Go down the rabbit hole: to enter into a situation or begin a process or journey that is particularly strange, problematic, complex, or chaotic, especially one that becomes increasingly so as it develops or
unfolds. (The Free Dictionary)
Consider any seminal historical event in American history. There is the “official” version that noted, well regarded historians write and there is an alternative narrative that is opposed to the official account of events. There are filmmakers such as Oliver Stone who called his film JFK a “countermyth” to the “myth” of the Warren Commission report. Of course, the term associated with people who traffic in conflicting viewpoints of the history books are called “conspiracy theorists”.
Some people dabble in these conspiracies as pure escapism – a means of entertainment. No harm done. But others spend countless hours, weeks, days, and years seeking the smoking gun that will change history as we know it. And before you know it, those years turn into a lifetime. And I do pity those poor souls who believe the 1969 moon landing was faked. It was filmed on a backlot in Hollywood. Or a 1947 UFO
crash near Roswell, New Mexico yielded the bodies of aliens who were whisked away to Wright- Patterson Air Force Base. Did you know that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike? Keep this on the down low…he was killed by John Lennon. And on and on down the rabbit hole we go. Call it a diversion or a waste of time.
But there are other, more troubling conspiracies that bring irreparable harm and emotional
trauma to the victims of horrific events. The contention that 9/11 was an inside job is one example. Inside – meaning the U.S. government had a hand in demolishing the Twin Towers. I remember watching the second plane hit the South Tower on Good Morning America. But according to conspiracy theorists, it was all a figment of my imagination. Forget the 19 terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda. I assume they were props in a grand scheme to
do…what? An excuse to start a war? Possibly, but plausible explanations and facts are a little hard to come by. And to suggest that our government used the victims of this attack as pawns in some geopolitical struggle does a huge disservice to them and their families. I don’t pretend to think for one minute that our government has always been transparent and truthful about the information they disseminate to the public. We certainly have been
misled before. We will be again, but 9/11 wasn’t one of those cases. And as the late great gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson used to say, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”. That’s exactly what happened in the case of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Connecticut that occurred in 2012. Twenty children and six adults were killed by a troubled 20-year-old man. One conspiracy being promulgated was the claim that
the shooting was an absolute hoax. However, just last month a jury awarded the father of one of the victims $450,000 in damages based on his defamation suit. The chief promoter of the hoax theory asserted that the father fabricated the death certificate of his son.
Not all conspiracy theorists are crackpots. Many well-meaning professionals with their integrity and reputation intact succumb to such conspiratorial thinking.
Writer Tom O’Neill is one such person. What started out as a writing assignment for Variety magazine in 1999 upon the 30th anniversary of the Manson murders morphed into a 20-year obsession culminating in his new book, Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. Of course, the Manson case is one of the most researched, talked about crimes in modern history. What is it we don’t know after 50 years? Well quite a
bit according to O’Neil. He takes us along for the ride in his quest to uncover new or lesser known facts about the murders. The journey lasts over 400 pages. Was the motive for the murders something else beside a race war Manson wanted to pin on the Black Panthers upon hearing the Beatles song Helter Skelter. After all, that’s what Vincent Bugulosi, who prosecuted the murder case and became famous for writing the “official” account of
the heinous crimes, wanted the nation to believe.
O’Neill’s investigation leads him down several rabbit holes. Were the murders simply a drug deal gone bad, a mafia hit, or as he finally concluded – a CIA operation called MKULTRA. MKULTRA has come up before regarding another conspiracy theory – the Jonestown Massacre. That’s another thing about conspiracies in that they often meld into one larger unified
field of treachery. One shadowy figure (and there’s lots of shadowy figures) that turns up in O’Neill’s investigation also has ties to Jack Ruby and the JFK conspiracy.
The CIA, expressly forbidden from conducting operations on domestic soil did just that with a secret mind control operation that was MKULTRA. That such a program existed was a fact. Several universities served as fronts for such research.
The unlikely Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco that Manson and his Family often frequented before heading out to Los Angeles also had ties to people conducting mind control experiments. Another one of O’Neill’s mystery men alleged that the murders were a direct result of Manson’s indoctrination and his ability to indoctrinate others in mind control operations. It wasn’t that the operation went so wrong. It went so right – meaning that
the CIA could take what it learned from this experiment and presumably utilize these tactics in the Cold War.
But during his long investigation, at times O’Neill is crippled with doubt wondering if he himself is falling prey to conspiratorial thinking. But there’s always a new source or new information that keeps him and his readers plodding along. But in the end, there never is that smoking gun. All the loose ends are
never quite tied up. But…but…the government is still hiding things from us. Perhaps, or the architect of the murders was a deranged psychopath who easily manipulated his not so bright and emotionally frail followers to commit the crimes stemming from his petty jealousies. He was turned down for a record deal by famed producer Terry Melcher who was the former resident of the house where the murderous gang struck. Maybe its that simple or it is more
complicated, but not a conspiracy. I do know this; I won’t spend anymore time thinking about it.