by Oeil Jumratsilpa
“Anybody intelligent enough to realize what America is, is not going to sit around and do nothing about it. They’re going to be the same way that I am…They’re going to be pissed.” –Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson, a musician, artist, music journalist and poet, is also known for his witty commentary on the hypocrisy of political America. He never fails to carry the air of calm confidence as he casually leans back and mocks, in a whispering voice, the very foundation of contemporary American society.
Many know Manson for his notorious make-up, curious costumes, and scandalous stage persona, while mistakenly assuming him as a troubled child who will never grow up. However, an interview with him is often enough to make one question the mass perception of this infamous rock star.
One of the biggest American issues is religion, a great driving force so engrained in the culture and people’s identity. It has been a part of the fabrication of many American traditions, philosophical ideals, wars, protests, bombings, spending cuts, hate speeches, poverty, segregation, discrimination, Fox News, and the propagation of American hypocrisies.
The bible preaches about love and forgiveness, while American Christian fundamentalists curse homosexuals to burn in hell, support torture in wars, and justify bombing those with differing beliefs. Media pundits publicly announce atheists as “sad”, “suffering”, “idiots” and “parasites who add nothing to the society”, establishing atheists as the nation’s least trusted minority group.
Another misunderstood group is Satanists. Contrary to popular belief, Satanism does not involve the devil worship, but in actuality it is a worship of self in absence of god(s). This firmly places Satanism in the realm of non-believers, probably the most misunderstood of all.
Satanists are perceived as a group of suicidal, morbid, sadistic teens, who love wearing black and obscure make-up. However, Satanism is a form of values, promoting individualism, a simple logic that is called, in other contexts, self-reliance, as stated by the current head of the Church of Satan, Peter H. Gilmore:
“Satan is a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates…Satan is not a conscious entity to be worshipped, rather a reservoir of power inside each human to be tapped at will.”
Marilyn Manson has always been the media’s favorite icon subjected to blame and mockery. It’s easy. He has the whole package: the make-up, the curious costumes, his drug habits, his brutal words, and his partaking in Satanism.
However, many fail to realize that Marilyn Manson is, in fact, a deep, intelligent, and eloquent man.
To put simply, Marilyn Manson is a widely misunderstood character. Misunderstood by his own fans, the media, and the public.
Many of Manson’s fans have their own interpretation of what he stands for, breeding misunderstanding from presumptions.
With Manson’s scandalous stage performance, song lyrics and music videos, many fans tend to draw wrong conclusions from their experience. Many of his fans arrive at his concerts chanting, “We’re here to worship Satan” and “Satan is God”.
However, words such as ‘Antichrist’, to Manson, are simply “the collective disbelief in god”. Manson himself is aware of such misunderstandings; “[Satanism]’s all about self-preservation. People confuse it with devil worship”, he says.
Many fans go so far as to worship Marilyn Manson himself as their god, setting the course of their lives to Manson’s words, not knowing that it is the opposite of Manson’s core values: self-reliance and individualism.
Manson compares his values to the philosophy of Nietzche, where Man is his own god. He claims to have tried to clarify this point to his fans at many of his concerts by debasing himself, his message being “You are no different from me”.
A portion of Manson’s fans also mistakes his stage performances and lyrics for encouragement of violence, while Manson begs to differ. He acknowledges that every public figure has to convey a certain image. And his is to shock and outrage the public, the media, and the parents; those who, he believes, make up the core of the hypocritical institution.
A case example includes a 15-year-old Justin Doucet who shot a teacher before shooting himself. The young Justin worshipped Marilyn Manson and Adolf Hitler, believing in the relationship between the two people’s values. What this misled fan failed to understand was Manson’s objection to mindless submission to organized religions and establishments, something Hitler supported and propagated.
Ultimately, the message Manson wants to convey to his fans is simply:
“I never said to be like me. I say to be like you and make a difference.”
An institution that holds an immense power is the media, having always played an important role in influencing public opinion. Walter Lippmann (1922), an American writer, reporter, and political commentator, noted that the mass media is the primary source of the pictures in people’s heads about the outside world, for the public receives only what the media chooses to tell them.
And when it comes to Marilyn Manson, the media, especially Fox News and their conservative pundits, is the biggest man accountable for his falsely perceived identity.
