American Anarchist (2016) Movie Script

The book, as I read it,
advocates the violent overthrow
of the American government.
I was very fed up
with the government.
But it wasn't...
It wasn't a call to action.
There's no call to action
in the book itself.
How often do you read the book?
I haven't read it
since I wrote it.
I don't have a copy of it.
On the original,
it was just the warning.
"Keep in mind that
the topics written about here
"are illegal
and constitute a threat.
"Also, more importantly,
"almost all the recipes
are dangerous.
"This book is not for
children or morons."
It's true.
It's not a book for children,
and it's not a book for morons.
The book is published in 1970.
You were equipping people
with this knowledge to do what?
I'm... Yeah,
I don't think that...
I don't think I hoped they would do
anything with it, quite frankly.
"This is a book
for anarchists...
"those who feel able
to discipline themselves
"on all the subjects, from drugs
to weapons, to explosives."
I don't think the book
actually says,
"This is what you should do
with this information."
In fact, it doesn't.
"A freedom fighter
can never surrender,
"for if he does, he becomes
part of the problem.
"There is no trial
in times of trouble.
"Just torture and death."
It's not, you know, "let's go
and burn the government down."
I... That's not there.
"The only laws an individual
can truly respect and obey
"are those
he instills in himself.
"There is only one choice
for a real man,
"and that is revolution."
"This country,
with its institutions,
"belongs to the people
who inhabit it.
"Whenever they shall grow weary
of the existing Government,
"they can exercise their
constitutional right of amending it,
"or their revolutionary right
to dismember or overthrow it."
So, what were you advocating?
I think I was advocating
people to think for themselves.
Bomb-making is essentially
open-source information.
And it has been that way
for a long time.
It has been that way
since before the Internet.
In the late 1960s
and early 1970s,
the US went through a period
when we had lots of bombings.
Bombs went off in Southern
California, Northern California,
also in New York City.
From the middle of that morass
emerged this:
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
So many bombings in the '70s,
large dynamite bombs
all over the place.
And we would frequently find
"The Anarchist Cookbook"
at the bomber's house when
we served the search warrants.
"The Anarchist Cookbook"...
A do-it-yourself
bomb-making manual
written in the early 1970s
by William Powell.
Would you
say you are uncomfortable
identifying yourself
as an American?
I'm not comfortable
with an identity
that links me with
one patriotic group.
Over the years, have
you been contacted by the media?
Oh, there was a string
of invitations to interview.
Requests from
BBC, "Newsweek,"
"The Guardian," Charlie Rose...
I didn't know
who Charlie Rose was.
There were several others,
which I turned down.
Kind of out of touch
with the media
and the media culture.
And I've been living
outside the United States
for the last 36 years.
That's where I'm comfortable.
In 1967,
I was 16, 17 years old.
Started to hitchhike
towards New York City.
It was the summer,
Lower East Side.
The pot and psychedelic cult.
They reject square society,
and claim they
can build a better one.
Power to the people!
Power to the people!
It was heady times.
People were left wing,
they were certainly anti-war.
People were very much aware
of the Civil Rights movement.
Feminism was
coming into its own.
You had the beginning
of the Gay Pride Movement.
I was living on 10th Street
just off Avenue A.
It was a railroad apartment.
It had the bathtub
in the kitchen.
I worked at Book Masters,
a chain of bookstores
that really prided itself
on being into
whatever was hip.
Book signings
by Salvador Dal,
Andy Warhol
and the Velvet Underground,
Edward Gorey, Richard Avedon,
the photographer.
It was very exciting.
I can remember a phone call
that I got from the manager,
and he said,
"The police are on the way.
"We've just been busted
for selling 'Zap Comix No. 4'
"and Ed Sanders' 'Fuck You/
a magazine of the arts.'
"Get 'em off the shelf,
the cops are on the way."
At that point in time,
some of the raunchiest
bookstores in the world
were on Times Square.
X-rated pornography shops.
The police couldn't care less.
They were interested
in the counterculture.
So that was a real eye-opener
in terms of the morals squad
of the police department.
I was in the process
of forming opinions
about politics, about myself.
I went to two or three
of the marches on Washington,
the Moratorium.
I felt that I was really involved
in something larger than myself.
A cultural sea-change.
We were going to move
from irresponsible power
in the hands of
a few old white men
to a much fairer society
where people of color
and women had equal opportunity.
Where we didn't make
wars of choice
halfway around the world
that didn't make any sense.
I was increasingly
angry about the war.
The increasing fatalities
on both the Vietnamese side
and the American side,
which I thought was a complete
and utter waste.
Peaceful demonstrations started
to become more and more violent.
The days of putting flowers
into the barrels of rifles
was rapidly coming to an end.
Up until this time, there wasn't
a real radical movement.
There was
a movement of the mouth.
I believe that it's now time for new
tactics in the anti-war movement.
Mass demonstrations
are ineffective
because power is so removed
from the people.
People became impatient.
And demonstrators
came to demonstrations
more and more with the intention
of provoking violence.
So you move from protest
to armed conflict.
Those pigs in Washington,
every time they try
to devour one warrior,
we're gonna take our fists
and put it right into
their fat gut.
Washington police used
tear gas to drive them away,
and arrests were made.
Attorney General John Mitchell
characterized this instance
as evidence of
the violent nature
of the Moratorium protest.
"The Village Voice" announced
that there was going to be
a "Yip-in" at
Grand Central Station.
A celebration of life.
It was enormous.
And people were dancing,
and bongo drums,
and singing, and people
were smoking dope openly.
Really in your face
to the establishment.
Something exciting, something
possibly dangerous was happening.
There was a police presence.
