Charles Manson was denied parole for the 12th time at age 71. Since rules say he can’t apply again for another 15 years — when he will be 86 — that was probably his last shot at the brass ring. But as the news reports suggest, Manson doesn’t mind. He’s found his niche; he’s achieved a kind of fame that he could never have had in the normal world.
Manson, however, has a steady stream of visitors who submit requests to see him, including college students writing papers about him, says prison spokeswoman Theresa Cisneros, the AP reports.
“He has a large interested public,” she says, adding that Manson receives more mail than most prisoners. Manson has also been cited twice for having smuggled cellphones in prison.
The cellphones, letters and interviews are the tools of his trade: a jailhouse guru; the head of a family connected by invisible wavelengths. As this ABC video last year explains, Manson is now a regarded as a Global Warming prophet and a political pundit who tells Obama not to let Wall Street push him around.
While giving an interview to Vanity Fair, Manson said “Everyone’s God and if we don’t wake up to that there’s going to be no weather because our polar caps are melting because we’re doing bad things to the atmosphere. If we don’t change that as rapidly as I’m speaking to you now, if we don’t put the green back on the planet and put the trees back that we’ve butchered, if we don’t go to war against the problem.”
Manson’s so cool he was Occupy Wall Street before there was an Occupy Wall Street; Van Jones on the American “Arab Spring” before Van Jones thought of it. Addressing his words to Obama, Charlie called him “a slave of Wall Street”. “He doesn’t realize what they are doing. They are playing with him”.
Those words are addressed to his family, which is out there. A CNN report focuses on Manson’s “new devotees”, who can buy his new CD, “One Mind” or listen to his sermons delivered, via his disciples over the telephone. It’s all available at the ATWA site, the “Official site for the Charles Manson Truth”. ATWA stands for “Air, Trees, Water, Animals” or “All The Way Alive”. Which is what you normally are before Charlie gets to work on you.
Through the magic of telecommunications Manson can communicate with his disciples, who have names like Red Star Horse, Blue Star Horse, Gold Star Horse, Silver Star Horse – Black hawk, Gold hawk, Gray Wolf — and who tirelessly work to enlist more Sun Soldiers to fight against the courts, law and religion who together are conspiring to destroy all air and life on earth.
What’s really disturbing about ATWA is that apart from its connection with Charles Manson it might just as well by one of several hundred environmental advocacy sites. The environmental rhetoric on ATWA is if anything, moderate in comparison to the radical environmental sites. Wikipedia points out that long before Manson knifed Sharon Tate and her friends to death, he was well ahead of his times.
Manson was paroled in 1967 and found a welcoming environment in the burgeoning counterculture. Together with a small retinue of disaffected young people, he took flight from the madness of the cities and established a communal colony at Spahn Ranch in the Santa Susana mountains outside of Los Angeles, California. The group began to make survivalist forays into Death Valley in order to scout out more remote areas of the desert, and in September 1969 some members attempted to thwart nearby road developments by deliberately setting an expensive piece of earth-moving equipment on fire. This early act of monkey wrenching occurred a number of years before the concept would be popularized by Edward Abbey, Dave Foreman, and other radical environmentalists. In December 1969, Manson was arrested for arson of a Michigan Loader earth-mover in Death Valley.
The CNN report rhetorically asked why disciples as diverse as Gray Wolf (60 years of age) and Star (21 year old female) are so devoted to Manson, but never got around to answering the question themselves. They left it hanging in the air as mystery.
One possible response is that Manson is the “crazy uncle” of trends that have been mainstreamed since 1968. Fundamentally a good guy but just tad over the top. A little bit like Ira Einhorn, the Founder of Earth day, for whom many expressed an intense admiration, especially in intellectual leftist French circles. Nothing was wrong with Einhorn other than that he had the habit of wrapping his girlfriends in plastic and stuffing them in boxes where they died of slow suffocation. Strange as it may seem, there are probably considerable number of people who agree with 99% of what Charlie Manson thinks and believe that his only mis-step was to go a little too far one evening at Sharon Tate’s.
The contrary view may be that Einhorn’s murder of Holly Maddux and Manson’s Helter-Skelter represent the least destructive aspects of their mentalities. Those gruesome acts have merely allowed the narrative to redirect the locus away from the real craziness; to box up the insanity in cartoonish nutball behavior. That way we can forget how otherwise normal their irrational politics and environmental views really are.
The really destructive maniacs of this world don’t run around with knives. They work calmly, with paper and pencil, churning out one Five Year Plan after the other; drawing with geometric precision, one failed worker’s paradise on the foundations of the last one failed. A Bavarian once remarked to me that Karl Marx, not Adolf Hitler, was the single most destructive person the German nation ever unleashed upon the world. Not that anyone stopped to think about it, he said.
And so it is with Charlie. That night at Sharon Tate’s is over. But it may be that the Charles Manson saga is not yet ended. Charlie’s body may be in jail. But his spirit lives.