This text is about the homoeopathic distribution of terror as a technique of control. It is also about techniques of resistance in the context of an increasingly totalitarian western world that seems to solidify in a total presence of surveillance, discipline and control.
In a world like ours where the state will get away with mass killings and the media cover it (up) all the way, one cannot but feel a certain relief when someone, anyone interrupts the flow of violence and directs it back at power. Waco and the Gulf War are just two recent examples of mass murder that got presented in a way that found applause all over the western world while there is outrage at the killing of any little cop in South London. These cops are presented in the press as “heroes”, even though everybody knows that there is nothing heroic about getting shot in the street by a gangster who it could be argued, is acting in self defense. But let’s assume he is not acting in self defense – that he is the one who is so unreasonably on the attack here, is it not him who’d deserve the label “hero” since he’s taking on the whole police force, the whole nation? But in a world-upside-down the heroes are supposed to be those five pigs who suffocated O’Brien and despite a verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ still hold their jobs, which presumably consist in exactly that: random killings.
Now, to “take out a cop or two” (NWA) is not the subject of this article, what we’re talking here is in another league: Renegade tribes, guerrilla factions, drug crazed stormtroopers of the phuture. Let’s talk about the Family then.
Charles Manson spent most of his life in prisons, more so even than de Sade, so the brief phase of ‘freedom’ in 1967-69 was an intense eruption of sex, drugs and ultraviolence, power, manipulation and war. Collecting the lost hippie children arriving from everywhere in the Haight Ashbury district in 1967, turning them into sex slaves and sending them on a kamikaze rampage to instill fear into the establishment, that’s how the more or less official version goes. When state attorney Vincent Bugliosi made up his story of the Helter Skelter motive and God/Satan Man-son in total control over his girlie killer marionettes his own motives were – beyond getting the death penalty for Manson and the girls – mainly furthering his own career. But also there is a subtext that this is the logical consequence of sexual liberation, political unrest and drug taking – mind control and bloody murder.
Another famous book about the whole thing, The Family by Ed Sanders has a reversed perspective of Bugliosi’s actually trying to whitewash Hippiedom from the satanic perversion of the Killer Tribes and occult conspiracies only interested in apocalypse and terror.
The ‘third’ book about the phenomenon is Gilmore/Kenner’s Garbage People which was originally released in 1971 (before both of the others) and has just been re-released in a substantially revised edition by Amok. The most substantial difference, I guess, is that it contains 30 pages of pictures (the illustrations on this page are taken from there, but are only the tip of the iceberg), amongst them graphic photos of the slain victims on the scene of the crime as well as in the morgue, which alone makes it a must for those obsessed with the case.
Of course being a book of the exploitation genre, there is still more justice towards the Family here than in the other two; the text is made up to a large part out of quotes from interviews etc., in this new edition a major addition were interviews conducted with Bobby Beausoleil.
In the end the prosecutors bought a few people (snitch for immunity) and the way lead from Death Valley to Death Row.
While those are worth reading for the story and to understand the terror that is instilled in Bugliosi and Sanders, there is a volume entitled The Manson File published by Amok in 1988 that collects writings, art, poetry, essays by Manson as well as many photographs and texts by followers, plus comments by editor Nikolas Schreck which provides interesting material removed from the usually moralising or rationalising literature, and therefore insights that none of the other books could possibly offer.
As the Supreme Court declared the Death Penalty unconstitutional shortly afterwards, all the sentences were changed to life in prison. These murders are in some sense still one of the most shocking to America as they founded a sort of terrorism that employed the random assassination of members of the Establishment – the ‘Piggies’ – to spread terror and instill FEAR, a key word of the philosophy behind the bloodbath.
But the victims were on drugs too, they had done some MDA that night. While the killers were more on the Acid tip; and burnt by the desert sun.
The Family had grown to around 40, mainly young runaway girls – over which Manson seemed to have had an amazing power. They broke away from society, first to Haight Ashbury, and when that went downhill via Hollywood to the Spahn Movie Ranch and finally to Death Valley. All the attempts to get Mansons record released via his connections to the Beach Boys failed, life became harder. The abundance of sex must have seemed just normal and maybe getting a bit boring, the abundance of drugs removing the concept of time. But the harassment from suspicious cops would continue and a certain paranoia would set in. It must have been so fucking hot that summer in the desert.
So hot that Beausoleil, who had played the role of Lucifer in Kenneth Anger’s film Lucifer Rising, drove around in the first murder victims car until he got arrested. Connection to the family wasn’t made just yet and the more famous Tate/LaBianca murders were still to take place.
In the meantime the Family ended up in Death Valley far away from a self-destructing civilisation and in the search for the “hole in the earth”.
That’s where they wanted to await the impending doom and after armageddon figured that they would resurface and take over the leadership in a world torn by race wars and slaughter. They became impatient and decided to spark the whole thing off by randomly killing members of the establishment.
Manson occasionally insisted that all he was doing was mirroring society, that they were the garbage people, the rejects, living off ‘love and garbage’. Seen by some as an evil mind controlled hippies from hell sect, by others as a utopian realisation of sex & drugs in the permanent orgasm of undiluted freedom, tantric and otherwise, and psychedelic mindexpansion, the reflection that Manson is talking about is visible in the authoritarian structure of this anti-authoritarian tribe. Political leanings in later years are more towards the ultra-right and hints towards an explicit occult/psychedelic fascism; but then again this may be another reflection of the environment rather than of the inner truth of the tribe. Certainly in this eruption of sex and bloodshed we see a multitude of contradictions, power relations and unpleasant truths exposed that most literature about the case has tried to conceal rather than analyse.
One lesson is that nothing instills more terror than random killings, and that reflected back onto society may help us understand that the seemingly random killings performed by the police force of this country as well as all over the west are quite consciously employed to keep us all in line. Maybe there is a pattern to the Irish people or Black people suffocated or beaten to death in police custody, but certainly there is an objective: To prevent the insurrection of the impure, the garbage people… The Manson saga tells us that it makes sense, because “These children that come at you with knives, they are your children.”