The same can be said for his views of the media. In the wake of Columbine, Manson was attacked as an indirect cause of the shooting--even though it was later shown that the killers were not Manson fans. At the time, I worked with Manson on apiece he wrote for Rolling Stone
magazine to defend himself. "A lot of people forget or never realize that I started my band as a criticism of these very issues of despair and hypocrisy," he wrote. He went on to attack the media's ghoulish fascination with the murders: "I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop, interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals. Then came the witch hunt."
Manson isn't naïve about the implications of changing your name from Brian Warner to Marilyn Manson--a conflation of his obsessions with sex, violence, and celebrity--or of making albums titled "Antichrist Superstar" (1996) or last year's "Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)." He's well aware that people might conclude you're out to stir up trouble.
He's also aware that talking about the spiritual premises and implications of his music and his own complex religious upbringing in a setting like Beliefnet is to jump into a fiery furnace. What is perhaps most surprising about Manson is how deeply engaged he has been in religious topics, and how genuinely he wants to confront those who are likely to fiercely disagree with him. It's his idea of a good time.
Manson points out that his act only uses the tools made available to him by the media machine. "Marilyn Manson is a criticism of gimmickry," he once explained to me, "while being itself a gimmick."
The Manson critique includes a highly theatrical brand of bone-crunching, guitar-driven rock & roll and lyrics that harshly denounce the crushing effects of conformity. Rather than face life's confusing freedom and difficult choices, Manson says, people disown their humanity to become, as one of his album titles puts it, "mechanical animals."