Binge-watching “Manhunt: Unabomber” got me thinking today…

I downloaded the series a few weeks ago (legally) and finally had a full day at home to take care of some filing and paperwork, so I started the series over and watched every episode (I only caught the first two on TV before my work hours went wonky).

I thought it was an interesting series. I was a kid still when the Unabomber was picked up and didn’t know squat about the case. It was largely a non-factor in my life. But I’ve been fascinated by true crime since community college, because true stories are always stranger than fiction.

Manhunt: Unabomber made me think about the overall message Kaczynski was trying to provide while killing people. Yes, I know this is a TV miniseries, and as such there were creative liberties taken to streamline or bias the show. No, I have not read the Unabomber’s Manifesto–yet.

All in all, I haven’t looked at anything but a few articles that touched on events in Kaczynski’s life and the cries of mental illness that went out to describe him.

When the final episode about the trial occurred, I felt a helluva lot of sympathy for Kaczynski, if only because his own defense team and family were trying to paint him as insane to save his life (at least, according to him and Fitzgerald, the agent the series followed most).

Paul Bettany as Kaczynski. Damn good actors picked for this series.

Again, I haven’t read the manifesto, but that scene of him wanting to fire his lawyers and defend himself made me want to crack open some law books for the first time and see how the hell the events played out as they did. I wanted to look for ethical breaches and loopholes, and changes to the laws since. That private courtroom scene startled me and I wanted to know more.

Now, according to many of those who did read his manifesto (and weren’t in law enforcement), he was not insane. Different, anti-social, isolated, not empathetic, and out of touch, maybe…but I don’t think that means insane either.

Paul Bettany as Kaczynski and Sam Worthington as Fitzgerald at their last face-to-face discussion.

There was a moment in the series when Fitz comes into the SAC’s meeting to finally reveal Kaczynski. Fitz gives a rough bio, and describes the man’s brilliance, mentioning that a paper he wrote on mathematics was so ahead of its time and so advanced that only a handful of mathematicians could understand it.

The guy was smart, just not people-smart (so to speak). He had a grudge, a simmering-festering hatred of technology and science, and he took it to extremes, but I can’t say he was insane as far as his basic ideas on paper go.

Killing people to make his point, though? That’s the part I don’t get…and maybe that’s where the most questions are for me regarding his sanity. His basic philosophy and how he felt about technology make sense to me.

So far.

Again, I haven’t read the manifesto–yet.

He left his signature at each crime scene, and perfected his methods. But never once did he seem to say why he picked that particular person to be injured or killed by his bombs.

I do think he was a murderer, a bomber that wanted to hurt and kill people. Otherwise, if it was all about proving a point, why didn’t he explain himself better, sooner, in his writings? I mean, the guy was a helluva prolific letter writer, and has been even from prison. Writing is how he expressed himself.

Then again, considering how few people seemed to understand him when he was younger, maybe he thought they wouldn’t understand the manifesto well enough. But they seemed to.

Look on Goodreads. The manifesto gets some good reviews there.

I do find Kaczynski a puzzle, and find it funny that when it came to Fitz’s personal life in Manhunt: Unabomber, I didn’t have much sympathy for him when his personal life started to fall apart. I felt really odd that I sympathized more with Kaczynski’s character near the end.

Of course, the episode “Ted” did help before the trial episode. Especially with his college experiences (some of which it’s still difficult to get more info on). It was hard to watch that part.

Well, it did make me think about the court system, and society at large with our dependence on technology. Weird how I think the Wachowski Brothers took some of this to heart and made it a central theme in The Matrix Reloaded (but I’m sure others already thought about it–starting about :55 in).

That seems to be the prevailing idea–that the ideas aren’t as original as one might think. It was more the bombing to get the messages across.

Then again, this is 20 years later. With technology expanding so fast and people (like me) bitching about it so much, maybe it’s only a cliche now because we’re all seeing the rat race spilling over the maze and taking off to parts unknown.

Hmm…makes me wonder.

Manifesto first. Question second.

But seriously–I think the miniseries is worth a look… but I’ll be doing more research, because I really don’t know much about the case, the FBI at this time, profiling techniques back then, and the agents involved.

And Kaczynski. Probably the biggest mystery of all.

Because I still don’t quite get it.

But oddly enough, I still don’t think he’s insane.

One thought on “Binge-watching “Manhunt: Unabomber” got me thinking today…

  1. Rachel says:

    Interesting thoughts…I, too, had mixed feelings about Kaczynski and sympathized with him more than Fitz. He killed people and didn’t seem to feel a lot of remorse, but at the same time, he really had been misunderstood his whole life. Definitely worth thinking about… Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

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