American Anarchist

Synopsis: The story of one of the most infamous books ever written, "The Anarchist Cookbook," and the role it's played in the life of its author, now 65, who wrote it at 19 in the midst of the counterculture upheaval of the late '60s and early '70s.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Charlie Siskel
Production: Bow and Arrow Entertainment
  3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
80 min


The book, as I read it,

advocates the violent overthrow

of the American government.

I was very fed up

with the government.

But it wasn't...

It wasn't a call to action.

There's no call to action

in the book itself.

How often do you read the book?

I haven't read it

since I wrote it.

I don't have a copy of it.

On the original,

it was just the warning.

"Keep in mind that

the topics written about here

"are illegal

and constitute a threat.

"Also, more importantly,

"almost all the recipes

are dangerous.

"This book is not for

children or morons."

It's true.

It's not a book for children,

and it's not a book for morons.


The book is published in 1970.

You were equipping people

with this knowledge to do what?

I'm... Yeah,

I don't think that...

I don't think I hoped they would do

anything with it, quite frankly.

"This is a book

for anarchists...

"those who feel able

to discipline themselves

"on all the subjects, from drugs

to weapons, to explosives."

I don't think the book

actually says,

"This is what you should do

with this information."

In fact, it doesn't.

"A freedom fighter

can never surrender,

"for if he does, he becomes

part of the problem.

"There is no trial

in times of trouble.

"Just torture and death."

It's not, you know, "let's go

and burn the government down."

I... That's not there.

"The only laws an individual

can truly respect and obey

"are those

he instills in himself.

"There is only one choice

for a real man,

"and that is revolution."

"This country,

with its institutions,

"belongs to the people

who inhabit it.

"Whenever they shall grow weary

of the existing Government,

"they can exercise their

constitutional right of amending it,

"or their revolutionary right

to dismember or overthrow it."

So, what were you advocating?

I think I was advocating

people to think for themselves.

Bomb-making is essentially

open-source information.

And it has been that way

for a long time.

It has been that way

since before the Internet.

In the late 1960s

and early 1970s,

the US went through a period

when we had lots of bombings.

Bombs went off in Southern

California, Northern California,

also in New York City.

From the middle of that morass

emerged this:

"The Anarchist Cookbook."

So many bombings in the '70s,

large dynamite bombs

all over the place.

And we would frequently find

"The Anarchist Cookbook"

at the bomber's house when

we served the search warrants.

"The Anarchist Cookbook"...

A do-it-yourself

bomb-making manual

written in the early 1970s

by William Powell.

Would you

say you are uncomfortable

identifying yourself

as an American?

I'm not comfortable

with an identity

that links me with

one patriotic group.

Over the years, have

you been contacted by the media?

Oh, there was a string

of invitations to interview.

Requests from

BBC, "Newsweek,"

"The Guardian," Charlie Rose...

I didn't know

who Charlie Rose was.

There were several others,

which I turned down.

Kind of out of touch

with the media

and the media culture.

And I've been living

outside the United States

for the last 36 years.

That's where I'm comfortable.

In 1967,

I was 16, 17 years old.

Started to hitchhike

towards New York City.

It was the summer,

Lower East Side.

The pot and psychedelic cult.

They reject square society,

and claim they

can build a better one.

Power to the people!

Power to the people!

It was heady times.

People were left wing,

they were certainly anti-war.

People were very much aware

of the Civil Rights movement.

Feminism was

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