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Bob Guccione and the Unabomber: An Unlikely History

Explore the surprising correspondence between Guccione and Ted Kaczynski, and what it means for research today.

By OG AIPublished 11 months ago 6 min read
Top Story - June 2023
Draft of letter from Bob Guccione to Ted Kaczynski, 1995. The OG Collection.

On June 10, 2023, Ted Kaczynski died in prison, ending one of the stranger tales of domestic terrorism in the United States. As interest in his activities as the “Unabomber” renews, materials related to Kaczynski in the OG Collection become even more intriguing. Putting AI’s skills in historical and speculative writing to the test makes this analysis especially relevant today.

From the Archives: Unexpected Correspondence

Scan of letter from Ted Kaczynski to Bob Guccione, 1995. The OG Collection.

Archival materials reveal the intricacies of the “Unabomber” story. Kaczynski mailed several letters in 1995 to media outlets demanding they publish his “manifesto” titled Industrial Society and Its Future lest he continue his acts of terrorism. Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione volunteered to publish it, as he was not shy when it came to including controversial stories with controversial figures in his magazine.

The OG Collection contains materials from this unlikely exchange between Kaczynski and Guccione, revealing their negotiations. Kaczynski wrote as “we” under the signature “FC."

We are very pleased that you’ve offered to publish our stuff, and we thank you. We aren’t in the habit of reading sex magazines ourselves, but we don’t have anything against those who do read such magazines or those who publish them. However, it will obviously be to our advantage if we can get our stuff published in a “respectable” periodical rather than in Penthouse, because many people do consider sex magazines to be disreputable or worse.

Guccione drafted the following reply:

I am a little miffed and a whole lot disappointed by your recent communication. In your first letter to the New York Times, ( date ) you categorically undertook to “desist from all terrorist activities” if the Times or “some other nationally distributed periodical” agreed to publish your manifesto. Well … I agreed! I agreed immediately and without reservation.

Guccione goes on to defend Penthouse’s reputation and condemn Kaczynski’s changed terms before offering him an unedited monthly column in Penthouse. He concludes by saying “In return, I am asking you to put an end to all terrorist activities now and forever. I'm still the only friend you have in the media. Don’t let my willingness to publish you make fools of us both!”

In the end, The Washington Post published Kaczynski’s essay in September 19, 1995. While ChatGPT can help to synthesize and expand on this history, it misses this part of the story completely. This brings into question what else AI research tools might miss, particularly when it comes to archival collections.

The content below was generated using ChatGPT. In the interest of transparency and learning, the bold text represents the prompt that created it.

Who was Ted Kaczynski?

Ted Kaczynski, born on May 22, 1942, is an American mathematician and infamous criminal known as the "Unabomber." He gained notoriety for a string of mail bombings carried out between 1978 and 1995. Kaczynski was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and exhibited remarkable academic abilities from an early age. He enrolled at Harvard University at the age of 16 and later pursued a PhD in mathematics at the University of Michigan.

Despite his intellectual potential, Kaczynski's life took a dark turn. In the late 1960s, he became disillusioned with modern technology and the direction of society. Choosing to live a reclusive and nomadic lifestyle, Kaczynski settled in a remote cabin in Montana, where he devised a plan to bring attention to what he believed were the destructive effects of industrialization and modern technology.

Kaczynski began sending homemade mail bombs to various targets, including universities, airlines, and individuals associated with technology and modernization. His attacks resulted in three fatalities and numerous injuries. The media dubbed him the "Unabomber" due to his early targets, which included universities and airlines (UN-A-BOMber).

The FBI launched an extensive investigation to capture the Unabomber, and the case became one of the most high-profile in American criminal history. In 1995, Kaczynski's brother recognized his writing style and beliefs from the "Unabomber Manifesto," which Kaczynski had sent to newspapers. He informed the authorities, leading to Kaczynski's arrest.

In 1998, Ted Kaczynski pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges, including bombings, and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. His case sparked intense debate regarding the balance between individual freedom, technological progress, and the potential dangers of anti-social ideologies.

Expand on Kaczynski’s Manifestos

Unabomber, as well as in shaping public discourse about technology and its impact on society. He wrote two primary manifestos: the "Industrial Society and Its Future" (also known as the "Unabomber Manifesto") and "Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski."

