Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties…Tom O’Neill

Hanspostcard had mentioned he was reading this book and from what he said I had to give it a try. I got the audible version. The author Tom O’Neill has an interesting quote that sums up the book… “My goal isn’t to say what did happen—it’s to prove that the official story didn’t,”

When I first started to listen I thought it was going to be a big conspiracy book but I was pleasantly surprised…Tom O’Neill took pains not to go there. He is pretty open that he does not find the “answer” to the murders. He also made it clear he wasn’t trying to clear the guilty parties of the Tate/Labianca cases. They are no doubt guilty but it was more about the circumstances around the question of why and the Helter Skelter theory brought by Vincent Bugliosi. Vincent was the prosecutor in the case and later wrote the book Helter Skelter…the best-selling true crime book ever.

Manson’s parole officer Roger Smith was really baffling. Manson was on parole through the late sixties and did everything he could to break his parole…Smith kept giving him a pass, protecting his family, and even fostering one of Manson’s kids. Manson must have had a hell of a rabbit’s foot or someone or some organization was looking out for him. If any of us would get caught with an underage girl, stolen cars, and narcotics… a trip to jail would be in our immediate future…even in the 1960s…much less being on parole at the time.

O’Neill has the documents to back up his claims. Bugliosi did suppress evidence and most around the case are still afraid to talk. Some of the evidence yes could have got by him but not to this extent. Tom interviewed a countless number of people… including tense interviews with Bugliosi.

Tom spent 20 years on this book. The story of him writing the book is just as interesting as the story. He became depressed and obsessed with the murders. In 1999 he was writing an article for Premier Magazine and kept extending the deadlines for the 30th anniversary of the murders. Then in 2009, it was going to be a book published by Penguin for the 40th…that didn’t work out because he kept finding new leads and information. Finally this year the book was released for the 50th anniversary of the murders.

What I found interesting also was the other subjects that were brought up…COINTELPRO, Operation CHAOS, and MKULTRA…goverment secret programs that could come into play. There is much more in the book than I’ve touched on…I would recommend getting it…it makes you think and question.

Below is a great review of the book.

https://www.straight.com/arts/1283716/extended-interview-50-years-after-manson-murders-tom-oneills-disturbing-new-book-chaos

 

Jonestown

When I think of evil human beings…Jim Jones checks off every box. When people think of Jonestown or the Peoples Temple they probably remember the horrible images and disbelief that blanketed the news from Guyana. Interviews with people who happened to be out of Jonestown that afternoon or one of the very few who escaped (36) who started their day there.

The death toll kept rising daily on the news…200, 400, and then 800 or more. The reason was the bodies were on top of each other and the more they were moved the more they realized some were 3 deep.

918 children and adults died on November 18, 1978, in Jonestown, and most were murdered not suicide. Drink the poisoned Flavor-Aid or get shot or injected right after watching the kids poisoned. According to the Guyanese court which had jurisdiction in the matter, all but three of the deaths in Jonestown were ruled to be the result of murder, not suicide. Source: The New York Times, 12/12/78

The Peoples Temple was a microcosm of society.  Some people joined for socialism, religion (ironic since Jones was an atheist) or just to belong somewhere. There were young naive members, elderly vulnerable members, drug addicts, drunks, lawyers, doctors, rich, middle class, poor, black and white.

I always wanted to know more about what happened. There are some good books on this. The best one I’ve read is Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman. Tim was there for two days including the last day when Congressman Leo Ryan was killed…Reiterman was also shot but survived.

The event, of course,  inspired the phrase “Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid”…although it was really a cheap knockoff…Flavor-Aid.

The more I read the more I was imagining being held prisoner in that jungle under his totalitarian rule…what a helpless feeling…and I was wanting the impossible to happen…a different ending.

It’s so puzzling that today with all the info we have there are still cult leaders out there playing by the Jim Jones playbook.

A good abbreviated version of Jonestown and Jim Jones can be found here at History Channel website. https://www.history.com/topics/jonestown

A documentary of Jonestown and Peoples Temple.