After Benning, After Math: 12, 13, and Counting….

by Dick Hebdige
Date Published: January 15, 2013

This essay was originally published in (FC): Two Cabins by JB, ed., Julie Ault (New York: A.R.T. Press, 2011) and is reproduced with permission from the author. All original formatting has been preserved.

James Benning, <em>Henry David Thoreau Cabin</em> (exterior), 2007-08. 14' 4 in x 10' 4 in x 14'. All images courtesy of the artist unless otherwise noted.

James Benning, Henry David Thoreau Cabin (exterior), 2007-08. 14′ 4 in x 10′ 4 in x 14′. All images courtesy of the artist unless otherwise noted.

If each generation were allowed and expected to build its own houses, that simple change, comparatively unimportant in itself, would imply almost every reform which society is now suffering for. I doubt whether even our public edifices—our capitols, statehouses, courthouses, city-halls and churches—ought to be built of such permanent materials as stone or brick. It were better that they should crumble to ruin once in twenty years or thereabouts, as a hint, to people to examine and reform the institutions which they symbolize.
—Holgrave, Hope Party reformer, painter and practitioner of the new art of daguerrotypography in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, House of the Seven Gables (1851).

Email sent August 5, 2010

Dear Amy,
I just left a rambling heads up on your voice mail to the effect that I’m now back in Joshua Tree after a brief stay with James Benning at his place in the High Sierras circa 1846 (no internet or cell phone coverage, no answer machine, no fancy victuals e.g. bread, eggs, etc). As a consequence of falling off the grid and ending up in Donner Party land, I didn’t retrieve your messages till yesterday afternoon after the 5 hour drive down the mountains through Kern County and across the inner wastes of the Mojave. Despite the distances, the heat and the lack of amenities up there, the trip turned out to be magical and restorative though I got hit on arrival by some kind of vicious 72 hour bug. I’m always stunned by how beautiful James’s place is. The house is an authentic slice of early ’70s Americana projected on stilts off the sheer side of a mountain, suspended at tree-top height over a forest that stretches off for miles into the peak-studded distances that separate his idyll from the blistering Central Valley and the exhaust-laden transport hub of Bakersfield…

December 2005.
James just gave me a Bill Traylor drawing—a Baron Samedi figure in a stovepipe hat with a cane. On the back there’s an inscription that reads “after Traylor, JB” and the date.
—Author’s diary entry.

The Benning manse is, as I say, poised over a steep V shaped canyon…the most jaw-dropping feature is the open deck hovering like an airplane wing out into the ether, framed out fair and square with four evenly spaced horizontal planks at the top running the length of the house Japanese Zen temple-style. We’d sit there in the evenings talking into our drinks and the gathering darkness, gazing out into the blue, pink, then star-clustered distances as the hawks and eagles pinned to the sky like silhouettes on a child’s bedroom wall turned into bats looping open-mouthed through swarms of flying insects. The spirit of the Unabomber presided over all, looming in the barbecued air between the deck where we were sitting and the Kaczynski cabin nestled 30 yards down the hill beneath our feet, a miniscule structure (12 ft. x 10ft. x 6ft. 9 in.) half-obscured by a giant Manzanita, like the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel.

By way of contrast, the Thoreau cabin (12ft. X 15 f t. x 7ft. 4 in.) just over to the west can’t be seen at all in summer from this position. It’s off to one side, completely shrouded in foliage (as if it’s been placed in parenthesis). For now at least from where we were sitting—at least until that bush gets bigger—Kaczynski kind of dominates the composition….

