Since its publication in 1971, The Anarchist Cookbook has sold over two million copies worldwide while facing many legal challenges to stop printing and criminalize its possession.
The Anarchist Cookbook has been linked to acts of terrorism since its publication, from Puerto Rican rebels bombing an FBI headquarters in 1981, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Columbine High School shooting and the 2010 UK manufacture of the deadly poison ricin.
Despite this, the book is only banned in Australia. In the US, The Anarchist Cookbook is protected under the First Amendment and the FBI ruled that it does not incite “violent opposition to any United States law.”
Meanwhile, possession of the publication is not illegal in the UK but can be part of a criminal case if found on a suspect who may have planned an act of terrorism.
What is the Anarchist Cookbook?
Written by William Powell at the age of 19, the book contains recipes for making explosives, rudimentary telecommunications hacking equipment, and instructions for making drugs, including LSD.
Inspired by his anger at then-President Richard Nixon and US involvement in the Vietnam War, Powell’s goal was to instill in the general populace the skills to fight back against fascist, capitalist, and communist threats.
He stated, “The central idea of the book was that violence is an acceptable means of bringing about political change”, he renounced later in his life.
Five years after the book’s publication, Powell converted to Anglicanism and made unsuccessful attempts to stop its circulation.
However, the copyright belonged to publisher Lyle Stuart, known for his controversial publications, who kept its production going.
Powell deeply regretted his book and throughout his life denounced it, calling it a “juvenile indiscretion”.
The author struggled to find employment after the book’s publication and saw him travel to the Middle East, Africa and Asia, working for US-backed international schools.
There he wrote about pedagogy and conflict resolution.
In 2011, five years before his death, Powell and his wife, Ochan Kusuma-Powell, founded a nonprofit called Next Frontier: Inclusion.
The charity helps children with developmental and learning disabilities. He described it as a means of atonement for writing The Anarchist Cookbook.
Is The Anarchist Cookbook accurate?
The book’s chapters provide detailed descriptions of how to make booby traps, drugs, tear gas, explosives, homemade weapons, and hand-to-hand combat tips.
However, many experts have concluded that the book’s “recipes” are potentially very dangerous for an untrained layperson.
An online comment said they would urge people to “stay away if you like having your limbs”.