The Anarchist Cookbook
The Anarchist Cookbook, first published in 1971, is a book that contains instructions for the manufacture of explosives, rudimentary telecommunications phreaking devices, and related weapons, as well as instructions for home manufacturing of illicit drugs, including LSD. It was written by William Powell at the apex of the counterculture era in order to protest against United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Powell converted to Anglicanism in 1976, and later attempted to have the book removed from circulation, but the copyright belonged to the publisher who continued circulation until the company was acquired in 1991. Its legality has been questioned in several jurisdictions.
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The Anarchist Cookbook was written by William Powell as a teenager and first published in 1971 at the apex of the counterculture era in order to protest against United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
After writing the book as a teenager, Powell converted to Anglicanism in 1976, and later attempted to have the book removed from circulation. He was powerless to stop publication because the copyright had been issued to the original publisher (Lyle Stuart), and subsequent publishers that purchased the rights have kept the title in print. Powell publicly renounced his book in both a 2000 statement for the Amazon bookstore and a 2013 piece calling for the book to "quickly and quietly go out of print". William Powell died of cardiac arrest on 11 July 2016.
The copyright of the book never belonged to its author, but to its publisher Lyle Stuart. Stuart kept publishing the book until the company was bought in 1991 by Steven Schragis, who decided to drop it. Out of the 2,000 books published by the company, it was the only one that Schragis decided to stop publishing. Schragis said publishers have a responsibility to the public, and the book had no positive social purpose that could justify keeping it in print. The copyright was bought in 2002 by Delta Press (aka Ozark Press) an Arkansas-based publisher that specializes in controversial books, where the title is their "most-asked-for volume".
Advocates of anarchism dispute the association of the book with anarchist political philosophy. The anarchist collective CrimethInc., which published the book Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook in response, denounces the earlier book, saying it was "not composed or released by anarchists, not derived from anarchist practice, not intended to promote freedom and autonomy or challenge repressive power – and was barely a cookbook, as most of the recipes in it are notoriously unreliable".
Much of the publication was copied and made available as text documents online through Usenet and FTP sites hosted in academic institutions in the early 1990s, and has been made available via web browsers from their inception in the mid-1990s to the present day. The name varies slightly from Anarchist Cookbook to Anarchy Cookbook and the topics have expanded vastly in the intervening decades. Many of the articles were attributed to an anonymous author called The Jolly Roger.
In 2001, British businessman Terrance Brown created the now defunct website anarchist-cookbook.com and sold copies of his derivative work, titled Anarchist Cookbook 2000.
Knowledge of the book, or copied online publications of it, increased along with the increase in public access to the Internet throughout the mid-1990s. Newspapers ran stories about how easy the text was to get hold of, and the influence it may have had with terrorists, criminals and experimental teenagers.
In 2007, a 17-year-old was arrested in the United Kingdom and faced charges under anti-terrorism law in the UK for possession of this book, among other things. He was cleared of all charges in October 2008, after arguing that he was a prankster who just wanted to research fireworks and smoke bombs.
In County Durham, UK in 2010, Ian Davison and his son were imprisoned under anti-terrorism laws for the manufacturing of ricin, and their possession of The Anarchist Cookbook, along with its availability, was noted by the authorities.
In 2017, a 27-year-old was prosecuted in UK solely for the possession of the book. He was found not guilty.
The book was a frequent target for challenges to its content throughout the 1990s. It served as a central element of the 2002 romantic comedy The Anarchist Cookbook. Repercussions from the book's publication, and the author's subsequent disavowal of its content, were the subject of the 2016 documentary film American Anarchist by Charlie Siskel. In the film, William Powell explains in depth his thoughts on the book, and the consequences it had in his life.
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