I Don't Want To Live Long: Ted Kaczynski

I Would Rather Get The Death Penalty Than Spend The Rest Of My Life In Prison Ted Kaczynski talks about life in jail, his appeal plans and his brother David, who still struggles over the decision to turn in the Unabomber

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"Here it's the other way around. I'm not depressed or downcast, and I have things I can do that I consider productive, like working on getting out this book. And yet the knowledge that I'm locked up here and likely to remain so for the rest of my life--it ruins it. And I don't want to live long. I would rather get the death penalty than spend the rest of my life in prison."

To get the death penalty, Kaczynski will first have to gain a retrial, which he knows is improbable. At a new trial, he would represent himself, but he won't discuss the strategy he might employ.

What would seem most likely is for him to argue that, essentially, desperate disease requires a desperate cure. As the Unabomber manifesto put it, "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race." In the Unabomber's mind, society was in desperate need of a brave and brazen savior who wouldn't let murder stand in his way. "Well, let me put it this way," Kaczynski says. "I don't know if violence is ever the best solution, but there are certain circumstances in which it may be the only solution."

To anarchists who advocate violence, Kaczynski has become a hero. He is flattered but notes that "a lot of these people are just irrational." What Kaczynski wants is a true movement, "people who are reasonably rational and self controlled and are seriously dedicated to getting rid of the technological system. And if I could be a catalyst for the formation of such a movement, I would like to do that."

Ted Kaczynski, king of the anarchists. It is a measure of his self-importance--and cruelty--that he envisions such a role as his reward for blowing people up.

Toward the end of our interview, I ask Kaczynski what he would do if, against all odds, he should someday get out of prison. He mentions an anarchist in Oregon with whom he has corresponded. "He has given some talks at colleges about technology and about the Unabomb case," Kaczynski says, "and he's had a very positive response. And if he can get an audience, I could get one much more easily, now that I've been publicized."

And what, I ask Kaczynski, would he tell people, so they wouldn't worry about the Unabomber's being at large?

He laughs at the question and shoots me a look: You just don't get it, do you? "Well, I don't know that I would have to relax them," he says. "Just let them worry."

Stephen J. Dubner is the author of Turbulent Souls, a family memoir

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