Just before midnight,
two young men climbed up
onto the information desk
that's in the middle of
Grand Central Station...
and there's a clock above it...
and they ripped
the hands from the clock.
Why? I don't know.
I suspect that they were stoned.
But that was a signal
for the police to intervene.
They did. And it turned very
bloody very, very quickly.
Police came in swinging batons,
they were
absolutely indiscriminate.
At one point,
I watched a girl
having to run the gauntlet
of police with batons.
I don't remember how many
were arrested,
but it was over 100,
and a lot of people were beaten.
But it was
a classic police riot.
I was sickened by it.
I was angry, I was frightened.
I felt very strongly
that change needed to happen.
I thought the government
was out of control.
I was going to write.
I was going to turn my hand at
writing "The Anarchist Cookbook."
I had become very insular.
It was a project
that I was engaged in
entirely by myself.
I didn't talk about writing
the book with anyone.
Nobody knew.
I started out by locating
the section of the library
that had military manuals.
Army, Marine Corps,
special forces.
The shelf wasn't locked.
I mean, it wasn't
a rare book room
where you had to get
the librarian to unlock it.
They were just there on
the shelf, and I took them down.
The information
about explosives
came primarily from
"Explosives" and "Boobytraps."
One was called
"Escape and Evasion."
Things on sabotage.
The diagrams in the book,
some of them came from manuals.
Others, I drew myself.
I took about three and a half,
maybe four months to write it.
I wrote it in solitude.
No one read the manuscript
before it went to the publisher.
So your goal was what?
To take what the military had,
and what other
radical groups had,
and put it into
the common domain
so that it was
accessible to everyone.
Violent groups...
the Weathermen being one,
the government being another...
have access
to this information.
And are using it.
Therefore, why shouldn't
the rest of us
also have that information?
And I still
sort of question that.
That paradox.
Who controls the information?
I mean, whose hands
should it be in?
I mean, I'm told
that the book has a million, half,
two million copies in print.
I have no idea, really,
what the vast majority of those
people have done with the book.
I suspect very, very few
have read it cover to cover.
And I suspect even fewer
have actually
read these passages.
I think people are
drawn to the recipes.
Really, you don't
think people are drawn in
by your perspective
and your voice and inspired?
Um... I guess,
other people would be better
judges of that than I am.
I'm not inspired by it.
"I feel very strongly that
every person should be armed
"and that he or she should
be prepared for the worst.
"There's no justice
left in the system.
"The only real justice is
"that which the individual
creates themself,
"and the individual
is helpless without a gun.
"This may sound like
the dogma expounded
"by radical right-wing groups
like the Minutemen, it is.
"The time has passed
for demonstrations
"and pseudo revolutionaries and
students to occupy the political scene.
"The time is
for a mass uprising,
"armed with single-minded
deadly intolerance."
Yeah, well, it's, um...
it's over-the-top
exaggerated rhetoric.
"This chapter is going to kill and maim
more people than all the rest put together
"because people just refuse
to take things seriously."
"Explosives, if used with care
"and all
the necessary precautions,
"are one of the greatest tools
"any liberation
movement can have.
"It will confuse the enemy,
cause destruction and death
"with power and
the technology of the people."
But language
about maiming people does seem
that you are aware
that the book will be used
to commit acts of violence?
I think...
I think I'm aware
that there is certainly
that possibility.
I think that's in...
That's inherent
in the three paragraphs
that I've just read.
"Allow the fear, and the
loneliness, and the hatred
"to build up inside you,
"allow your
passions to fertilize
"the seeds of
constructive revolution.
"Allow your love of freedom
"to overcome the false values
placed on human life.
"Freedom is based on respect,
"and respect must be earned
by the spilling of blood."
I can remember writing that.
And I remember thinking
that is a cool turn of phrase.
I was pleased with that
at the time.
Now I think it's
absolute rubbish.
But at the time it sounded
really good to me.
I can see that people might
read portions
of this book and...
find justification
for doing very destructive
and evil things.
And that fills me with remorse.
Which is different than regret.
What... how would
you explain that difference?
I think maybe
we're at that point
now we're playing with words.
I'll just let it stand.
That if that has been the case,
and I think it probably has,
it fills me with remorse.
We're back, and we're talking
about censorship,
and pornography,
and all kinds of fun things.
And with us is Lyle Stuart,
he's president of the Lyle
Stuart Publishing Company.
How did you go
about finding a publisher?
Wrote a query letter,
which I sent out
to over 30
different publishers.
Lyle came back,
simple, one line,
"Let's see the manuscript."
I knew Lyle Stuart's books.
He had a reputation
for publishing
books that were
kind of on the edge.
I was awed by him.
Here was this
sort of wild man
that would publish
anything at all.
Of course, the thing about
so-called pornography
and obscenity laws is that
our standards are dynamic.
They're always changing.
The thing that would have
shocked us tens years ago
we don't even look at today.
He wasn't
intimidated by anybody.
I'd had 30-plus rejections
and I was really quite excited
that the book
was going to be published.
Once it was published,
there was just an explosion
of publicity.
There was also a barrage
of negative commentary.
I'd recognized that it would
create controversy.
I grossly underestimated
the controversy
it would provoke.
The gist was that it should
not have been published
because it was dangerous.
They called it the most
irresponsible publishing event
of the decade or century,
I don't know what.
Got a couple of anonymous
letters threatening to kill me.
It worried me.
It was almost like something
that was getting out of hand.
And what did you do?
Bought a gun.
You didn't show
the note to the police or...
No. I thought
it would be ironic
for the author of
"The Anarchist Cookbook"
to go to the police
with a death threat.
So, I didn't...
No, I didn't go to the police.