The nature of things is in the habit of concealing itself.
—Heraclitus, Fragment 5:4



James Benning’s cabins sit 40 meters apart bedded in among thickets of scrub oak, manzanita and ponderosa pine at an elevation of 4,000 feet mid-way down a steep foothill adjacent to the Sequoia National Forest in the western High Sierras. Flanked by high bushes and oriented at different angles, each cabin, secreted in plain sight, is a one-room world unto itself. Separate but connected (there is no directly linking path) they each command similar yet completely different inward- and outward-facing views. Along with a clear glass-paneled door and contemporary equivalents of the two large windows from the hut on Walden Pond, the walls of the Thoreau cabin open onto five distinct, intensely wrought worlds:

• 1 ‘Hawkins’ (The Blue Boar #2 [1989]),
• 1 ‘Ramirez’ (Train Tracks with Two Tunnels, 1948-61),
• 1 ‘Darger’ (At Ressurrectoation Run. Attacked by Fierce Glandelinians, one of the Vivians Hurls Grenades, 1960),
• 1 ‘Tolliver’ (Self-Portrait, 1978) and
• 3 ‘Traylors’ (Man in Blue House with Rooster, Blue Construction with Two Figures and Dog, Female Drinker, 1939-43).

All 7 works are exact hand-made replicas of the originals, the mimetic detail extending to media, materials, mode of execution, age and provenance of frames, etc.

July 2006.
JB gave me two more ‘Traylors’ done on authentic mid-century cardboard—a small ink drawing in a thick square wooden thrift store ’40s frame of two male figures boxing with Traylor’s trademark rounded heads, beady bird eyes and curvilinear dancers’ bodies and a blocky bull in red. They are deceptively simple and not at all straightforward. Like Japanese manga or a painting by Nara, the filled-in silhouettes may appear disarming and child-like at first, but once they’ve settled into the wall they begin to glower back at the viewer with an amused kind of ferocity. (This may be where Kara Walker got the idea for her horror-history silhouette series). The slave’s gift to the master: a poisoned glass of juke joint rum made from sugar grown right here on the old plantation. It occurs to me that the second drawing could be the logo for that caffeinated energy drink/alcoholic mixer.
— Author’s diary entry.

James Benning, <em>Ted Kaczynski Cabin: Window (detail)</em>, 2008. Photograph.

James Benning, Ted Kaczynski Cabin: Window (detail), 2008. Photograph.

The views from inside the Kaczynski cabin, a facsimile of the Unabomber’s former Montana home are as intense and heterogeneous as those from inside the Thoreau cabin. In addition to the solid door and the two small square windows installed asymmetrically on opposite sides as in the original structure, the perforations in the walls open (in or out depending on how you figure spatiality) onto:

• 1 ‘Black Hawk’ (Dreams of Visions of Himself Changed to a Destroyer or Riding a Buffalo Eagle, 1880 or 81),
• 1 ‘Yoakum’ (Idaho Falls, Braintree Pass, c. 1966),
• 1 ‘Howard’ (A Man Has No Right to Defend his Family etc.,1955),
• a scanned .pdf of a page of Kaczynski doodles,
• a 1 in. x 3 in. scrap of paper with a motto (Taking a bath in winter breaks an Indiana law) found in the original Kaczynski cabin typed by JB on the same Smith-Corona manual model Kaczynski used to type the Unabomber Manifesto, and
• a framed hand-written copy of a sheet of the ‘secret’ numerical code TK used to document his most incriminating thoughts and actions—1 of 3 pages found hidden inside the cabin walls after his arrest without which, as the FBI admit, the relevant sections of the Unabomber’s journals would, in all probability, have remained un-deciphered.

The Cabins Project, JB’s tribute to the American vernacular yard art tradition is perched on the just-about-buildable edge of a hillside, public park land, defensible appropriation art practice and permissible speech. It is equal parts design-build demonstration project, historical echo chamber, political statement, conceptual-outsider art installation, living museum, artists’ retreat and secessionist compound. At first glance, aspects of the project may seem congruent with broader trends in the contemporary art world, for example, the engagement of individual artists and art collectives with design, domestic living space and bare-bones architecture or with simulation and altered states of consciousness or with the genealogy of ’60s West Coast counter-culture and cybernetics etc. But the Cabins Project remains, at its core, stubbornly recalcitrant and singular. Like the group of awkward loners whose works and lives provide the second-hand citational substance out of which it has been woven, it cannot be annexed by any trend or socially networked ‘world’ (art or otherwise) outside itself.

