My Life After Manson
August 5, 2014 3:03 AM   Subscribe

Olivia Klaus's Op-Doc (9 minutes) on Patricia Krenwinkel, who was one of Charles Manson's Family members, convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder, and currently the longest-serving woman in California's prisons: "I would now have to be fully responsible for the damage, the wreckage and the horror."
posted by paleyellowwithorange (42 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Warning: autoplaying video.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:01 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Saw this linked to elsewhere (OK, Facebook) and watched. Came away from it feeling like, well… the woman still didn't really say much. Seems like she kinda talked around it somehow, in vague "self discovery" terminology that didn't really hold much weight.

Maybe I'm just insensitive, or missing something, but it seemed like there was a lot more that needed to be said, somehow. So, for me it was an unsatisfying experience: I didn't feel like this woman was saying all she could. All she should.

I'll be interested to hear other folks' opinions.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:38 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


It is true that she talks around the subject, but how do you accept the fact that you are a monster? Are there words to describe the sheer abomination of your existence? Perhaps this acceptance brings suicide. Perhaps even she, a grotesque butcher, wants to live more than she wants to die. My words are condemning, but I am grateful to listen to her story, such as she would tell it.
posted by nzeribe at 4:48 AM on August 5, 2014


Also keep in mind this is a short version of a longer doco (linked at the bottom of the brief article). Presumably the full-length thing gets a bit more in-depth.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:05 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also keep in mind this is a short version of a longer doco

Ah, good point.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:06 AM on August 5, 2014


It is hard to judge from here with this short clip, but it seems to me defining her existence as an abomination and a monster is a bit strong. What she did was monstrous, and she rightfully has paid the price for those actions. It sounds like she has had to face what what she did---the destruction she personally caused in other's lives. To me, a monster is one who cannot, or doesn't care to, recognize the destruction caused by their actions---to be unrepentant. Manson fits that bill to me, Patricia not necessarily.
posted by insert.witticism.here at 5:16 AM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


She is conveniently repentant now that she's up for parole. Keep in mind, Manson didn't kill anyone and he wasn't exactly mentally all there. The women killed 7 people and I've never heard that they were psychotic or otherwise unable to tell right from wrong.
posted by fshgrl at 6:03 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, you know, having a tough, love-starved upbringing and feeling alienation and anomie is very far from uncommon in older teens. And yet not too many of them respond by turning off their minds and gleefully torturing and slaughtering people, and daubing slogans in their victims' blood. My heart is significantly failing to bleed here. That said, an interesting video.
posted by Decani at 6:26 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, I felt much the same as flapjax and put into the context of applying for parole, her words seem even more hollow.

I completely believe that she was a young, broken girl at the time of the crimes, though. And I would imagine that prison is a very difficult place to engage in meaningful self-discovery.
posted by pjenks at 6:31 AM on August 5, 2014


The filmmaker's statement that she had no idea who Patricia Krenwinkel was or what she had done seems disingenuous. A 25 minute short isn't going to do more than skim the surface of Krenwinkel's emotions. I think she is repentant but because of her incarceration, really has little to no idea of all the repercussions caused by the deaths or those people, of the trials, and of Manson's influence on pop culture and public imagination. Her biggest regret should be having ever met the man.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:49 AM on August 5, 2014


Maybe I'm an idiot or something but I thought this was touching. Nothing she can say now will take away what she did, obviously. Still, the self-reflection seemed genuine to me.
If she wanted publicity and fame, couldn't she have had it long before now, given peoples' interest in her story? Parole doesn't take public perception into account, does it?
posted by bobobox at 6:58 AM on August 5, 2014


Those women were on powerful drugs, and were being controlled via sex and a deeply-weird relationship to Manson. Under certain circumstances, we all can be "monsters." I think its bizarre how people "other" murderers, even ones in crimes this shocking. Murder is extremely human.
posted by agregoli at 7:03 AM on August 5, 2014 [18 favorites]


"Parole doesn't take public perception into account, does it?"

Yes, it can, and she's been on TV enough times talking about what happened where people all over the world wrote in to the parole board before her latest hearing, unconvinced that she actually took real responsibility for what she'd done and requesting she'd stay in prison. The board took those letters into consideration, along with some other factors, in denying her parole, as can be read near the bottom of the text of that hearing on 20 January 2011.

