In Manifesto: Mexican
War on Nanotechnology
by ROBERT BECKHUSEN0
An anarchist group suspected in the bombings of research labs in Mexico has now taken credit for a murder.
Over the past two years, Mexican scientists involved in bio- and nanotechnology have become targets. They’re not threatened by the nation’s drug cartels. They’re marked for death by a group of bomb-building eco-terrorists with the professed goal of destroying human civilization.
The group, which goes by the name Individualidades Tendiendo a lo Salvaje (ITS), posted its manifesto to anarchist blog Liberacion Total last month. The manifesto takes credit for a failed bombing attempt that month against a researcher at the Biotechnology Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. And the group promises more.
"We have said it before, we act without any compassion in the feral defense of Wild Nature," the manifesto states. "Did those who modify and destroy the Earth think their actions wouldn’t have repercussions? That they wouldn’t pay a price? If they thought so, they are mistaken." The group threatens more bombings against Mexican scientists because "they must pay for what they are doing to the Earth."
A violent fringe group with anarcho-primitivist views — its name roughly translates to "Individuals Tending to Savagery," although "Tending to the Wild" might be more exact — ITS sees technology and civilization as essentially doomed and leading humanity to an ecological catastrophe. Technology should be destroyed; humans should revert to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle; and all of this, ITS says, is for our own good. Nanotechnology is a particular scourge: Self-replicating nanobots will one day escape from laboratories to consume the Earth; and weaponization of nanotech is inevitable.
The group first attracted attention in August 2011, when a package bomb mailed to the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico City exploded, seriously injuring a robotics researcher and bursting the eardrum of a computer scientist. An earlier version of ITS’s manifesto was found charred among the debris. Police have yet to make arrests in the case.
Late last month, ITS claimed responsibility for the 2011 shooting death of a biotechnology researcher, also of the National Autonomous University, boasting that Ernesto Mendez Salinas’ murder was the group’s "first fatality." But there are reasons to doubt the claim. ITS is late to claim responsibility, and police believe the murder occurred during an attempted carjacking unrelated to the group. But at the very least, ITS wants to send the message that it’s willing to kill for its agenda.
ITS is nowhere near as deadly as the narco-terrorism that has plagued Mexico for years. It’s claiming responsibility for seven bomb attempts that have injured three people and killed no one. It’s also suspected of mailing two unclaimed bombs that exploded during shipping in the same period, injuring a total of four people. The most recent bomb exploded on Feb. 21 inside a mailbox, injuring a maintenance worker.
If all this sounds like an updated, Mexican version of the Unabomber, it should. According to Roger Griffin, a political scientist at Oxford Brookes University and author of Terrorist’s Creed, the manifesto’s language has "very strong parallels" to the anti-technology pamphlet Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski.
"Kaczynski became persuaded that the technocracy was destroying the world," Griffin tells Danger Room. "He became a radical ecologist, he lived in the wild, he lived in a hut, he read people like [technology critic] Jacques Ellul, and anarchists, and a whole load of stuff. And against the background of the 1960s hippie rediscovery of the mystic relationship with the environment, he developed a lone wolf version of ITS."
Two intersecting trends appear to account for the new wave of attacks on Mexican scientists: booming research in nanotechnology, and spillover violence from the drug wars. "Along with other Latin American countries that have invested in the field — Brazil and Argentina, in particular – Mexico views nanotechnology as a pathway to a more powerful research and industrial base," Nature’s Leigh Phillips wrote in August. According to Nature, the boom coincided with the spread of a "violent eco-anarchist philosophy" among some radical groups.
For Griffin, it’s logical that eco-terrorists would focus on targeting biotech and nanotechnology. "If you’ve got a paranoid mindset about technology, if you enter this Manichean mindset, a nanotechnology which gets into the very fabric of nature is the most incredibly threatening technology, because it’s insidious," he says. If you’re a paranoid extremist, it’s not enough that they are out to get you — they’re out to corrupt and control you from within, too.
But Griffin is cautious when asked whether Mexico’s history of social and political turmoil — and violence — could contribute to a growth in eco-terrorist groups. Mexico has a revolutionary history, with numerous guerrilla wars and violence of both left-wing and right-wing stripes, but most Mexican citizens obviously don’t commit violent acts. Plus, he says, one precondition for a would-be terrorist to become radicalized is a feeling of anomie, or feeling alienated from society’s values, which can happen anywhere.
"Paradoxically, the Sod’s law of anomie is that it can either thrive where nothing’s happening," Griffin says, "just out of a sheer suburban boredom, where in the most prosperous areas people really have objectively no cause for anguish at all so just basic existential ennui – or in societies which are objectively chaotic and falling apart."
ITS is also eager to portray itself as more extreme than other environmental extremists. Its manifesto criticizes Finnish writer and fisherman Pentti Linkola, for instance, who has called for an ecological dictatorship. Linkola, who supports the use of nuclear weapons to literally bomb the world back into the Middle Ages, is accused by ITS of not going far enough in destroying civilization, since a dictatorship would still require some technology to enforce authoritarian rule.
"But what also has to be clear, is that there will be more attacks on those scientists," the manifesto warns "There will be more attacks on their labs and institutions, they must pay what they are doing to the Earth, must accept and take responsibility for their actions and minutes after a bomb explodes in their face (if they survive) say: – I deserve it."