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Charles Manson, the notorious cult leader and criminal who manipulated people into killing for him, has died in prison at the age of eighty-three. His cult, the Manson Family, was the hippie commune that destroyed the peaceful, loving image of the hippie, after they were responsible for a series of murders in 1969, including the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders, in which The Family murdered a series of well-known Californian residents, including Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate, their unborn son, three of Tate’s friends, and prominent businessman Leno LaBianca and his wife.
Now Charles Manson is dead, and the world is better off because of it. While Manson himself didn’t commit most of the murders, he remains one of the most deranged mass murderers due to his influence over his cult of followers, many whom to this day still pledge undying allegiance to him.
However, there lies a major problem when more people know about the monsters that are Charles Manson and The Family than they know the actual victims of The Family’s senseless, violent bloodbaths. There have been people on social media and in the real world using using Manson’s death as an excuse to political point score, and there have been others using it to simply talk about Charles Manson, but why should we care about Manson, other than the fact he spent more than forty-six years behind bars, and the California justice system at least got something right when he was denied parole twelve times across this forty-six year period?
How hard is it to have sympathy for the victims of Manson’s hateful crimes? Apparently it’s too difficult for people like Lauren Duca, a Teen Vogue writer who used Manson’s death as a chance to criticize Donald Trump:
She’s not the only one, of course, for this is Twitter, where nobody has empathy, or even the slightest hint of sympathy:
What a frightening world we live in where people on the internet are able to compare a politician they dislike to a murderous sociopathic cult leader. But I digress. These people do not deserve any more attention than they already receive on social media.
There is a massive problem with the portrayal of sociopathic killers like Charles Manson, and that is in how they receive more attention than their victims. Of course it makes sense to report on the perpetrator, because how else are we going to look for clues into their behavior so we can prevent it from happening again? That’s not the reason people are focused more on the villain, not the victim. There are two major reasons: 1. people like to project their own dislikes onto a serial killer or mass murderer (such as those on Twitter projecting their dislike of Trump onto news coverage of Manson), and 2. Writing about the monster generates more news.
Sometimes we are lucky and the media will focus more on those who deserve the attention. After the Manhattan attacks last month, media coverage was on five Argentinian friends who were all tragically killed. After the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, we learned about people like Jessica Ghawi Redfield, a sports journalist, and six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, and the many others who just wanted to watch a midnight showing of the latest Batman flick. After a man rammed into pedestrians in the city center of Melbourne, Australia, the face of the tragedy was three-month-old Zachary Bryant.
Serial killers and mass murderers want the attention you give them by plastering their faces all over the place, shouting their names from the metaphorical rooftops, and basically giving them attention. Manson would have been thrilled people are comparing him to Donald Trump, because that means he still has influence.
This doesn’t mean we should ignore these monsters, because that doesn’t solve anything either. However, there is a difference between reporting on killers to prevent their actions from being repeated, and drowning the news coverage in their exploits which will almost certainly guarantee copycats.
Focus on the killer/s, but focus more of your attention on the victims. Just think of Charles Manson. How many people have heard of Manson and his psychotic cult The Family? Many people, certainly. But how many have heard of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca? You’ve probably heard of acclaimed director Roman Polanski—especially in the wake of the Hollywood Sex Scandal—but did you know that prior to that, his wife Sharon Tate, a successful actress in her own right, was one of Manson’s victims? Even those who know of Sharon Tate’s tragic circumstances likely don’t know she was one of five victims by The Family on August 9 1969.
How about instead of talking about Charles Manson, we instead focus on his victims? Talk about Manson, of course. Talk about how the world is free of one less evil person. Talk about how he and his indoctrinated band of cult members are truly proof of evil in this world.
More importantly: Talk about Sharon Tate. Talk about Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Talk about Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger. Talk about Steven Parent and Jay Sebring. Talk about the countless other victims of The Family that barely rate a mention. Think about the families of these victims, who had to keep petitioning the Californian government even to the present day, so members of The Family won’t end up being released on parole. Even talk about how one can get to the stage where they can be indoctrinated into murder, like the men and women of The Family.
When Charles Manson can get a Wikipedia entry and multiple obsessive fans, and the victims are barely even remembered in the history books at all, then you have a problem with villain worship. Maybe we should think about fixing that instead of just complaining on Twitter. Or is that just wishful thinking?