JB’s imaginary collective is as impossible and illusory as Theodore J. Kaczynski’s Freedom Club (FC)—the fictional anti-technology terrorist organization in whose name the former Berkeley math professor, raised in a lower-middle class Chicago suburb, pushed through high school at an accelerated rate and sent off to Harvard, aged 16, issued his demands, pronouncements and ‘Manifesto’ to the FBI, the Press, and, via them, to society-at-large during his 16-year reign of terror from a one-room plywood shack secreted on a heavily timbered 1.4 acres in Florence Gulch within a mile of Stemple Pass Road on the edge of Lincoln, Montana (2010 pop. 1,465). FC, the initials TK stamped on the metal plugs he used to cap his sometimes lethally effective lo-tech pipe bombs, before enclosing them in elaborate, hand-crafted wooden boxes and mailing them to people connected to industries and professions he disapproved of, became Kaczynski’s personal signature. In all likelihood, it’s only in his FC-signed communiqués, written in the ‘royal we,’ that Kaczynski, condemned to life in solitary long before his feral paradise in Florence Gulch, Montana morphed into a cell in a federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado has had recourse to the first person plural pronoun:

This message is from the terrorist group FC. To prove its authenticity we give our identifying number…. By ‘freedom’ we mean the opportunity togo through the power process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate activities and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially any large organization.1

JB’s Cabins club is a similarly fantastic collective—an assortment of odd ducks, dissidents, recluses and marginals bound together through a speech act delivered by an outside-inside artist. It exists in here between these covers as much as, if not more than, out there in the world. Benning’s paradoxical ‘community’—an Army of Ones—is as illusory and non-existent from a fact-based point of view as the “American people,” that other meta-fictional entity, endlessly conjured out of the ether, interpellated and spoken for in stump speeches, press conferences and policy tweets by members of the professional political and pundit class. In fact, the endlessly biddable “American People,” the blimp that floats daily through the blabo-sphere, blown this way and that by competing currents of hot air (as opposed to actually existing American boots, shoes and bare feet on the ground) is what JB’s FC stands against—or rather turns away from.

I have a huge love-hate relationship with this country…that’s what my films underline…(they) express my frustration with being an American and question the direction this country has taken. Not explicitly but I think it’s always in all my films because it’s part of me. And around 1995 I decided I had only two criteria to make films from now on…to go to a place I want to be in, to really understand place, to define place as having meaning and then to look at this place (so) that it can tell me something about my life…to put my life in maybe more focus.
—James Benning2


James’s property is situated on the edge of a small berg in Tulare County, the poorest county in the state. The town is centered on a cluster of mobile homes and cabins on stilts wedged into a holler with a stream and though the map says ‘California’ the place has an authentic east coast Appalachian feel. There’s a bar attached to a motel that’s open 5 days a week and closes around 8:00 p.m. and a store that sells mainly canned goods. James’s fridge contains tins of soda, a few bottles of beer and cellophane wrapped packages of liverwurst. There are also large plastic flagons of water (the tap water is contaminated with uranium). James’s main source of nutrition is, of course, research and ceaseless making. Stacked up in one corner of the living room adjacent to the boxes of tapes and CDs are orderly piles of books, especially biographies and catalogues devoted to the folk/outsider artists he’s so tightly drawn to, and whose work he’s been copying in a series of meticulously rendered replicas for the past 7 years or so, ever since he finished working on the house. As my summer cold set in the following day, I picked up an armful of books and headed downstairs to the guest quarters directly below the flying deck and retreated to bed where I lay reading, dozing, sneezing…glancing up at intervals, as the afternoon wore on into another evening, at the apparition of the Unabomber’s hut visible through the window, peeking out from behind that bush in the feverish half-light….

James Benning, <em>Ted Kaczynski Cabin: Library (detail)</em>, 2008. Photograph.

James Benning, Ted Kaczynski Cabin: Library (detail), 2008. Photograph.

