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Profile: Tom Tyler

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Tom Tyler was a participant or observer in the following events:

The San Francisco Chronicle publishes an article about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the lengthy spate of bombings attributed to the “Unabomber” (see May 25-26, 1978 and April 24, 1995). The first person quoted in the Chronicle article is Tom Tyler, a social psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Unbeknownst to Tyler or the Chronicle, the Unabomber is Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a former mathematics professor at Berkeley (see April 3, 1996). Tyler, who will later say he was not at Berkeley when Kaczynski taught there, receives a letter from the Unabomber shortly after the article is published. The letter is addressed to Tyler, and identifies him as “head of the social psychology group,” the same incorrect title he was given in the Chronicle. It contains a long manuscript written by the Unabomber (see April 24, 1995) and asks him to read it. “I said in the article that the Oklahoma City bomber and the Unabomber were examples of people who had exaggerated feelings that the government was out to get them,” Tyler later recalls. “The Unabomber objected to that characterization of him.” The letter asks Tyler to read his document, which he had sent to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and three other media outlets (see September 19, 1995). Tyler responds that he welcomes Kaczynski’s suggestion that revolution “need not be violent or sudden,” says that Kaczynski is not alone in feeling discontented with today’s society, and that “it is wrong to simply say that people who are dissatisfied are in some way non-rational.” However, Tyler disagrees with his argument that industrial-technological society cannot be reformed. (Lambropoulos 7/5/1995; Lardner and Adams 4/14/1996)


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