“Unresolved Evil: On Justice and the End of the Unabomber”

Gelernter, David

The Weekly Standard, April 6, 1998

pp. 17-24

Between 1978 and 1995, Theodore (“Ted”) Kaczynski killed 3 people and injured 23 with homemade bombs.  Wanting to avoid national publicity for Kaczynski’s cause (resistance to technology), the court permitted Kaczynski to accept a plea bargain entailing no trial, life imprisonment, and no possibility of parole.  David Gelernter argues that the nation needed to have Kaczynski on trial.  (P. 21) “A plea bargain in a case like this is an abrogation of the public’s responsibility to face facts and come to grips with the truth.” Consider the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.  Anybody who thinks this is a toothless affair ought to consider the reluctance of P.W. Botha to testify.  He did not want to confess anything.  Too humiliating.  But if he did–it would be powerful!  We need the opportunity to denounce evil. That’s why a plea-bargain isn’t as good. (P. 22)  “Ritual denunciations strengthen our good inclinations and help us suppress our bad ones.  We need to hear the crowd (hear ourselves) praising good and denouncing evil.  Not commiserating and whining and preening, not promising to be non-judgmental and always to love one another just as we are (you wish) and showering each other with ersatz forgiveness like tinsel snow at a grade-school Christmas play–these are lollipop gestures, cheap and childish, sticky-sweet and (p. 23) without moral substance–but praising good; denouncing evil.  Goodness is unnatural, and we need to cheer one another on to seek it.’  It’s up to the community to redeem the evil and collectively transcend it, by responding with dignity, assurance, and absolute clarity.