Whistling Past Social Services

Someday parapsychologists will finally come to an agreement that behind every great ghost there is a screwed up family.  Many outside the world of ghost theory already know that poltergeists have typically centered on pubescent teenage girls (this is where Spielberg’s half-great/half-crappy movie gets it so wrong—all those special effects would have been following the older daughter around, not sweet little Carol Anne).  That younger teenage daughters can be the locus of intense emotional disruption and familial trauma is a well-known fact, not only to psychics, but to social workers and Disney’s marketing division as well. 
Parapsychologists also place charged emotional energy at the center of hauntings  (a ghost or ghosts associated with a specific location, as opposed to the poltergeist’s attachment to a specific individual).  The current theory is that moments of intense emotional trauma (like being decapitated in a lonely dungeon or drowning on your way to the prom) leave behind a psychic trace that “sensitives” are capable of perceiving.  In fact, your house could be haunted right now and you don’t even know it because, well, you might be a little slow on the psi-uptake.  
Even if ghosts don’t actually exist, the idea of the “sensitive” may not be too far from whatever “truth” can be extracted from the long tortured history of parapsychology.   Not “sensitive” as in actually seeing into another dimensional reality, but “sensitive” as in pathologically attuned to the emotional dynamics of family tensions.  In this respect, perhaps psychoanalysis and parapsychology will one day merge (as Freud seemingly thought they might) and the ghost can take its rightful place as the roving ambassador of the unconscious. 

One television series that gets this, I think, is the Discovery Channel’s program, A Haunting.  I don’t know when this show started or how far it is into its run, but I do know that it features some of the best family melodrama currently on television.  Each hour-long episode dramatizes the purportedly “true story” of a recent haunting, mixing an America's Most Wanted quality re-enactment with talking-head interviews featuring the original “hauntees.”
For the most part the show delivers the promised paranormal goods—strange footsteps are heard, ectoplasm slathers about, table settings come to a mysterious end.  Every so often, for good measure, a demon pops up to appease the Christian demographic.  And yet at the same time, each episode seems to invite the audience to speculate that the real problem is less a supernatural entity than a super-crazy member of the family.  It is difficult to say with any certainty if this internal critique is a subtle trick of style and narration, or if instead it is a function of the social milieu that typically generates good ghost material.  If the former, kudos to the Discovery Channel for such a surprisingly nuanced production.  If the latter, ghosts appear to be most common in homes teetering on the brink of a restraining order.

The episode that first caught my attention concerned an Ohio family that moved into a home built on the grounds of what used to be a haunted schoolhouse.  When mom finds the headmaster’s gravestone out in the front yard behind some bushes, she decides to learn all she can about the occult. Already the producers signal to us that all the subsequent ghosts in this story could well be the product of her supernatural hypochondria, especially when her husband—in an excellent reversal of Medium—keeps telling her to put away her camera-ready black-leather pentagram book so he can get some sleep!
A few unimpressive mysteries unfold around the house as family tensions rise between mom, son, and step-father.  Then one night, when the boy is about twelve and home alone, he sees a kitchen chair move by itself and a bloody-faced ghoul staring through the front window.  Now, I would submit to you that this is just a normal part of growing up.  Quite frankly, are there any kids who did NOT on occasion see the furniture move around some or a bloody-faced ghoul prowling the back yard? Rather than explain the tricks of fear and imagination to her child, however, Mom sees this as a great chance to show off all the occult knowledge she’s accumulated, so she takes son and husband outside and shows them the headmaster’s gravestone for the first time.
Divorce soon follows, and in the next segment Occulto-Mom takes her son—now in his teens—to live in a small town in Texas.  She doesn’t have much money, so they have to rent the cheapest place she can find.  Walking through their dilapidated house after signing the lease, they pull up the old carpet in the boy’s bedroom to discover---a giant pentagram etched into the floor!  Incredibly, they decide to live there anyway; in fact, Mom takes this as an omen that she should start studying the occult again (as opposed to Texas contract law).
So Mom becomes a witch, a Wiccan to be exact.  Soon she’s taken over the pentagram suite so that she can burn her mystic candles and mumble Latin praise to various nature deities. She's very protective of her son, and devastated when he chooses to enlist in the Air Force to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as he graduates. 
He’s gone for seven years, and when he returns after the commercial break, he finds Mom is even more into witchcraft than ever before.  That night, sleeping in his old bedroom (which is now tastefully adorned with pictures of a frolicking Pan), he awakes to a vengeful attack of “sprites” (little spots of light added in post that dance around the room, creating a sort of Studio 54 of the Damned).  Then his Mom appears to him as a phantasm in a medieval looking robe and points at him menacingly (as people in medieval robes are wont to do).  He decides to leave home again the next day when he discovers that mom has nailed his crucifix on a freshly drawn pentagram…over his bed!

