By: Debra Gersh Hernandez
Washington Post, New York Times publish lengthy excerpts from
his manifesto, ponder publishing manuscript in its entirety;
Penthouse publisher reiterates his offer to publish it sp.
THE WASHINGTON POST and New York Times have published lengthy excerpts from the Unabomber manuscript, although both papers reportedly still are debating whether to print the entire manifesto.
Meanwhile, Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione bought a full-page ad in the Times reiterating his offer to publish the text in full and without
Guccione also offered the Unabomber one or more unedited pages a month for an indefinite period in exchange for an end to his terrorist activities.
In June, the Post and the Times each received the manuscript from the terrorist known as the Unabomber, whom law enforcement officials believe is responsible for a series of bombings over the past 17 years.
The name Unabomb is derived from the early targets of the terrorist campaign, who were university professors and airlines.
Although the Unabomber is believed to be one person, he also has made reference to a group called FC, or Freedom Club.
At the time they received the packages, the newspapers were told by the Unabomber that they had three months to publish the entire manuscript, plus three annual follow-up messages, if he were to stop killing people. The Times was granted first right to publish. The 35,000-word, 200-plus paragraph document would fill about seven broadsheet pages.
There was no guarantee, however, that the bombings would stop or that there would be no more property destruction if the newspapers complied.
Guccione immediately offered to run the manuscript, but was told in a letter from the Unabomber that the Times and Post had “first claim on the rights to publish.”
If they do not, Penthouse could publish the document, but only after the Unabomber sets off another bomb with the intent to kill someone.
In his Aug. 3 ad in the Times, Guccione told the Unabomber he was “miffed and a whole lot disappointed by your recent communication,” pointing out that from the start, he has offered to publish the manuscript in its entirety.
Guccione also chided the Unabomber for changing the rules in his recent letters.
“You now say that simple publication in the New York Times or Washington Post is no longer enough to stop the killings,” the ad stated, adding that no one in “our industry” would blame the newspapers for not agreeing to future publication of unseen statements.
“Furthermore,” Guccione continued, “if both the Times and the Post eventually decline to publish you in full and the rights fall to Penthouse, you will permit publication in these pages but you will penalize us all by taking one more life. That, you say, is the price of appearing in a somewhat less than ‘respectable’ periodical.”
Not only is that unacceptable, but it also is an unfair characterization of Penthouse, Guccione stated, touting the demographics and circulation of the magazine.
Guccione’s offer of one or more unedited pages per month, which could be considered a regular column, was offered to “tempt” the Unabomber “from extracting one additional penalty should publication fall to” Penthouse.
“Surely this would be preferable to the three annual updates you are requesting from the New York Times, et. al.,” the publisher commented.
“In return,” he concluded, “I am asking you to put an end to all terrorist activities now and forever. I’m still the only friend you have in the media. Don’t let my willingness to publish you make fools of us both!”
No one from the Times or the Post returned calls from E&P, but each paper included statements from management in its story accompanying the excerpts.
Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. said the published material would give the public the same chance to see excerpts being provided by the FBI to the academic community, in the hope that the writing style would be recognized.
“While the excerpts are a small fraction of the whole document, they are representative of the thoughts in it,” Downie was quoted in the Post.
Also quoted in the Post was publisher Donald E. Graham, who said, “We are continuing to talk it over with people at the New York Times and are consulting with responsible public officials.
“The document we received was postmarked June 24, and said that first the Times and then the Post would have three months to think it over,” Graham continued. “And quite obviously it takes some thinking about. It is not an easy decision.”
The Times story included a statement from its publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who commented, “We have yet to make a decision on whether or not to meet the demands of the Unabomber. Tonight’s story and the excerpts we’re running represent the judgment of our editors as to what is newsworthy.
“The tough decision of whether we will publish the entire document is still ahead,” he continued, “As I’ve said before, the demand that the Unabomber have access to our pages for three years is especially troubling. There’s no easy way to open negotiations with this person and for the moment, we’re stymied.”
In the Times and Post excerpts, the Unabomber railed against the industrial system, leftists, conservatives, science and technology, and moral and social problems.
The papers also included his thoughts about the media.
“As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of freedom of the press,” Unabomber stated. “We certainly don’t mean to knock that right; it is a very important tool for limiting concentration of political power and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly exposing any misbehavior on their part.
“But freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen as an individual,” Unabomber continued. “The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect.
“To make an impression on society with words is, therefore, almost impossible for most individuals and small groups.
“Take us (FC) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted.
“If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of those readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them.
“In order to get our message before the public with some chance of a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill
people . . . . “
Doctor Jerrold M. Post, who is professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs and the director of the political psychiatry program at the George Washington University Medical Center, called this “classic terrorism” and agreed that the newspapers were faced with “a very complicated problem.”