Many conservative commentators love to jump right to Manson’s name when selecting a negative influencer responsible for any tragedy related to youth violence. Bill O’reilly, for example, on his Children at Risk show, called Manson responsible for the “corrosive effects of the popular music world on American children”.
Religious fundamentalists never fail to show their concern in the media, as they greet Manson’s concert tours with protests and angry headlines in the local news. Manson himself calmly points out the hypocrisy in such behavior when he retorted, “the lack of hospitality that they greet someone like [him] with, is very un-Christian”.
One of Manson’s most famous interviews is in the documentary Bowling for Columbine, where the director Michael Moore explores how the media hastily attributes the blame for such incidents to controversial public influencers.
The documentary shows video clips of nasty remarks on Manson, as the entire focus of why the shooting occurred shifted onto him simply because the shooter listened to his music.
In the interview, Manson admitted he understood why the media picked him to be the scapegoat, explaining that he “[represents] what everyone’s afraid of”. His fearless encouragement of thinking for oneself and questioning the institution scares the hell out of the giants, not wanting to lose their control over the public.
In the interview, Manson describes the American media as a “campaign of fear and consumption”.
Manson recognizes the function of the media that Lippmann suggested in 1922 when he observed: “We forgot about the president was shooting bombs overseas, yet I’m a bad guy because I sing some rock ‘n’ roll songs. And who’s a bigger influence: the president or Marilyn Manson?”
Even though the answer is obvious to critical thinkers, Manson acknowledges that the media chose to blame him regardless because the other option is not “the way the media wants to take and spin and turn it into fear”.
Manson also stresses that we live in “a society of victimization”, where people who look and behave differently from the socially constructed norm are associated with illegal or immoral activity. The fundamental reason remains that being different is a threat to the authority.
One thing Manson said in this interview that stuck with the majority of the audience is his answer to Moore’s question regarding what he would say to the victims of the shooting:
“I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say. And that’s what no one did.”
This observation is not only applicable to this specific incident. The media tends to jump to conclusions that serve their own purpose, before listening to the real victims. Many shooters of similar incidents feel invisible and go to extreme lengths to be heard.
A 14-year-old fan of Manson’s, Asa Coon, shot four people before taking his own life, resulting in the media blaming his favorite band for his action. However, the media, again, failed to realize that Asa grew up with a troubled family life and had problems at school from being different (i.e. an atheist), driving him to his breakdown.
A former classmate spoke up and pointed out his own observation:
“I ain’t justifying nothing. I ain’t saying he did the right thing, but I am saying he got pushed for a long time and asked them people to help, help, help, help, but nobody helped.”
The public, also known as the media consumer, has become the tools for those in power to self-cleanse and reject forces that challenge their authority.
Many live their lives according to what the institutions tell them through the media, walking around as mindless and fearful consumers. Manson had it right when he said:
“The burden of originality is one that most people don’t want to accept. They’d rather sit in front of the TV and let that tell them what they’re supposed to like, what they’re supposed to buy, and what they’re supposed to laugh at.”
His devotion to Satanism and controversial work is simply an effort to open the public’s eyes to institutions like religion and big corporations, and their control over the people. Manson’s work aims to act as a challenge to traditional morality and to make people question their own perspectives.
At the same time, Manson recognizes the difficulties in challenging the system and one’s own values, as it is more comfortable and easier to follow instructions. However, he points out that if one does not make an effort, one will be “trapped in a rut and [will never] see it until they die”.
Manson also discusses the hypocrisy in American ideals, including freedom of speech and individualism:
“Americans talk so much about being individualistic, but they don’t want you to be an individual because if you think for yourself then you’re not going to be a part of any trend that they want you to be a part of. They don’t want you to think for yourself. They tell you they do, so that you’re happy and…stupid”
Individualism is the biggest message Marilyn Manson tries to communicate through his work, words, and action.
Individualism means recognizing that everything is up to interpretation and perspective, an idea Manson emphasizes greatly. Also, it is the ability to think for oneself, to recognize the hypocrisy of one’s own society, and to not succumb to it.
He even embraces it to be a part of his identity, forming his own name from the two American icons demonstrating the great American hypocrisy, as he highlights the ironic reality of the world:
“Marilyn Monroe wasn’t even her real name, Charles Manson isn’t his real name, and now, I’m taking that to be my real name. But what’s real? You can’t find the truth, you just pick the lie you like the best.”