Despite being the cause of at least five deaths, Charlie Manson is considered to be one of the most popular killers in culture today. A part of me desperately wishes that serial killer popularity wasn’t a thing, but here we are in 2017 with fan clubs for convicted serial killers, rapists and cult leaders, or men like Manson, who happen to be all three. In what is only going to be sudden spike in Manson popularity, I think people forget that this was exactly what Manson wanted from the beginning. The whole world to look at him as someone special and as we continue to feed into the criminal turned celebrity, I think it’s important to take a moment and reflect on a society that worships people like him.
Manson could be famous for a number of reasons; the manner by which he killed or the power he had over his followers. Hell, I’m sure there’s at least a handful of people out there who claim Manson’s Lie album is their favorite piece of music. But, it’s a little simpler than that: people are still falling for the manipulations that created the family in the first place. To some, Manson made a home for the lost, became an icon for the free-spirited, and represented rebellion against the government. That’s how the media painted the picture of him at the beginning of the trial. That’s what Manson’s followers preached. That’s how Manson has painted himself, but it was all bullshit. Manson was a racist. Manson committed sexual assault, and Manson had people killed, while claiming to be Jesus Christ, because he was trying to start a race war, which would end with him and his followers ruling over POC after all the other white people would be dead. He told that to other people in full seriousness and would get pissed if they didn’t take it seriously. Does that sound cool? I’ve heard black-out drunks with more cohesive plans than that.
The flip side of this is that Manson is famous, because what he did was so chilling. He manipulated people into committing murder. He ordered the deaths of men and women, because they rejected him or failed him. But does fear deserve worship? Do people who make this world worse deserve to be remembered? And in the grand scheme of human atrocities, Manson was a wet firecracker compared to most American serial killers.
Manson became an icon, not because he was falsely accused or because he was actually Jesus Christ or the devil. He became an icon, because we let him. We ate up the mania of the Manson murders. We listen to his album. We read the book.
He wasn’t a monster or an angel; he was an asshole who manipulated a lot of sick or lonely people into doing something terrible to other humans. And when we let him be more important than who he affected, we let Manson have his one wish, to be famous, to be loved and to be in control.
So, stop idolizing this asshole and go do something kind or read a book or pet a dog. If you like true crime (hey, me too!), it’s time to read about someone else. But don’t make Manson an idol. Let this story rot with his body.