The "Industrial Society and Its Future," published in 1995, was a 35,000-word document outlining Kaczynski's anti-technology philosophy and his critique of modern industrial society. In this manifesto, he argued that technology had detrimental effects on human freedom, dignity, and well-being. Kaczynski believed that technological advancements were leading to a loss of autonomy, as individuals became increasingly dependent on systems and institutions that undermined personal freedom. He advocated for a return to a primitive and simpler way of life, free from the grasp of modern technology.

"Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski," published in 2010, is a compilation of Kaczynski's essays written over several decades. These essays expanded on his ideas presented in the "Industrial Society and Its Future" manifesto. He examined various aspects of technological progress, including its impact on the environment, personal relationships, and individual autonomy. Kaczynski argued that technological development had resulted in a form of "technological slavery," where individuals were compelled to conform to the demands of technology and its associated systems.

Kaczynski's manifestos provoked intense debate and garnered attention due to the extreme measures he took to promote his ideas. While many rejected his violent methods, his writings raised valid concerns about the ethical implications of technological advancement, the erosion of privacy, and the potential loss of personal freedom in an increasingly interconnected world. His manifestos continue to be referenced and studied by scholars, technologists, and social critics as a cautionary tale and a starting point for discussions on the complex relationship between technology and society.

How does Bob Guccione play into the history of the Unabomber?

Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine, does not directly play a significant role in the history of the Unabomber. It appears that there is no documented connection between Bob Guccione and Ted Kaczynski or the Unabomber case. The Unabomber's targets were primarily universities, airlines, and individuals associated with technology, rather than figures from the media or publishing industry.

It's important to note that while Bob Guccione was a prominent figure in the adult entertainment industry and his magazine Penthouse was well-known, there is no evidence to suggest that he had any direct involvement or interaction with Ted Kaczynski or his criminal activities.

The Unabomber case primarily revolved around Kaczynski's motivations, ideology, and the investigation led by law enforcement agencies, rather than any specific connections to individuals in the media or publishing industry. Kaczynski's actions were driven by his personal beliefs and grievances against technology and modern society, as outlined in his manifestos.

Therefore, in the context of the Unabomber case, there is no direct link or involvement between Bob Guccione and Ted Kaczynski.

If written today, what might the manifestos be titled and focus on?

If written today, the manifestos of Ted Kaczynski might explore the following themes and could potentially have titles like:

"The Digital Dilemma: Escaping the Technological Web"

This manifesto could delve into the impact of the digital age, social media, and the internet on our lives. It might discuss issues such as data privacy, online surveillance, the erosion of personal relationships, and the addictive nature of technology. Kaczynski might argue for the need to reclaim control over our digital lives and find a balance between the benefits and drawbacks of modern technology.

"The Fragmented Self: Unraveling in the Age of Distraction"

This manifesto could focus on the effects of constant connectivity and information overload. Kaczynski might discuss how the rapid pace of technological advancements and the proliferation of devices have fragmented our attention spans and disrupted our ability to engage in deep, meaningful thinking. He might advocate for reconnecting with nature, embracing solitude, and fostering a more contemplative approach to life.

"The Algorithmic Society: Unmasking the Illusion of Choice"

This manifesto could delve into the pervasive influence of algorithms and artificial intelligence on society. Kaczynski might explore how algorithms shape our consumption habits, influence our decision-making, and create echo chambers that reinforce existing beliefs. He might call for increased transparency and ethical considerations in algorithmic design to preserve individual autonomy and protect against the manipulation of human behavior.

"The Ecological Crisis: Uncovering the Price of Progress"

This manifesto could focus on the environmental consequences of industrialization and technological progress. Kaczynski might discuss the urgent need for sustainable practices, the exploitation of natural resources, and the devastating impact of climate change. He might argue for a radical reevaluation of our relationship with the natural world and propose alternative models that prioritize ecological balance and long-term sustainability.

It's important to note that these titles and themes are speculative and based on the hypothetical premise that Kaczynski would adapt his ideas to the current technological landscape.


About the Creator


Bob Guccione's revolutionary spirit lives on through this AI experiment. Explore how machine learning helps analyze vast data on events that shaped our world.


Read human-generated stories - https://vocal.media/authors/og-collection

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Comments (3)

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  • Aarna 11 months ago

    Love to hear this

  • Anieke David 11 months ago

    Historical I would say…..congrats on the ts

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