December 18, 2013

The author of The Anarchist Cookbook urges his publisher to ban the book after being linked to another violent incident


A first edition of The Anarchist Cookbook, a book the author has asked to be taken out of circulation

A first edition of The Anarchist Cookbook; the author has asked his publisher to cease sales after his book was linked to another act of violence

The news that the Arapahoe High School student who critically wounded a fellow student before killing himself was a fan of The Anarchist Cookbook renewed calls from the author himself that his own book be banned. Saying it is “no longer responsible or defensible to keep it in print,” William Powell has found himself going toe-to-toe with a publisher who has no desire to take the books off shelves. In an email to NBC News, Powell wrote that “the book should go quietly and immediately out of print.”

The Anarchist Cookbook was published in 1971, has sold more than two million copies, and has been linked to a long list of mass killings and terrorist events. The NBC News story runs down that list:

Croatian radicals who bombed Grand Central Terminal and hijacked a TWA flight in 1976; the Puerto Rican separatists who bombed FBI headquarters in 1981; Thomas Spinks, who led a group that bombed 10 abortion clinics in the 1980s; Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995; the Columbine High School shooters of 1999; and the 2005 London public transport bombers.

Just in the last two years, law enforcement has tied the volume to Arizona shooter Jared Loughner, the Boston Marathon bombers, and at least a half dozen alleged terrorists and school shooters.

Writing on the book’s Amazon page, the author explained his state of mind when he wrote the book:

The Anarchist Cookbook was written during 1968 and part of 1969 soon after I graduated from high school. At the time, I was 19 years old and the Vietnam War and the so-called “counter culture movement” were at their height. I was involved in the anti-war movement and attended numerous peace rallies and demonstrations. The book, in many respects, was a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in.

The copyright to the book is held by Billy Blann, who bought the rights in 2002 and publishes it through his Delta Press. When NBC News asked him about the book’s latest violent association, he responded, “I feel bad about that…But there’s victims of almost anything and everything, and I just don’t think we need to start banning books in America.” He goes on to explain to NBC that The Anarchist Cookbook is his most requested title, and that he is “sure he got his money back” in the rights deal.

A quick look at the Delta Press website reveals a catalog that includes Build Your Own AR-15, Home Workshop Silencers, Justifiable Homicide, and Clear Your Record & Own a Gun. The home page contains a note that “All books sold are for academic purposes only.”

There wouldn’t seem to be a legal case for ceasing publication of The Anarchist Cookbook, but Powell thinks Blann should pull it anyway.

During the years that followed its publication, I went to university, married, became a father and a teacher of adolescents. These developments had a profound moral and spiritual effect on me. I found that I no longer agreed with what I had written earlier and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the ideas that I had put my name to. In 1976 I became a confirmed Anglican Christian and shortly thereafter I wrote to Lyle Stuart Inc. explaining that I no longer held the views that were expressed in the book and requested that The Anarchist Cookbook be taken out of print. The response from the publisher was that the copyright was in his name and therefore such a decision was his to make – not the author’s. In the early 1980’s, the rights for the book were sold to another publisher. I have had no contact with that publisher (other than to request that the book be taken out of print) and I receive no royalties.

Unfortunately, the book continues to be in print and with the advent of the Internet several websites dealing with it have emerged. I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print.



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.