That was that sort of
pseudo-celebrity period.
Everybody wanted
to interview me.
And Lyle had organized
a press conference
at the Hotel Americana,
invited all sorts of reporters
and television stations.
About midway through
the press conference
someone threw a smoke bomb.
And it was spluttering
and smoking,
and everybody dived for cover,
including myself.
But what was interesting
was that when the smoke cleared,
the people that
hadn't dived for cover
were Lyle Stuart
and his secretary.
Lyle said afterwards
that he thought it was
a rival anarchist
protesting the commercialization
of the cookbook.
My hunch is that
it was a publicity stunt.
Probably designed
by Lyle himself.
I was just way out of my depth.
I think I was feeling
uncomfortable with
some of the questions
that I was being asked.
Whether it was
a correct thing to do,
to put this kind
of information
into the hands of people
who might hurt
themselves or others?
I did not try
every recipe in the book.
I have never made a bomb.
I've never made
LSD in my kitchen.
I didn't try any of
the explosives recipes or...
I didn't try any of those.
The portion of the book that was
increasingly difficult to justify
was the part on explosives
and bomb-making.
Increasingly I was
feeling that
that wasn't me.
And what
did you do about that?
Well, um...
I tried to ignore the fact...
I mean, basically,
I just put it aside.
I didn't think about it.
I think it's quite hard
to contradict something
that has gone out into print
with my name on it,
and there's 100,000, 200,000,
a million copies, I don't know.
It's hard to come out and say,
"I don't agree with this."
And then you think,
"Well, why did you
write it in the first place?"
You know,
"Why didn't you think about it?"
So I'm wrestling with that
during this time.
But you did speak
about it in court in 1973?
Three or four, yeah. Yeah.
In a Denver courtroom,
Lyle Stuart and I were being
sued for copyright violation.
The book they said that the
copyright had been violated on
was "150 Questions
For a Guerrilla."
They wanted to show that I had
basically plagiarized this book.
And your role
in the trial was to...
Oh, I was on the witness stand
for most of the day.
The plaintiff's lawyer
would ask a question,
I would answer the question,
and then I would say,
"and furthermore,
da-da, da-da, da-da."
He asked me about
Bangalore torpedoes.
A kind of explosive device.
So I gave him
chapter and verse.
I came across as credible.
There had been a huge change
from the New York City
Bill Powell,
who went to promote the book,
and the individual
who showed up in Denver.
The judge ruled from the bench
and threw
the plaintiff's case out.
And what was your
reaction to the outcome of the case?
Oh, I was delighted.
I was delighted, yeah.
So you don't recall
during that period thinking,
"Why am I defending this book
that I don't even agree with?"
No, no, it...
I wasn't defending
the book or the content.
The focus was
on winning the case.
I thought the plaintiff
in this case
was out to make a quick buck
at my expense.
There needed to be a...
you know, a strong defense.
During the '70s,
you could talk about
what you did
to distance yourself
from the book.
Did you do anything to distance
yourself from the book?
Not publicly.
I mean, I didn't put out any
public statements in the '70s.
I became a father.
That was huge.
I went through confirmation
as an Anglican.
So there were a number of things
that were going on for me,
emotionally, spiritually,
but I didn't do anything
during that time
to publicly distance myself.
Primarily because the book
had sort of dropped off.
Sales were way down.
There was no media attention.
And I thought
it was just going to go
and die a quiet death
on its own.
I didn't spend much time thinking
about "The Anarchist Cookbook"
to be really
frank with you, yeah.
I had decided that
I wanted to be a teacher.
And particularly I wanted
to work with
kids with
emotional learning needs.
attention deficit disorder.
I can recall the first day.
I went into the classroom...
It was a treatment center
for children
who had been taken away
from their families for abuse,
children that were neglected.
The kids had basically
been abandoned.
So, I had 12...
11-year-old boys
who had all sorts of issues.
In some respects,
I think I saw some of myself
in these kids.
I wanted to be there for them.
I was born in the United States.
I was born on Long Island.
My dad worked
for the United Nations,
the spokesman
for the Secretary General.
And when I was about two,
he was transferred to Britain,
which is why I sound
the way that I do.
Soon after
we arrived in England,
my dad put my name
on the waiting list
for one of
the leading boys schools.
And he really
had a dream, I think,
of me going to Cambridge.
We would go
to Cambridge on holidays
and he would point
to King's College chapel.
And he would say, "This is where
I want you to go to University."
Kind of a dream for me,
which, needless to say,
I didn't fulfill.
And then, when I was about
11 or 12,
my dad was transferred
back to New York.
It would be fair to say that I was
a royal headache to my parents.
I didn't see
the relevance of school.
I had run-ins with the law,
and at that point,
Mom and Dad said
they were going to send me
to boarding school.
Which, was okay
for the first year.
Second year was difficult.
I didn't make it
through the year.
I was expelled.
Had to do with
vodka and marijuana,
and gently pushing
a teacher's car into a...
a ravine would be
an exaggeration.
It was a sort of incline.
And the car rolled
gracefully into a tree.
I decided at that point
that I would make my exit
towards New York City.
I went to work.
The impetus
for writing the book
was a combination of
a number of different things.
There was some genuine anger.
I think I did want to publish.
I wanted to be a writer
and I wanted to publish.
I told my father
after the book was published.
Before it came out,
but after I had
signed the contract.
It was Easter Sunday.
I went out to White Plains
to have Sunday lunch.
My dad and I
at that point in time
were sort of estranged.
It was just easier when I wasn't
fulfilling his aspirations
to maintain
a distance from him.
Initially he was quite excited
by the idea that
I'd published a book.
