WEIRDLAND: "Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties" by Tom O'Neill

Friday, August 16, 2019

"Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties" by Tom O'Neill

There's at least two 'points' to the story of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The first is stopping the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends which was a historical tragic event. It's a cathartic 'what if?' scenario where over the top violence is almost Tarantino's (and potentially the audience's) anger being taken out on the real world murders. Tarantino went for the ultimate catharsis, and let us enjoy a world where things don't have to be so bad. The second is the resurgence of Rick Dalton's career. Throughout the movie we see him come to terms with his failing career, he then starts to take acting more seriously which leads him abroad for search of work. At the end of the movie before the big showdown, it's revealed that Dalton is going to sell his house after his time in Rome as he's finally accepted his career is effectively over (him selling the house is symbolic of him abandoning the Hollywood dream). So as the movie ends we see Sharon Tate is alive and Ricky Dalton's career is possibly going to have another chance. Hence the two 'points' of the story converge. Al Pacino's character mentions earlier in the film about how the good guy always stomps the bad guy in films at the time. I think Tarantino was trying to invoke that kind of storytelling that was common in 60's cinema. Source: medium.com

Faking a “Hippie Crash Pad”: Dr. Jolly West performed Jack Ruby's psychiatric evaluation, and he was in charge of UCLA's department of psychiatry and the Neuropsychiatric Institute for 20 years. Late in the fall of 1966, Dr. Jolly West arrived in San Francisco to study hippies and LSD. The Bay Area had seen an unprecedented migration of middle-class youth and an explosion of recreational drug use. West secured a government grant and took a yearlong sabbatical from his professorship at the University of Oklahoma, nominally to pursue a fellowship at Stanford, although that school had no record of his participation in a program there. The summer of love had yet to come, and the Tate–LaBianca murders were still years away, but West would effectively predict them both. In a 1967 psychiatry textbook, he’d contributed a chapter called “Hallucinogens,” warning students of a “remarkable substance” percolating through college campuses across the United States. It was LSD, known to leave users “unusually susceptible and emotionally labile” as it caused a “loosening of ego structure.” That language was reminiscent of the “reprogramming” spiel that Charles Manson would soon develop, urging his acid-tripping followers to “negate their egos.”

When Dr. West cautioned against the “LSD cults” springing up in America’s “bohemian” quarters, he described exactly the kind of disenchanted wanderers who’d flock to a personality like Manson’s in the years to come. West had a hunch that alienated kids “with a pathological desire to withdraw from reality” would crave “shared forbidden activity in a group setting to provide a sense of belonging.” Another paper by West, 1965’s “Dangers of Hypnosis,” foresaw the rise of dangerous groups led by “crackpots” who hypnotized their followers. Contrary to the prevailing science at the time, West asserted that hypnosis could make people so pliable that they’d violate their moral codes. Scarier still, they’d have no memory of it afterward. West cited two cases to back up his argument: a double murder in Copenhagen committed by a hypno-programmed man, and a “military offense” induced experimentally at an undisclosed U.S. Army base. He “personally knew” of two other instances, and he’d “heard on excellent authority” of more, but he didn’t elaborate. Later, I’d get a sense of what, or who, he might have had in mind. When he arrived in Haight-Ashbury, then, West was the only scientist in the world who’d predicted the emergence of potentially violent “LSD cults.”

Getting his bearings at the HAFMC, Dr. West arranged for the use of a crumbling Victorian house on nearby Frederick Street, where he opened what he described as a “laboratory” disguised as a “hippie crash pad.” The “pad” opened in June 1967, at the dawn of the summer of love. Who was paying for all this? According to records in West’s files, his “crash pad” was funded by the Foundations Fund for Research in Psychiatry, Inc., which had bankrolled a number of his other projects, too, across decades and institutions. I concluded that the Foundations Fund was a front for the CIA. Before Dr. West moved to the HAFC, he’d supervised a similar study in Oklahoma City. The title of the project was "Mass Conversion." As I was soon to see, its funds came from Sidney J. Gottlieb, the head of the CIA’s MKULTRA program. West’s excitement was a sham, his feelings for hippies dripping with condescension. He soon concluded that the constellation of sex, drugs, and communalism shining over the Haight that summer was “doomed to fail”: “The very chemicals they use will inevitably enervate them as individuals and bleed the energies of the hippie movement to its death.” He called this an “ineffable tragedy,” but it’s hard to imagine he saw it that way. For West, the failure of sixties idealism was the most desirable outcome—one that he was quite possibly working toward.

Senate investigators condemned MKULTRA unanimously. Kennedy branded it “perverse” and “corrupt,” an erosion of the “freedom of individuals and institutions in the name of national security.” The Times had called MKULTRA “a secret twenty-five year, twenty-five million dollar effort by the CIA to learn how to control the human mind.” The CIA’s new director, Stansfield Turner, swore that he’d sent all existing MKULTRA files to the Justice Department, which would mount a thorough investigation. Still, between the destruction of records and the subpoenaed agents’ sudden memory lapses, everyone knew that “the full facts,” as the New York Times editorialized, “may never come out.”  In 2001 I found letters between West and his CIA handler, “Sherman Grifford.” I didn’t recognize the name, so as soon as I got home, I began tearing through every book I had that mentioned MKULTRA, hoping that it would jump out at me. In the first and most definitive of the bunch, John Marks’s The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, there it was, buried in a footnote: “CIA operators and agents all had cover names,” it said, “even in classified documents. Sidney Gottlieb was ‘Sherman R. Grifford.’”

In April 1953, Sidney Gottlieb became head of the secret Project MKUltra, which was activated on the order of CIA director Allen Dulles. In this capacity, Gottlieb had administered LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs to unwitting subjects and financed psychiatric research and development of "techniques that would crush the human psyche". So West really had lied all those years. Not only was he a part of MKULTRA, he’d corresponded with the “Black Sorcerer” of MKULTRA himself. Preserved in his files, the letters picked up midstream, with no prologue or preliminaries. The first one was dated June 11, 1953, a mere two months after MKULTRA started. West was then chief of psychiatric service at the airbase at Lackland, Texas. Addressing Gottlieb as “S.G.,” he outlined the experiments he proposed to perform using a combination of psychotropic drugs and hypnosis, honing “techniques for implanting false information into particular subjects… or for inducing in them specific mental disorders.” West wanted to reverse someone’s belief system without his knowledge and he hoped to create “couriers” who would carry “a long and complex message” embedded secretly in their minds. All of these were the goals of MKULTRA, and they bore a striking resemblance to Manson’s accomplishments with his followers more than a decade later. -"Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties" (2019) by Tom O'Neill

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