‘Terror begets terror, and fear begets fear’

The cover of the April 15, 1996, issue of Time magazine, which focused on then-Unabomber suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski, referred to the Berkeley math professor-turned-recluse as “Mad Genius.”

Time began what it referred to as a Special Report with the words, “The Power of Paranoia.” Below a “keyhole” containing a picture of Kaczynski was the following message and question: “Terror begets terror, fear begets fear — until the hysteria exhausts itself. Have we reached the end of this cycle?”

The big question, as last week drew to a close, was whether the spate of pipe bombs delivered to prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and cable news network CNN, would be followed by others in the days to come, especially during the rest of the time leading up to the nation’s Nov. 6 mid-term election.

The arrest of a Florida man, Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, on Friday didn’t totally negate that question.

Another question was — and remains — whether the situation that began with the delivery of one of the devices to the New York compound of liberal billionaire and major contributor to Democratic causes George Soros would spawn copycat incidents, even, perhaps, some directed toward Republicans.

But the words “mad genius” don’t fit the perpetrator — or even, possibly, perpetrators — of what was directed last week toward not only prominent figures on the political left but, in fact, the nation as a whole. This situation is an example of domestic terrorism born amid a vitriolic political atmosphere — amid a nation deeply divided — when even the basic Constitution-given rights of free speech and freedom of the press are at risk.

Theodore Kaczynski, who, between 1978 and 1995, killed three people and injured 23 others in his nationwide bombing campaign, engaged in a misguided and doomed-to-fail-from-the-start attempt to trigger a revolution as part of his opposition to industrialization. He targeted people involved with modern technology.

The aim of the person or persons responsible for the pipe bombs that will keep America on edge for who-knows-how-long — Sayoc must be presumed innocent until proven guilty — is to undermine the political process that is the framework of this nation.

This new problem holds the prospect for a more precarious impact on America than what was the outlook for Kaczynski’s misguided endeavor. If the basic freedoms under which this nation was founded cannot operate without fear, this nation is doomed to a troubling future that will be difficult to repair.

During the time when Kaczynski was inflicting his horrific agenda of death and injury, some people referred to the then-unknown bomber as “coward.” Even Time’s April 1996 Unabomber report, which included an interview with one of Kaczynski’s surviving victims, used the description “evil coward.”

Some people today are using “coward” to describe the person or persons responsible for the bombs that began being delivered last week. However, “coward,” defined as “one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity,” is not the right definition for anyone responsible for the pipe bombs in question.

In a 35,000-word self-described “manifesto” crafted by Kaczynski, “Industrial Society and Its Future,” Kaczynski argued that his bombings were extreme but necessary to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom and dignity by modern technologies. Many Americans are wondering what excuses about justification and motivation will emerge from Sayoc or others regarding the current unfortunate drama.

What must be remembered, going forward, is that, indeed, terror begets terror and fear begets fear. Every American must do his or her part to end the nation’s current, dangerous divisiveness.

— The Altoona Mirror