I think his
excitement diminished
when he learned about
what the content was.
Having said that,
he was very clear
that he respected my right
to express it.
He just didn't have
to agree with it himself.
I hope they like onions.
I wonder.
I mean, it's a bit of
a disaster if they don't.
We both were working
at a school
for emotionally disturbed
and learning disabled children.
Ochan was in the elementary
school, in second grade
as a student teacher,
I was teaching
in the high school.
In Bill's mother's attic,
there used to be a big box
of newspaper
clippings, and cuttings,
and articles about Bill.
I don't think I even had a copy of
the book at that point in time.
I think your mother did.
Yeah, my mother still does
have a copy of it.
-That's kind of funny.
Yes. Yes, it is.
I think I was able to
rationalize it as a young adult,
saying, "Okay, I can
understand this
as part of someone's past."
Adolescent past.
I know Bill must have been
a very angry person
as he was growing up.
But I didn't see that anger
that is so obviously
a part of that book.
That was never a part of
the Bill that I had met.
Sometimes, when you're an
adolescent, you do dumb things.
Not all of them put it
into print, though.
The reason that we
chose to show this to you
and this point
in the workshop
is if we're not paying attention
to something,
it's easy to miss it.
My wife and I
travel extensively
to international schools
working with teachers
to become more inclusive
of children
who learn differently.
In my last school, my teachers,
well, none of them
really understood
uh, my learning disability.
As soon as they put the question
up on the board they'd say,
"Okay, everyone else has
got it, why haven't you got it?"
Just, the pressure.
The pressure and the stress
does not help you.
Kids that,
if the conditions are right,
do turn to violence.
Both of you have had
some learning support
here at Hong Kong Academy.
Oftentimes when we're
talking with students
who are getting
learning support,
we don't ask
about their strengths.
And I would be
very interested.
What strengths do you have?
That you feel pretty good about,
you feel proud about.
Being the author
of "The Anarchist Cookbook,"
the irony of my career
is not lost on me either.
From "The Anarchist Cookbook"
to teaching
emotional intelligence.
When was the first
time you learned of a connection
between an act of violence
and the book.
It was Columbine.
The guy was in
a black trenchcoat.
Oh, my god...
I was under a table
and people were getting shot
all around me.
The boys who created
the massacre there...
they had a copy of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
I was very upset.
And I'm a teacher.
The last thing
I would want to do
is to see students
hurt or killed.
It was appalling.
How did you learn that the
book was associated with Columbine?
I got an email from
a friend in the United States
who had seen the film
"Bowling for Columbine,"
and had seen the book
in the film.
The thing is,
I have a thing,
it's called
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
It shows you how to make bombs
and stuff like that in it.
If there's anything that went wrong,
they're gonna come to me first.
Just 'cause
you owned a copy of the book?
-Just 'cause I own a...
-Never made a bomb yourself?
Nope. Oh, as in, like...
Oh, I've made 'em.
I imagine you had
some kind of visceral reaction?
Yeah, I mean, you...
you, um...
You feel terrible.
You, um, feel sick
to your stomach and...
Was your
instinct to try to learn more?
There was part of me that didn't
want to know anything about it.
Um, and there was part of me
that was torn apart about it
that did want to learn more.
At this point,
we're in the Internet age,
you know, everyone
Googles themself,
and you have a book
that you can search.
At any point
did you start to look at
whether the book was connected
to any other events?
I did do a Google search of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
And there was hundreds
and hundreds of entries.
Um, but I didn't... I didn't
spend a whole lot of time
going through them.
That was awesome!
This is
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
I got this from Amazon.
As you can see before you,
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
The information in the book
is really good information.
Fire in the hole!
It's usable, it's practical.
They show you how
to do this shit.
Somewhere along the line they appropriated
William Powell's original title.
You can find
things online that call themselves
some version of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
Oh, my god!
This is not just a cookbook,
this is a book of ideas.
Hey, guys, today we're going to be playing
some more Super Columbine Massacre.
The boys downloaded a page
from "The Anarchist Cookbook."
It was clear to me
there had been
a resurgence of interest.
So I put out a statement
through Amazon.
"I have recently been made
aware of several websites
"that focus on
'The Anarchist Cookbook.'
"The central idea of the book
was that
"violence is an acceptable means
to bring about political change.
"I no longer agree with this.
"I want to state categorically
that I am not in agreement
"with the contents of
'The Anarchist Cookbook.'
"I consider it
to be a misguided
"and potentially
dangerous publication
that should be taken
out of print."
This is your
first public statement,
what's the response?
I received no direct
response from anyone.
I did note that
some publications,
"The Guardian," for example,
picked it up,
and they ran
a very short piece.
"Author wants his book
taken out of print."
Um, I don't know whether it was
picked up elsewhere or not.
But there was no direct
response to me from anyone.
Have you tried to
stop publication of the book?
When the book came out,
it was very,
very clearly copyright
in Lyle Stuart's name.
Lyle Stuart Incorporated.
I did not recognize at the time
that that might be
in any way unusual.
I didn't know enough
about publishing.
Never published before,
19 years old.
And Lyle let me know
that the decision to continue
publishing was his.
That was not my decision.
And, um, basically,
what I had a right to
were the royalties
until such time as,
basically, he bought me out.
Lyle Stuart
declared bankruptcy,
but sold the publishing house.
So he wrote to me and said,
would I accept $10,000
for all of the rights.
And I wrote back
and said absolutely.
I don't want anything
more to do with it.
I thought it would just continue
to fizzle. Fizzle away.
What would have
happened if you had said no?
I don't know.
Did you think
about consulting a lawyer?
To find out what
your options were?
No. I didn't think about that.
