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NET DEBATES, CELEBRATES UNABOMBER'S LUDDITE WAYS.

Byline: Edward Rothstein The New York Times

``Man, is this ever weird,'' reads a posting on a Usenet news group that is called ``alt.fan.unabomber.'' ``There is now a news group about the guy who despises technology.''

Weird, indeed. Since the arrest of Theodore John Kaczynski on suspicion of being the Unabomber, related postings and pages on the Internet have grown into a miniature World Wide Web of links. The suspect may have lived in a cabin without any water or electricity, but in cyberspace, he has found a high-tech home.

He has inspired fans (He ``was attacking societal scum . . . guilty for their crimes against humanity.'') and aspiring correspondents (``Write him a sincere note and maybe he would respond,'' one posting says. ``Just be really careful with any replies you receive,'' another cautions.)

His predilection for two-wheeled transportation also has given him wry attention in the rec.bicycles.off-road news group. (``They did show his bike on TV the other day. I didn't see the brand but it was some kind of beater bike, most likely a Trek. It did have bar ends on it, and unsuspended. Can ya believe it?'') Comedy is latent in the suspect's predilection for hunting and his basic diet (``Given the ingredients: fresh-shot snowshoe rabbit, white flour, dried vegetables, and maybe Spam,'' a posting asks, ``what would the dish be?'')

The suspect's past as a mathematician may even inspire new interest in the boundary properties of continuous functions (A Kaczynski bibliography has been posted in the news group sci.math).

And in forums on CompuServe and America Online, debates energetically respond to an editorial in The Weekly Standard about his Luddite celebration of nature: ``If it were fair to blame Rush Limbaugh for Timothy McVeigh,'' the right-wing magazine argues, ``surely the media could find room to blame the Unabomber on Al Gore.''

But on the Net, the Unabomber has a mythic presence. The reasons are not simple. Recall again the manifesto, printed last year and now available on numerous Web sites.

``Primitive man,'' it asserts, ``suffered from less stress and frustration and was better satisfied with his way of life than modern man is.'' The problem is that technology has been a ``disaster for the human race,'' breaking down social order and creating a sense of ``purposelessness.''

In this world of anomie, action must be taken to restore humanity to a ``positive ideal,'' which the Unabomber finds in ``wild nature'' - a world ``independent of human management and free of human interference and control.'' People must become ``peasants or herdsmen or fishermen or hunters.''

``Factories should be destroyed,'' the Unabomber wrote, ``technical books burned.''

Apart from the apocalyptic sentiments, such views are more than 200 years old (beginning before the followers of Ned Ludd became the first Luddites, destroying textile machinery in England). In September, in The Nation, Kirkpatrick Sale chided the Unabomber for his ignorance of this strain of thought, which he traced back to William Blake and Mary Shelley (his essay is reprinted on the Pathfinder Web site).

But the real influence on the Unabomber, if he and Kaczynski are one and the same, may be recent Luddites like Theodore Roszak or Charles A. Reich. Both articulated the Romantic ideals of the counterculture, condemning technology and ``the system,'' during the years when Kaczynski taught mathematics at Berkeley.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 22, 1996
Words:554
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