Baby boomers

Manson's Death One More Milepost in Waning Significance of Baby Boom Generation

Interest in the cult killer will ebb, just like the generation he claimed to represent.


So Charles Manson, the murderous, violent, demented cult killer, is dead at the age of 83. Buried with him is, likely, a cottage industry devoted to "the Family" that included best-selling books such as Helter Skelter, campy admirers of some of Charlie's girls such as filmmaker John Waters, and low-rated, quick-canceled TV police procedurals.

For all but true-crime enthusiasts and the few remaining Beach Boys fans, Manson had long ago effectively ceased to exist. Such it is and always will be: Notorious criminals whose foul acts might help explain their times get tapped out of meaning like a mine being played out of ore. Whatever wider significance one might have possibly gleaned from paying close attention to Manson's racist, paranoid delusions and the reaction of the square and countercultural America stopped mattering long ago. His death, like the pending sale of Rolling Stone and a hagiographic HBO documentary about that same magazine, is just one more sign that the baby boom generation's long turn in the spotlight is drawing to a close.

The 1969 killings that Manson masterminded were brutal, insane, unmotivated, and thus somehow perfectly of their time. Even more so was the trial of Manson, during which the defendant acted as his own attorney and repeatedly threatened the presiding judge before being condemned to death (a sentence ultimately overturned when the California Supreme Court banned executions). For me, the essential take on Manson remains Ed Sanders' The Family (1972), "the first complete, authoritative account of the career of Charles Manson," in the words of rock critic Robert Christgau. A poet and accidental (if short-lived) rock star by trade, Sanders casts Manson's bloody cult as "one of the culminations of America's public romance with the hippies." That Sanders was himself a card-carrying member of the cultural avant-garde makes his dogged shoe-leather reporting and moralizing far more powerful than that of the grandstanding prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in Helter Skelter. If you pick up an old copy of The Family, make sure to get the first edition, before he was forced to redact information about The Process Church, a once-notorious New Age group originally suspected of the crimes (and which got a slight second wind when another insane killer, David Berkowitz, who committed the Son of Sam murders in the late 1970s, claimed that The Process Church was actually behind his own homicides).

But if you were "into" Manson or are a baby boomer, you probably know all this, right? Being versed in Mansonania is as much a boomer birthright as a deeper-than-average immersion in JFK assassination plots and residual belief in Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods series. These are things that mattered greatly once to many, maybe most, people. They no longer do and will continue to matter less and less as time goes by.

Such it is with Rolling Stone, another cultural artifact of the late '60s, which is being sold by its founder, Jann Wenner, amid slumping interest not just in that particular magazine but in everything that baby boomers once cared about. (The indefensibly wrong 2014 story about a brutal gang rape at University of Virginia certainly helped push along the current sale by demolishing the publication's credibility.) The subject of Sticky Fingers, an immensely entertaining and negative new biography, Wenner is far more representative of leading edge baby boomers than Manson ever could be.

"At one time," [author Joe] Hagan writes, picking up a copy of Rolling Stone was "like holding a piece of hot shrapnel from the cultural explosion of the 1960s while it still glowed with feeling and meaning."

Rolling Stone hasn't been "hot" in years, of course, and picking the exact moment when it lost the pulse of America is a fun parlor game among longtime readers. When it forsook its original newsprint? When it moved to New York? When the neutron bomb of a movie Perfect, based on a Rolling Stone article and featuring Wenner himself, played in empty theaters? When P.J. O'Rourke left after a series of brilliant dispatches collected in Holidays in Hell? (For left-wingers, it might have been when the libertarian O'Rourke first fouled RS's nest.) When it stopped taking music seriously? When it failed to take punk as seriously as, say, Fleetwood Mac? It's a fun, endless game if you're into it—and more boring than fights over whether Jack Paar or Steve Allen was the better Tonight Show host or Signe Anderson was a better Jefferson Airplane vocalist than Grace Slick if you're not.

