The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society

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9780190201173: The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society

"[A] valuable account ... The Wrong Hands brilliantly guides us through [the] challenges to American democracy." -Howard P. Segal, Times Higher Education

Gun ownership rights are treated as sacred in America, but what happens when dissenters moved beyond firearm possession into the realm of high explosives? How should the state react? Ann Larabee's The Wrong Hands, a remarkable history of do-it-yourself weapons manuals from the late nineteenth century to the recent Boston Marathon bombing, traces how efforts to ferret out radicals willing to employ ever-more violent methods fueled the growth of the American security state. But over time, the government's increasingly forceful targeting of violent books and ideas-not the weapons themselves-threatened to undermine another core American right: free expression.

In the 1886 Haymarket Square bombing, a new form of revolutionary violence that had already made its mark in Europe arrived in the United States. At the subsequent trial, the judge allowed into evidence Johann Most's infamous The Science of Revolutionary Warfare, which allegedly served as a cookbook for the accused. Most's work was the first of a long line of explosive manuals relied on by radicals. By the 1960s, small publishers were drawing from publicly available US military sources to produce works that catered to a growing popular interest in DIY weapons making. The most famous was The Anarchist Cookbook (1971), which soon achieved legendary status-and a lasting presence in the courts. Even novels, such as William Pierce's The Turner Diaries, have served as evidence in prosecutions of right-wing radicals. More recently, websites explaining how to make all manner of weapons, including suicide vests, have proliferated.

The state's right to police such information has always hinged on whether the disseminators have legitimate First Amendment rights. Larabee ends with an analysis of the 1979 publication of instructions for making a nuclear weapon, which raises the ultimate question: should a society committed to free speech allow a manual for constructing such a weapon to disseminate freely? Both authoritative and eye-opening, The Wrong Hands will reshape our understanding of the history of radical violence and state repression in America.

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About the Author:


Ann Larabee is Professor of English and American Studies at Michigan State University. She is the author of Decade of Disaster and The Dynamite Fiend, and co-editor of the Journal for the Study of Radicalism.

Review:


"A fascinating work of historical recovery and textual discovery. Ann Larabee asks hard questions about violence, terrorism, and free speech, and demands that we look to history to help sort out the answers."
--Beverly Gage, Professor of History, Yale University, and author of The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror


"Larabee's brilliant, groundbreaking history explores fascinating and profound questions about freedom and dangerous information. Ranging from the 19th century anarchists to al-Qaeda and the Boston marathon bombers, The Wrong Hands is invaluable for understanding both the terrorist threat and the threat to civil liberties posed by overreacting to terrorism."
--Richard Bach Jensen, author of The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism: An International History, 1878-1934


"One of our best writers, Ann Larabee, brings extensive research and splendid prose to bear on a topic that is vital to democracy-how to regulate, if at all, speech that contains instructions for weapons and violence. With essential detail and sharp analysis, Larabee discusses the history of weapons manuals, the political use of technical information, the wide variety of governmental responses, the constitutional and moral issues at stake, and the challenges of the digital age. She makes a strong argument that in the contest between suppression and tolerance the legitimacy of government itself can become problematic."
--Steven S. Smith, Kate M. Gregg Distinguished Professor of Social Science and Professor of Political Science, Washington University


"To date, The Wrong Hands is not only the most comprehensive book on the history of bomb making in the U.S. as tied to instructional manuals, but it also digs into corners and places the average person could not go, providing a thoughtful narrative about balancing the nation's constitutional rights and protections." --Lansing City Pulse


"Today, the internet and social media provide unprecedented opportunities for non-violent critics, actual terrorists and government officials alike to perpetuate their positions indefinitely. The Wrong Hands brilliantly guides us through these challenges to American democracy." --Times Higher Education


"For well over a century the United States government has regarded the circulation of weapons manuals and instruction booklets as dangerous and criminal. Ann Larabee traces the nuanced history of do-it-yourself weapons manuals from the late nineteenth century to the present to explain their role in the state's evolving policy toward radical dissent. The book covers a wide variety of topics from The Anarchist Cookbook to Edward Abbey's novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which have been accused of inspiring domestic terrorists. It is an interesting look at the battle between free speech and the right of the public to have access to information that could be dangerous in the wrong hands." -- Skeptical Inquirer


"An entertaining, enlightening book on what happens when restricted information gets into the hands of the 'wrong people.' Highly recommended." --Choice


"The core of The Wrong Hands is not so much about the existence of these weapons and explosives manuals or their actual historical use by various American radicals from the 19th century until today, however. It is, instead, much more about the heated arguments over the publication, distribution, or possession of these manuals - a conflict of First Amendment/free expression principles and domestic security and law enforcement concerns....The Wrong Hands ough to be of interest to many lawfare readers"
--Kenneth Anderson, Lawfare Blog


"Meticulously researched, often illuminating, always thought-provoking,
Ann Larabee's The Wrong Hands is a nuanced and essential supplement to
our understanding of the complexities of how dissent, and efforts to repress it,
has shaped the United States."
--Journal for the Study of Radicalism


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Ann Larabee
Verlag: OXFORD UNIV PR Jul 2015 (2015)
ISBN 10: 0190201177 ISBN 13: 9780190201173
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Buchbeschreibung OXFORD UNIV PR Jul 2015, 2015. Buch. Buchzustand: Neu. Neuware - A fascinating, timely, and often disturbing history of how underground do-it-yourself weapons manuals have influenced violent radicalism, and how the state has responded. 264 pp. Englisch. Artikel-Nr. 9780190201173

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