Mom finally learns her lesson during an invocation of Isis when the “sprites” return as the opening act for some much scarier demons.  To her credit, the real Mom (in one of the interview clips) basically admits she didn’t know what the hell she was doing, and that her attempts at a “protective spell” for her son probably opened the doors for something much darker and more terrifying—like sprites, demons, and a 7-year stint in the Air Force.
Every episode I’ve seen has a similar dynamic.Weird things happen, but later, you can’t help but wonder which axis of repressed family trauma is the real engine for all the flying cutlery (is it a coincidence that both poltergeists and enraged wives like to throw frying pans?).
I have to admit I’m enjoying the melodrama of A Haunting more than the scripted adventures of Mad Men.  Like all engaging reality television, A Haunting is fake enough to not get boring, but retains a whiff of the real just strong enough to make you marvel--not over the possibility of the supernatural—but at the endless fungibility of the dysfunctional family.  You tune in for the ghosts, but leave wondering what it would be like to grow up in east Texas with a mom who goes around town clad head-to-toe in black and working a 5-inch pentagram around her neck.  
Sure, Don Draper is all mysterious and brooding, and he’s had some affairs and done a bunch of other stuff I’ve already seen on TV a million times—but he’s no competition for the sexually frustrated woman who, in another episode of A Haunting, buys a photo of a dead Vietnam veteran at a garage sale, hangs it over her bed, and then begins to “feel” his presence in the home—a delusion that later begins to envelop her daughters as well.  That I haven't seen, nor am I likely to ever again no matter how much television I watch.  

Can You Help Me Occupy My Brain?


Rock lore has it that the heaviest of heavy bands in the 1970s, outfits like Hawkwind, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath, actively sought in concert to play something called “the brown note.”  The dream was that if you played a note so low in frequency (under 20hz) and so loud in volume (over 100db), it would trigger an involuntary spasm in the G.I. tracts of the audience, forcing a spontaneous mass crap event.  So powerful is the “brown note” that it would quite literally “shake the shit” right out of anyone within its blast range.
This legend has survived for years among admiring teenage boys (there’s even a South Park about it), but why exactly a band would want to make an audience shit its pants in a live venue remains unclear.  Sure, it would be awesome. No one doubts that.  Maybe the goal was to signal absolute contempt for the pimply pot-heads who forced you to play “Iron Man” every night.  But it doesn’t seem like the best long-term strategy for future ticket and record sales, especially if large numbers of your shit-encrusted fans were to die off from the addition of even more pathogens to the floor of Madison Square Garden. 
Happily for those dedicated to sonic warfare who cannot afford a city block of Marshall amps, there are other ways to annoy and/or incapacitate those around you with the crippling power of sound.  For just under $20 and the price of a couple batteries, several websites will sell you a particularly nasty little unit dubbed “The Mind Molester.”  Here’s how it works (as described by its proud makers at Shomer-Tec) 

