In the 1970s, there was a book called The Anarchist Cookbook. Hippies had many gods and many bibles: this was the bible of the Church of the Broken Window.
It’s a “how to” guide for picking locks and phreaking phones and building shoebox bombs. Never outright banned in America, it was nevertheless printed in small quantities and was highly sought after in certain circles.
Unfortunately, many of the recipes were a little “off”, plus the people who tried them generally didn’t know what they were doing. The book’s actual recipe was 1) dumbass kids try to make nitroglycerine 2) they blow off their own fingers or burn down the Podunk High gym hall 3) juvie prison sentences all around, plus the school goes into lockdown from now until the end of time. There is quite possibly more authoritarianism in the world thanks to The Anarchist Cookbook than there would have been without it.
There were always conspiracy theories that the Cookbook was written by an “outsider” trying to discredit or sabotage the anarchy movement from within. As of 2013 the copyright resided with a publisher just two blocks away from a National Security Agency depot in Arkansas, but that’s probably a poetic concidence. Regardless of the author’s intentions, the book could be viewed as reverse-activism, advocating violence and accidentally making the world a safer and more secure place.
Or maybe the world would have become safer anyway – books usually don’t matter much. Writers are very excited by the prospect of book burning, the way Christians are excited by tales of Satanic cults running global governments, and it’s easy to see why. Life frequently stomps on us, seemingly for no reason at all, and it’s flattering to believe that we’re being stomped on because we’re important.
BBSs soon became popular, and the Cookbook obtained a fragmentary second life. Bits of it (literally) were streamed over 1200 baud modems, often interpolated with additions by someone calling himself “The Jolly Roger”. This person appeared to be barely literate, someone who learned English from the txt files in Doom wads, and his advice was even worse than the original’s.
“Break a ton of matchheads off. Then cut a SMALL hole in the tennis ball. Stuff all of the matchheads into the ball, until you can’t fit any more in. Then tape over it with duct tape. Make sure it is real nice and tight! Then, when you see a geek walking down the street, give it a good throw. He will have a blast!!” -Jolly Roger-
Consider putting a fuse in the tennis ball too, otherwise it won’t blow up and he’ll think you’re challenging him to tennis for two. Aerobic exercise is linked to positive health outcomes, and you won’t have killed him, you’ll have made him stronger.
Decades later, the author of The Anarchist Cookbook went public and disowned the book (thus inspiring even more people to seek it out and learn its recipes). This page has now been viewed by hundreds of thousands of eyeballs. Do you doubt that at least one pair belong to a young, impressionable person who will actually try the recipes in the book? And that we’ll soon hear about him on the news, along with the twenty or thirty unfortunates who happened to be standing near his trailer at the time?
I don’t believe William Powell has ever made a decision that worked out the way he wanted it to. He should have gone to Vietnam and watched the war effort crumble within a week. Or advocated for cleaner streets and watched as whole communities drowned in an apocalyptic tide of cigarette butts and plastic bags. There are hippie gods, and hippie bibles. William Powell was the hippie Jonah.