A single shelf running the length of the west wall in the Kaczynski cabin holds 115 books stacked in 11 horizontal piles. Roughly half are duplicates taken from the 257 titles listed by the FBI in their inventory of the original TK cabin contents. The other half consists of additional ‘sympathetic’ inserts from JB’s library, including some books owned by figures convened by Benning in “Twelve People” published elsewhere in this volume:

Sunday May 7, 1972
Found something to do with my $10 Confederate Flag. Wiped the dust off my shoes with it before polishing them. It’s too thin to use as a polish cloth. ‘Wish I was in the land of cotton.’ Bang! ‘Bama.
— Arthur Bremer, An Assassin’s Diary3

The artist’s textual additions include Arthur Bremer’s An Assassin’s Diary, the self-penned chronicle of the 21 year-old unemployed busboy from Milwaukee who set off on an extended transcontinental meander in the early spring of 1972 with the stated intention of assassinating Richard Nixon, only to end up at a rally in a shopping mall in Laurel, Maryland on the afternoon of May 15 severing the spine of George C. Wallace, then the segregationist Governor of Alabama, with a bullet from a .38.

April 24, 1972 Tuesday
Just another god Damn Failure4

Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron, dubbed the “Last Hero” in a recent biography by Howard Bryant is the only proper name from JB’s “Twelve People” that escapes incarceration inside the cabin complex. Joined forever at the hip to Arthur Bremer in the universe of Benning as the one-time starring outfielder with the Milwaukee Braves through the 55 minute montage of Aaron baseball cards that take center-stage in JB’s film American Dreams (1984) while Bremer’s semi-literate diary entries scroll right to left across the bottom of the screen, Aaron alone is allowed to float free from the labyrinth of making-dwelling-thinking JB has dug over the course of several years into his hillside property at the edge of the Sequoia federal wilderness reserve.5. He alone is spared inclusion in the matrix of obsession, positioned to one side as an honorary affiliate of the JB FC, an unsullied icon from Benning’s adolescence, when, thanks to his skill as an Industrial League ‘sand lot’ pitcher in Milwaukee in the ’50s / early ’60s JB, too, was for a brief while courted, as a pro-baseball prospect.6

But then again, like Bill Traylor and Mose Tolliver (and George Wallace), as a native son of Alabama (born in Mobile, 1934), Aaron doesn’t get to float that far….

The Milwaukee in which Henry Aaron arrived in 1954 was…adjusting…(after World War II to)…the arrival of thousands of southern blacks during the great migration north. The postwar increase in the black population would produce for Milwaukee one of its great contradictions, for despite its reputation for tolerance, high-quality-of life Milwaukee earned a reputation as one of the most severely segregated cities in the country.7

Among the 280 portraits of mainly working and lower-middle class students of German, Jewish and Polish stock in Benning’s graduation high school year book for 1961, there is not a single black face though JB grew up just four blocks west of ‘Bronzeville,’ the tight rectangle of streets in downtown Milwaukee set aside for its African-American population.8 The march through the heart of the Irish-Italian neighborhoods of South Milwaukee led by Father Groppi in 1967 that ended in a violent clash at Kosciuszko Park during which several protesters, Benning included, were beaten to the ground by opponents of desegregation may have contributed to the city’s first fair-housing ordinance passed the following year, but the violence and the racism continued unabated.9ee Bryant, and James Benning, “Off Screen Space/Somewhere Else,” in Barbara Pichler, Claudia Slanar, eds., James Benning (Vienna: Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Synema, 2007)10 Throughout the 1973 season when Aaron was poised to beat Babe Ruth’s ‘all-time’ home-run record, he received sack loads of hate mail from white baseball fans, many hailing the future Hall of Famer as “Dear Nigger” including the following more politely framed death threat reproduced in Aaron’s auto-biography:

Dear Hank,
You are a very good ballplayer, but if you come close to Babe Ruth’s 714 homers I have a contract out on you. Over 700 and you can   consider yourself punctured with a .22 shell. If by the all-star game you have come within 20 homers of Babe you will be shot on site by one of my assassins on July 24, 1973.11

