Professionalism/Anarchist Cookbook

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Anarchist Cookbook
Example alt text
Book Cover
AuthorWilliam Powell
CountryUnited States
PublisherLyle Stuart
Release Date1971

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The Anarchist Cookbook (1971) by William Powell is a book consisting of a collection of instructions on how to create improvised weapons, drugs, and explosives. The book consists of four sections focusing on Drugs, Electronics and Sabotage, Weapons, and Explosives. The book's publication was instantly controversial, with the federal government receiving numerous complaints about the dangers of such a book upon news of its publication being spread in the media. The book has since been tied to numerous bombings, hijackings, and acts of terrorism since 1976, although much of the information in the book is oversimplified or inaccurate. Despite the misinformation, the book continues to have a cult appeal and has inspired many people who have gone on to create other publications or commit illegal acts in its wake.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Conception of Idea and Publication[edit | edit source]

In 1969 at the age of 19, Powell quit his job working at a bookstore in Manhattan to begin writing the collection of instructions, plans, and schematics that would later be known as the Anarchist Cookbook.[1] Powell's primary motivation for creating the text was to create civil unrest in the context of the Vietnam war and counterculture movement of the late 1960s. In the Foreword, Powell writes that the book is for "the silent majority [of the United States]... to protect themselves against the fascists, communists, and capitalists."[2] According to Powell, the majority of information regarding improvised weapons was collected from declassified U.S. military documents that he accessed in the New York public library.[3] There had been incidences of violence between student protesters and the government before the writing of this work, such as violent protests against Dow Chemical at the University of Wisconsin in 1967 and a bombing at Southern Illinois University in May 1968, that may have inspired Powell as to what violent actions could be committed against pro-Vietnam organizations. The book was published in 1971 under controversial publisher Lyle Stuart and has since sold more than 2 million copies.

Modern Day Effects[edit | edit source]

There have been several incidents of violence directed at the masses where the perpetrators took direct instruction from this book, and even more where the perpetrators possibly drew inspiration from the text.[4] The first known incident directly following instructions from the book was a Croatian Nationalist bombing and the hijacking of TWA Flight 355 in 1976 at New York City that killed one and injured others. The most notable linkages are to the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168, the 7 July 2005 London bombings that killed 56, and the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15.

Today with the widespread use of the internet, copies of the Cookbook continue to be circulated, although most of its recipes have since been found to be incorrect or obsolete. Many fans of the book instead say how it was written is more important than the actual content of the book. Many updated works, such as the Anarchist Cookbook 2000, have been created by other authors and published freely on the internet after being inspired by the original Cookbook.

Implications[edit | edit source]

Many advocates against the book cite it as inspiring and providing direction to individuals trying to carry out acts of terrorism and violence against the general public and the state. The Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) determined for speech to be protected in the United States, it could not incite "imminent lawless action."
Other documents have also been inspired by the Anarchist Cookbook. In 2010, a Texas court described the book More Forbidden Knowledge as "an Anarchist Cookbook."[5] Jolly Roger's cookbook is a website that lists text files for many "recipes" similar to those in the Anarchist Cookbook.[6] Kurt Saxon wrote The Poor Man's James Bond as a survivalist's guide to improvised weaponry, though with apparent political roots.[7][8]

An Ethical Dilemma[edit | edit source]

The creation of a book with clear instructions on how to create improvised weaponry is controversial in nature, with the debate centralized on whether freedom of the press should protect texts with the potential to cause great harm to people. Powell expressed extreme regret after writing the book, asking for it to be taken out of print just 5 years after its first pressing.[9] The rights for the book have since changed publishers many times, and the current owner is Billy Blann of Delta Press, who bought the rights in 2002 and claims it was his company's best-seller as of 2013.[10] As an advocate for a free press, Blann stated: "I just don’t think we need to start banning books in America."
The Anarchist Cookbook also raises questions about revoking your own published material for any reason, even if not controversial. Should an author be able to show remorse for their work and take it back? This is referenced in legal copyright documents as a "termination of transfer" under certain circumstances.[11] However, these laws have strict deadlines, with some stating that attempting to terminate late is "a fatal mistake under the law."[12] This can effectively render termination impossible for authors who miss deadlines, raising ethical questions about how termination should be handled in copyright.

Participants[edit | edit source]

William Powell[edit | edit source]

Author of the infamous book, Powell was frustrated and angered at the time of writing. As stated in the book, “If an individual feels strongly enough about something to do something about it, then he shouldn’t prostitute himself by doing something symbolic. He should get out and do something real.” However, by 1976 Powell had changed his tune, expressing deep regret for writing the book: “...the basic premise behind the Cookbook is profoundly flawed.”[1] Repercussions from the book's publication, and Powell's subsequent disavowal of its content, were the subject of the 2016 documentary film American Anarchist by Charlie Siskel. In the film, William Powell explains in depth his thoughts on the book and the consequences it had in his life. [13] In a note Powell wrote sent to vendors of the book he states, “The book, in many respects, was a misguided prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight a war that I did not believe in.” [14]

U.S. Government[edit | edit source]

