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In a time in which plans for building a nuclear bomb or engineering a bio-terrorism attack are scarily available on the internet, let’s take a moment to note the closing of Loompanics, the Washington state publisher run by Mike Hoy whose titles were once deemed downright dangerous. Now, however, as the company announces a going out of business sale, Loompanics’s books seem, paradoxically, like quaint mementos of a more innocent time. I say “paradoxically” because there’s no doubt that the publisher, which experienced its share of First Amendment battles, suffered after passage of the Patriot Act when people reading books about homemade bomb production were suddenly the public’s business.

Loompanics, which sold their books in underground bookstores, novelty shops, and through mail order and the internet, may have disseminated some questionable information, but their main stock in trade was a more generalized notion of societal rebellion. For those who felt that there was something wrong about modern living, Loompanics seemed to offer hope that something could actually be done about it — and on one’s own terms. (That “something” often had to do with offshore banking accounts, phony birth certificates, or tanks of methane gas.)

Here’s what writer Claire Wolfe has to say about Loompanics on her blog:

Loompanics has long called its book catalog the best in the world. And in a weird way, it is. It’s certainly been the bravest and most eclectic book catalog. If you wanted to know how to change your identity, build a meth lab, cook with cannabis, or find kinky sex in Thailand, Loompanics would sell you a book about it. (Some of these books were of dubious reliability, while others were the real deal; but that was part of the fun. Caveat emptor. Freedom doesn’t come with guarantees.) Loompanics would also sell you books on living off the grid, homesteading on a budget, or protecting your privacy. Truly useful stuff. And then there were the books that simply seemed to reflect Mike Hoy’s own wide-ranging interests. Books of little-known facts, religious controversies, political conspiracies, and historical oddities.

The Loompanics catalog itself was often as fun to read as the books it offered.

Then came 9-11. And the Patriot Act, with its threat of monitoring everyone’s reading. Then came crackdowns on merely possessing information about explosives or drugs. Then came the fear.

In droves, Americans quit buying controversial books. It became dangerous even to sell some certain books. People feared to possess others.

Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble also changed the whole book-selling industry at the same time. And the rest — as I now must sadly say — is history.

This country is going to be a poorer, sadder place when Loompanics closes next month. Freedom is going to be poorer. Even when some of the books in Loompanics’ catalog personally made me uneasy or grossed me out (as quite a few did), I was delighted to live in a country where such a publisher and such a free market of ideas could thrive.

The Patriot Act may battle those who disseminate dangerous directives, but a look through the Loompanics catalog reveals the publisher to be something of a paper tiger, albeit a richly entertaining one. Using a piece of typewriter to construct a prison shank, or seeking revenge against a rude bellboy — much of Loompanics’s advice has a charmingly dated quality. I’m sad to see Loompanics go, but mostly I mourn the friendlier, old fashioned attitude towards rebellion it represented.

Here then, from their catalog, is a mini-tribute to the publisher — descriptions of just a few of the dozens of books it is selling now at 75% off:

Trent Sands’ Reborn Overseas: Identity Building in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The walls between nations are crumbling, opening rare opportunities for those who need a new identity. The revised Second Edition of Trent Sands’ Reborn Overseas shows how to build a foolproof identity in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The formation of the European Common Market has created a paper-tripping paradise. With an identity in any one nation, you can live, work and travel in all twelve. Reborn Overseas shows how to penetrate that system without leaving the United States.

Robert L. Williams’ Houses to Go: How to Buy a Good Home Cheap. You can own that dream home that you’ve always yearned for — and at such an affordable price that you’ll be amazed! How? By following this book’s tried-and-true method of purchasing a perfectly livable house that is destined for demolition, and carefully moving it to a suitable parcel of land — all for a fraction of the amount such a home would normally cost!

Michael Newton’s Holy Homicide: An Encyclopedia of those who go with their God and kill! Human beings kill one another for all sorts of reasons, but none are stranger or more incomprehensible than religion! Holy Homicide: An Encyclopedia of Those Who Go With Their God… and Kill! is a lexicon of murders attributed to instructions from deities, whether committed by unstable loners, organizations, or armies. As demonstrated by the atrocities enumerated within this book’s pages, religion is among the oldest, most persistent motives for murder throughout human history. Millions, perhaps billions, of victims have suffered and died throughout the ages, all in the name of one god or another.

Ralf Omar Dean’s Prison Killing Techniques: Blade. Bludgeon and Bomb. Do you know where to find and how to use the environmental weapons provided by your surroundings? Improvised weapons (and how to use them) included in this book include: A mop is a spear waiting to happen. A sock filled with batteries is a “soap-on-a-rope” bludgeon. The cross-bar on a typewriter is an ice-pick. Caps can hide razors. Rolled-up magazines can turn into mushfake nunchakus. Can lids, appliances, broken light bulbs, and much, much more can be lethal — if you know how to use them!

Keith Wade’s Your Revenge is in the Mail. “Your Revenge Is in The Mail presents more than five dozen different examples of letters you can use to get even with someone you hate. Some of the letters are sent to the mark, some are sent to third parties, and some are “from” the mark. Individual marks from insurance adjusters, bank tellers, interior decorators, funeral directors, bell hops, insurance salesmen, butchers, and many more are covered thoroughly. Then comes the really fun part: getting even with government officials!!! From tax collectors to the health department, from the DMV to vehicle inspectors, and much more — never again will you have to suffer in silence because some ferret-faced bureaucrat has given you some shit. From now on, Your Revenge Is In The Mail!”

And here’s one last one title in which Loompanics sets its target dead center on our industry:

Dan Zamudio’s How to Sneak into the Movies. “The price of this book is less than the price of a ticket for a first-run movie in New York City — why let Hollywood bigwigs, bad actors, and cowardly studio executives rip you off when, for the same price, you can rip them off? Contents include: Sneaking In. Recap of Steps to a Successful Sneak-In. How to Sneak in With a Date Without Her Thinking You’re Cheap. What Happens and What to Do When Caught. Other Ways to Beat the High Cost of Movie Tickets. And more.

Oh yeah — as Loompanics says at the end of each of these descriptions: “Sold for informational and entertainment purposes only!”

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