Cult leader and convicted murderer Charles Manson died Sunday at age 83, and the internet has reacted in a powerful way. Instead of tweeting out pictures and stories about the man himself, many Twitter users chose to go a different route: tweeting pictures of Manson's victims as a way of marking his death.
Manson is considered a pop culture figure. While he didn't succeed at achieving the career in music he was looking for when he first went to Hollywood, Manson gained much notoriety by amassing a group of followers and then directing them to carry out murders. This cult, known as the Manson family, would go on to murder nine people. While Manson didn't kill any of those victims himself, his followers committed all of the murders at his direction.
The Manson family's highest-profile victim was actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. In the case against Charles Manson, prosecutors argued that he had ordered his followers to murder famous people in an effort to start a race war. If the murders were blamed on black people, Manson believed, they would begin what he saw as an "inevitable" war between the races in America.
Like his failed dream of becoming a singer, Manson also failed to start a race war — but nine people did lose their lives because of his desire to do so. His followers arrived at the home of Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski, on the evening of Aug. 9, 1969, when Polanski happened to be out of town. Tate wasn't alone, however. The people with her that night who were also killed were Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairstylist; Abigail Folger, an heiress to the Folger coffee company; Wojciech Frykowski, a writer; and Steven Parent, a friend of Tate and Polanski's gardener.
Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil also killed music teacher Gary Hinman on Manson's orders in July 1969. The day after the Tate murders, other members of the Manson family killed Leno LaBianca, a supermarket executive, and his wife, Rosemary. Later that same month, another Manson family member killed stuntman Donald Shea.
Before his trial, Manson carved an X into his forehead. He turned that X into a swastika after many years in prison. Manson was nonchalant when originally sentenced to death, the Los Angeles Times reports, and remained unrepentant throughout his life. While Manson most certainly gained some mystical allure in the minds of some of those who weren't alive to witness news of his crimes firsthand, he is first and foremost a brutal murderer.
The tweets honoring Manson's victims, rather than the man who masterminded their murders, have sprung up at least partly in response to the hashtag "RIPCharlesManson." Twitter users on that hashtag paid more attention to Manson's music or his mystique, rather than his crimes.
The murders took place in and were prosecuted in Los Angeles. Michele Hanisee, the president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, had some very fitting words to say about the murders now that Manson has died. “Today, Manson’s victims are the ones who should be remembered and mourned on the occasion of his death," Hanisee said.
The pictures on Twitter will offer scant relief for the surviving family members and loved ones of the victims whose deaths Manson ordered. But at least they serve as a small reminder that just as Charles Manson is far from forgotten, his victims are being remembered as well.