Simulacrum Press International
August 15, 1969
Sources close to the Manson Family, a close-knit group of young people led by Charles Manson, confirm that due to sensational press coverage of the recent deaths of Sharon Tate, Gary Hinman, and others, the group has grown increasingly concerned about a public backlash against Manson’s teachings. “Manson’s peaceful message has been distorted beyond recognition; he has essentially become a punching bag for those who gain self-respect from the denigration of unfamiliar cultures,” said Family spokesman Chester Snivlington. “Mansonophobia doesn’t belong in 1969,” he added.
The problem Snivlington referred to has proven to be far more pervasive and difficult to eradicate than most observers had predicted at the beginning of the year.
I joined Hugh Ulation, Professor of Sociocultural Studies at the University of Southwestern California, in his campus office. His bookshelves groan with files on the research that became the basis for his 1967 runaway best-seller, “Bad You, Good Me: the Allure of Other-Baiting.” His book, which introduced the public to the now-familiar concepts of “imputed otherness” and “jackboot-stuffing,” is a sobering survey of ways in which the public draws the wrong conclusions from “information” in the media.
“To understand Manson, you have to understand his milieu. Take his words out of context, and you have no hope of truly hearing him,” Ulation explained in measured tones that instantly brought me back to my own college years. “Yes, if you’re determined to find and misuse them, Manson did make references that, if read in isolation, appear to command his followers to stab, shoot, and slaughter, but we have to understand that he’s talking in symbols—the language of his generation. What metaphor for self-determination in the face of stifling convention is more apt than ‘stabbing’?” For Professor Ulation, there is no greater sin than embracing simplistic readings of statements, which he defines as “the cowardice of pretending that others are obligated to speak in crayon.”
Ulation continued, “Let’s take a close look at this issue in terms of hard statistics, for which, as you know, the typical suburbanite nurtures a special disregard. The 12 members of the Manson Family have been together for two years. The ‘murders’ lasted, at most, 45 minutes. What I’m telling you is that, even if we may have our disagreements with what renegade members of the Family did in expressing their alienation from the establishment, the fact remains that their encounters with Tate and Hinman totalled less than 0.01 percent of their time over the past two years. Below 0.01 percent! Am I supposed to view anyone solely through the lens of such a minuscule fragment of their time? When did perspective become taboo?”
Despite the compelling case established by these facts, Ulation remains pessimistic about the public’s ability to accept the implications of his research and come to terms with Manson’s teachings with the open-mindedness that most Americans like to think of themselves as having. “Falsehood is the Velcro of middle-class society, and it blinds as it binds. Once the public smells the blood, a sort of feeding frenzy sets in, and everyone piles on…I just don’t know how you stop that.”
Far away from Ulation’s office, in a small California town, members of the Manson Family are betting their livelihoods and their reputations that they can convince their neighbors to finally appreciate what Manson’s teachings have to offer, and redeem a nation in the process.