I cannot imagine what it would feel like to have written a book and then discover that it was being used as a justification for killing people. When we as writers pick up a pen, sit at a keyboard…whatever…it never occurs to us that there can be a dark side to our writing because we would always like to think that the world needs out work. I’m sure that this is what author William Powell thought when he was a young idealist composing what he thought would be a book that could open a dialogue that could possibly stop a war. He was wrong and today he is actually begging people not to read his work.
“The Anarchist Cookbook,” was written by a nineteen year old budding writer who had seen something very wrong in the world he was living in. An opponent of the Vietnam Conflict, Powell wrote The Anarchist Cookbook as an ode to violence. Back then he was under the impression that violence was good if it made your point. His intention in writing the book appears to have been one of thumbing his nose at a government that seemed to care more about war than it did the thousands of people dying in it. It never occurred to him back then that The Anarchist Cookbook might become an instruction book on how to hurt others.
Powell has had to watch over the years as group after group, individual after individual have spouted passages from his book as a means to justify killing. Powell now has renounced his position on violence being justified and now is begging the books publisher to stop printing it. He’s being quoted as having said that the book “it is no longer responsible or defensible to keep it in print.” He is desperately trying to undo his own written words.
Croatian radicals, Puerto Rican separatists, Thomas Spinks, Timothy McVeigh, they all claim to have used Powell’s book in some way and I have to imagine that knowing this keeps Powell up at night. How could he have known, you may be asking? He knew…somewhere in his heart of hearts he had an inkling of what could happen but the allure of being published is a strong aphrodisiac; sometimes leading us to the wrong decisions even when we know they are wrong.
It’s easy to write that book; the book that glorifies the horrors of human nature. People eat that crap up. Just looking at the top selling books on Amazon or the book seller of your choice and you can see that blood and guts sell. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating not writing about the dark side of human nature; hell I do so myself. What I am saying is that before writing a how to book on bomb making or how to make poisons…stop and consider what you may be unleashing into the world; some things just won’t go back into the box, as Powell can attest to.
© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.