If most of the above makes little or no sense to you, consider yourself blessedly free of the ephemera of the recent past. "Forget the old ways, brother, all the old hatreds," counseled Matthias, the newscaster-turned-zombie-leader in The Omega Man (1971), a movie every bit as much of its time as Charlie Manson and Jann Wenner ever were. Learn from the past, mostly not to repeat (or in the case of Hollywood, remake) it thoughtlessly and stupidly. The diminishment of the baby boom clears space for younger people to—finally!—start filling roles long blocked, in business, the arts, and politics (2016 was, if nothing else, a battle among geriatric boomers fighting for one last stay in the Oval Office). Make the best of it, please.

NEXT: Film Subsidies Are Real Losers

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  1. Next you’ll tell me this is why NBC cancelled Aquarius.

  2. We just wanted peace, love, and freedom, but all we got were smart phones and gyroscooters. Smart phones and gyroscooters? Get out of here, man!

    1. All that you wanted was to avoid the draft and free stuff.

  3. Never occurred to you the same will happen to your generation, Nick? Or are you something special?

    1. Nick IS a baby boomer. It is his generation.

      1. Mr. Jacket always wanted flowers to adorn his leathery jacket but it would wreck his “style”.

      2. Huh, looks pretty good for a boomer. I thought he was early Gen X.

        these distinctions are important, you know.

        1. If I don’t know what group each person belongs to I am at great risk of liking or hating the wrong people.

  4. These are things that mattered greatly once to many, maybe most, people. They no longer do and will continue to matter less and less as time goes by.

    The Confederate States of America seems to be an exception.

  5. “Make the best of it, please.”

    This time next year we’ll likely be seeing democrats in charge of both houses. Democrats with an agenda, maybe even, and a president who’s happy to deal with them.

    1. Communism is a dead ideology.

  6. It was a horrible and shocking series of crimes. It is significant because of the fame of one of the victims (imagine Jennifer Lawrence being brutally murdered today and you get a feel for what Tate’s murder was like) and it showed the real dark side to the “if it feels good, do it, hippie ethic”. The Manson story is a lesson in the dangers of depravity. That lesson is as valid today as it was then, just like other notorious murders like Leopold and Loeb or the Clutter Murder teach the same valid lesson. I don’t think the relevance of the baby boom generation has anything to do with it.

    1. If Jennifer Lawrence was pregnant, you mean?

      Manson also was trying to start a race war. If he was the quintessential hippie before murders. How could he want to incite racial violence?

      It was almost the left eating its own to hide the fact that lefties can be racist and violent pieces of shit.

      1. That is what the prosecution claimed. I have always had an odd fascination with this case. I am not sure I buy the whole race war thing. If Manson was trying to start a race war, whey did he stop at two nights of murder? That never made any sense. I am more inclined to believe that Manson had his minions do the Tate murder because Abigail Foger’s boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski was heavily involved in the LSD trade in LA and moving in on some fairly nasty people’s turf. Said people paid Manson to kill Frykowski and Manson being a total nut who hated the entertainment industry took the opportunity to whack Tate and anyone else at the house in doing so.

        I think people read too much into Manson. He was more than anything a con man and a criminal. I don’t think he had any big ideas or grand schemes beyond getting laid and getting something for himself. He did this by putting out a huge amount of hippie bullshit that he knew people would buy and could be manipulated with.

        1. I always doubted the race war theory also. How a couple of weird murder sprees was supposed to start a race war doesn’t make sense, but Bugliosi needed a motive to convict.

    2. The lesson is that some people need a charismatic figure to worship and do their thinking for them. We have had a couple of recent Presidents that fill that need.

    1. Fuck, i hate it when SIV has good taste in music.

      1. Hmm…then I wonder what *bad* taste looks like.

  7. “Forget the old ways, brother, all the old hatreds,” counseled Matthias, the newscaster-turned-zombie-leader in The Omega Man

    One old black-clad electronic journalism zombie quoting another.