The release of the book impelled a response from the U.S. Government. It was immediately vetted by the Department of Justice, the White House, and most intensely by the FBI. Upon publication, the FBI described the book as "one of the crudest, low-brow, paranoiac writing efforts ever attempted". However, the FBI concluded it could not be regulated as it was published through mass media. It was ruled the book does not incite "forcible resistance to any law of the United States" and is therefore protected under the First Amendment. In 2010 the FBI released most of their investigative file to the public. [15]

Other Anarchists[edit | edit source]

Advocates of anarchism dispute the association of the book with anarchist political philosophy. The anarchist collective CrimethInc. says it was, "not composed or released by anarchists, not derived from anarchist practice, not intended to promote freedom and autonomy or challenge repressive power – and was barely a cookbook, as most of the recipes in it are notoriously unreliable”.[16] This prompted anarchist groups to write their own "cookbooks" in an attempt to spread their true gospel. In 2001, Terrance Brown a British businessman tried to push his agenda by creating, and by selling copies of his derivative work, titled Anarchist Cookbook 2000.

The Media[edit | edit source]

As the source of news and stories regarding important or controversial topics, upon the book's release, the media, specifically newspapers, ran stories on its contents and the ethical conundrum surrounding it. Coinciding with the rise of the internet in the early 1990s, the book was copied and made available as text documents online [17] through Usenet and FTP sites hosted in academic institutions. Again the media spread the message of how the text was easily accessible and the influence it may have had with terrorists, criminals, and experimental teenagers. Powell's passing in 2016 received little media coverage until the release of American Anarchist, which was released a few months after his death.

Survival of Other Records[edit | edit source]

Justine Sacco and Social Media[edit | edit source]

Social media gives everyone access to an audience allowing written records to survive. On December 20, 2014, Justine Sacco tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”[18] The racist Tweet was met with controversy, ending with her being fired from her job. Sacco apologized to Cape Argus, a South African newspaper, stating "Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet."[19] Despite the apology, images, and records of the Tweet remain available.

Christian Picciolini and Music[edit | edit source]

Music is a particularly influential realm that could be left out of the creator's control. Christian Picciolini is a former white supremacist who devoted his life to renouncing his past. [20] This led him to write and perform "racist music that found its way to the internet" and partially inspire Dylann Roof, the one behind the Charleston church shooting.[21] This was beyond Picciolini's control, and, despite his efforts to denounce his past self, the music can be found free on Youtube.[22]

Voting Records[edit | edit source]

Transparency in politics leads voting records to remain public, even after politicians retract their past. GovTrack is a website which "shows the outcome of all recorded votes on the Senate floor and House floor,"[23] among other methods of getting politician's voting records. Access to records inspires many to write articles about politician's past, such as Kyle James Lee, who wrote about "The Long List of Joe Biden’s Terrible Record."[24] Many believe this political transparency to be good, though some disagree, such as Andrea Mattozzi and Antonio Merlo, who claimed: "Our results suggest that enhancing the transparency of politics may not be a desirable thing to do."[25]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The Anarchist Cookbook is a concrete example of what professionals face every day with any publication. The book partially inspired many heinous acts and outlived the maker's desire to remove it from the shelves. This is prominent in professional life, with any written records distributed throughout a company, or through social media, but often less dire. Learning from The Anarchist Cookbook could help potential creators not have their work used for purposes they later deem destructive. There will always be more incidents of people making unfortunate decisions they end up regretting, this casebook can be updated in the future to include more examples of these events and how the introduction of these materials affects people.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b Powell, William (2013-12-13). "I wrote the Anarchist Cookbook in 1969. Now I see its premise as flawed".
  2. Powell, W., & Bergman, P. M. (2012). The Anarchist Cookbook. Snowball Publishing, C.
  3. Ban my bombers' guide, says author. The Guardian (2000)
  4. Sorry About All the Bombs, Newsweek (2011)
  5. Ellis v. State of Texas (2011)
  6. Collection of Jolly Roger's Works
  7. The Poor Man's James Bond (1991)
  8. Kurt Saxon Bio
  9. Why the author of The Anarchist Cookbook wants it taken off the shelves, The Guardian (2013)
  10. After latest shooting, murder manual author calls for book to be taken 'immediately' out of print, NBC News, (2013)
  11. 17 U.S. Code § 304.
  12. Termination of Book & Music Publishing Copyright Contracts
  13. "American Anarchist Reviews". Metacritic.
  14. Hinderaker (2013-12-17). "Bombs and the First Amendment: The Anarchist Cookbook". Powerline. {{cite web}}: Unknown parameter |First= ignored (|first= suggested) (help)
  15. "FBI Investigation" (PDF). FBI. 1971–1999.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: date format (link)
  16. The Guardian, September 2004, as quoted at CWC Books: Recipes For Disaster
  17. Sankin, Aaron (2015-03-22). "The Kernel".
  18. How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life, New York Times, (2015)
  19. Racist Aids tweet: I am ashamed, IOL, (2013)
  20. Christian Piccolini Bio,
  21. Christian Piccolini, TED Talks,
  22. White American Youth, Walk Alone
  23. Voting Records (2020).
  24. Lee, K. J. (2019, June 4). The Long List of Joe Biden's Terrible Record.
  25. Mattozzi, A., & Merlo, A. M. (2007). The Transparency of Politics and the Quality of Politicians. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.961843

Further Reading[edit | edit source]