I have often wondered how it happened. I went to sleep one night loving Willie Mays, the San Francisco Giants, and playing whiffle ball in my front yard with my buddy Frankie, and the next day I woke up a long haired, narcissistic, rebellious, dumb ass drug head. It happened pretty much that swiftly and without any apparent rhyme or reason.
The only thing I can figure out about how and what happened back then was the media influence. I lived in a pretty closed-in environment on the south side of Corcoran. It was a culture dominated by Okie and Mexican influence and traditions. Television was just starting to spread its all-pervasive wings. I can remember the ripple effect of the Beatles' explosion reaching our distant shores in the sixth grade when a teacher formed a Beatles club at lunch. It had been a lunch time Let's Do the Twist club with Chubby Checker only a year before.
My mother subscribed to LIFE magazine and there was the Beatle cover that made my little parochial eyes open wide with amazement. Ed Sullivan was a mainstay in our house and watching the energy unleashed in their first appearance on the show was life changing for many us.
My point is, it was all pretty much virtual reality. That cultural movement had no real substance for me for a such a long time, at least until I got in high school and start seeing other people dressed in tie-dyed shirts and bell bottom pants and then started going to the dances where the bands were playing music covers from bands like Iron Butterly, Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, and Them.
It was a lapse of a couple of years before I actually saw the environment change, but I first started seeking out ways to get high in junior high. Why?
I have always been something of a conspiracy buff. I don't know how anyone who witnessed JFK's murder and the subsequent deaths of his brother, Martin Luther King Jr, and Jack Ruby would not be something of a skeptic too.
It has a contemporary influence too. I can not stand to listen to most of these social justice warrior types rant on and on about things they only superficially understand with their mantra of "We Need to Act Without Thinking or Talking" perfectly suited to aims of the people who pull their strings. They remind me so much of those earlier times and not in a good way.
Someone killed a president and for all intensive purposes got away clean. We bought a story and let it go. Then they killed his brother, and the same thing happened. People blew up a lot of buildings in those days; they now teach in our universities.
Something strange was going on here, and, and to paraphrase the words of the Buffalo Springfield, "What it was ain't exactly clear."
Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O'Neill is a book with some answers but also a lot more questions. In it, the author lays-out a scenario backed by many creditable sources and documents that almost, but not quite, places Charles Manson in the same room sitting across the desk from one Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, an infamous pyschologist, and a well established participant of the CIA's MKULTRA program.
The book notes the fact that Manson's parole officer had only one client and yet failed time after time to pull Manson's parole despite numerous violations and an attitude that suggested that Manson had no fear of it ever becoming an issue. That parole officer and Dr. West worked for a period in the same building in Haight Ashbury. Manson and his girls went there often.
Dr. West worked for Dr. Sydney Gottlieb, the overall head of the many mind control projects that proliferated throughout country back in the 1960's. One such project involved having San Francisco prostitutes dose their clients with LSD while their reactions were viewed via one way mirrors.
The author does a masterful job of debunking DA Vincent Bugilosi's Helter Skelter narrative and, in so doing, exposes the cover-ups involved in hiding the Hollywood connection to Manson and his family. (David McGowan's Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops and the Dark Heart of the Hippy Dream, although it often overreaches, is fascinating book to read on this subject.)
Bugilosi's actions in the prosecution of the case, leads to some speculation as to his own involvement in managing the evidence and the public perception of what happened. It certainly appears that he was doing an awful lot of destroying paths that might have led to a more truthful understanding of what went down. For example, he barely touches upon Manson's time in San Francisco in his all time best-selling crime novel Helter Skelter.
He was trying to firmly establish that Manson used drugs and mind control techniques to incite the murders, and yet ignored the fact that San Francisco was where Manson started the family, first took LSD, recruited many of his girls, and was home to the CIA's efforts to explore the use of drugs, deprivation, and mind control to create operatives to commit acts like political assassinations. Did he omit this information purposefully?
It is the author's ability to ferret out the long hidden documentation that causes me some deliberation. He prefaces his account of gaining access to some valuable lost documents, which were thought to be destroyed years ago, with a scenario where his dad offers up much needed help and advice about his research. It sounded somewhat like an effort to buttress his account on how he gained access to those files. Which in turn leads to the question why did he think it needed to be buttressed? Which leads to the question how did he get the access? Which leads to the questions "Why now? and Why this?"
To his credit, O'Neill lays out a lawyerly case that our government may well have been involved in the creation of Manson and his family and in covering up its role in the tragedy that later took place, a tragedy that many, many journalists felt effectively closed down the hippy experiment. He also shows that a lot of Bugilosi's efforts were certainly open to question. Thirdly, O'Neill shines a very bright light on the powerful and widespread efforts of intelligence services to brainwash and control unsuspecting victims in an effort to influence both the political and cultural climate of America.
When I read this book, I kept stopping and thinking about strange events that occurred in my own life during this period. I never had any real intent on becoming a rebellious, foul mouthed, drug using teenager. Everything in my background up to that point spoke out against that ever happening. But happened, it did.
O'Neil's book helped me to look at the why of things from a different angle and exposed a lot of hidden facts and feelings that have been long buried and heavily redacted in my own personal history.
The weakest part of the book is that after making his case, the author fails to provide the summation. Instead, he wanders off into detail how another obscure murder in the desert can also be linked to the Manson Family.
Either, he doesn't want to be like Bugilosi and leave something behind for others to poke holes in later, or could be, he is setting up the sequel where he explains how the death ties in to the larger picture.
Maybe, he just wants us the readers to provide the connections ourselves.
But this leads me to the question.............
I would recommend that people interested in this subject also read:
Acid Dreams- History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond by Martin A. Lee
This books reveals just how deeply our government was involved in
the promotion and use of the drug. Very interesting book.
Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream by David McGowan
This book has it flaws as it gets carried away by its own momentum and often overreaches. Never the less, it provides a lot of unknown facts that somehow never became part of the narrative and a lot of strange coincidences that will give you pause to wonder. For example, it shows how many of the most famous musicians of the day had connections to military intelligence. Sharon Tate's dad was in intelligence too.
JFK: An American Coup D'etat: The Truth Behind the Kennedy Assassination by Col. John Hughes-Wilson
A very good book. It is not well sourced or foot-noted as some others, but does provide a lot of insight and detail. For example, the guy who owned owned Dealy Plaza publicly called out the president at an event not long before the assassination, the Dallas Police Chief's brother was not only a high ranking CIA official but also hated Kennedy, and the fact that the guy who owned the Book Depository wasn't much of a fan either. Highly readable.