  8. Baby Boomers born 1946 – 1964

    Charles Mason born 1934

    1. The 70s were the Baby Booms’ real decade. The boomers were all kids in the 1970s. The people who mattered in the 1960s, from the musicians like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Dylan, to the authors like Truman Capote to the psychotics like Manson were all born in the 1930s or early 40s and part of the so-called “silent generation”. You have to get to the early 70s before Boomers start becoming significant in society.

      1. With few exceptions, those who were significant in entertainment, politics, education, law, were those who never fought in Vietnam.

        1. Pretty much. But as a group, those who did serve in Vietnam generally did better by any economic measure than those who didn’t. It is a myth that only the poor and downtrodden served or predominantly served in the war. It is, however, true that unlike all previous wars, very few of the country’s elites served in Vietnam.

    2. “The Lost Generation” totally created Boomer Culture. The music, the movies, the literature, the history…

      1. “The Lost Generation” The Silent Generation totally created Boomer Culture. The music, the movies, the literature, the history…

      2. They did. And the ones who were most responsible for creating it, were often the most skeptical of the boomer generation’s embrace of it. If you could point to six people who did the most to create the “Boomer Culture”, it would be Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Richards, Dylan and Ken Kesey. And all of them have very complex and jaded views of the 1960s culture they helped to create. None of them have any romantic illusions about it or its politics.

        1. Don’t you know that no group of six people is allowed to include more than two white males? You need to photoshop some diversity onto that Mt. Rushmore.

          1. Stokeley Carmichael? Muhammed Ali? Hurt Newton?

            1. HUEY Newton.

            2. Leftist Black militants were a flash in the pan without much influence outside of academia. White acceptance of Black sports heroes was a significant culture-wide phenomenon, though, so Ali is a good choice.

        2. But…if we’re going to stay with white males, I would argue that Lee Iacocca influenced Boomer Culture more than Jagger, Richards, or Kesey.

          1. If you are going to go that route, I think John DeLorean had more influence than Iacocca. Sure the Mustang was wildly popular, but DeLorean invented the muscle car. That defined 60s culture more than the Mustang. And I say that as a die hard Ford guy.

    3. I guess the connection is supposed to be that Manson rose to infamy during the period of time when the so-called “Summer of Love”, Vietnam, Woodstock, and all that other stupid bullshit was going on that makes the Baby Boomers feel like they’re so special.

      1. Your lily white Mayberry RFD utopia will never return, Mikey.

        1. It must be pretty nice not having to worry about what the future holds, Weigel, given that you will never have children because no woman on earth would ever touch you without getting paid a hefty sum up front. And of course one of your JournoList friends can always pay you to write yet another shitty book if you need the cash.

  9. These are things that mattered greatly once to many, maybe most, people. They no longer do and will continue to matter less and less as time goes by.

    Nick sings the praises of cultural illiteracy.

    1. Nick doesn’t think very much and when he does he doesn’t think very deeply about things. To the extent that people have a morbid fascination with this case, this case will and should fade away as it fades from living memory. And that is a good thing. At some point, the dead deserve to rest in peace. To the extent that this case has larger issues and lessons, however, it should not fade away into irrelevance. Nick doesn’t seem to consider this possibility.

      1. Nick inspires comments.

  10. Sexual assault roundup.

    In wake of “Girls” writer and producer being accused of sexual assault, and Lena Dunham’ s subsequent defense, then apology for said defense, another girls writer leaves show, citing Lena Dunham ‘s “pervasive racism “.

    Burn baby burn.

    1. And then there is Glenn Thrush, former Politico and NYT hack being done in by Vox no less.…..york-times

      It is actually a really well sourced and well-written story. Who could have guessed that the first and so far only piece of good journalism produced by Vox would be sticking an ice pick in the ear of one of the worst leftist hacks in media?

      In the course of reporting this story, I was told by a male reporter who’d worked at Politico at the time that my instinct was right. He said that the day after that night at the bar, Thrush told him about the incident, except with the roles reversed. I had come onto him, the reporter said Thrush told him, and he had gently shut it down.

      In a statement, Thrush denied that he disparaged me to colleagues at Politico. He said that “the encounter described [in this story] was consensual, brief, and ended by me.”

