‘Manson Gives Communes Bad Name’
Monday, July 26th, 1971
RIVERSIDE, Calif., Jul. 26 — Charles Manson has given communes a bad name, says a doctor who has studied the commune movement in California.
Dr. David E. Smith says the trend toward group living was thriving until the bizarre life style of Manson’s hippie-type clan was thrust into publicity’s glare with the Sharon Tate murder trial.
“The Manson commune was very atypical,” says Smith. “But until Manson was arrested, most people had never heard of communes. In Taos, N.M., a commune was burned to the ground by the townspeople because of what they read in the newspapers.”
Smith, medical director of the Haight-Ashbury Clinic in San Francisco and a visiting lecturer this summer at the University of California at Riverside, says the Manson case has turned most commune members against the news media.
“They see the media as the conditioning vehicle of the dominant culture,” says Smith. “Haight-Ashbury is their example. The media exploited them.”
Smith worked in the Haight-Ashbury district in the heyday of hippie flower children, before its drug-dazed demise into a crime-ridden slum.
There, in 1967, he met Manson and his tribe of slavish young followers, who fascinated him sufficiently to inspire a study of the group’s life style.
The girls participated in sexual cultural void,” he recalls. “He (Manson) was the messiah. He had absolute power. Whatever he said was right. The girls participated in sexual deviance without question. Absolute control is not good. He was quite disturbed.”
Manson and his “family” of young women eventually traveled south and settled in Southern California. Last April the clan leader and three women followers were sentenced to death for murdering Miss Tate and six others.
Smith, who has been teaching a class in human sexuality, has categorized current communes into three types — the crash commune which is nothing more than a place for footloose youngsters to sleep and then drift on; the family commune in which members share everything but are sexually monogamous, and the group marriage commune in which members participate in sex with all other group members but have no single partner.
The last which Smith calls the most destructive system, was practiced by the Manson “family,” he notes. Its major problem arises when children are born and the mother doesn’t know who fathered it.
“When the child is born, it has an excessive identity with the mother,” he says. “There’s a potential for a psycho-dynamically disturbed child. But this is an untapped research area.”
The commune members say the group is the child’s father, he notes, and many term their life style a “group marriage.”
But he adds: “Destructive marriages tend to end in crisis. The Manson girls would have never left Manson unless they were arrested. Often the crisis emanates from the male rather than the female.”