling those two positions: we don't believe you can do it within the
system, we are not using violence ourselves or advocating violence, but we're
saying that by casting this vote, you are stating both that the system is
closed and you can't change it, but you're also trying to do a non-violent
act to try to alter the awareness and create change.
Korda: The most important point here is that almost any other candidate
that you could vote for, you vote for Lenora Fulani, you could vote for the
Green party, you could vote for that guy from Wisconsin [Larry Agran] whose
name I can never remember, there's going to be a million crackpots out there,
you could even vote for my good freind Vermin Supreme, but it won't do any
good, because all of those votes can be dismissed as a joke, as not important,
but the Unabomber vote can't be dismissed, it can't be seen as apathy, it
can only be seen as rage, as an expression of real pain at the tremendous
contempt that industrial society has for individuals. It's a rattling of
the bars. The Unabomber campaign is being run by barbarians, on behalf of
barbarians, we are the barbarians at the gates, and we're asking people to
join us at the gates, rattle those gates and say look, we're going to disrupt
the election process itself to the maximum extent that we can. We're going
to try and get out there and force the media to report on the Unabomber presidential
write-in campaign, even as it's being reported on right now. The amazing
thing about this strategy is that it's brilliant, it works. The media cannot
resist the lure of the Unabomber. He's got tremendous mass appeal. Everybody
knows who he is. He's got name recognition bigger than anybody short of
the Republicans and the Democrats, so it works.
Drizen: I think Charles Manson has probably still a little bit more name
recognition than the Unabomber, so what's the difference between running
one anti-social psychopath versus another?
Eccles: The Unabomber wrote a manifesto. I don't even know that much about
Charles Manson, but he sort signifies the LSD-crazed serial murderer, I mean
the Unabomber's violence was extremely intentional.
Drizen: Charles Manson was rebelling against, allegedly through violent
acts, rebelling against the mainstream culture at the time.
Eccles: An interesting thing about the Unabomber is that he came from a
liberal-left background. In his life he showed a great integrity, if it
is Ted Kaczinski, which we don't know. Since Ted Kaczinski has come to be
associated with the Unabomber, we're looking at someone who, over years,
wrote letters to the editor, and showed a lot of concern, and basically became
totally disillusioned with the possibility of working through the political
process. We think the most important thing is that people lose the political
illusion, so that they can then lose the paralysis that the illusion has
created, and then begin to act, and that doesn't mean acting through the
party system, that means the other things we were talking about, trying to
assert more and more control over the circumstances of your life on a personal
Korda: We're talking about the future of the planet. I don't have to remind
you, I don't think, that we're now losing a species, what, every forty minutes,
that's up from every sixty minutes in the 1960's, we've already wiped out
approximately one third of the species on earth, we lose an acre of trees
every eight seconds in the United States. We're talking about an ongoing
environmental catastrophe, and while the Unabomber didn't focus on that very
much in his manifesto, he made it clear in one of his paragraphs that this
was something he was very much concerned with. We're talking about a future,
a technological future in which there will be no wilderness to escape to,
and in that sense, this is an urgent campaign, it's a timely campaign, and
we need to use every tool at our disposal, and as someone else once said,
mutant times call for mutant tools.
Drizen: Now have either of you contacted, or tried to contact Ted Kaczinski,
the alleged Unabomber, about your campaign?
Eccles: We have a letter drafted that we're going to be mailing afterwards,
but we basically don't feel that he could respond to a letter anyway, but
we thought that since he's so involved in the situation, he'd probably be
interested in hearing about the campaign, but again, we aren't about Ted
Kaczinski, we're about the manifesto, and we're about a protest vote primarily.
Drizen: Maybe some of the relatives of victims of Ted Kaczinski wouldn't
feel that way.
Eccles: As I've said before, I feel great sympathy for the relatives of
anyone who was killed in political strife, but I don't think anyone in the
United States has ever seen a family member of a dead Iraqi in their lives.
We have to think very much about the sentimentality of who is shown as victims
and who is totally erased. We don't see the families of victims of breast
cancer: there's a breast cancer epidemic which is probably very linked to
environmental pollutants. The killing that is done by corporations in a
statistical, remote manner never gets any attention, in fact it's impossible
to even locate the victims. It's very easy to see the victims of an individual
act like the Unabomber's, but his act is trivial next to the deaths every
day from the industrial system.