In looking at the clip, I'd have to agree with the decision. Unless the documentarian is holding something back for a longer piece, the first words out of her mouth should have been along the lines of, "Yes, I did this; I made the choice to do this, regardless of the reason why, and I killed these people." But she didn't say that.
posted by droplet at 7:14 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think one can have sympathy for her--her words and her inner life don't have to reach an ideal state of sanctification for me to see her humanity. But all Manson-figures are culturally available for various champions--film-makers, Christian proselytizers and prison conversion promoters in the case of Susan Atkins, and prison reformers. She herself is just some small little human person.
posted by feste at 7:30 AM on August 5, 2014


I think one can have sympathy for her--her words and her inner life don't have to reach an ideal state of sanctification for me to see her humanity.

Agreed, wholeheartedly. But...

She herself is just some small little human person.

Isn't entirely accurate; she and the people around her had an outsized influence on our culture that's still felt today and probably will be felt for a long time to come.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2014


I still don't understand how someone could be so completely, easily lead. No one's asking me, but I'd deny her parole just based on that. It's terrifying to think that a dupe like that was walking the streets.

Well, another dupe like that.
posted by nevercalm at 7:54 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Happens all the time, that's the scary thing. Some experts have theorized that Paul Bernardo escalated to murder as part of a folie a deux with his wife. She's out of jail and married to an extremely scary biker. This causes worry.

What I'm saying is I think I'd have to agree with you. It's not so much that I care about her admitting responsibility, I'd want to see evidence or at least testimony that she can't be led like that again.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2014


She is conveniently repentant now that she's up for parole.

She's been in prison for over 40 years. It's possible she came to be repentant before she became eligible for parole.
posted by Hoopo at 9:29 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


"I'd want to see evidence or at least testimony that she can't be led like that again." That's certainly what Susan Atkins's supporters were saying her prison conversion meant. I'm a lot less sympathetic to prison christianity, than to PK's more banal experience.

I think these figures are morally complex, and they prompt some interesting discussions, along with their ripeness for exploitation. I sincerely doubt that Patricia K would murder again, and I really wouldn't be scared of living next door to her (I am talking about myself, others are allowed to feel their own way), and I don't know what rehabilitation looks like in the case of this woman. She sounds like she's had enlightenment. But it also doesn't feel like justice for her to get paroled. She seems like she's recovered her sense of self, but the psychic damage she inflicted is too great for us to get over it.
posted by feste at 9:30 AM on August 5, 2014


Our military turns disaffected teenagers into gleeful killers all the time. I'm thinking its easier than we'd all like to believe it is.
posted by KathrynT at 9:35 AM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm glad that Susan Atkins did not get paroled. Interestingly, John Waters has advocated for Leslie Van Houten's parole.

The murders had an outsize effect on my young imagination, the stuff of terrors, and shocking narrative. My copy of Helter Skelter was the first book I had confiscated by my mother, and I grew up in LA, so we heard about it for a while. I think it turned my parents more conservative, and prompted a fear of hippies.
posted by feste at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


A much more complete look at "how someone could be so easily led" is in John Waters' long essay about Leslie van Houten. Short answer: Fed a lot of drugs and put through classic cult conditioning until they barely knew their own names.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd expected something different from the video, having read the comments here first. I didn't see her as talking around the subject except insofar as there aren't often words to describe hugely transformative epiphanies and self-reevaluations. So, what can one do but talk around it?
posted by glhaynes at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2014


She is conveniently repentant now that she's up for parole.

I'd love to have your psychic ability to tell genuine repentance from "convenient" repentance--from a brief, edited video interview at that.
posted by yoink at 10:23 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


All three women have been repentant, however they understand the term, for a very long time. 45 years have passed, wow. But I'm not for parole, I don't think. And I don't think it will happen. If it were to happen, it would have been Susan Atkins, she was dying of cancer. Even Vincent Bugliosi advocated for her to get a compassionate release.
posted by feste at 11:13 AM on August 5, 2014


I never killed anybody, and I'm a dramatically different person than I was when I was 21. Hell, I've been at least two or three dramatically different people since then. Of course she's not the same person that murdered seven people in 1969.

It's pretty obvious that none of these people will ever be paroled because even now the whole thing is just way too emotionally charged, and a lot of people will go to their graves fighting to make sure they all die in prison. That's not a choice I'd make, but I can't really call it a gross miscarriage of justice either.

I'm just thankful I don't have to carry the weight of something like that.
posted by Naberius at 11:43 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Our military turns disaffected teenagers into gleeful killers all the time. I'm thinking its easier than we'd all like to believe it is.

There is a huge difference between lawfully following orders delivered from duly elected civilian authorities (ultimately the president) and torturing then killing some random person.

Please don't compare the acts of murderers to people engaged in combat. There is a reason their are two different words for their actions.

