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The Strange Continuing Appeal of Charles Manson

  1. Apr 7, 2012 #1
    Charlie is up for parole again, fat chance, which reminds me that a couple years ago, one of my little drawing pals posted a quote from him on her MySpace profile:

    "Look up at me and you see a god, look down on me and you see the Devil, look straight at me, and you see yourselves."

    Which baloney, she thought was profound. She was only 20, so I asked her if she understood who Charles Manson was, about the terrible murders, and she said "Yeah...but he said some really cool things."

    Somehow he managed, and still manages, to undercut the reason of people who should know better and get to some primal place in their psyche.

    John Douglas, the FBI profiler who was the model for Jack Crawford in "Silence of the Lambs" interviewed Manson at length, and his take on him was that he didn't fit the profile of a serial killer. Interestingly, Douglas doesn't believe Manson sent his followers out to kill people that first night, just to perform a terrifying home invasion, and he, Manson, was surprised to find out how far "Tex" Watson had gone. This put him in the position of having to condone the murders or tacitly admit he had lost control of Watson. The latter would mean losing control of all his followers, so, to save face, he went out with them the next night, entered the victim's house alone, terrified them into letting themselves be tied up, then left and sent Watson and the rest in to kill them. He himself did not want to watch or participate.

    Douglas does not think Manson would ever, ever admit this is how it went down, because his main drive was/is always to have psychological control of people. Allowing everyone in the world to think he intended his followers to kill all along, suits him just fine, because he'd rather be known as someone with that much personal power than as a cult leader who lost control to his second in command.

    His original plan was to be a rock star. In fact, he had an excellent singing voice, could play guitar well enough and compose decent songs. He certainly had the personal charisma. He blew his big break by being uncooperative and imperious with the record producer who recorded his big demo session. He was too difficult to work with. At any rate, it was that natural rock star charisma that he used to collect his followers and eventually bend them to his demented way of thinking. Rock isn't logical or coherent, but primal. Manson targeted people at that level, verbally barraging them in a berzerker kind of way with pseudo-profundities and passion.

    Steve Railsback did an amazing job portraying Manson in the TV miniseries of the 1970's. We have no real footage of Manson's speech in court, but I'm guessing by how much Railsback resembles and perfectly mimics Manson this performance is faithful enough:


    Watching this, you get Douglas' point: he doesn't present as a serial killer, per se. He's a gutter Rasputin, a poor-man's Svengali. I can see how he'd collect followers before the murders. I really don't get that he still gets fan mail or that anyone could construe anything he said as "cool". It's hard to believe he hasn't been so thoroughly deconstructed as to have lost all appeal. When my friend said "He said some cool things", I was pretty shaken, and, disturbed to think I had been mistaking her, and maybe a lot of people, for being much more rational than they actually were.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2012 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Nice crowd you're hanging out with there, Zooby!
  4. Apr 7, 2012 #3


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    One thing I have started to realize (IMO disclaimer!) is that we are all capable of doing everything on the entire spectrum of action. When people deny that they can do no wrong (or even no good) then I think they have missed the point. The big challenge for us is to realize and accept that we are all capable of this and to think about how to accept this fact.

    It doesn't mean you have to like what is out there, but what I have observed personally is that nobody wants to talk about or acknowledge this kind of idea: the idea that there really is a part us as human beings expressed by various people in the world that show a side that is by many counts utterly evil.

    My view is that once people acknowledge this instead of trying to push the issue aside that ironically this will bring us together as a species.

    We have created laws for various reasons and many of the intentions of these laws have been to create a society that is considered fair, equitable and stable. For many purposes I think most of the laws serve a valid purpose and murder is a very disruptive, non-equitable and unfair activity for society and should be treated in a way that reflects the consequences of such an action.

    But when people want to bury their head in the sand and hope for everything to just 'magically go away' or do the minimum to make it go away then I feel that we are letting ourselves down for the long term.

    Awareness is something that will bring us together and this means not only being aware of the good, but also the bad and not being aware of the bad is like being a fish in a fish bowl trying to be told what water is.

    Now with regards to people thinking he is 'cool' and having all the traits that he has, again this has to do with the acknowledgement of this occuring in a way that free our judgement from any kind of bias, including emotional or social.

    So in conclusion, I think it's important to really acknowledge that people like this are just reflecting one very small part of the wide spectrum that is human behaviour and it should be acknowledged as that rather than something that 'could never be human' because it is and it has been ever since we were capable to do the things we have been able to do and it will help us understand (I mean really understand) the extent of our potential in a truly unfiltered context.
  5. Apr 8, 2012 #4

    I don't agree with what Charles did at all but I can't see at all how I would have to disagree with everything he has said in order to be rational. Does someone doing something wrong mean everything else they have done or said wrong by association?
  6. Apr 8, 2012 #5
  7. Apr 8, 2012 #6
    I think the problem is that, the younger you are the more likely you are to think of someone like Manson as a two dimensional "historical figure", and to think of his victims as equally two dimensional, as if they all were characters in a movie.

    I saw an installment of the game show "Cash Cab" where the cabbie announced the next trivia question was going to be about famous serial killers. The woman goes "Oh! I love serial killers!"

    Here again, I think she wasn't making a clear distinction between real people and movie characters.
  8. Apr 8, 2012 #7
    No, that would be an Ad Hominem fallacy. However, given what he did, it would seem ridiculous to quote him in a positive sense on any subject.
  9. Apr 8, 2012 #8
    I don't fully agree with your point but I do understand it. I didn't mean to go all Ad Hominem on you there.
  10. Apr 8, 2012 #9
    You didn't. I meant it would be an Ad Hominem fallacy to discount something as wrong simply because Charles Manson said it. I was agreeing with you on that point.

    edit: to clarify, even if he made a good point about something he's not the person you'd want to quote on that subject.
  11. Apr 8, 2012 #10
    True enough, I do believe also I could find myself making a similar statement provided the quote was something I really didn't care for. I believe it was the losing respect part that really was my issue.

    I find serial killers interesting, not in any sort of way wanting to be one, or agreeing with what they do, but the extremism/thought processes I find is relevant to my interests, I like to understand everything I can (Probably why I have been lurking here for quite some time now, most of you are really interesting!).

    Also, I just reread Chiro's statement, and find it to be something I can also agree with.
  12. Apr 9, 2012 #11
    This got me thinking about the contrast between the states & well... the rest of the world. Remarkable.

    Interested to know the contrast regarding Freedom of the Press between the US & other countries.
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