One of the first serious books I ever read was Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who eventually put Charles Manson in prison for orchestrating the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders just north of Beverly Hills in 1969. Manson, you may remember, was not physically a part of the murders. Bugliosi convicted Manson mainly on circumstantial evidence, mostly by convincing jurors that Manson manipulated the actual killers by selling them the conspiratorial idea (which a deluded Manson actually believed) that the acts were necessary to trigger a race war between blacks and whites. The resulting apocalypse would end with all the whites dead (the “Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out”) and, because Manson thought blacks were incapable of running the world, the blacks would turn to Manson and his white followers—hidden away in Death Valley—to take charge.
Charles Manson is, and remains, nuts, of course. Through a weird interpretation of songs by the Beatles, especially from their White Album, combined with his reading of the Book of Revelation (a weird book in itself), Manson’s deranged mind invented the Helter Skelter scenario, which was essentially a giant conspiracy, of which the murders were only a small part, to make him ultimate ruler. In an effort to make it as clear as possible to the jury just what Helter Skelter was, prosecutor Bugliosi made the testimony of a Manson follower named Paul Watkins part of his closing argument at trial. According to Watkins, here is how Manson described Helter Skelter:
WATKINS: There would be some atrocious murders; that some of the spades from Watts would come up into the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills district and just really wipe some people out, just cut bodies up and smear blood and write things on the wall in blood, and cut little boys up and make parents watch.
So, in retaliation-this would scare; in other words, all the other white people would be afraid that this would happen to them, so out of their fear they would go into the ghetto and just start shooting black people like crazy. But all they would shoot would be the garbage man and Uncle Toms, and all the ones that were with Whitey in the first place. And underneath it all, the Black Muslims would-he would know that it was coming down.
BUGLIOSI: Helter Skelter was coming down?
WATKINS: Yes. So, after Whitey goes in the ghettos and shoots all the Uncle Toms, then the Black Muslims come out and appeal to the people by saying, ‘Look what you have done to my people.’ And this would split Whitey down the middle, between all the hippies and the liberals and all the up-tight piggies. This would split them in the middle and a big civil war would start and really split them up in all these different factions, and they would just kill each other off in the meantime through their war. And after they killed each other off, then there would be a few of them left who supposedly won.
BUGLIOSI: A few of who left?
WATKINS: A few white people left who supposedly won. Then the Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out.
BUGLIOSI: Wipe the white people out?
WATKINS: Yes. By sneaking around and slitting their throats.
Now, at this point, you may wonder what any of this has to do with politics, which is what this blog is mostly about. After all, Tr-mp, as bad as he is, is no Charles Manson. He’s not a convicted killer. But he is a conspiracist. He is mentally ill. He does believe crazy things. And so do many people around him and many people who support him. And because of that fact I believe it is important to peer into the minds of conspiracy believers, deranged and otherwise, even if the conspiracies are not as dark and disturbing as Manson’s Helter Skelter, or the minds are not as deranged as Manson’s. So, here we go.
By now, you have seen countless times Tr-mp’s latest conspiratorial tweets from this weekend, but here they are for the record:
♦ Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! (March 4, 2017, 5:35am)
♦ Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW! (March 4, 2017, 5:49am)
♦ I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election! (March 4, 2017, 5:52am)
♦ How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! (March 4, 2017, 6:02am)
In a true Mansonian disconnect from the whirlwind of weirdness he had created in a mere 27 minutes, Tr-mp tweeted the following at 7:19am:
♦ Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show
Obviously, if you had no other evidence to draw from, if there weren’t hundreds upon hundreds of other reasons to pronounce the mind of “President” Tr-mp disturbed and disturbing, these tweets would be enough. They are lies. They are conspiratorial nonsense. And perhaps the most pathetic part about it all is that Tr-mp had no idea how these tweets would appear to others. He wasn’t playing mult-dimensional chess to deflect from other issues. To him, it was quite natural to accuse, falsely, President Obama of an astoundingly high crime, of being a “bad” man or, alternatively, “sick,” and then to follow that up with commentary about a reality show on television. That’s how disturbed minds work. Or, well, how they don’t work.
Tr-mp’s conspiracy about Obama came, naturally, from other conspiracists. First, the idea was advanced on Thursday by a noxious radio host named Mark Levin, who suggested Obama and his pals are executing a “silent coup” against Agent Orange. To spend two minutes listening to Levin is to wish one was deaf at birth. Rush Limbaugh joined the coup chorus and then, straight from cuckooville, came Breitbart, with a story that eventually got circulated around the
White’s Nut’s House, where, reportedly, the Head Nut was “infuriated.” There is, it turns out, a “deep state” hard at work fighting “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” In other words, the administrative state will not go gently into the good night of deconstruction. Good for it. I like the administrative state. It always—always—deposits my government retirement check into my bank account on time, every time.
