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

By Ann Larabee | Go to book overview

4
Hitmen

Uncle Fester’s Silent Death offers instruction in kitchen-made poisons: phosgene, nerve gas, botulism, ricin, and “CIA shellfish toxin.” Written by a professional chemist, it emulates the language of a science textbook, but offers “a celebration of that ancient and fine art, the art of poisoning.”1 For a few dollars, the curious and malevolent can now download it from the digital library, Scribd. The book was an answer to Maxwell Hutchkinson’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, which provided a rough account of making various organic poisons from plants. Uncle Fester’s aim was to update such manuals by adding real science: “Prior to my typewriter driven blitzkrieg, underground books were generally entertaining, but sorely lacking in technical prowess and veracity.”2 Published by the now defunct Loompanics, Silent Death has featured in cases involving the production of ricin, a poison made famous by a KGB assassination of a Soviet defector and featured as a key plot point in the television series, Breaking Bad. Ricin is difficult to produce with any purity or in large quantity, but even without advanced technical equipment, the instructions in Silent Death produce a serviceable product that will kill if ingested or injected. For instance, two members of a Minnesota antigovernment group were convicted of making a strong enough quantity of ricin to murder 129 people.3 They had received a ricin-making kit from a wellknown figure in patriot groups, Maynard Campbell, who had reprinted portions of Silent Death in his own book, urging readers to “quietly eliminate the corrupt and unjust individuals within our ‘system’s’ structure.”4 The prosecutor held up the cover of Silent Death with its menacing skull and crossbones to show how serious the defendants were.5

Books like Silent Death represent a maturation of the popular weapons manual over a few decades after the Vietnam War as paramilitary publishers expanded their scope and audience. In the 1960s, publishers like Paladin Press had begun to create an alternative network for military information with an eye to veracity and professionalism. The largest producers of weapons information are government military institutions, and the second largest are the paramilitary publishers who provide a conduit for that information into the public sphere. Located

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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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