A transversal scan of the volumes on display in the Kaczynski cabin taken in the light of the preceding paragraph two hours after it was written on the replica desk in the Thoreau cabin on 7/13/11 highlighted the following:

• found in Arthur Bremer’s apartment after his arrest: Bradford Angier, How to Survive in the Woods (Macmillan Press, 1956);
• referenced in Henry Darger’s Realms; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852; Signet, 1966);
• from the FBI inventory of titles found in the Unabomber cabin: Hugh Davis Graham & Ted Robert Gurr (eds) Violence in America:  Historical and Comparative Perspectives volumes 1 and 2: A Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (Sage Publications, 1979; 1989); The Basics of Rifle Shooting (National Rifle Assn, 1987); Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (1907; Doubleday, 1953);
• from JB’s library: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written by Himself (Boston, 1845; Anchor 1973); Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land With Blood. A Biography of John Brown (University of Massachusetts Press, 1984).

2d, December, 1859

I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.12

A note containing this prophetic proclamation was handed to an attendant by John Brown hours prior to his execution for treason after the abortive raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry on October 16, 1859, the action that, in retrospect, eleven months before the firing on Fort Sumter, served as the unofficial opening salvo in the American Civil War. At 11 a.m. that day as the open wagon carrying the Old Man seated on his coffin entered the field outside Charlestown, Virginia where a crowd of 1,500, including the actor John Wilkes Booth, had gathered to see justice served, the abolitionist/domestic terrorist/freedom fighter/martyr to the anti-slavery cause looked up for a moment at the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance framing the gallows and remarked to no one in particular:

This is a beautiful country. I never had the pleasure of seeing it before.13


Bill Traylor; the former slave from Benton, Alabama who, from 1939 to 1942, spent his days seated on a crate with a pencil stub drawing what he saw inside the bits of cardboard blown in by the wind in the doorway of a pool hall on Montgomery’s Monroe Street, spent his nights sleeping in the coffin storage room of a nearby funeral parlor by kind permission of the owner.14

Mose Tolliver, who was raised with his eleven siblings in a one-room sharecropper’s cabin in Pintlala, Alabama but lived much of his adult life in Montgomery, former capital of Andrew Jackson’s Confederacy, home to Rosa Parks and, from 1954-1960 of Martin Luther King, both of whom, separately and in unison, pursued John Brown’s agenda by other means, spent his days sitting on a bed painting what he saw when he looked down into the sheets of plywood resting on crippled knees crushed beneath a falling crate of marble at the warehouse where he’d worked before the accident.15

Henry Darger, who enlisted Little Eva and Simon Le Gris from Uncle Tom’s Cabin as combatants in opposing armies of The Realms appropriated the uniforms, weapons and supplies of the Civil War to model his own private holocaust—the bloody inner war waged, brother within brother, between the lust for purity and butchery, grace and desecration, implosion, explosion and epiphany.16

And Henry David Thoreau spent a famous night in jail because he refused to pay taxes to support a government that condoned and protected slavery, heard John Brown speak at Concord, gave money to support his war in Kansas against the Border Ruffians, delivered the speech “A Plea for Captain John Brown” defending the use of violence against the “wicked(ness of) human bondage,” helped one of the Harper’s Ferry raiders, Francis Jackson Merriam escape to Canada, and assisted the passage of fugitive slaves to the same destination on what he called America’s “only free road, the Underground Railroad…owned and managed by the Vigilant Committee.”17

They are themselves mistaken who take him to be a madman…. Ask the tyrant who is his most dangerous foe, the sane man or the insane? Do the thousands…who have rejoiced at his deeds in Kansas, and have afforded him material aid there, think him insane?… Is it not possible that an individual may be right and a government wrong? Are laws to be enforced simply because they were made? Or declared by any number of men to be good, if they are not good?… I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the good and the brave ever in a majority? Would you have him wait till…you and I  came over to him?
— Henry David Thoreau, A Plea for Captain Brown