The Mind Molester is an instrument of creative electronic harassment. It's an electronic audio device that can drive your victims nuts trying to figure out what it is and where it's at. You can drive somebody crazy in their own house or disrupt an entire office. They will become obsessed, awaiting the next sound burst to try to determine its location, completely disrupting their normal activities. Due to the duration, frequency, and sound characteristics, it's a very difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating task to locate the unit. And even if found, they'll have no idea what it is (great to set off that paranoid subject's imagination) [all spelling and grammatical errors courtesy of Shomer-Tec]
They go on to boast that the device emits an intermittent chirp at around 92db  (which is about the same level as a blender or lawnmower).  Even more diabolical, there is a new and improved version of the Mind Molester with a chip that makes its activation completely random.  In other words, while the first generation simply chirped continuously every four minutes so that it might, after a long and grueling search, at last be uncovered, the new version varies the duration between chirps and occasionally even goes into sleep mode.  It quite possibly could take days, weeks, or even months to finally discover its location.
What is particularly interesting about the Mind Molester is the various ways it is marketed on the web.  One site promotes it as the ultimate office gag:
For those of you who work in an office, sitting behind a desk all day or being stowed away in a cubicle can probably get a little mundane and monotonous. So liven up your office space and start a fun game of hide-and-seek with your co-workers with the Mind Molester. Depending on the people you work with, this creative little device will either be a fun practical joke or a way to get back at your most annoying colleagues.
The key variable here, obviously, is the phrase “depending on the people you work with.”  Either they will all merrily join in the quest, glad to have a few moments of group diversion before shuffling back to their holding pens, or they will gleefully set up a tribunal to apprehend and fire the idiot who would be so mentally unbalanced as to think such a stunt was funny. Maybe its meant as a final passive-aggressive gesture for Dilbert to leave behind before hanging himself in the copy room.  
Another site is more honest in their pitch: use the Mind Molester to extract sweet, sweet revenge.  Hate someone with a passion but a little too chickenshit for a direct confrontation?  Why not leave behind a Mind Molester next time you go over for a visit?   Turns out there are a whole bunch of websites dedicated to moving “revenge” merchandise.  In addition to the Mind Molester, Janders Inc. will sell you something called “Dead Ringer.”  You hook this into a person’s landline and it blocks the phone from ringing (perhaps more a blessing than revenge, actually).  Another device turns any outgoing phone call into a wrong number—even when you call the phone company to schedule a repair!
Remember when magazines used to sell plastic vomit as a practical joke?  In the new world of X-treme joking/revenge, there is now apparently a product called “Vomit Fluid.”  You pour it into someone’s drink and he vomits.  Simple, elegant, and unambiguous in its message: "I really, really hate you and wish you were dead;" or alternately, "Welcome to Tau Kappa Epsilon, dude!"  “Pump-a-dump,” meanwhile is an aerosol described as a “military grade putricant” that produces the “incredibly vile stench of human waste material” (see the Brown note, above).  And for the real a-hole, there is something called “Liquid Key Scratch,” described as having “an insatiable appetite for automobile paint.”
If the sight of your arch enemy spontaneously retching in his hopelessly scratched septic tank on wheels isn’t enough for you, there’s still room to amp it up a bit with an even more powerful weapon: Sonic Nausea.  Again, the good people at Shomer-Tec:

 Sonic Nausea is a small electronic device which can really turn one's stomach. It generates a unique combination of ultra-high frequency soundwaves which soon leads most in its vicinity to queasiness. It can also cause headaches, intense irritation, sweating, imbalance, nausea, or even vomiting. Hiding this device in your inconsiderate neighbor's house might put an end to their late-night parties. The abusive bureaucrat's office, the executive lunchroom... the possibilities are endless for that small portion of inventive payback.
Still not getting it done?  The arms race of dickery continues at just under $90 for Super Sonic Nausea, said to be capable of “disrupting and dispersing” speeches, demonstrations, and other mass gatherings.  And there you have it.  What began as a small dispute over your neighbor’s yapping Shitz Zsu has now escalated into Soviet crowd control protocols.  That will teach the Johnstons not to bring Mr. Snickers to the next Home Owners Association meeting!

Which leads to a final community interested in Mind Molesting technologies--the paranoid. Not (necessarily) the brown-note Sabbath paranoid, but the clinically psychotic paranoid.  As many Internet commentators have noted, the Web has allowed previously alienated and pathologically isolated individuals (like white supremacists and Carson Daly fans) to find one another on the Net.  This includes many individuals who believe the government continually bombards them with microwaves, secret beams, and other targeted energies.  The Mind Molester's annoying little chirps might seem like small potatoes in such a universe--but that's just the point.  Most of these individuals believe the campaign against them involves more than just one "Super-technology," maintaining instead that their tormentors resort to all manner of small, fleeting attacks made day after day in an effort to produce gradual insanity.  So the Mind Molester is a big concern for them.  And why wouldn't it be? As one merchant writes, The Mind Molester 
is actually a very affordable product, since it sells for around 20 US dollars, which is indeed a very small sum to pay for driving a room full of people crazy. However, be advised, using this gizmo might prove to be dangerous for some, especially those with a history of mental disorders."
 Think about that before you hide one behind the water cooler.  
 

They Had a Dream They'd Go Traveling Together...


