Manson and the totalitarian temptation

Two articles on the very same subject although superficially about entirely different things. There is first this: The Charles Manson Fallacy. The second is: 100 Years. 100 Million Lives. Think Twice.

Here is how the first article ends:

The potential for entire social movements to end up sympathizing with visibly pathological murderers with swastikas carved in their foreheads is a persistent potential. All you have to do is let down, for a brief moment, your simplest sense of right and wrong, perhaps because you pride yourself on being upset about some social issue….

Here is how the second one ends:

The stories of survivors paint a more vivid picture of communism than the textbooks my classmates have read. While we may never fully understand all of the atrocities that occurred under communist regimes, we can desperately try to ensure the world never repeats their mistakes. To that end, we must tell the accounts of survivors and fight the trivialization of communism’s bloody past.

My father left behind his parents, friends, and neighbors in the hope of finding freedom. I know his story because it is my heritage; you now know his story because I have a voice. One hundred million other people were silenced.

One hundred years later, let us not forget the history of the victims who do not have a voice because they did not survive the writing of their tales. Most importantly, let us not be tempted to repeat it.

Read them both, which I took down from Powerline Picks where they appeared separately but at the same time.

TO WHICH WE MAY NOW ADD THIS: Charles Manson’s Radical Chic which comes with this very telling subhead:

Some on the left adored him, before and after the murders.

And this is how the article begins:

The history of the postwar period is the history of the struggle against Communism. What’s sometimes forgotten — conveniently forgotten — is that our victory in that struggle was far from assured, and that a substantial swath of the Western intelligentsia and much of its celebrity culture was on the other side. It wasn’t just Jane Fonda and Noam Chomsky, Walter Duranty and Lincoln Steffens. (“I have been to the future,” Steffens wrote after a visit to the Soviet Union, “and it works.”) Eventually, 100 million people would die under Communism as part of the longest and widest campaign of mass murder in recorded human history. As a phenomenon of specifically nuclear terror, the Cold War lasted from 1949, when the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb thanks to the help of the American leftists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, until 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down.

Precisely in the middle of that period came the strange career of Charles Milles Manson, who has just died in a California hospital at the age of 83. Manson’s death, like his life, was wrapped up in the radical politics of the 1960s.

He died of natural causes, his execution having been set aside as part of the temporarily successful progressive campaign against the death penalty in the 1970s. Just as it is easy to forget how pro-Soviet the American Left was at times, it is easy to forget how pro-Manson American radicals were. “First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach. Wild!” That was the assessment of Bernardine Dohrn, the champagne radical who, with her husband, Bill Ayers, participated in a campaign of domestic terrorism, including bombings, and later became cozy with Barack Obama, hosting events for the aspiring politician in her home.

An old question of mine: what do you think of the 1960s – all good? all bad? or a bit of both. I know my answer but I’ll leave that for another time.

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