Let the death of Charles Manson be an opportunity to discuss the ways in which many men prey on younger women, use sex and love and drugs and religion and fear as weapons of gaslighting, as the carrot and the stick they use to control them.
Charles Manson’s favorite book was “How to Win Friends and Influence People”–a book read and obsessed over by many businessmen, politicians, and other people in positions of power. One of the most notorious murderers of America’s history used the same prescribed tactics as many of its CEOs.
We think of Charles Manson as exceptional, but he was on a certain level a perfectly ordinary result of the cultural systems that produced him. He simply took what was given to him by toxic masculinity, systemic racism and misogyny, a broken prison system, his religious upbringing and damaged family, and the sad spiraling out of the end of the 1960s, and he mixed it altogether into poison. Manipulating vulnerable people, mostly women, some barely more than children, into enacting your violence for you is, unfortunately, nothing new.
The more I learn about cults and serial killers, the less I think of them as outliers, freak accidents of society, and more as the terrifyingly logical extension of omnipresent and insidious cultural tendencies that we need to push back against in all their forms.
Let this news also be an excuse to listen to the solo work of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boy who thought he could get love by giving people gifts at a never-ending party, and instead found himself with Charles Manson and his Family living in his house, meeting his well-connected friends, borrowing his cars to commit robberies, until Wilson finally cut ties. It wasn’t too long after that when things got very, very dark, and it seems like Dennis never quite got over his past enabling of a man he eventually discovered to be such a monster.
The Beach Boys drummer drowned to death in 1983, diving off the pier in Marina del Rey over and over again, supposedly trying to recover a photograph of his ex-wife that he’d thrown off his boat long before. In the 1970s, however, Dennis Wilson recorded some really incredible solo music that has gone fairly under-appreciated. “Pacific Ocean Blue” and the unfinished “Bambu” are really worth a listen.