Financially did it make sense?
To take the $10,000
versus continue to get...
Well, I wasn't going to get...
I mean, it was very clear
that Lyle wasn't going
to continue to publish it.
So if Lyle Stuart was
not going to publish the book,
but he was asking if you would
take a $10,000 payout
and continue to be published,
why did you not choose
to have Lyle Stuart just
not publish the book?
Mmm. Mmm.
It's a hard question. Um...
I think probably
I thought that the book was
just going to die its own death.
The $10,000 was welcome.
Um, I was living on
a teacher's salary.
Was that an
opportunity for you to...
It might have been.
It might have been
an opportunity for me to...
But he was making a lot
of money out of the book.
So I knew how many
copies were being sold.
And I knew
what I was receiving.
And it was a lot?
A lot of sales. Yeah, it was.
So the book was not fizzling?
Well, it was. It was.
During the '70s,
you're being paid royalties.
At any time
were you uncomfortable
with the fact that you were
receiving money
while you're uncomfortable
with the content of the book?
Yeah. I...
The royalties
were not substantial,
but I was growing uncomfortable
with receiving them.
But I continued to do so.
How much?
Total over the entire
period that I received royalties,
I probably received
maybe $40 or $50,000.
I mean, this is not
a literary masterpiece.
This is a fad book.
And, essentially,
my understanding was
that it was going
to go the way of all fads.
People were going to increasingly
lose interest in it.
Or that's what I thought.
I have a student
down in the athletic hall.
I see two shotgun shells on
the ground right here.
I heard two big bangs.
Just "boom!"
Sadly, it's happened again,
this time a 17-year-old girl
is in a coma
fighting for her life
this morning.
Shot by one of her classmates.
Could Karl Pierson
have been quietly plotting
a violent attack at his school
for even a couple years?
Karl had been reading
"The Anarchist Cookbook"
since sophomore year.
I learned
that the book had been
found in the possession of
a young man up in Colorado
who had been engaged
in a school shooting.
"The Guardian" sent me an email
inviting me
to write an op-ed piece.
"I wrote the Anarchist Cookbook
in 1969.
"Now I see
its premise as flawed."
"For the last 40 years,
I have served as a teacher
"and a school leader
in Africa and Asia,
"working in some of the poorest and
least developed countries of the world.
"Together with my wife,
"I have been involved in supporting
schools around the world
"in becoming more inclusive
"of children
with learning challenges.
"So what is the connection
"between the needs of these
children with learning disabilities
"and my wish to see
the Cookbook go out of print?
"The Cookbook has been
found in the possession
"of alienated
and disturbed young people
"who have launched attacks
against classmates and teachers.
"I suspect that the perpetrators
of these attacks
"did not feel much of
a sense of belonging,
"and the Cookbook may have added
to their sense of isolation.
It should go quickly
and quietly out of print."
To be clear, you
did not approach "The Guardian"
-to write...
-No. No, they approached me.
Did you think about
speaking out more publicly?
I'd already written
two public statements.
The one on Amazon and then
the op-ed to "The Guardian."
The op-ed to
"The Guardian" came in 2013.
-13 years later.
There were many incidents
between 2000 and 2013.
Were you aware
of the incidents?
I learned about Columbine,
and then later Arapahoe.
I assumed that they were,
isolated, kind of, events.
The book is published in 1970.
In 1976,
John Adamson plants a bomb
that killed a reporter
investigating organized crime.
When Bolles started to drive
out of the hotel parking lot,
his car exploded.
A copy of the Cookbook
was found in his apartment.
I was not aware
John Adamson was found
in possession of the Cookbook.
Five hijackers were arraigned
in New York today
for the murder of
a New York police officer.
In 1976, a hijacker
hijacks a plane with bombs.
The bombs turned out to be fake.
And put a real bomb
in Grand Central Station.
He built the bombs
using the book.
I was not aware.
But I didn't really follow
that kind of news at the time.
In 1979 I went off
to Saudi Arabia
and really didn't think
anything more about it.
And really, in the '80s,
it was dormant. It was a dead
issue during that whole time.
In 1981, the
Black Liberation Army
is arrested for a bank robbery.
Getaway car is filled
with explosives, guns,
and a copy of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
In 1981,
we moved to Tanzania.
And there was absolutely
no television in Tanzania.
We've never had a television.
We didn't even have
a telephone in the house.
Eight bombing in the past year
in Washington D.C.,
Maryland, and Virginia.
Mid '80s, Thomas Spinks
bombed 10 abortion clinics.
He has a copy of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
A wave of parcel bombs
that spread terror.
1989, Walter Leroy Moody
bombed and killed
a federal judge,
was in possession of the book.
I... I didn't know about them.
But would you
say that you were interested
in finding out
more about these incidents?
If I didn't know about it...
and I didn't...
it's not a question of being
interested or not being interested,
it's a question
of being ignorant.
The death
toll is clearly increasing
as the hours go by.
The Oklahoma City bombing,
did you ever learn that
there was any connection?
Was there?
I had no idea
that the Cookbook had
been connected.
This is Thurston High School,
we have a gun on campus,
there's someone shooting.
The suspect may be Kip Kinkel.
He gets off 51 shots.
Even brought a copy of
"The Anarchist Cookbook" to school.
Back at
his Springfield area home,
Kinkel shoots both his parents.
There was a terrible rash of
attacks on kids in schools.
But I hadn't associated those
with the Cookbook.
Multiple bomb sites.
Three trains and a bus.
The death
toll rose from 37 to 50.
London public transit bombings.
I was obviously aware of
the transit bombings.
Soon it becomes clear
that the congresswoman has been shot.
I was very much
aware of Gabby Giffords.
