Lutz Dammbeck, "The Net. Unabomber, LSD & Internet", Germany 2003

The Net. Unabomber, LSD & Internet
a FILMPRODUKTION in co-production with the SWR in co-operation with Arte

In 1930, Viennese mathematician Kurt Gödel shakes the foundations of mathematics with his incompleteness theorems. He proves that every formal-logical system has problems that are not solvable or conclusively determinable. The Truth is superior to provability.

Between 1978 and 1995, the USA was shaken by a series of bomb attacks. The targets of the letter bombs and pipe bombs used were academics from various elite universities and managers of large airlines, prompting the FBI to dub the person behind them "Unabomber“ (a computer abbreviation of the words “universities” and “airlines”). In 1996, the FBI arrested Ted Kaczynski, a former professor of mathematics.

Why becomes a mathematician, apparently, a terrorist? The search for an answer goes back to the period from the 1940s to the 1960s when science, art and technology suddenly appeared to be opening up new horizons in every direction. The foundations of the modern age were laid by cybernetics, system theory, multimedia art, and new concepts in psychology and military research. They formed the basis for the global systems of networked machines whose essence is shaped by mathematics, logic and binary code.

Author wishes to track down the promise of limitlessness that is bound upwith the Internet culture, something familiar to him from the artistic avant-garde of the 60s. Our eyes are constantly redirected to the notebook in which he attempts to arrange the links in a network of tracks.This is a film about the cultural tendencies of the last 50 years; tendencies determined by the development and introduction of the computer and thus by USA think tanks, but also by dreams of the range and boundlessness of progress, and of as yet inconceivable possibilities for life – a film about contradictions spurring each other on; contradictions with explosive force; contradictions seldom voiced, let alone visualised.Changes in science and in mentality often interlock in a way that proves hard to disentangle.

The film shows the designers, engineers and agents of the system. This retrospective view encounters groupings that resemble conspiracies.During the sixties and seventies, there was a fast and furious series of informal meetings and festivals when people from the cultural field came together with computer experts and strategists.It was a matter of a new, cyber spirituality and of an open society.

The Horkheimer-Adorno study on the “authoritarian personality”lent impulses to research on interventions into the psyche aiming to operate on and remove the old values responsible for totalitarian behaviour, replacing these with self-regulating re-education. It is a matter of “America’s mission”, formulated in a title by the highly-decorated military expert and Harvard psychologist Henry A. Murray. This includes series of tests with LSD, in which Timothy Leary participates. Other tests investigate the behaviour of selected elite students in extreme situations. One of them is Ted Kaczynski; his cover name is “Lawful”. The relevant decisive documents have disappeared.

The sequence of locations and interviews is interspersed by passages from letters Kaczynski wrote from prison. The author responds to questions in a sober tone - why he retreated to that forest cabin in Montana that could have originated from the alternative catalogue, and there became no Robin Hood, but a terrorist.

His Manifesto against the industrial society has been circulating since the mid-nineties. It conjures up the danger of utopias for the further survival of mankind. There is also reference to holes in theories and to the unpredictability of complex systems and their behaviour. He says that mathematicians are not scientists at all, but players. These letters appear to be an attempt at finding language on the very limits of knowledge; a point at which Kaczynski, like Gödel, obviously sees himself.

In his opinion, people have a right to self-defence against the structural violence of the technological society.

We have encountered some dangerous questions on the way into the new world. These are the old questions: about the relation between law and violence, the grey area between knowledge and madness, science and art. In the case of representatives of the open society – a wall of silence. As a contrast, we have a failed individual who isolated himself from all his neighbours and those close to him, yet wants to be heard more than anything else.

Lutz Dammbeck (Germany)

Born in Leipzig in 1948 .Degree course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig painter and graphic artist, scriptwriter, director and animator of animation films for DEFA studios in Dresden and Babelsberg, also producer of his own experimental films, in 1986 moved from Germany East/Leipzig to Germany West/Hamburg,1994 Member of the Free Academy of the Arts in Leipzig, since 1999 Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (New Media) in Dresden - Hochschule für Bildende Künste, director of documentary movies.