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A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism Paperback – May 17, 2004

3.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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  • A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A chilling and provocative account of what made the Unabomber tick."

Fascinating and revealing.

A chilling and provocative account of what made the Unabomber tick. "

Fascinating and revealing. "

About the Author

Alston Chase is a writer and independent scholar specializing in intellectual history. He lives in Paradise Valley, Montana.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393325563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393325560
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Nelson on December 28, 2005
Mind for Murder is an excellent book by Alston Chase. This book has two main components to it. The first component deals with the life and demise of Ted Kaczynski. The author gives us descriptions of Ted's early years as a child, his high school years, and spends a great deal of time expounding on Ted's time spent at Harvard.

In the author's description of Ted's early years we our shown Ted grew to despise his parents pressuring him to excel academically. His resentment was especially strong toward his father who seemed to remain aloof and somewhat nihilistic till he committed suicide. Ted also resented his mother Wanda because he felt she intentionally subjected him to psychological abuses as a child. These feelings seemed to stay with Ted and even grow as Ted embarked on his college career.

The second component of this book is a cultural analysis that centers around the time period Ted would have been at Harvard and proffers reasons why Ted and others in our modern times have felt the need to resort to terrorism. The author explains how Universities like Harvard used to place a strong emphasis on liberal arts education. Education that was paired with moral virtue. This way of thinking is found in the thoughts of the ancient Greeks who thought reason had to be bound with moral virtue. However, in the 1950s with World War II just having ended and the Cold War looming the universities seemed to adopt the stance of logical positivism. The idea that if something isn't scientifically verifiable it has no meaning. In other words, moral judgments are just the cultural attitudes of the time. Ted would have encountered this line of nihilistic thinking at Harvard. Is it any wonder in later years he would adopt and expound his personal philosophy to mean any ends justified the means?
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By A Customer on July 1, 2004
Though Chase does seem to suffer a need to attack what he views as the outcome of "value-free" education, I do not think the book suffers as much from this insistence as does the previous reviewer. In fact, there is much to be gained from such a study.
Chase's book is an admirable study of both the Unabomber and the postwar currents that converged to contribute to the making of the Unabomber. Thankfully, Chase is wise enough not to offer excuses for Kaczynski's actions, but his research into what made Kaczynski "tick" provide a believable backdrop and a necessary antidote to the popular misconception of the Unabomber as a madman devoid of reason or motive.
And rather than finding fault with Chase's attempt to tie the Unabomber's actions and theories to those of other "terrorist" groups, I found his arguments convincing, especially in regards to the pervasiveness of the positivistic, supremely rational curriculum of Western universities and the devaluing of the humanities.
We need more thinkers and researchers like Chase who are willing to make us question our kneejerk reactions to men who make us as uncomfortable as Kaczynski.
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Also, excellent insight into the darker side of the field of psychology and its alliance with the CIA (no, I'm not making that up and I'm not a conspiracy theorist- read it for yourself). What started out as a well-intended war effort during WWII morphed into some Cold War weirdness and breaches of the Nuremberg code.

Chase has researched and contextualized all angles of not only Kaczynski, but so many other troubling issues as well. Hard to sum it all up; but the phrase "the origins of modern terrorism" is a good way to put it, as does the subtitle.

The chapters on Henry Murray were so fascinating; more so even than those about TK himself. This was basically the man who helped invent personality tests you may have taken to get jobs, and man, was he twisted. One of his former friends even implies he may've drowned his mistress after having an S&M affair in which he, the dom, wore drag and explored his dark side, ostensibly to 'study' interpersonal relationships. He basically had no professional boundaries. Also, this research sort of opened the door to the American Psychological Association being consulted for torture techniques in Guantanamo. So even though the Unabomber is no longer in the limelight, these issues still matter.

Very readable, very informative.

Post-script: I'd have to agree with another reviewer who criticised Chase's all-encompassing theories on modern terrorism and all of the different factions/causes. Kaczynski really doesn't quite fit in so well as Chase asserts; the chapters on his involvement with Henry Murray's shattering (to TK) psychology experiments (which violated informed consent codes) really put TK into a different category, psychologically.
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No book I have read recently has made me think more and want to read more. I knew little or nothing about the rise of General Ed, the rationale behind it, Truman's involvement and nothing about Murray, his experiments and the extent of government involvement with the the various elite universities in various departments. For those who blame Obama for everything related to our government spying on us...this should be compelling reading. This ain't a new phenomenon guys!! Been going on for decades.

I found the book appalling and enthralling. Made me want to re-read Conrad and Eugene O'Neill. Is Kaczynki right...yes...in many ways..are his methods totally unacceptable...and does he belong where he is...without question. Chase's picture of Kaczynski ...made so compelling by his pathetic self pitying letters to his family really flesh out this man...brilliant, immature and violent..but not crazy...just desperately neurotic. This is a sad book and made me very reflective about how I think...and how I do not want to think. Apartness from other human beings and where that can take me even within my own family. The importance of contemplation before action is taken.

Chase's comments about where intellect without morality can lead us are fascinating and that many of the tyrants of the 20th century were incredibly bright...Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and those tried at Nuremberg...yet they killed over 100 million. ..made me think about how I can dehumanize those I disagree with.....It is easy to demonize our opponents and see them as less than human and expendable. Again...I cannot recommend this book more highly.

Thank you Dr. Chase...I loved the book!!

Dianne Gardner
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