“On the one hand,” he said, “the papers are legitimately concerned about not wanting to contribute to further loss of life. On the other hand, it is in effect, an extortion demand that unless you publish, they will perish. It is literally a publish or perish threat.”
Post said it was important to pay attention to the accompanying letters, especially one in which the Unabomber said if the Times published the manuscript, he would desist from terrorism ? but with two important caveats: he reserved the right to commit acts of sabotage against property, and if the FBI continued to hunt him, all bets were off.
“Those are two impossible conditions,” Post noted. To say that “all they have to do is publish and that’s the end is manifestly untrue.”
In addition, Post pointed out that there are implications beyond the Unabomber.
“This is quite a remarkable event,” he explained. “When you have a hostage situation, terrorists threaten that unless you meet their objectives, they will kill the hostages. This is a future threat. What are the implications?
“There is much madness afoot in this country,” Post said. “Why should not Joe X, who has a burning desire to see his ideas get across, be similarly inspired should the Unabomber be acquiesced to by the newspapers? There is a danger of that copycat phenomenon.”
Further, the Unabomber seems to go through a “very intricate discussion about moral values and justification for his actions,” Post noted, explaining that “he talks about the moral code, in effect, is something designed to perpetuate society. Since he believes the structure [of society] should be destroyed, why perpetuate it?
“It says to me at another level, ‘I would have no compunction about lying to get my words published,’ ” Post commented. “The idea that if you publish this, this is the end, I have no reason to believe his appetite for attention” will be sated.
Despite his quest for publication in two of the nation’s largest newspapers, Post said he believes the Unabomber’s “major audience is himself. He gets a great deal of pleasure being this person who can manipulate the press and throw fear into people.”
Post did not think there was “a problem in publishing excerpts as a newsworthy event,” but “to publish something they do not consider newsworthy in the hope he will not hurt anyone is mistaken. It will not solve anything with him and could open the door to other individuals.”
Despite the onerous ethical dilemma being weighed by the newspapers right now, it appears they have little legal responsibility for the Unabomber’s actions.
Washington attorney Allan Adler of Cohen & Marks explained that the newspapers likely would not be liable for the actions of the Unabomber, whether they publish his manuscript or not.
“To the extent third parties are injured because of an individual, it seems clear whatever responsibility or legal liability there is belongs to that person,” he said.
“The newspaper publisher is distinguished from a common carrier,” Adler explained. “A common carrier is obli-gated to accept all comers and to provide equal access and indiscriminate treatment. The newspaper publisher has no legal obligation to publish.”
Adler noted that if the manuscript, or an excerpt, were published, there would be two distinct questions ? whether the press expressly stated that the reason for publication was to comply with the individual’s request, or if it is published because it is newsworthy.
“If publication occurs because [the paper] believes it is newsworthy, I don’t believe there is any legal theory that would result in liability to the publication,” he said.
“On other hand, if the press does say we are publishing in compliance with the request of the individual, it would seem that individual had convinced the press to publish on the basis of a commitment not to explode another bomb. It’s hard to see how the press would be liable,” Adler noted.
“It brings you back to the same place,” he said. “No legal theory would support legal liability for refusing to publish or, in this case, publishing.”
If, however, material in the manifesto is defamatory, the newspaper likely would be responsible, with the case proceeding based on whether the injured person is a public figure/official, requiring a showing of actual malice, or a private citizen.
In other words, there is no good reason to defame someone.
“I can’t imagine a circumstance where the press was able to claim the law of defamation did not apply because it was publishing for this individual,” Adler said. “This would be a situation where I don’t think the press could claim it was compelled to publish.
“If the press tried to offer a good samaritan defense for a good deed, I know of no theory that could excuse defamation,” he noted. “I’m not aware of any precedent in the law of defamation that would excuse the press from the ordinary standard.”
?(The tough decision of whether we will publish the entire document is still ahead. As I’ve said before, the demand that the Unabomber have access to our pages for three years is especially troubling. There’s no easy way to open negotiations with this person and for the moement, we’re stymied.” [Caption]
?(Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher, New York Times) [Photo]
?(We are continuing to talk it over with people at the New York Times and are consulting with responsible public officials) [Caption]
?(Donald Graham, publisher, Washington Post) [Photo]
?(While the excerpts are a small fraction of the whole document, they are representative of the thoughts in it.”)[Caption]
?(Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor, Washington Post) [Photo]
?(Pentahouse publisher Bob Guccione bought a full-page ad in the New York Times reiterating his offer to publish the text in full and without censorship) [Photo & Caption]