American Anarchist (2016) Script

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[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

Um...

*

[Interviewer] 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."

[Interviewer] 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.

[Woman] "The Anarchist Cookbook"...

[Man] A do-it-yourself bomb-making manual written in the early 1970s by William Powell.

[Man on intercom speaking French]

[Interviewer] Would you say you are uncomfortable identifying yourself as an American?

[William] I'm not comfortable with an identity that links me with one patriotic group.

[Interviewer] Over the years, have you been contacted by the media?

[William] 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.

[chanting] Power to the people!

Power to the people!

[William] It was heady times.

People were left wing, they were certainly anti-war.

[chanting]

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 Dalí, 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.

[William] 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.

[Abbie Hoffman] 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.

[Man] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

Um...

Yeah.

"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."

[Interviewer] But language about maiming people does seem that you are aware that the book will be used to commit acts of violence?

I think--

Um...

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.

Um...

"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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] And what did you do?

Bought a gun.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] And what did you do about that?

Um...

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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] And what was your reaction to the outcome of the case?

Oh, I was delighted. I was delighted, yeah.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

Hyperactivity, 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.

-Um... -That's kind of funny.

Yes. Yes, it is.

[Ochan] 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.

That's--

[chuckles] Okay.

[William] 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.

[Boy] 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.

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] When was the first time you learned of a connection between an act of violence and the book.

It was Columbine.

[Dispatcher] 911.

[girl speaking]

-[explosion] -[screaming]

[Dispatcher] Okay.

[Girl] The guy was in a black trenchcoat.

Oh, my god... I was under a table and people were getting shot all around me.

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] How did you learn that the book was associated with Columbine?

[William] 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.

[Michael Moore] 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.

[Interviewer] 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...

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[boys laughing]

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.

[laughing]

Somewhere along the line they appropriated William Powell's original title.

[Rachel Maddow] You can find things online that call themselves some version of "The Anarchist Cookbook."

Whoa!

Oh, my god!

[shouting]

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."

[William] 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."

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] Have you tried to stop publication of the book?

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] What would have happened if you had said no?

I don't know.

[Interviewer] Did you think about consulting a lawyer?

To find out what your options were?

No. I didn't think about that.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[sighs]

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.

Um...

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] And it was a lot?

A lot of sales. Yeah, it was.

[Interviewer] So the book was not fizzling?

Well, it was. It was.

[Interviewer] 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?

Hmm.

Yeah. I...

The royalties were not substantial, but I was growing uncomfortable with receiving them.

But I continued to do so.

[Interviewer] How much?

[William] 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.

[Man] 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.

[Male Reporter] 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.

[William] 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."

[Interviewer] To be clear, you did not approach "The Guardian"

-to write-- -No. No, they approached me.

[Interviewer] Did you think about speaking out more publicly?

No.

I'd already written two public statements.

The one on Amazon and then the op-ed to "The Guardian."

[Interviewer] The op-ed to "The Guardian" came in 2013.

-Correct. -13 years later.

There were many incidents between 2000 and 2013.

Were you aware of the incidents?

[William] I learned about Columbine, and then later Arapahoe.

I assumed that they were, isolated, kind of, events.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] A copy of the Cookbook was found in his apartment.

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Male reporter] Eight bombing in the past year in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

[Interviewer] Mid '80s, Thomas Spinks bombed 10 abortion clinics.

He has a copy of "The Anarchist Cookbook."

A wave of parcel bombs that spread terror.

[Interviewer] 1989, Walter Leroy Moody bombed and killed a federal judge, was in possession of the book.

I-- I didn't know about them.

[Interviewer] 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.

[sirens blaring]

[Peter Jennings] The death toll is clearly increasing as the hours go by.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Woman] This is Thurston High School, we have a gun on campus, there's someone shooting.

[Man] The suspect may be Kip Kinkel.

[Female Reporter] He gets off 51 shots.

[Male Reporter] Even brought a copy of "The Anarchist Cookbook" to school.

[Female Reporter] 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.

[Male reporter] Multiple bomb sites. Three trains and a bus.

[Other Reporter] The death toll rose from 37 to 50.

[Interviewer] London public transit bombings.

I was obviously aware of the transit bombings.

[Male Reporter] Soon it becomes clear that the congresswoman has been shot.

[William] I was very much aware of Gabby Giffords.

In neither case was I reading anything about "The Anarchist Cookbook" or hearing it.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] The Internet, making everything accessible.

I wasn't trolling the Internet daily or even weekly, you know, looking for connections.

[Interviewer] Fair enough.

When you would learn about another incident, did you think, "God, I hope the book is not connected?"

No, I wasn't.

No.

[Man] I got seven down in theater nine!

Seven down!

[Other man] We've got rifles, gas masks, and an open door going into the theater.

[Interviewer] In 2012, James Holmes shoots several people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.

Um...

Was that the incident of the Batman film?

Yes, I had heard about it or read about it in the paper.

[Interviewer] It has been suggested that "The Anarchist Cookbook" was used to set boobytraps for the police in his apartment.

[Male Reporter] Homemade 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.

[Interviewer] When you heard of that story, did it occur to you that the book might have been used?

No.

No, it didn't occur to me.

I didn't associate it with any of those.

Why would I make the connection?

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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?

Yes.

I do feel responsible for the ways in which the book has been used.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] 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."

Mm-hmm.

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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[William] 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.

[Ochan] 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 résumé.

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.

[Interviewer] And the hope was that it would just...

[Ochan] 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.

[Man] "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."

[Interviewer] 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.

Um...

I didn't-- I didn't mean by me.

-Oh! Okay. -But... 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... [sighs]

If you're asking do I wish I had done more, yes.

Absolutely.

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.

[William] Mm.

I mean, there might be other ways to get the message across is what I was thinking.

Hm. Maybe. Yeah.

[William] 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?

Mm-hmm?

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.

-So... -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...

[Ochan] What time would we have to call her?

I mean, if you want to follow this.

Well...

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.

[typing]

[Interviewer] What is the earliest memory you have of school?

[William] 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, straightforward, 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] Weak or strong?

Well, strong.

Forcefully argued or lacking confidence?

The book is supremely self-confident 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 between... 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] Does the privacy appeal to you?

-[William] Sure. -I think it appeals to Bill more than it appeals to me.

I think Ochan is far more social and I am.

But I have your company.

Oh, I like yours.

[chuckles]

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.

[Interviewer] 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?

[William] 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.

[Interviewer] 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.

[Interviewer] What fascinated you about him?

[William] 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?

Um...

Applies to me? Um...

[music playing]


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