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Literature / Anarchist Cookbook

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The Anarchist Cookbook is a 1971 book by William Powell. It was written to protest The Vietnam War that contained various instructions for things like phone phreaking and, most controversially, building homemade explosives. However, it's really infamous for two things:

  1. Having nothing to do with anarchism as a political idea. (Or cooking, for that matter.)
  2. Having nothing to do with the reality of how one would safely make a homemade bomb.

With the rise of the internet, a number of text and .pdf files have showed up bearing the name of this book. If you do a Google search for "anarchist cookbook," some of these will probably come up on the first page. They often contain some information cribbed from the real book, as well as various tips, tricks, and pranks that have been put in over the course of twenty years (these things date back to the dark days of Usenet). As one would expect from something that was put together by the precursors to 4chan, most of the stuff in these online "cookbooks" is often so outdated or dangerously inaccurate that it makes the real Anarchist Cookbook look like an Army field manual.


This book provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Chemistry:
    • Most of the bomb recipes in the book are dangerously inaccurate, and have gotten people severely injured and even killed. The stuff that is accurate is usually hilariously outdated. Oh, and you can't get high on bananas.
    • Still, it's a lot better than the online guides bearing the name. Would you trust recipes like "If it turns brown or starts to bubble, run like hell!" Another called for a "10 foot pole with a feather on the end", which was used to set it off. Schmuck Bait?
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: Presumably the type of anarchist the authors had in mind.
  • Don't Try This at Home:
    • Seriously. You are more likely to end up short a few fingers than leading the revolutionary vanguard.
    • The online magazine Vice did an investigation in which they attempted to replicate some of the explosives (complete with the aforementioned warning to not try this at home). The ones that worked at all proved very unpredictable and unstable even with proper safety precautions.
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  • Government Conspiracy: The book has been theorized to be the work of antidisestablishmentarianist factions in the government to get drug users and political dissidents to "accidentally" maim and kill themselves. Given the reliability of a lot of the recipes and instructions therein, this isn't that far fetched.
  • G-Rated Drug: Apparently, baking banana peels activates a hallucinogenic chemical called "bananadine" which can be used to get high. Although this is 100 percent fiction, that little fact hasn't stopped countless failed attempts by the type of people who try to buy 10 bottles of Robitussin.
  • Mad Bomber: The book's target audience.
  • The Movie: There's actually a movie named after it. How is it? Even though it came out in 2002, it is so straw-tastic, it makes anti-communist propaganda from the fifties look like a Michael Moore documentary.
  • Moral Guardians: Frequently cited by. At the time, they attempted to ban it, and still do. Ironically, the FBI knew from the beginning that it was all a lot of rubbish; internal FBI files, including letters by concerned Congressmen to J. Edgar Hoover, released under freedom of information laws reveal the FBI regarded it as something of a joke and that constantly having to fend off letters from concerned morons annoyed them far more than the book's existence did.
  • Take That!: Anarchist collective CrimethInc published a book subtitled as An Anarchist Cookbook that is more in line with their definition of anarchism.
  • Toad Licking: The book contains a recipe to make dried toad skin powder for smoking. It's not good for your toad karma.
  • Urban Legend: It was the subject of one for a long time. The story went that if you purchased the book, you were put on an FBI watchlist (similar stories existed for Mein Kampf). As explained above, this was rubbish.