East of the Kansas line, Jesse Howard, born dirt-poor and white, one of nine children in a one-room log cabin in Shamrock, Missouri who, in later years, turned the roadside yard in front of his home on Sorehead Hill in Fulton, MO into a public exhibition site for his handwritten upper case opinions would, even at the age of 97, regale visiting folk art collectors with tales from his childhood, including colorful stories about the legendary outlaw, Jesse James. He recalled, for instance, how James, a hard-core Southern Loyalist who, before robbing banks had served as a Confederate guerilla and taken part in the Centralia Massacre in Clay County, MO in September, 1864 when 22 unarmed Union soldiers were scalped and dismembered “would take his horse to shop and have his shoes put on backwards” to confuse pursuing posses.18

—after Jesse Howard, JB” wall text in ‘Kaczynski’ cabin

The Unabomber ghost stood before me throughout the entire stay, solidly visible to my aching eyes in flu-fever: thick hair amok and stiffly upstanding, JB style, a filthy fleece shirt and grease-shiny jeans hanging off his scrappy frame, startling blue eyes obscured behind the aviator shades from that famous FBI poster; the whole apparition topped with a poncho worn against the cold Montana rain, every inch of its transparent plastic surface smeared with dried mud beneath which lurked a mass of rain-smudged runes and mathematical proofs written out in a neat school boy’s cursive with a black magic marker….

Ted Kaczynski, sole member of the original Freedom Club adopted tactics as ingenious as the bandit, Jesse James to throw the agents off his trail. Those tactics included, inter alia, screwing smaller-sized soles to the bottoms of the trainers he wore while on monkey-wrenching expeditions; dousing bomb parts in a mixture of oil, turpentine and water to remove finger-prints; attaching single hairs he picked up in a restroom in Missoula to the electrical tape used on one of his devices to muddy the forensics. He was alleged to have laid a sheet of paper across the envelope of a letter addressed to the New York Times in June, 1994 and written “phone Nathan R – Wed 7 pm” hard enough to leave a (barely legible) imprint thus sending the FBI on a wild goose chase with agents poring over national phone listings attempting to track down every Nathan with a surname beginning with an “R”, then tracing back all incoming calls around 7 p.m. inside the time-frame established by the post mark.19

(Researchers) note…that the health, life, and genetic legacy of members of social species are threatened when they find themselves on the social perimeter. For instance, social isolation…promotes obesity and Type 2 diabetes in mice; exacerbates infarct size and edema and decreases post-stroke survival rate following experimentally induced stroke in mice; promotes activation of the sympatho-adrenomedullary response to an acute immobilization or cold stressor and delays the effects of exercise on adult neurogenesis in rats;…increases the 24 hr urinary catecholamines levels and evidence of oxidative stress in the aortic arch of rabbits…. Humans, born to the longest period of abject dependency of any species and dependent on conspecifics across the lifespan to survive and prosper, do not fare well, either, whether they live solitary live or they simply perceive they live in relative isolation.
— Wikipedia entry under Social Isolation

And throughout the twenty-five years he spent alone without electricity or plumbing surrounded by his books and bomb components, his personal Nature deities, Grandfather Rabbit and the Will ‘o’ the Wisp 20 and his edible companions—the rabbits, elk, squirrels, rats, mice and crickets that would end up in his stews along with wild plants and home-grown self-composted carrots and potatoes, he wrote incessantly, compulsively documenting his daily thoughts and actions, his natural history observations and Promethean experiments on more than 22,000 typed and hand-written pages, simultaneously disclosing and concealing through an elaborate, and, as it turned out, futile security-alert transcription system that switched back and forth between various languages (Kaczynski’s library included primers in Chinese, Egyptian, Finnish, German, Latin, Russian and Spanish) and the numerical code he reserved for ‘Q’ (queer i.e. sensitive) and ‘QQ’ (very queer) disclosures—the whole scriptive system representing a vast confessional labyrinth into which the Unabomber would fall as he set out every morning like Dante Alighieri on Groundhog day on his walk into the dark wood.