Been thinking a lot about hippies lately, and not because of Ang Lee’s new contribution to the Woodstock nostalgia industry.  I'm sure it was great to be all muddy and stoned and such, but like most people in the "close-but-no-cigar" boomer generation, I have little interest in the lore of flower power.  By the time I was a teenager, that philosophy had pretty much devolved into contemplating interminable prog-rock jams while staring holes through a Roger Dean poster. Instead, I've always preferred the other hippies--the dirty, sick, twisted, perverted hippies who never properly adjusted to their fling with repressive desublimation.  You know, the ones who spent summers of love sprawling around the Spahn Ranch or on ABC Friday night television.
First of all, as some may know, former Manson A-Teamer Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme got sprung from prison last week. “Squeaky” did 34 years for pointing an empty chamber at President Gerald Ford in 1975.  Popular lore has it that she was trying to get Manson out of jail, but in fact she was actually hoping to raise awareness about Manson’s main cause after his imprisonment: ATWA (Air, Trees, Water, Animals).  Yes, recycling hybrid driver, Charlie went “green” way back, and Squeaky thought political assassination might be the best way to advance his agenda.  
Then, over the weekend, I finally had a chance to see Dan Graham’s 1984 film, Rock My Religion.  Here’s how MoMA described this piece at a recent screening:

With the "reeling and rocking" of religious revivals as his point of departure, Graham analyzes the emergence of rock music as religion among teenage consumers in the isolated milieu of 1950s suburbia. The music and philosophy of Patti Smith, who made explicit the trope that rock is religion, are his focus. This complex collage of text, film footage, and performance is a compelling theoretical essay on the ideological codes and historical contexts that gave rise to the cultural phenomenon of rock and roll.
All and all, it’s a fascinating film, maybe more so for what it says about the early 1980s (and the hypnotizing power of Patti Smith over all her cohorts) than for what it says about the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Although it occasionally takes on the tone of Craig Baldwin’s super conspiracy riff, Tribulation 99, the film does make a compelling argument for the post-war transmigration of religious ecstasy into the profane body of the writhing suburban teenager—who, as various social historians have argued, was ready for the more immediate pleasures that come with secularization, disposable income, and birth control. 
When Graham gets to the late ‘60s, the argument takes a more (anti-)Oedipal turn.  Whether Graham had actually read Deleuze and Guattari going into the project, I don’t know, but his thesis certainly resonates with that particular theoretical moment.  The hippies, he argues, created erotic economies that challenged Oedipal structures that had dominated familial/sexual life since the nation’s founding.  "Free love” was thus meant to be truly free, as in liberated from the financial and reproductive economies of American Puritanism.  Of course, one could say Freud had the last laugh here, as most of these free spirits eventually went running back to good old Oedipus, either by getting married or--in the case of Squeaky's "family"--by embracing the truly psychotic Name of all Fathers: Manson, the Son of Man. 
Which takes us, finally, to a third moment in my recent encounters with the hippie resurrection.  After the Graham screening, I finished reading my fourth Partridge Family novel (The Ghost of Graveyard Hill--1971).  The book is one of seventeen novelizations based on the ABC television series that ran from 1970 to 1974.  For those somehow unfamiliar with this benchmark of bubblegum counter-culture, the Partridge Family followed the adventures of a widow and her five kids as they tried to balance everyday home life with their rising career as America's hottest new pop sensation.  Mostly it became a vehicle for David Cassidy, who along with Donny Osmond, Bobby Sherman, and a certain Michael Jackson, became top teen idols of the early '70s.  


The Partridge Family is fascinating for a number of reasons, many of which have already been discussed in Aniko Bodroghkozy’s Groove Tube, the definitive history of hippicus televisionicus.  Reading this novelization in the wake of Graham’s film, however, made me rethink just how truly strange this show actually was. 
Were The Partridge Family hippies?  Maybe in the same way “Jesus Freaks” of the ‘70s were hippies (for those who have never met a true Jesus Freak, these were generally young men with long hair and fringed buckskin jackets who trafficked in a groovy edition of the New Testament that was "cool" with rock, pot, and Christ).  Like other hippies, the Partridges drove around in a type of pseudo-psychedelic bus and played “rock” music of some ilk.  Eerily, this is also how Manson got his start, commandeering an old school bus to cruise up and down the California coast serenading teenage runaways.  And of course, both were families with musical ambitions--one suburban, fatherless, and climbing the charts,  the other itinerant, patriarchal, and apparently ready to murder double-crossing record producers.  
If Graham sees Oedipal “Dad” as disappearing with the hippies so that they might become more freely “perverse,” and Manson came to be Father as a return-of-the-repressed (often telling his conquests to think of their Dads while having sex with him), the Partridge clan are some wounded third term in this Oedipal wasteland.  Bio-Dad is gone and Rueben Kincaid doesn’t count (especially in the novels—he is completely absent in the Ghost of Graveyard Hill), leaving behind the asexual matriarchy of Shirley and the kids.  
The only episode I remember with any clarity is the one in which the family makes a “wrong turn” in Detroit and Danny Bonaduce ends up joining the Black Panthers, which is fairly atypical.  More often the show revolved around various members wanting to quit the band, or a skunk getting loose in the bus, or an ill-fated hamster breeding scheme, or Laurie dating a guy named “Snake,” and so on. 

