Okay, yeah, I lied.
I DO have something to say about Backporch Tapes’ phone interview of Manson on March 3, 2010.
As we, the public, get so little time with these killers, every new interview, however gleaned, is one more step closer to knowing the men and women behind the guns and the knives…
First off, let me say “Thank-you Backporch Tapes!” for going to the nth degree where Manson is concerned. Not all of us, whether physically or mentally, can do what you’ve done, so here’s an Irish toast to you!
Whether 75 years of age or not, Charlie, although his words seemed slurred as if he may be medicated, doesn’t sound much older now than he did in 1969. Not that one is supposed to sound “old” as one grows old, just that the passion in his voice seems as solid and genuine now as it did 40 years ago…amazing, really, considering where he has called home these past four decades.
Prison usually tames a wild man, usually. But for this “Lifer”, I think being institutionalized all these many years has only made him stronger, for it is in that arena that he knows best how to operate. Manson exists and survives in prison because he has always been in prison. He is, as he says, what we have made him, and he is right, to a great extent.
But then again, if we’re throwing blame around like al dente pasta hits a kitchen wall, then please, let us lay some of that monster blame at the feet of his Mother, Kathleen. This is the end result of what happens to an abandoned child when the Mother is bent on ruining her own life and his simply because she shouldn’t have been a Mother in the first place. Yes, in the 30s, there was no safe abortion practices, but why she didn’t give Charlie up for adoption is beyond me.
I DO believe that to a certain extent, Manson WAS born with some mental dysfunction, inherited no doubt from that wayward Mother of his but IF he had an opportunity to be raised with emotionally stable and loving parents and afforded the mental/medical treatment he so desperately needed, Manson, I believe, may have never gone down the criminal path that he did. Yes, I know, all conjecture. We, and Manson’s victims, will never know.
Conversely, it is his mental dysfunctions, that have only grown more deep and pronounced in prison, that are so front and center in whatever interview you hear or see of Manson. And because of said, it takes someone like me, a relative sane individual, coming from a relative sane and stable childhood, a long time to separate the wheat of Truth from the chaff of Word-Play in every sentence that The Soul utters…but Truth in the wheat there definitely is, you only just have to listen real close to find it.
It’s so easy to just let emotions over-ride your ability to truly listen to this man, that to turn his voice off in disgust and walk away would be the natural inclination of most people. And that is basically what I did with these taped phone conversations from March 3rd. You listen, get mad-like-a-dog, feel the need to kick Charlie in the ass and move on, because the disgust you have is completely over-shadowing your responsibility to get at the bare-bones truth of what makes this man tick.
But NO ONE born with a conscience is ever 100% bad. They may take evil as their friend almost 24/7 but there is always some good there, that because of their ridiculous choices made forty years ago, it gets drowned out by the human destruction they wrought.
But it’s my job, as I’ve chosen to have a blog for this purpose, to be objective enough to properly assess this man and his cohorts and the times in which they lived, certainly not to excuse them from their acts but to somehow provide some reason as to why those acts were made, if not to help the surviving victims’ family members but maybe to appease our own fears from a time and a place that still owns apart of our psyche. It’s a risky and mammoth task but MsBurb is just too dense not to take it on!
This phone conversation is in eight parts and I’m sure Backporch Tapes (hereafter referred in this post a BPT) was trying to elicit some sort of comment from Manson on that day’s opening of the LAPD exhibit of crime evidence in The Palms in Las Vegas, Nevada. But as always, what we want Manson to say, and what he will say, don’t always go together.
First thing out of the gate, is the paramount thing that got him mixed up in Hinman/TLB to begin with…his need for social adoration and acceptance. The ONE thing that is definitely Manson’s Achilles heel is his need to be surrounded by sycophants who worship the ground on which he walks. Now, don’t get me wrong, a kid who is abandoned by his Mother, kicked around from pillar to post, abused and used in countless reformatories and in countless ways will naturally thirst for anyone who will say that he, Manson, has at least some redeeming quality. And because he had never been trained to know how to properly function in society, being surrounded by “friends” who could help him in that respect would be an asset as well. He could have left Spahn Ranch before these murderous ideas took hold but he didn’t have the fortitude to go it alone.