None of this nuttery would be possible, of course, without enablers. Paul Ryan. Mitch McConnell. Others. These “establishment” folks tolerate the insanity because they are using the political equivalent of Helter Skelter (get that right, all you haters out there) as cover for their dirty policy deeds (all of which we will get to as the weeks pass). While unforgivable, that part of this twisted soap opera is at least understandable. To put it in Rahm Emmanuelian terms, politicians don’t often let a crisis go to waste, even if it is a crisis involving a mentally ill president.
What is harder to understand is why people want to blame players like Steve Bannon for Tr-mp’s mental challenges. It’s true Bannon has many bad ideas, including his recently highlighted affection for “a breathakingly racist French novel,” called The Camp of the Saints. Again, permit me to venture into (at some length) the scary world of Mansonesque fantasies. Here’s how HuffPo describes the book Bannon finds so fascinating and opinion-shaping:
The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, named “the turd-eater” because he literally eats shit, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an “armada” of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indians or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by recognizing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.
The non-white people of Earth, meanwhile, wait silently for the Indians to reach shore. The landing will be the signal for them to rise up everywhere and overthrow white Western society.
The French government eventually gives the order to repel the armada by force, but by then the military has lost the will to fight. Troops battle among themselves as the Indians stream on shore, trampling to death the left-wing radicals who came to welcome them. Poor black and brown people literally overrun Western civilization. Chinese people pour into Russia; the queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman; the mayor of New York must house an African-American family at Gracie Mansion. Raspail’s rogue heroes, the defenders of white Christian supremacy, attempt to defend their civilization with guns blazing but are killed in the process.
Calgues, the obvious Raspail stand-in, is one of those taking up arms against the migrants and their culturally “cuckolded” white supporters. Just before killing a radical hippie, Calgues compares his own actions to past heroic, sometimes mythical defenses of European Christendom. He harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash-of-civilizations narrative — the defense of Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Constantinople to the same — and glorifies colonial wars of conquest and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.
Only white Europeans like Calgues are portrayed as truly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indian armada brings “thousands of wretched creatures” whose very bodies arouse disgust: “Scraggy branches, brown and black … All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms.” Poor brown children are spoiled fruit “starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.”
The ship’s inhabitants are also sexual deviants who turn the voyage into a grotesque orgy. “Everywhere, rivers of sperm,” Raspail writes. “Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.”
The white Christian world is on the brink of destruction, the novel suggests, because these black and brown people are more fertile and more numerous, while the West has lost that necessary belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. As he talks to the hippie he will soon kill, Calgues explains how the youth went so wrong: “That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest — none of that had ever filled these youngsters’ addled brains.”
The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9″}}”>Revelation 20:9 — is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.”
If you can differentiate, in significant and meaningful ways, from the apocalyptic nonsense in that French novel and the apocalyptic nonsense of Helter Skelter, you are a better man or woman than I. Because I can’t see much of a distinction. I find it all disturbing. And scary. The Tr-mp “presidency” isn’t, ultimately, about Steve Bannon and the fear, or hope, he has of his own version of a “race” war to end all wars. It is about Donald Tr-mp. It is about the things that pass through his untilled mind, through his conspiracy-poisoned field of mental fantasies. Let us never forget that. Let us ignore people like Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, who tweeted on Sunday the following regarding Tr-mp’s accusations against Obama:
Did Steve Bannon slip the offending article into Tr-mp’s hands to set the president swirling into a rage? That toxic mix undermines America.
It doesn’t matter, relatively speaking, whether Steve Bannon slipped that Breitbart article into Tr-mp’s tiny hands. What matters much, much more is that the mind connected to those Tr-mpian hands is a sick mind. Yes, it is noteworthy that people like Bannon have access to Tr-mp and can use his mental illness and susceptibility to conspiracy theories to at least attempt to actualize some kind of weird and dangerous fantasy, every bit as weird as Helter Skelter. But it is the sick mind that matters most of all, no matter how hard that bitter reality is to contemplate.
Thus, I want to leave you with the words of Vincent Bugliosi, Manson’s prosecutor and the determined man who uncovered the primary motivation behind some infamously grisly murders in Los Angeles in 1969. Bugliosi told the jurors in his rather unique closing argument in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial:
I, as a prosecutor, and you folks as members of the jury, cannot help it, we cannot help it if Manson had this wild, crazy idea about Helter Skelter. It is not our fault. Manson is the one that made the evidence, not we. We can only deal with the evidence that presents itself.
We, as members of a democracy, are the jurors listening to what is going on in the trial of our democratic experiment. We can only deal with the evidence that presents itself to us. And the evidence compels us to conclude that the man holding the highest office in our land has a deluded mind that is only different in degree from the mind of the man who, as I write, sits in Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California.
No, Donald J. Tr-mp is not Charles Manson. He hasn’t killed anyone or urged anyone else to kill anyone to start a Helter-Skelter Armageddon. But given the position this disturbed man in the White’s House holds, he could, potentially, be more dangerous to the world that a thousand Charles Mansons. And that’s worth thinking about. It’s worth writing about. And it’s worth talking about to your family, your friends, and those with whom you interact.
In short, we shouldn’t be afraid to render the only obvious verdict.