Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties Paperback – June 23, 2020
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"Chaos is less a definitive account of the murders than a kaleidoscope swirl of weird discoveries and mind-bending hypotheticals that reads like Raymond Chandler after a tab of windowpane."―The New York Times
"If Helter Skelter whets your whistle, then O'Neill's blistering account of the conspiracy to cover up the flaws in the Manson prosecution is definitely your cup of tea."―Nerdist
"Forget Tarantino's film, journalist O'Neill has been working on this book for 20 years and has found all kind of interesting things, including unreleased documents and new interviews that show legal misconduct... Conspiracy or not, this is what you call beach reading."―Style Weekly (Richmond)
"Whatever you think you know about the Manson murders is wrong. Just flat out wrong. Tom O'Neill's twenty years of meticulous research has unearthed revelations about the murders, the murderers, the prosecutors who tried them and a rogues gallery of cops, drug dealers, bent doctors, famous celebrities, grotesque government research, secret agents and shadowy figures in a conspiracy/cover up so sweeping and bizarre, you'll be as astounded as you are terrified. If your friends call you paranoid, maybe they're just ignorant."―Joe Ide, author of IQ and Wrecked
"Gripping masterful stuff. A dazzling and compellingly obsessed journalistic detective story that invites you down the rabbit-hole to a sex, drugs, and celebrity-serial-killer America. O'Neill's sunk decades into uncovering something far freakier than Helter Skelter ever admitted. Buckle up kids, this is true crime at its truest and most compelling."―Charles Graeber, Executive Producer of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann and New York Times best
About the Author
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This book goes as long as any book I can thin of in shedding light on the secret influences of that most revolutionary of decades called the 60s. I dislike using words like "important" when talking about books. It sounds pompous to me. But, there's no way around it. I think this book is important reading for people to understand this nation's history, particularly the history of its intelligence agencies and how they acted (act?) from the shadows to shape the nation. This isn't a partisan issue. It's a real shame that the subject has been turned into a "pro-Trump" or "anti-Trump" talking point. This stuff crosses the aisle. Though, I guess I should add I actually sometimes find myself sympathetic to things like COINTELPRO and CHAOS...because whether or not they were "good" or "evil" really depends entirely on whether or not there actually was a concerted Soviet campaign to undermine U.S. culture from within.
If that effort really existed, then COINTELPRO and CHAOS, ugly as they were, might have helped save the nation. If there was actually no Soviet/revolutionary influence and the hippies were just hippies, then those programs are irredeemably evil. As with anything, the answer likely lies in the middle.
But, surely I am rambling...I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. I'm going to move on to Days of Rage now and then read this one again. It's very rare I read a book twice cover to cover. That's about as high praise as I can think of.
I take umbrage with any authors using extravagant words when even a middling one will do. I found this irritating and distracting, even though the definition was easily evident though proper usage. The writing itself was at times brilliant, exhausting, and redundant.
People who wouldn’t, couldn’t, have never spoke to anyone about the case, spoke to the author, why? Even Manson.
The foundation of the book is solid, the Manson trial was fraudulent, speculative but O’Neil never gets there. It lacks cohesiveness. He has too many theories and the book becomes very scattered with conspiracies ( CIA involvement, mind control, celebrity involvement, JFKs assassination), it’s too much.
The conclusion was utterly horrible....if after 20 years this is the result, shocking and not in a good way.
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Well, I went back to the book and found it tedious, and was feeling I had spent the entire 20 years of the author’s painstaking research and interviews tagging along behind him or listening in. I feel 20 years older than when I started the book. If there is anything about too much information, this seemed to be a prime example. Trashing the reputation of the victims was revealing but unfortunate.
I remember the murders and trial and read the book Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi when it was first published, and so was anxious to continue. Those familiar with the horrific murders have already learned that the Polanski mansion where the Manson murders took place was previously the residence of Terry Melcher, record producer and son of Doris Day. Melcher knew Charles Manson.
What Tom O'Neill reveals in his 20 years of meticulous research and interviews is that Polanski's home became a hangout for famous celebrities and big-time drug dealers. Some of these drug dealers knew Charles Manson. A-list actors, other celebrities and criminals wandered through the mansion almost at will. Sharon Tate, the beautiful actress and pregnant wife of Roman Polanski was subjected to abuse, and the mansion became known in some circles as a place of orgies, rape, heavy drug use and other depraved activities. The author quotes the saying, " Live weird, die weird."
It is evident that O'Neill rejects Bugliosi's conclusion about the motive, and feels this was not a random act by an unknown gang of hippies. He cites legal misconduct, poor police investigation, mind control experiments and cover-ups. What were the connections between the uneducated, illiterate Manson and some of the rich and famous celebrities and hardened criminals who frequented the Polanski home? How was Charles Manson able to exert such control over former peaceful hippies? He suggests some tenuous connection between the CIA drug-induced mind control experiments and the power Manson exerted over his followers.
As the author claims, there are some details written about the case which were wrong, but I don't feel I learned much new which was relevant.