In neither case was I reading anything about
"The Anarchist Cookbook" or hearing it.
There were articles
about all of these stories.
Again, I wasn't
in the United States,
and I didn't have access
to American media.
The Internet,
making everything accessible.
I wasn't trolling the Internet
daily or even weekly,
you know,
looking for connections.
Fair enough.
When you would learn
about another incident,
did you think, "God, I hope
the book is not connected?"
No, I wasn't.
I got seven
down in theater nine!
Seven down!
We've got rifles, gas masks,
and an open door going
into the theater.
In 2012, James Holmes
shoots several people in an
Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.
Was that the incident
of the Batman film?
Yes, I had heard about it
or read about it in the paper.
It has been suggested
that "The Anarchist Cookbook"
was used
to set boobytraps for
the police in his apartment.
bombs and armed explosives.
Large glass jars
with homemade napalm
filled with
.40 caliber bullets.
Around them are 11 green
plastic bottles with gasoline.
A morass of tripwires,
a deadly jigsaw puzzle
that had to be disarmed.
When you heard of that story,
did it occur to you that
the book might have been used?
No, it didn't occur to me.
I didn't associate it
with any of those.
Why would I
make the connection?
You had
written a book about it.
An instructional book.
You know, you may think that that's
a very strange thing not to make,
but it just didn't happen.
I mean, this is the first time
that I'm becoming aware
of the laundry list
of associations
that the book has had.
You don't wrestle
as much as I thought you might
with responsibility.
Your sense of how
responsible you are
for the way that
the book has been used.
Um, do you feel responsible
for the ways that the book
has been used?
I do feel responsible
for the ways in which
the book has been used.
Have you always felt that way?
When the Cookbook
has been associated
with Columbine,
and the later
Karl Pierson killing,
I did feel responsible.
But I didn't do it.
And I wonder what
sense of responsibility
the factory worker has
who makes the Smith & Wesson,
or the Colt.
What responsibility
do they have
when the weapon is misused?
Now, I'm not comfortable
with that analogy,
so let's not pick it apart.
But I think there is a sense of
while I do feel responsible,
I didn't do it.
Somebody else.
Somebody else with a perverted,
distorted sense of reality
did something awful.
I didn't.
Why isn't that your
answer to all of these questions?
Why do you feel any
responsibility at all?
Why isn't the answer simply,
"I wrote a book.
I didn't harm anyone."
Even though
there is a distance...
I'm not responsible
for the murder of
children in Columbine...
I'm appalled
that in any way
my work, my book,
was influential
or was associated with it,
and I do feel
responsibility there.
I really kind of
reclused myself.
I mean, to be
really frank with you,
part of the fact
that I don't know
is that I didn't want to know.
The last thing I wanted to know
was that it had been used
in some sort of escapade
that had ended up
hurting people.
So I think there was probably some
avoidance on my part as well.
Has it been difficult for you?
The role that
the book has played?
There have been times
where it's...
made life quite difficult.
And so, perhaps...
And it was always
people from outside
who wanted to...
Um, you know,
get at Bill.
1991, I was appointed
the CEO of the school
in Dar es Salaam.
I went away for a conference.
While I was away,
there was delivered to my
secretary a pile of envelopes.
And in it is
an anonymous letter
and a photocopy of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
So, it's an anonymous
group of teachers,
and they're
saying to the board,
"If you don't terminate
Bill Powell's employment,
"we will send copies
of 'The Anarchist Cookbook'
to the Ministry of Education,
the Prime Minister..."
So it's a blackmail attempt.
It was a terrible,
very painful experience.
It was particularly
difficult for me.
I remember one time
when Bill came home
and it was really
late at night,
and our son Colin
was at the door,
and he was waiting
and he said,
"Dad, Dad!
Do we still have a job?"
And it was so... It was
heartbreaking to see that.
They advised me
not to reapply
for contract renewal
after the end of my contract,
which was coming up
to an end in August.
And the following day
I resigned.
The parents launched a petition
to throw the board out.
They got over 400 signatures
and I stayed another
five and a half years.
I left the International
School of Tanganyika
of my own volition in '99.
I did not put "The Anarchist
Cookbook" on my CV.
You know, you don't put things
that you did when you were 19
that you no longer agree with
on your rsum.
I applied for half a dozen
or so jobs
at international schools,
and I wasn't shortlisted
by any of them.
Anonymous emails were
going to those schools
that included information about
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
I was shortlisted for the
Lincoln School in Accra, Ghana.
The interview went
extremely well.
And the chairman of the board
all but offered the position.
She comes to the hotel
and she says,
"We've just learned that you're the
author of 'The Anarchist Cookbook.'"
And I said that
that's correct.
She said, "Well, you're
not a viable candidate."
It was school after school
after school.
The American School of Paris,
Turkey, came up with Accra.
I thought it was going to bring
my career to an end.
Every time there was a viable
position open,
somebody was communicating
with those schools saying,
"If Bill Powell is a candidate,
you need to know."
It came up during the interview
in Kuala Lumpur.
I said to them,
"If you offer me the job,
"I'm going to write an email
to every parent in the school
and tell them about it."
And that's exactly what I did.
And I got absolutely no response
from the parent community.
There was nobody
who was outraged.
-I mean, it was... -We just
thought it was a non-issue.
There's a transparency there.
It was successfully
out of the picture.
And the hope
was that it would just...
Go away, yeah.
To be frank, you know,
"The Anarchist Cookbook" rears
its head every so often.
But it's not a constant
or continuous, um, issue.
And I think,
to be frank, also,
it has been a source of pain.
So, perhaps,
to protect my family,
it's maybe not something
that I wanted to bring up.
