In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, one question seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind: why? While many Americans are beginning to reconsider lax gun laws, Donald Trump has suggested that the real culprit is Islam. This is, much like everything else Donald Trump says, ridiculous and unfounded. In this age of radical terrorism, it’s easy to forget that Al-Qaeda and ISIS weren’t always the only game in town. Humans have been using unauthorized violence to pursue political aims since shortly after the death of Christ, and many of the things that they’ve believed in have had nothing to do with religion at all. But, all of them have been senselessly violent.
The Sicarii were a militant terror group that sought to expel the Romans from 1st century CE Israel. Their name is the plural form of the Latin ‘Sicarius’ – dagger wielder – a word still used today to describe Mexican cartel hitmen: Sicario. The Sicarii, like their name suggests, would conceal short knives beneath their robes and stab targets to death in busy marketplaces and streets before melting back into the crowd. The societal elite – members of the priesthood and other notables – bore the brunt of the Sicarii’s efforts, but they were also known to raid and plunder outlying villages as a means to terrorise Jews who might sympathise with the Roman government. The Sicarii were by no means a small faction: they were responsible for the slaughter of the garrison at Masada, home to fortifications from the 1st Century BCE that the Sicarii promptly repossessed. They also massacred 700 women and children at Ein Gedi in an effort to prevent Roman intergenerational rule. It would seem that the ongoing problems in that area have some precedent.
PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES
Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski was a child prodigy and mathematical genius who was studying at Harvard by the age of sixteen. He would go on to kill three people and wound twenty-three others with bombs he built in a shack in the woods. During his college years, Ted took part in a psychological experiment designed by former OSS (Office of Strategic Services – the predecessor of the CIA) officer, Henry Murray, to test an individual’s ability to withstand interrogation.
It’s theorised that the harsh nature of this experiment further upset an already unbalanced mind: Kaczynski, having graduated from Harvard and moved onto a professorship at Berkeley, abandoned his life in the city and went to live in isolation in Montana. He taught himself how to locate edible plants, track, and construct and use primitive technology like bow drills. But, when the government put a road through one of his favourite places – a relatively inaccessible plateau – he decided to ‘get back at the system’ and began building simple explosives.
These bombs were often made out of wood from the area and sent through the mail. They had limited
efficacy; their low-tech construction often caused problems with ignition. Despite this, Ted – now known by the FBI as ‘UNABOM’ (UNiversity and Airline BOMber) – managed to kill three people with his contraptions. In 1995, 17 years after the start of his campaign, Ted demanded that a major newspaper print his manifesto. Titled Industrial Society and its Future, the 50-page document called for a world-wide revolution against the industrial-technological social system before humanity became too dependent upon it, thus avoiding the consequences of that system collapsing at its peak.
This manifesto would be his undoing, as David Kaczynski quickly recognized his brother’s handwriting and turned him into the FBI.
TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER
The Weather Underground took their name from one of Bob Dylan’s poppier outings: Subterranean Homesick Blues, in which Dylan gargles “You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” Members of the Weather Underground – Weathermen – engaged in street violence, arson, and bombing as a form of radical opposition to the Vietnam War. The Weathermen was the first group to detonate a bomb in the Pentagon, resulting in flooding and the loss of classified information on a bank of computers. A group of Weathermen also nearly killed actor Dustin Hoffman when a bomb they were building in Greenwich Village went off prematurely in the house across from his. Harvey Klehr, a professor of politics and history at Emory University in Atlanta, has said: “The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don’t know what sort of defence that is.”
SEEKING THE SUPREME TRUTH
Aum Shinrikyo was a New Age cult from Japan. They believed in the inevitability of World War Three (predicted to take place in 1997) and used an incredibly dark interpretation of Buddhist belief to justify their murders – by killing somebody who worked against them, they were preventing that individual from accumulating bad karma. Aum Shinrikyo dedicated themselves to spreading the word of the coming apocalypse, and also to surviving it. It is unclear how this desire led the cult to start manufacturing Sarin gas in a Western Australian sheep station for the purpose of unleashing it on Japanese cities, but I’m sure there’s a link. Aum Shinrikyo’s gas attacks claimed dozens of lives and left hundreds injured, and when police searched properties connected with the cult they found drug labs, automatic weapons, several ex-cultists chained in cells, and a Russian military helicopter. The cultists were also responsible for kidnapping and microwaving a man.