I was sitting there watching the Super Bowl, and suddenly my brain tapped me on the shoulder and went “Hey, remember that laptop case you have, stuffed with various irreplaceable things? Well, you should go look in there because I think….” And I checked. And sure enough, it was there.
I am not sure when or how I first acquired this book, and I never actually did anything in the book, nor did I ever really believe anything in the non-practical section of the book, which is the beginning – all about anarchism. It was just one of those cool things to have. And I have it.
The Anarchist Cookbook – by William Powell. Keep in mind, this was before the days of Amazon and indeed, the internet itself. This book was hard to get at one time, for about 25 years, in fact. Now you can get it on Kindle.Wikipedia says:
The Anarchist Cookbook, first published in 1971, is a book that contains instructions for the manufacture of explosives, rudimentary telecommunications phreaking devices, and other items. It was written by William Powell to protest United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
Powell later disavowed himself of the book (see below). I guess he was a little embarrassed by it.
Someone made a Freedom of Information Act request in September 2010, and it was granted to the extent that it could be in January 2011. Here’s a link to the document if you’re interested. To summarize, the first 50 pages or so of this document are basically “concerned citizens” who have actually written letters to J. Edgar Hoover asking him to investigate this book, its author and its publisher, and to stop the sale of the book. One citizen attached a clipping from a local paper about the book, which described it this way:
The book instructs in surveillance, explosives, lethal gases, wiretapping. electronic jamming, use of guns and knives, garroting, and boobytrapping. It is profusely illustrated with photographs and diagrams. A lengthy section on drugs gives formulas for making LSD and cooking with marijuana and hashish.
The FOIA documents go further into requests for cessation of sale of the book, requests of Hoover to investigate by a Texas congressman, and deep investigation of the man who wrote the preface, Peter Bergman, who was into all sorts of nefarious things. Later correspondence from something called “The Laboratory Division” indicates that this book adds nothing new to the knowledge widely available to the public, and is mostly accurate, if oversimplified.
The results of the investigation were basically that while Powell gave the recipes for nearly every explosive or incendiary device that was in violation of the firearms code, he did not offer to make the devices himself, to teach others how to make them, or to incite a riot based on the contents of the book. Therefore, they took no further action.
The author himself had this to say, on the Amazon site for ordering this book:
I have recently been made aware of several websites that focus on The Anarchist Cookbook. As the author of the original publication some 30 plus years ago, it is appropriate for me to comment.
The Anarchist Cookbook was written during 1968 and part of 1969 soon after I graduated from high school. At the time, I was 19 years old and the Vietnam War and the so-called “counter culture movement” were at their height. I was involved in the anti-war movement and attended numerous peace rallies and demonstrations. The book, in many respects, was a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in.
I conducted the research for the manuscript on my own, primarily at the New York City Public Library. Most of the contents were gleaned from Military and Special Forces Manuals. I was not member of any radical group of either a left or right wing persuasion.
I submitted the manuscript directly to a number of publishers without the help or advice of an agent. Ultimately, it was accepted by Lyle Stuart Inc. and was published verbatim – without editing – in early 1970. Contrary to what is the normal custom, the copyright for the book was taken out in the name of the publisher rather than the author. I did not appreciate the significance of this at the time and would only come to understand it some years later when I requested that the book be taken out of print.
The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.
Apparently in recent years, The Anarchist Cookbook has seen a number of ‘copy cat’ type publications, some with remarkably similar titles (Anarchist Cookbook II, III etc). I am not familiar with these publications and cannot comment upon them. I can say that the original Anarchist Cookbook has not been revised or updated in any way by me since it was first published.
During the years that followed its publication, I went to university, married, became a father and a teacher of adolescents. These developments had a profound moral and spiritual effect on me. I found that I no longer agreed with what I had written earlier and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the ideas that I had put my name to. In 1976 I became a confirmed Anglican Christian and shortly thereafter I wrote to Lyle Stuart Inc. explaining that I no longer held the views that were expressed in the book and requested that The Anarchist Cookbook be taken out of print. The response from the publisher was that the copyright was in his name and therefore such a decision was his to make – not the author’s. In the early 1980′s, the rights for the book were sold to another publisher. I have had no contact with that publisher (other than to request that the book be taken out of print) and I receive no royalties.
Unfortunately, the book continues to be in print and with the advent of the Internet several websites dealing with it have emerged. I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print.
Because people are idiots, I feel it necessary to say the following: I do not advocate the use of or construction of anything contained within this book. It is presented here for historical purposes only. Also, the banana thing doesn’t work, according to two friends of mine who tried it by scraping some of the remains into emptied pill capsules and swallowing them in addition to rolling them up and smoking them. I did, however, enjoy 8 banana smoothies and some of that stuff you make with bananas, vanilla wafers and banana pudding. I also enjoyed the Dead Milkmen song Smokin’ Banana Peels from their album Beelzebubba.
So read about it, bask in this part of counterculture history, but don’t do any of it, you moron.