It is offensive.
posted by bartonlong at 11:58 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not comparing the acts of murderers to people engaged in combat, and I apologize for the inference. I'm merely pointing out that the conditioning techniques by which we train young people to be willing to kill are well understood.
posted by KathrynT at 12:03 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is a huge difference between lawfully following orders delivered from duly elected civilian authorities (ultimately the president) and torturing then killing some random person.

Is there? As a former servicemember, can you elucidate that to me? What, precisely, do you see as the difference?

In both cases, ultimately disaffected young people go looking for something to give their lives meaning. They find it in a group that calls itself a "family." As part of membership in this "Family", you are required to commit to being willing to killing people at the behest of the person who is in charge of this "family."

Yes, one is illegal and one is not, but from a purely psychological standpoint, they are exactly the same. What does it take to get you to go from a person who can't conceive of killing someone to someone that can kill on orders? Really, as KathrynT says, not as much as people would like to think, whether draped with a flag or not.
posted by corb at 1:20 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


She cut open Sharon Tate, took her baby out, and killed it. Our military does not 'brainwash' its members into doing anything of the sort.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


She never came out and admitted what she did. There was a lot of euphemism and focus on her own personal development.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:31 PM on August 5, 2014


Our military does not 'brainwash' its members into doing anything of the sort.

No, they were just bad apples to begin with.
posted by anazgnos at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


She has admitted it. Recounting it over and over doesn't do anything. The point is she was preyed upon by a sick man when she was a confused and sick young girl - and then drugged repeatedly and caught up in a controlling sexual relationship. She is unlikely to fall prey to that again, at this age. l am not advocating her release, but, she wouldn't have done this on her own.
posted by agregoli at 1:48 PM on August 5, 2014


Our military does not 'brainwash' its members into doing anything of the sort.

Allow me, sir, to introduce you to Wounded Knee, where not only were babies cut out of pregnant women, but the 7th Cavalry finally learned the fine art of vagina hats.
posted by corb at 1:52 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sharon Tate's baby was not cut out of her. That was a rumor at the time and it has been thoroughly debunked. The murders were horrific, but that particular thing did not happen.
posted by OolooKitty at 2:26 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


persona au gratin, I would recommend reading "On Killing" by Dave Grossman. With a few exceptions it appears to be rather difficult to get humans to kill other humans. The military devotes a good amount of effort and resources to find ways to circumvent or disable these natural barriers and a lot of it could be accurately described as brainwashing.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:03 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm merely pointing out that the conditioning techniques by which we train young people to be willing to kill are well understood.

And pretty wildly unlike the techniques used by Manson. So there's pretty much nothing to your comparison, except the not-very-interesting point that two groups share a verb.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:31 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyway, back on point... The Manson Family raise some really powerful issues about what jail is for. Okay, a couple of them are completely unrepentant, and may as well stay locked up forever. But most of them, once freed from a relentless brainwashing regimen, pretty quickly realized what a terrible thing they'd done. Now they've had decades of repentance, and the chances of them reoffending are pretty much zero. So... Should they walk free?

Depends on what jail is for. If the idea is punishment, then no---they tortured and murdered many innocent people. If the idea is deterrence, then... Maybe? Would future cultists think "Woah, if we go through with this, we could end dying in a cage"? Maybe. It's hard to say. If the idea is protecting society, then no; these women are not a danger to anyone.

I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss punishment, though. All serious writing on legal matters, all the way back to the Oresteia, acknowledges that society needs punishment, and it needs to see the punishment happen. Otherwise people's moral sense is offended and they resort to blood feuds. If the person who hacked up a pregnant woman in the hopes of sparking a race war is walking around Starbucks, a lot of people are going to feel really, really cheated.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:45 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


> "All serious writing on legal matters, all the way back to the Oresteia, acknowledges that society needs punishment, and it needs to see the punishment happen."

I feel it should be pointed out here that, for whatever it's worth, Orestes was found innocent of murder because he was following the orders of the person he believed to be his god.
posted by kyrademon at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel it should be pointed out here that, for whatever it's worth, Orestes was found innocent of murder because he was following the orders of the person he believed to be his god.

Yes. The lesson of the Oresteia is that society needs to see justice happen, not that it needs to see punishment. In other words, the response to crime needs to be a social, collective act rather than a familial or personal vendetta.
posted by yoink at 10:06 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


In 2004, when asked who was the person most harmed by the killings, she answered "Myself" which may be an honest answer, but hardly a compassionate one.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


In 2004, when asked who was the person most harmed by the killings, she answered "Myself"

Yeah, there you go. The self-centeredness in evidence here, and (as I mentioned in my first comment of this thread), in the linked video clip, is really something that just doesn't sit well with me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:42 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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