“A” coded numbers:

14, 95, 16, 91, 28, 41, 90, 43, 57, 16, 18,

82, 96, 67, 44, 51, 32, 98, 81, 87, 31, 3,

57, 11, 22, 0, 65, 37, 67, 57, 38, 8, 52, 23,

75, 32, 61, 38, 39, 22, 56, 82, 56, 1, 31,

3, 43, 51, 1, 57,,,

“B” coded numbers:

0, 62, 83, 17, 86, 29, 16, 30, 27, 04, 89,

20, 68, 53, 26, 23, 10, 80, 69, 45, 17, 70,

32, 90, 47, 54, 2, 95, 11, 15, 14, 90, 31,

87, 63, 8, 31, 13, 74, 50, 14, 29, 35, 83,

19, 79, 18, 22, 46, 29,,,

Using the ‘secret’ double key hidden by Kaczynski in the original cabin wall, the two sets of numbers above deliver the first ten words in bold of the coded journal entry translated below which TK rated ‘Q’:

Exxon conducting seismic exploration for oil. Couple of helicopters flying all over the hills, lower…dynamite on a cable, make blast on ground, instruments measure vibrations. Early August I went and camped out…in Diagonal Gulch, hoping to shoot up a helicopter…. Proved harder than I thought…. 2 quick shots…. Miss both. When I got back to camp, I cried, partly from frustration at missing, but mostly grief at what is happening to the country. It is so beautiful. But if they find oil, disaster…. Where can I go now for peace and quiet?21

The entry was deciphered on 7/16/11 by JB with the following program written by JB in BASICA on a 1983 NEC computer and described in his own words below:

The computer program does the following:

1)     prompts to enter the “A” code numbers

2)     prompts to enter the “B” code numbers

3)     subtracts B from A

4)     if the difference is less than zero, then 100 is added to the difference

5)     translates the difference to a Letter, Word, Number, Punctuation Mark or Word-Spacer according to Kaczynski’s List of Meanings

For example: 14 is entered from the “A” list, 0 is entered from the “B” list. The difference is 14 minus 0, which is 14; and from the list of meanings 14= “E” Then 95 is entered from the “A” list and 62 is entered from the “B” list. The difference is 95 minus 62, which is 33; and from the list of meanings 33= “X”. Then 16 is entered from the “A” list; 83 is entered from the “B” list. The difference is -67, which is lless than zero so 100 is added giving 33; and from the list of meanings 33= “X”; and so forth. Note that after 3 entries, the code gives: EXX, which are the first three letters of the corporation known as EXXON.
—James Benning, email 7/19/11

Everything we have to do to get to the truth has to be sneaky. It seems a shame to sneak to get to the truth—to make the truth such an evil, old, dirty, nasty thing. You have to sneak to get to the truth. The truth is condemned. The truth is in the gas chamber. The truth has been in your stockyards, your slaughter-houses. The truth has been in your reservations, building your railroads, emptying your garbage. The truth is in your ghettoes, in your jails not in your courtrooms…. They put a picture of old George on the dollar and tell you that he’s your Father – worship him … they’re butchering themselves every time they go on the freeway. They hate themselves. Look at the signs—STOP, GO, TURN HERE, TURN THERE, you can’t do this, you can’t do that…. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t. This is illegal. That’s illegal…. The police used to watch over the People. Now they’re watching the people….
—Charles Manson22

Dick Hebdige has published extensively on popular culture, media and critical theory and contemporary art, music and design. He is the author of three seminal books on art and popular culture: Subculture: The Meaning of Style (Methuen, 1979); Cut ‘n’ Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music (Methuen, 1987); and Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things (Routledge, Methuen, 1988). Hebdige is a professor in the Art and Film & Media Studies Departments at UCSanta Barbara and is the Director of the University of California institute for Research in the Arts Desert Studies Project, an arts-based research and teaching program centered on California’s Mojave and Sonoran deserts.