The novels, however, are relentlessly gothic in their approach (again, based on the 4 of 17 I’ve read—but titles like The Haunted Hall, Marked for Terror, and The Phantom of the Rock Concert suggest this was the favored treatment throughout the series).  The Ghost of Graveyard Hill seems fairly typical.  The Partridges try to cross the desert at night and end up stranded in a Nevada ghost town. Gradually they begin to suspect they are not alone.  They feel like they are being watched (and they are…by counterfeiters!), a mysterious portrait of Shirley appears in an abandoned hotel room (“who drew this?” they wonder), and when Kitty or Cathy or Tracy or whoever the little girl in the family is gets lost in the desert, she is brought back to camp by a mysterious Boo Radley character (just like Scout!)  There’s always the hope it will turn into The Hills Have Eyes and someone will at least cannibalize the drummer (they did have two, the first kid got fired after season one), but sadly, everything basically turns out okay in the end. 
The gothic slant in TV novelizations of this era is worthy of investigation. The Partridge Family was not alone in this respect—many novelizations of the period take a similar approach.  Even That Girl had a brief fling with her own Heathcliff (during a Don-less summer in Maine).  Part of it may simply have been an attempt to piggyback on the success of the gothic’s return as a mass-market romance genre in the ‘60s, suggesting that these books were also targeted primarily at teenage girls (in training, perhaps, for darker objects of desire than Keith Partridge). 
That the gothic is a genre of high Oedipal drama is almost a given.  In his book on Gothicism, Richard Davenport-Hines even goes so far as to argue Freud was the last of the great gothic novelists, that psychoanalysis does not give us a paradigm to understand Gothicism so much as the history of Gothicism allows us to understand the birth of psychoanalysis.  I don’t know about all that—but what I can say is The Partridge Family novels are all about weird family secrets—gothic, Freudian and/or both. 
For example: 

David Cassidy (who played Keith Partridge) was the real-life step-son of Shirley Jones (the widowed Mrs. Partridge), allowing a somewhat creepy “you’re my Mom but not my Mom” vibe to inflect the whole franchise.  The fact that Keith and Shirley are the de facto parents of the Partridge clan only reinforces this Oedipal streak, as does the intertextual contamination of knowing Florence Henderson was cougaring Barry "Greg Brady" Williams over at the Paramount lot. 
The Partridges are constantly getting lost in that damn bus.  As they don’t occupy a “horrible house,” a la Hawthorne, they have to go on the road in each installment and find a new one. And like their Radcliffian canine cousin, Scooby Doo, they most often discover that some form of thievery,masquerade, or dispossession is behind all the mysterious shenanigans.  In one rather amazing "family romance" installment, Danny discovers he has a doppleganger who is actually a rich prince in hiding!  Do they switch places?  Do complications resulting from familial confusion and denial ensue?  Yes and yes.  

With no Bio-father in the bus-house, the family works together as a communal "hippie-like" democracy.  The Ghost of Graveyard Hill goes into great detail about this, Shirley boasting (in her interior monologue) that she is proud of how the entire family comes to a consensus about important decisions, and she only rarely has to intervene as the parental authority.  With no father to lay down the law, the entire family thus exists as a kind of incestuous blob.  Keith, Laurie, and Mom all have suitors from time to time, but these relationships are all doomed because of the imperative to collapse back into the family.  
If we are to believe Graham (and others), the boomers slayed Eisenhower so they could go on a ten-year orgy of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. The Partridges, on the other hand, are forever on the road searching for a new father that will allow them to resume their “normal” psycho-sexual development.  Until someone comes along and tells Keith he can’t keep sleeping with Shirley, they are all doomed to sing anemic bubblegum anthems about the vague feelings they have about something they cannot yet fully understand. 
Sound crazy?  Consider the lyrics of their biggest hit, “I Think I Love You.”
I was sleeping and right in the middle of a good dream
Like all at once I wake up from something that keeps knocking at my brain
Before I go insane I hold my pillow to my head
And spring up in my bed screaming out the words I dread
I think I love you
 
