BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- News stories come and go. Most are quickly forgotten.
But sometimes, a story comes along that has unusual significance and far-reaching implications.
Think of the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, a young New Yorker, a crime that reportedly was seen or heard by dozens of neighbors who didn’t call police. That story raised awareness of social isolation and callousness.
And recall the fatal 1986 cocaine overdose of Len Bias, the college basketball star just drafted by the Celtics whose untimely passing sparked reconsideration of recreational cocaine use.
And now, learning of the death of mass murderer Charles Manson, we remember the Manson Family murders of August 1969 as a seminal moment in so many ways.
Horrendous crime was nothing new. But the unique aspects of the slaughter Manson directed--the notion of a killer cult at work destroying randomly-selected lives, the political overtones, and the especially-vicious nature of the killings--helped fuel the perception that our society had spun out of control.
As the story unfolded, it put a spotlight on the vulnerability of runaways and the ugly underside of the counter-culture.
And the sight of young people decades later idealizing Manson, a racist psychopath, as some kind of rebel hero, was a reminder of how cultural dysfunction is getting worse, not better.
His long-overdue death won’t change Manson’s evil but important place in our history as a stark reminder of how thin the veneer of civilization can be.
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