Because I did feel
that we were under attack.
We have been under attack.
Two New York City women accused
of plotting a terrorist attack.
Court documents say they were
influenced by ISIS.
Those women had been researching
how to make bombs...
both women had copies of
"The Anarchist Cookbook."
Anarchist cookbooks
or mayhem manuals...
They became the precursors
to al-Qaeda's online
magazine, "Inspire."
And one of the articles
in "Inspire" is called
"How to make a bomb
in the kitchen of your Mom."
So you can hear this incarnation
of the '70s and '80s manuals.
"The Anarchist Cookbook,"
Senator Dianne Feinstein says
she wants that book
removed from the Internet.
Saying, quote,
"these documents are not,
in my view,
protected by
the first amendment."
Would you say hoping
it would go away didn't work?
More than that.
I think it was naive.
You know, we say to kids
to be really careful
about what they put
on Facebook
or any other social media
because those footprints
last forever.
This has done
exactly that same thing.
It's not easily controlled.
Do you resent the idea
that anyone would say
that the book
is in any way
responsible for people
doing bad things?
You know, um...
I think that's a question
that should be directed to me
-rather than Ochan.
-Well, I'm just curious...
But Ochan
didn't write the book.
She didn't even know me
when the book was...
But I just mean because
she's having to deal with
-the impact it has on both of your lives.
-Why, I don't mind answering it.
You know, people read
books all the time.
So, I think that
at some point,
individual responsibility
needs to kick in,
and I think that
your visit here has kicked in
individual responsibility
on our part,
but I think
that other people also
must take responsibility
for their actions.
Do you feel that Bill
has been unfairly treated?
Well, I think that
some of your questions
have been, um...
leading in a way that have... has
perhaps made me uncomfortable.
I didn't...
I didn't mean by me.
-Oh! Okay.
but I apologize for that.
No, no, it's quite all right.
Um, no, I mean
do you feel that
Bill has been
unfairly treated by others,
that he's been given
more blame than he deserves?
You know, every human being
is a complex individual,
and Bill is
a very complex person.
And I think that
the people who know Bill
would see past
the 19-year-old
into the person
who he is today.
I would hope that
people would see that.
In retrospect,
do you wish
that you had done more
to deal with
and to confront the book?
Charlie, I'm getting
the impression
that you want me to say
something I'm not saying.
I did what I thought
was appropriate.
I did not contact a lawyer,
I did not, um...
go to family friends
and then say,
"Do you have
any advice for me?"
I did what I did
and I didn't do
what I didn't do.
I mean, I...
If you're asking
do I wish I had done more, yes.
What would you like me to say?
'Cause I really think you're
being deliberately provocative
and you want
me to say something
that I'm not saying.
I was thinking
about something else too.
You might have limited
influence with the publisher.
That may be limited there,
but I think that
once we start
thinking about this
and thinking it through,
there may be other avenues
that will open up for us.
I think what you're
suggesting is that...
there are times
and places that
it's worthy to fight
for a lost cause.
Well, there are times and places
where it's worthy to fight.
Yeah. Your voice could
also appeal to adolescents.
I mean, there might
be other ways
to get the message across
is what I was thinking.
Hm. Maybe. Yeah.
Our conversation
yesterday afternoon
kind of disturbed me, and...
I spent some time
thinking about that
in the night.
I wrote to Dianne Feinstein
because she had
actually raised an issue
about the Cookbook
some months ago.
Uh, Ochan?
Got a response
from Senator Feinstein
to the email that I sent
earlier today.
Um, it's basically
an out of office notice.
I think this is
a computer filter
that is blocking,
um, and I don't know
that any live, warm-body
is going to read
what I've sent.
Oh, she says...
Wait a minute, she says,
"Because of the volume
of email that's received
"by the office,
we can only respond
to email that includes
a California postal address."
I don't have a postal
address in California.
-Is this...
sounds like a dead end.
I mean, I remember
when your dad was alive,
he would call his congressman
on various issues.
Um, is that what you do
in California?
I don't know.
I really don't know. Um...
What time would
we have to call her?
I mean, if you want
to follow this.
Do you want to
find her phone number
and it's 6:30,
we can call her?
I can do that, yeah.
Um, hm.
Give it a go.
Crank this guy up again.
What is the earliest
memory you have of school?
I suspect there were
some very good schools
in Britain in the 1950s.
I didn't go to one.
I went to
a pretty miserable school.
Students were motivated
through fear.
Fear of physical punishment,
fear of public humiliation.
I can remember
one particular time that
I must have been
maybe five or six
and we were learning
long division.
And in front of the class,
I just got so stressed out.
I couldn't do it.
And she announced,
"Now we're going to put
a problem on the board
that is so simple,
that even Bill can solve it."
And she wrote up
a three-digit addition problem,
which I could have
done in a snap.
But I was so stressed out
at that point that I couldn't.
I couldn't manage it.
I couldn't think straight.
I think I wet my pants.
I remember playing the fool
in a dance class
and being caned
in the headmaster's office
for that.
Bullying was rife.
People were looking
for opportunities to fight
and I was never
really good at fighting.
I guess I felt a sense
of being an outsider.
Not really fitting.
My dad was transferred
back to New York.
I came into a culture that I was
completely unfamiliar with.
Content in school
I knew nothing about,
people were talking
about Paul Bunyan,
I'd never heard
of Paul Bunyan.
The sports were different.
I didn't know
who Mickey Mantle was.
I had a broad,
upper-crust accent
people found very amusing.
My fifth grade teacher used to
mimic me in the classroom.
I was alienated in Britain
because I was an American
and now I came
to the United States
and I was perceived
as being British,
which I wasn't,
and I was increasingly angry.