      The source said that Thrush frequently told versions of this story with different young women as the subject. He would talk up a night out drinking with a young attractive woman, usually a journalist. Then he’d claim that she came onto him. In his version of these stories, Thrush was the responsible grown-up who made sure nothing happened.

      What a creep.

      1. As bad as Vox might be, they still write good stuff on occasion.

      2. What exactly does this mean though? “At an event with alcohol, he made advances.”

        That sounds like something straight out of the Mike Pence School of Fraternization.

  11. Somebody shake Nick. I think he’s dead.

    1. Go away, you disgusting rape apologist.

  12. The blame for Charles Manson living as long as he did c an be laid squarely at the feet of the California Supreme Court.

    1. He should have gone to the gas chamber in the early 70s.

      1. This is because of jackass judges following a sick ideology, the same sick ideology that led to Brock Turner getting a light sentence.

        The blame for delays in capital appeals can be placed squarely on the Supreme Court.

        Of course, this delay is a problem of the Court’s own making. As Justice Breyer concedes, for more than 160 years, capital sentences were carried out in an average of two years or less. Post, at 18. But by 2014, he tells us, it took an average of 18 years to carry out a death sentence. Id., at 19. What happened in the intervening years? Nothing other than the proliferation of labyrinthine restrictions on capital punishment, promulgated by this Court under an interpretation of the Eighth Amendment that empowered it to divine “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” Trop v. Dulles, 356 U. S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion)?a task for which we are eminently ill suited.

  13. Nick had a Boomer-bashing article in his computer and Manson’s death provided him with the opportunity to use it?

    It sounds like he’s annoyed at Manson but furious at the Boomers.

  14. Manson was not a Boomer. Born in the mid 1930s, he was a member of that small but fun crowd known as the Silent Generation who had Korea a decade before Vietnam.

  15. Check out the grindhouse movie Manson Family. It’s a faux-doc done in drive-in movie style.

    Horror and history!

  16. For all but true-crime enthusiasts and the few remaining Beach Boys fans, Manson had long ago effectively ceased to exist.

    You must not have known about WFMU’s Rihanna-Bieber-Manson billboard.

    This has gotten eerie. Either stn. mgr. Ken Freedman or the station as a whole “called” the meltdown of the WTC, the death of Monty Hall, & now that of C. Manson.

  17. The baby boomer generation is, indeed, growing older; duh. Remember, “OLD SCHOOL IS YOUR DADDY”. Most of you younger kids have no idea what we have done for you, and the sacrifices we made, and make, to insure a better future for you. If everyone from 18-35 years old voted, you would own this country, and its policies here and in the world. Our “influence is waning”? Our influence IS.

  18. Was Manson himself actually ever convicted of killing somebody? I don’t doubt that he was a total evil POS, but I don’t remember him ever actively being involved in the murders. Could be, I don’t remember it being the case.

  19. “…….is just one more sign that the baby boom generation’s long turn in the spotlight is drawing to a close”

    This statement and many in this article are hardly true. First of all Manson was not of the Boomer generation. At 83 at teh time of his death and the oldest Boomer being 71, he was born a good 12 years before the oldes Boomers were born. He is actually of the Boomer’s parents generation.

    He also, was a mediocre musician and was an insistant “goupy” of Terry Melcher. When Terry realized Manson had no talent and that he was involved in a masocistic cult, he dismissed him which enraged Manson. The home, where Manson murdered the Tates, etc is where Melcher had lived previously. Terry Melcher was, for all intents and purposes, Manson’s intended victim. Unfortunately, those murdered were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  20. The Boomers may have been heavily influenced by Manson’s warped mind, but he wasn’t one of them –
    He was (unfortunately) of the Silent Generation.

  21. Meh. How influential is a homicidal maniac? The Clintons, W Bush, Obama, Oprah, P.J. O’Rourke, are still interesting. Manson? I’d sort of hoped he’d died long ago; pity that We The People kept feeding him for so long.

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