My Dealings With Manson – Part 3

This is the third and final installation
in these blogs about dealings with the
pro-Manson community. This time, I
will talk about my dealings with a
couple of blog sites that I encountered
during my research and add some
observations about blogging in general.
(I hasten to add not all bloggers on these
sites are “pro-Manson”, many are
decidedly anti-Manson.)

These days, authors are advised to join
in on-line communities so as to
circulate one’s name and get known
by people who might ultimately
form the target audience of one’s
writing. This is self-evidently encouraged
as a way of improving the book’s
marketability (“reaching your audience”).
I had some extra reasons for entering the
world of blogging about the Manson
murders. First, I have had an almost
life-long interest in the events. Secondly,
moreover, as I was proposing to write
about the crimes from a lawyer’s
perspective, I was keen to discover if
I was missing anything or I could learn
things that would improve my book.
Like most trial lawyers, I verge on the
paranoid about missing things. I was
also hopeful of coming across an
American attorney who knew the
factual matrix of the Manson crimes
with whom I could bounce ideas around.

Early on I had a great stroke of luck
finding an American lawyer who also
knew a lot about the facts of the case.
His name can be seen in my book’s
acknowledgments. This was a milestone
in the book’s development because for
the first time I found somebody against
whom I could test ideas, both factual
and legal. I cannot overstate the
contribution of this person. (As it turned
out, most of our meaningful dialogue
took place privately rather than under
the gaze of the blog site.)

I also found many other people who
added intelligent perspectives to my
ways of thinking. Many were delightful
people, well intentioned and genuinely
interested in learning about the Manson
murders.

I also encountered many amateur sleuths
and conspiracy theorists. The conspiracy
theories are many and varied. Some say
the murders were the result of a drug
deal/conspiracy between the killers and
the victims which went wrong. Others say
the District Attorney colluded with the
judiciary to put Manson away as part of
their alleged campaign to rid the world
of “hippies” and “long hairs”. And so on.
It suffices to say that I looked at many
of these conspiracy theories and could
not find any evidence to support them.
Plenty of rumour, innuendo, speculation,
but no evidence. Indeed the available
evidence about the events usually pointed
in the opposite direction.

I found blogging an interesting experience,
sometimes rewarding, but often not.
The necessary brevity of blog communication
does not lend itself to detailed or constructive
analysis of matters, especially legal matters
and trials. It is not useful to reduce complex
legal problems to slogans and catch-cries,
which tends to be the way blogging works.
I also found a disturbing tendency for
self-styled experts to ventilate, sometimes
in apparently legitimate ways, theories about
subjects about which, in reality, they had no
experience or comprehension. Blogging is
obviously the preferred platform for these
people. But there is no quality control and
no facility for the sort of peer review of what
is published in the way, for example, the
medical profession controls what is published
about medicine. Some bloggers profess to
know all sorts of things about, for example,
the chemical make-up of certain drugs,
but when I asked these persons to set out
their qualifications, so I could make an
informed judgment about who was right and
who was wrong, I was met with derision.
Others profess to have expertise in “standard
procedure” for prosecutors, without apparently
ever having studied or practiced law (let alone
practiced as a prosecutor). Or training
methods for policeman, without ever having
worked for the police (let alone trained police).
It seems, when blogging on the internet,
anything goes. This is undesirable because,
to my observation, illegitimate expertise
leads to a merry-go-round of misinformation
and misunderstanding. That is clearly the
result it has had in the blogging about the
Manson murders. I aim for people blogging
on this site to keep these matters to the
fore of their thinking so that discussions can
be had in an informed and informative way.
For example, I would hope that people who
profess views about forensic or scientific
matters would state their qualifications. It
is difficult to evaluate, or sometimes make
any sense of, statements about, for example,
scientific matters unless something is known
about the qualifications of the person
making the comment. It is not that
“unqualified” persons should refrain from
commenting, more that when a person
does have qualifications, it is useful to know.

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