'The New Radical,' a documentary about 28-year-old Cody Wilson, premiered at Sundance, but not without contention. We spoke to Wilson and filmmaker Adam Bhala Lough to find out why.
For the past three years, documentarian Adam Bhala Lough has been trying to figure out how to tell the story of Cody Wilson, the brash founder of Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to 3D printed guns. It's an ongoing narrative as Wilson, 28, has steadily gained notoriety as a vocal proponent of 3D printed guns and other decentralized technologies, appearing in a Motherboard documentary in 2013 entitled Click, Print, Gun.
That same year, Defense Distributed showed off and test-fired the world's first functional 3D printed gun, and is currently developing open source gun designs—often referred to colloquially as "wiki weapons." In short: Wilson is advocating for the proliferation of firearms through newfangled technology, pitting him against lawmakers who want to ban or restrict 3D printed weapons.
It's no surprise then that the new documentary about Wilson, The New Radical, triggered varying responses when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017. Bhala Lough's film is equally frustrating and illuminating, ping ponging back-and-forth between adoration and skepticism for its central subject. Some attendees didn't find the portrayal to be so even-handed, though. In fact, Bhala Lough said at one screening, a psychiatrist in the audience "wanted to commit Cody to a mental institution." Cody's response? "Come on down, give me an examination."
As the following conversation reveals, Wilson tends to gleefully invite controversy. He's an Austin-based "free-market anarchist" at heart—an erudite polemic whose rhetoric often borders on outright nihilism. When we sat down with Wilson and Bhala Lough in Park City, Utah, we discussed the future of 3D machinery, the looming specter of a Trump administration, and why Wilson believes all activism, is fake activism.
Motherboard: Let's start with this: Cody, despite being a self-proclaimed anarchist, it seems like in your business practices, you want institutional support. Aren't those ideologically conflicting ideas?
Cody Wilson: Everything's conflicting, man. You have to have it. It doesn't matter if you want it or not. If you want access to the credit world, it's what you have to fucking do. Not just ISO stuff but like ECI compliance, all this stuff. If you're employing people, you just have to run to institutions if you're going to do it.