After 75 years, when BPT mentions that he, Charles Manson, has friends on the outside and that he is famous (or infamous?), the little boy inside this man pops out and responds, “I do?” As Henry Kissinger once said of Nixon, which he could have easily said of Manson, “What this man could have been if only he’d been loved.” [paraphrased]
Manson, like many sociopaths, schizophrenics and just plain ego-maniacs will possess, has a grandiose view of himself. He continues to blame “the D.A.” (never mentioning Bugliosi, Stovitz or Younger by name as I think he has too much respect for these men to single them out…just my guess) for not getting his due and that he has his “own media” to counter-act the effect his foes had on his outcome, that they singled him out as a personal slight and not just for the crimes that he committed. That would, of course, presume that the D.A.’s Office sole purpose for living was to seek revenge against this two-bit, powerless Hippie, as if they didn’t have anything better to do with their time.
But that’s how Manson views the world – he’s the Sun and all the rest of us revolve around him as his moons. I’m forever wondering what Manson would say if you brought that analogy to his attention, and after years of watching and listening, I think he would give his all-knowing impish grin and begin his word-play game, knowing damn well that he could not refute what he knew to be true.
But then again, the people who DO talk to Manson are often too star-struck to ask the hard questions of this man, (or they know if they do, he’ll stop all communication with them, I’m not sure which is at play here) and we all know how enraged he gets when he’s interviewed by a woman (Sawyer, Los Angeles female reporters), so that leaves MsBurb out of the mix.
Then again, when you KNOW you’ve committed crimes, and you KNOW you are guilty of those crimes, I guess your only selfish reaction is to blame the people who convicted you, instead of owning up to what you have done yourself.
Sadly, we will never REALLY know exactly who said what to whom on that fateful evening of August 8th but however the die was cast, I just can’t imagine Tex Watson intelligent enough or enraged enough to form a plan of murder on total strangers without some sort of leader guiding him. Charlie has admitted in the past, that he MAY have said things to Tex to give him the impression that Manson wasn’t against any kind of revenge plot to occur but that he, Manson, wanted nothing directly to do with this plot, forgetting of course, or never realizing in the first place, that there are laws broken when conspiracy is committed or even in the aiding and abetting of such crimes.
And to that end, no one has ever asked him that hard question either - did he KNOW of the existence of the crimes of Conspiracy and Aiding & Abetting in the commission of the crime of murder before he issued his edict to Tex and the Girls? More’s the pity.
He blames the D.A.’s Office and the outside media for portraying him as a “false prophet”, saying that “Anybody who can read and write is a prophet.” and arguing in his defence, “Are you who you are or are you who everybody else wants you to be?”. Now, to be fair, and as is the usual course with Charlie, he isn’t telling complete lies here but he didn’t help his own case during the trials by acting so outrageously that he gave ample fodder for the D.A. to use. He blames the media for creating what he calls the “Beast Image” – a monster of monsters when his view of himself and his actions surrounding that summer of ‘69 where anything but…
I cannot argue with him here either. I believe that some of my own childhood fears were compounded by the portrayal of him and his Family in an exaggerated light. In 1969 and 1970, Manson WAS America’s definition of the Monster-Under-Your-Bed, the one who could and DID strike at you when you least expected it, and in your own home of all places, in the dead of night.
But then again, in 1969 and 1970, Manson and his Family did NOTHING to down-play those exaggerations or alleviate our elevated fears. I believe Manson and his clan enjoyed this “Beast Image” for the time they were in the limelight during those trials. They revelled in being so infamous that they plum forgot that it would be that infamy that would sentence them to a lifetime behind bars. And as predicted, you then have the same group of killers crying “Oh, woes me!” when that same “Beast Image” bites them in the ass for forty plus years.
Manson goes on to say, “Is it a prophet who just states the obvious?” And my answer to you, Charlie, is no, but what is obvious to you, and what you see as harmless, can be ridiculous to others and very harmful.
IF what Manson had espoused back then, of the racial rioting and the resulting war were true, then he did NOTHING to help society in that vein. He later admitted to The Bug that he may have put a monkey wrench into Blackie’s plan for an uprising just by his foolish acts, and I would have to concur. There were a thousand different ways he could have protected himself and his Family and helped society as he saw it endangered; but instead, he chose the most immature and ridiculous route of action – he had his Family kill innocents for no constructive purpose.
He repeats over and over again that it has taken him these forty years to finally figure out what it was that he was convicted of by the D.A. and what a “cult” really is. I don’t doubt this. I also don’t doubt that at the time, Manson had no conscious idea of what he was doing to those kids other than to create an ecosystem of acceptance and adoration for himself. I also agree with him that when you spend your life behind bars, being institutionalized since the age of nine, and then getting out, you are still that little boy who went in but who now is free. Manson states, “I didn’t know what I was doing.” as referenced in the trial proceedings but I venture to say that would be an apt description of the boy-man who got out of prison in ‘67 as well.
