The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society

By Ann Larabee | Go to book overview

2
sabotage

In the late nineteenth century, the chemists and engineers had presented themselves as the right hands for a new and dangerous knowledge of explosive power that had to be kept from the wrong hands of the bomb-throwing anarchists. The early twentieth century saw the coming of the official bomb squad and the celebrity detective, who were firmly on the side of capital in a battle against labor. The police created a new image of themselves not only as the right hands for knowledge of explosive devices, but also as arbiters of speech, determining what sort of speech—and what sort of speakers—had a bad tendency. It was up to the police, when they went on raids, to determine what texts threatened public order. The creator of the New York City bomb squad, Arthur Woods, warned, “We must be wary of strange doctrine, steady in judgment, instinctively repelling those who seek to poison public opinion. And our laws should be amended so that, while they give free scope to Americans for untrammeled expression of differences of opinion and theory and belief, they forbid and prevent the enemy plotter and the propagandist.”1 With their newly politicized roles in regulating society, law enforcement officials involved in federal policing would identify texts associated with groups they perceived dangerous to the state, channel these texts into the courts, and release carefully chosen information from them to the news media. Defense attorneys would challenge the admission of such texts, but the police would continue rounding them up. The forces of order made little effort to understand the texts’ political arguments or to see them as anything other than transparent causes of inevitable violent effects. It was their duty to identify, arrest, and incarcerate dangerous instructional speech.

The multidimensional labor movement was divided on the question of violent revolution. A very few, like the Italian-American Galleanists, sought and disseminated secretive instructions on making explosive devices. They were mostly a danger to themselves and their immediate neighbors, but they did successfully pull off a major terrorist attack that alarmed the nation. The nonterroristic anarcho-syndicalists, however, gained the most attention from the police

-36-

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The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Science of Revolutionary Warfare 15
  • 2 - Sabotage 36
  • 3 - The Anarchist Cookbook 64
  • 4 - Hitmen 90
  • 5 - Monkeywrenching 108
  • 6 - Ka Fucking Boom 131
  • 7 - Vast Libraries of Jihad and Revolution 152
  • 8 - Weapons of Mass Destruction 171
  • Conclusion 185
  • Notes 191
  • Selected Bibliography 221
  • Index 239
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