This morning I woke up with this feeling
I didn't know how to deal with and so I just decided to myself
I'd hide it to myself and never talk about it
And did not go and shout it when you walked into the room
I think I love you
Now this is one twisted “love” song.  It begins as a dream, drives the dreamer “insane,” and makes him wake up screaming “the words I dread”—I think I love you!  Love/Dread: It’s a feeling he doesn’t know how to “deal with,” so he keeps it secret and never talks about it…until “she” walks into the room.  Now who typically walks into a young boy’s room right after he wakes up?  Racquel Welch?  I think not.
So the sixties, it seems, were somehow about absent and/or pathological fathers; an anti-Oedipal recalibration that allowed most hippies to rock, others to conflate sex and murder, and TV to trap a hippie-lite family in a circuit of infantile repetition. If only it were possible to conduct a commutation test between real history and television history, then we might get to the bottom of these suggestive links.  For example, instead of getting stranded in the Nevada desert, what if the Partridges had stumbled upon the Barker Ranch, Manson’s hide-out in Death Valley?  Would this Father of Fathers have been able to seduce them into his own family (or would only Laurie fall victim to Manson's charms)?  And what if "Squeaky," all those years ago, had ditched Manson to front a bubblegum act, rechanneling the perverse potentiality of hippiedom back into a sitcom of endless displacements?  An impossible exchange? Certainly. And yet some form of conversation between these two families appears to have taken place, if only unconsciously.  
For more on this general topic, see "XXX: Love and Kisses from Charlie" in Moya Luckett and Hilary Radner's excellent anthology, Swinging Single: Representing Sexuality in the 1960s.

Freud v. the Unabomber

With so many of our fellow citizens losing their shit over “death panels” (which are looking increasingly appealing, I must say) and cable news seemingly determined to will an incident of domestic terrorism into being by continuing to reward the senile, demented, and psychotic with exposure on the TV box, the time seems right to resurrect a rather incredible document unearthed by The Smoking Gun a few years back.  Below you can read a book report on Freudian psychology written by none other than Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski.  The Unabomber, as many will recall, killed three and injured twenty-three in a sporadic series of bombings between 1978 (at Northwestern!) and 1995 (in Sacramento). He pled guilty in 1998 and is now serving a life sentence without possibility of parole in Colorado. 
 A former professor of mathematics at UC-Berkeley, Kaczynski has often been described as a “neo-Luddite,” based primarily on his manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future” (which appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post on September 19, 1995), and his decision to live in an off-the-grid cabin in the Montana wilderness.  His bombing campaign was apparently designed to draw attention to prominent players responsible for the evils of technocracy, a social order that he believed increasingly limited individual freedom.

 If you’ve read the Unabomber manifesto, you might recall that it is strange brew of political theory, philosophy, techno-history, and tightly argued ranting—extremely erudite, and in that intellectual precision, all the more unnerving in its association with psycho/sociopathology.  In other words, TK actually makes a few good points here and there, so much so that a number of prominent techno-critics have come to his defense over the past few years (while, of course, NOT endorsing his terrorist tactics).  
One of the oddest aspects of the manifesto, however, is Kaczynski’s extended critique of “Leftism” as a political/social movement, a critique that TK bases—with apparently no sense of irony—on the theoretical foundations of several prominent thinkers typically associated with the Left itself.  The manifesto begins with a simple declaration that the industrial revolution has proven a disaster for humanity (cue Freud and Marx, stage LEFT).  But TK’s anger is not directed at the forces of alienation—psychic or economic—but centers instead on the Left’s ambitions for mass structural reforms (like universal healthcare, no doubt) that threaten that Fountainheady fantasy of absolute individual freedom.  Leftists, Kaczynski argues, are oversocialized: 

