Charles Manson and the Perversion of the American Dream
By William McKeen, The Conversation

When Charles Manson died in November 2017, his name carried weight even among those who weren’t alive when he committed his crimes.

For decades, Manson was the symbol of evil, a real-life boogeyman who loomed as the American conception of wickedness incarnate. His death ended 48 years of imprisonment for a series of murders in August 1969, some of which he committed, most of which he ordered.

But his death also reminds us of Manson’s obsessive longing to make a name for himself. As I was researching my book on Los Angeles in the 1960s, I was struck by how fame – more than art, more than religion, more than money – motivated Manson as he careened from prison, to musician, to murder. In his way, he was an early adopter of something that permeates American culture today.

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