I made a habit
of skipping school
'cause the consequences
in the United States
were mild
in comparison.
And at that point,
went up to Storm King School.
It was a boys prep school.
One of the classmates
described it as
a school for rich,
delinquent children.
There was a pretty unpopular boy
in the dormitory
and a group of boys,
myself included,
were engaged
in bullying him.
Tied him to his bunk bed
and then took Bengay
and smeared it
on his testicles.
The boy reported this
to the dorm master
and I was the only one
that was singled out
and I was taken to his room
late at night in my pajamas.
He said that he would
get me to experience
what the bullied boy
had experienced.
So, he told me to go
and get a jockstrap on
and then he got Bengay,
but instead of doing
what the other boys had done
to the bullied boys,
he fondled me.
At that point, I said,
"I need to go to the toilet."
I went to the toilet,
got my pajamas back on,
and left.
I didn't make it
through the year.
I was expelled.
I'm sure you've
given a fair amount of thought
to kids who turn
to acts of violence.
Real violence.
Who are those kids?
I think there is...
something in the human condition
that draws us to violence.
It doesn't mean that's the only
outcome that's possible,
but I think there is something
that is intoxicating
about violence
for many people.
Possibly for young people
who are angry,
alienated, who don't have
a sense of belonging.
It may represent
an endeavor
to be powerful,
to lash out
at a world
that is not providing
them with meaning.
I don't know. I mean,
I think understanding
what is going on
in the minds of those people
who have become
radically antisocial
or radicalized
in the sense that
they've gone off
to fight with ISIS,
that's a $64,000 question.
But it's very difficult to see
the world through their eyes.
I think the author of the book,
myself at 19,
thought that we were
living in an apocalypse.
The very late '60s,
the assassinations
that were taking place,
the tone of the book
has that sense to it.
You're either
part of the problem,
you're part
of the solution.
It's a very simplistic
vision of the world.
Weak or strong?
Well, strong.
Forcefully argued
or lacking confidence?
The book is supremely
to the point of being
ludicrously self-confident.
It's forcefully presented,
there's no quali...
there's very little
qualification, if any at all.
Were you confident?
When I was alone
with a typewriter,
I was confident.
No, I don't think
I was confident.
There's a...
there's a kind of intoxication
that you come to
when you're writing
and you're writing
more and more forcefully.
The world is becoming
simpler and simpler.
You're reaching what strikes you
as powerful conclusions.
And they go to your head
and you come to believe
what you're writing
and there is a sort of a...
almost a snowball effect.
I suspect that
there may be a parallel
the young people who hurt
and kill their classmates.
There may be a parallel
between the process
of that kind
of radicalization,
that kind of
distorted perception,
and the kind of process
that I went through
when writing the book.
And that may be
a useful parallel
in terms of learning
what might lead people
to cruel or lethal acts.
Was it realistic for me
at the time of writing the book
to think that
it wouldn't be used?
There's two answers to that.
One answer comes from
a 65-year-old and says,
"No, that's not reasonable."
The other answer comes
from a 19-year-old
who hadn't thought about it.
You refer to the
book as your constant companion.
What do you mean by that?
It's part of my history,
it's part of me.
I have to recognize
that it does exist
and it can't be
just dismissed.
I can't sort of say,
"Sorry. You know,
I did that when I was 19,
but that's in the past."
So, it is with me.
I had half of
my childhood in Britain,
half of my childhood
in the United States,
and now I feel equally
uncomfortable in both countries.
I think I am most comfortable
where I know
that I don't belong.
I stick out
like a sore thumb
and it's okay for me to be
the outsider looking in.
We first came to
this whole part of France
in the summer of '92.
Massat has a very,
very interesting history.
Kind of always been a village
at the end of the road.
People were perceived
as outsiders.
It's just so out of the way.
It's really remote.
After '68 and the failed
revolution in Paris,
many of the would-be
revolutionaries came to this area.
So, it's kind of
an interesting blend
of kind of aging hippies
and Massat peasants.
And we have nothing in common
with anybody else here.
So, we have to
import, um, company.
Does the privacy appeal to you?
- Sure. -I think it appeals
to Bill more than it appeals to me.
I think Ochan is
far more social than I am.
But I have your company.
Oh, I like yours.
It's an odd place,
but I also find it
a very welcoming place.
I wouldn't mind
living in the United States.
But maybe not yet.
What is that
like, to know that something
that you have put out
into the world,
you could be reading
about it tomorrow,
you could be reading
about it a year from now?
You know, we
talk about the cliche
of the skeleton
in the closet.
Well, my skeleton's
not in my closet.
My skeleton is in print.
There's two million copies
or whatever there.
It has been influential
in terrible...
massacres and murders
and killings...
um, and...
I live with that.
After "The Anarchist Cookbook,"
you wrote another book.
I've written a number of books,
but the book that came
immediately after
"The Anarchist Cookbook"
was a historical novel
entitled "The First Casualty."
It was the story
of the assassination
of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
in 1914.
It was the spark that
caused the First World War,
and it's told
from the point of view
of the assassin,
Gavrilo Princip.
What fascinated you about him?
He was a true believer.
"My country has been
stolen from me
and I'm a patriot.
I'm a freedom fighter."
He was an
impressionable adolescent.
He really literally
was a schoolboy.
He crafted an identity
for himself
and then acted
on that identity.
He had the courage
of his convictions,
as misguided as those may be,
and by accident
suddenly sets the world on fire.
It's almost like
that butterfly effect.
Tiny event here,
huge consequences
somewhere else.
That story fascinated me.
And none of the description
that you just offered
you think applies to you?
Applies to me? Um...