The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. [...] Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term "oversocialized" to describe such people.
Later he goes on to indict the creation of “false needs” and “unattainable desires,” even proposing a taxonomy of basic human “drives” and how they cohere in different socio-political orders.  
If this all sounds familiar, it should, as it is an almost uncanny parroting of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents and Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man.  The advent of “civilization” has demanded a certain amount of repression for society to function, and at times this contract can become so extreme as to make individuals and perhaps entire societies “sick” through “surplus repression.” 
All of which makes Kaczynski’s analysis of Freud in the following document all the more amazing.  Go ahead and read it—I’ll wait (click here for link). 
While the entire document is ghoulishly fascinating, the real goldmine begins on page four.  Kaczynski, who apparently believed that scientists often pursue science with no thought as to its larger social consequences, and do so only to satisfy their own unexamined structure of desire, here criticizes psychoanalysis as a “pseudoscience,” noting that it is interested in “emotionally loaded statements that are logically immune to empirical testing!” (“holy shit” exclamation point mine, not TK’s).  Kaczynski then observes that Freud’s famous line, “Reason is not master in its own house,” is “virtually meaningless” as a scientific statement.  
This seems a rather stunning instance of intellectual disassociation.  Collating the manifesto with this book report, Kaczynski appears to believe the following: I think that science and industrialism, born of Enlightenment rationality, have destroyed human freedom by creating a repressive regime of guilt, shame, and misplaced reformism from the Left, and yet I think Freud is a “mystic” and “charlatan” because none of his theories can be subjected to rational, empirical, scientific testing!  And I write this in jail because I believed blowing up certain random people was the best rational (irrational?) strategy to effect revolutionary socio-political change.  The mind reels.  Either TK is the walking epitome of Enlightenment contradiction, or he’s a pataphysical genius. 
Last night I heard a Republican congressman cite Kaczynski as an example of “Left-wing” extremism (because that of course makes “Obama + Hitler moustache” a fair and balanced retort)—but truly, TK really belongs much more to the pre-social contract reactionaries who would address social conflicts by somehow dissolving society itself—that strange world of wild west conservatism where everything would be resolved by self-interested greed, well-placed fences, and superior firepower.  And he lived this ideology as well as anyone could—the decision to live alone in a cabin without electricity or running water is as close as one can come to primal pre-history, that moment just before our humanoid ancestors first crawled out of caves and realized cooperating on growing a few crops together might not be such a bad idea. 
Just goes to show you people believe what they believe without necessarily knowing why they believe anything.  But it also suggests a useful historical/philosophical project.  Just how did U.S. history produce a populace so allergic to the idea of the social, so determined to base a vision of American identity on a community bound together by the idea of non-communal self-reliance? 

What makes Americans true Americans, it would appear, is their inability to imagine social bonds beyond a four-mile radius from their house.  Thus do Town-Hall “deathers” drive on Federal highways, having been organized on the Federally created technology of the Internet, so that they might yell at their Senator not to let the government destroy Medicare with a government-run health-plan (because the latter, as opposed to my own Medicare plan, will be accessed by people I don’t know—which is code for lazy sons-a-bitches signing up for simultaneous abortion/cosmetic surgery procedures: “Rip this one outta me and give me bigger boobs so I can go fornicate a couple more!”).  
Even the argument that a public option will SAVE YOU MONEY by increasing preventive care and unburdening the ER will not work with these people, because Reason truly is not the master in their own house—they are guided by some much more complex and, yes, irrational neurosis about the social as a sinister pathogen constantly looking to infect them with social-ism (remember dipshit Tom DeLay’s vow to stay on a boat during the Republican convention in NYC a few years back?  The very act of being among Other people, “technically” but really only nominally Americans, was just that terrifying in its possibilities for contamination).

 This ideology is so profound, it seems, that even someone as educated as Kaczynski can actually use the Left’s critiques of alienation under industrial capitalism (and beyond) to indict the Left as the source of the same said alienation!  But perhaps this is just the level of insanity it takes to maintain the fiction of a truly autonomous ego, a self deluded into believing it is wholly self-sufficient and thus beyond any form of collective investment: blame our miserable “society” as the product of oversocialization, or side with profit-driven insurance as an ally for maintaining precious “freedom” and “autonomy” against the horrifying maw of a socialist beast. 

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For bonus amusement, be sure not to miss the final paragraph of TK’s report (pp. 5-6) in which, having just trashed Freud, Kaczynski happens to fixate on a particular psychologist’s purported use of “the black whip that hurts,” employed with a mistress for “sexual gratification.” It is offered in the book report, apparently, for no other reason than TK found it interesting to think about and discuss a psychologist with a whip fetish  (It’s in there, I’m not kidding, take a look).