If we’re still flinging around the blame, then besides his Mother, let’s not forget his Parole Officers over the years as well, or at the very least, the California Parole system, for within those two years of freedom, it seems as if Charlie had to do very little to keep his PO’s off his back. He travelled up and down the coast, left the state and carried on virtually unfettered in Los Angeles and its environs. Maybe if they had required more contact and/or examined more closely the situation at the ranch, Manson would have been re-imprisoned on lesser charges of drug possession and/or illegal firearms possession, and Charlie, you and I and let’s not forget those dead victims of his, would have been grateful for that early bust!
If you want one of the keys I use to unlock the mystery of when Charlie tells the truth or when he is forced to evade it, just listen for his use of word-play. When BPT gathers his courage and comes right out and asks Manson, “Are you a racist, Charlie?”, Manson knows there is no good way to answer this question, so instead of outright lying, which for some mysterious reason he can’t seem to allow himself to do, he opts for word-play responses, “There’s no such thing.”, “That’s walkin’ the dog.”, “Where the Hell are ‘they’? Where did you go?” and “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”
Some of the most telling bits of information Manson gives BPT is the fact that Charlie now realizes that what they were doing back then as a Family was fairly unique to that era. He states, “We went where nobody went before.” but then backtracks to excuse his participation in this group affair by saying, “I was nobody’s leader. I was getting my share. There was no shame in the game. If there was [for someone who came into the Family], they didn’t hang around very long.” That last admission basically sums up the lack of guilt Manson and his cohorts had, that IF you had any sort of conscience or guilt, you either left the Family or were ostracized from it, and I doubt Manson was just referring to their sex-life in this vein.
“We went where nobody had never went before.” says Charlie. And ain’t that the truth!
“I could have been a Rock ‘n’ Roll star, a movie star….To get a job, you must be out of your gourd!” Again, the ego-maniac rearing it’s ugly head once more. I don’t think Manson really believes this about himself but he has known for some time that there is now an “Image” to uphold, his flirting with Hollywood and the like, and after forty plus years it’s probably very easy to think he was very close to stardom, when in ‘69 he knew damn well how far he truly was. This aspect of the man I find so entirely sad, that to either feel the need to project or actually live under such an allusion that he is famous because he could have been a star when in actual fact he is infamous for the stars he killed.
He readily admits that while he did his stay at Vacaville he was put on Thorazine and Loxitane – both drugs used in the treatment of schizophrenia – and what sounded like Valium, that is often used to quell anxiety disorders. If Manson had been an ambulatory schizophrenic since his traumatic days in the reform schools and had he been properly medicated from that period onwards, we would probably never have known his name. Un-medicated and unsupervised, Manson is the end result of what can happen when a mental disorder is left unchecked.
Above all, this phone interview demonstrates just how much of a mental time-capsule Manson is. That, for him, in his world, it is still 1969, and buzz-word groups like the Weathermen and knowing Nixon’s middle name are as real and apparent today as if these forty years had not passed. For Manson, Vietnam and Korea are still raging in his head and the riots of the 60s and the issues which were the cause of those riots are what we as North Americans are supposed to be rioting on still. He realizes that Obama is President but his reference point is still in the late 60s and 70s when he tries to describe what’s happening politically today. My guess is that if you let him out now, he would have a panic attack of mammoth proportions, that what he knew to be true of the world then just doesn’t exist now, and what little capacity he had in ‘67 to survive on the streets as a 33 year old would now be totally eradicated. What he described southern California in ‘67 as “one big cement world” would utterly stupefy him today.
Maybe he knows this himself and maybe that’s why he doesn’t seek parole. Maybe he knows that his yearning for freedom would now be more harmful to him than to others. Too bad Terminal Island hadn’t seen it the other way in ‘67, huh?
But as enlightened as he is, after his forty year academic foray into why he was convicted, he still can’t understand that to not have the knife in one’s hand, does not absolve one from murder. I’m afraid that inability to view guilt by association is the schizophrenic and the egomaniac in him talking here, that even if he were to accept tangential guilt for these murders, I’m sure he feels that because of his personal greatness, he should have been given a “Pass” in Hinman/TLB/Shea.
In the end, Charlie states what is true and wraps it around what is not;
“It’s taken me forty years to figure this thing out, Man. I’m the most famous human being who is alive and the most famous human being who ever lived, and I’m not even dead yet. You think the f**king thing that is going to happen when I die?”
He may just be the most notorious figure in North American culture today but I think that unlike his prophesy, nothing special will occur when he dies. He will just die, like Sadie did, we will remember the damage this group wreaked upon us all, shake our heads, say a little prayer for the victims and move on, time and tides slowly ebbing away at his infamy…