CNN has been presenting a six-part series called “Inside Evil,” hosted by Chris Cuomo. In its promotional copy CNN says it intends to shed light on the “mind of evil,” exploring the nature and nurture of such a mind. However, a recent segment of the series, about a woman named Debra Newell who is swept off her feet by con-artist John Meehan, falls far short of its hype.
The program focuses on Debra Newell’s story, and on that of one of her daughters, whom Meehan tries to kidnap and kill. It only investigates Meehan’s criminal past in bits and pieces, but does not try to understand how he got that way.
To be sure, the story is gripping, depicting a mother who was duped into trusting a criminal who posed as a Doctor without Borders. The emphasis, however, is on how the mother and her daughter were victimized by a crazed woman-hater. The daughter, who tried to alert her mother to this man’s dangerous past, eventually became his chief target. The daughter’s toughness—kicking away the would-be murderer’s knife, grabbing it herself, and stabbing him in the eye, was indeed remarkable.
But the impression I got was that the true goal of this piece, and perhaps the series as well (since it only depicts evil in terms of male serial killers, rapists, and abusers) seems to be to propagate the notion that men are evil and women need to be careful because there are a lot of creeps out there waiting to get them.
The question that the show promised to probe, understanding the mind of evil—in this case how a man got to be such a woman-hater, was not even investigated in this segment of the series. He was simply portrayed as a monster who had somehow appeared out of nowhere on the site, Match.com. It would have been nice to have some information about Meehan’s childhood.
Men aren’t born hating women. To my knowledge nobody has ever found a gene associated with hating women. In the cases I’ve studied regarding serial killers who killed women or mostly women, such cases usually involve men who came from a sordid childhood in which they experienced some kind of extreme emotional, sexual or physical abuse or neglect. They have been conditioned to hate women because they were ill-treated by the women who raised them.
One of the most infamous men called “evil” was Charles Manson, the American cult leader in the late 1960s. He had members of his cult murder several Hollywood rich people, mostly women, including actress Sharon Tate. A lot of information is available about his childhood online, so we can get some understanding of how his mind of evil was hatched. Charles Manson was born in 1934 to a 16-year-old prostitute named Kathleen Maddox. When Maddox was given the birth papers to sign, she filled in the blank where the name should have been with “No Name.” This was to be an omen of how neglectful and abusive she would be toward him.
A short time later, when Charlie was still an infant, she married William Manson, and he was finally given a name, Charles Manson. However, he lost this father soon afterward, and Manson later claimed to have no memories of him. While he was still in his first year, his mother sold him to a waitress, who eagerly wanted a baby, for a pitcher of beer. The waitress came to the table with a pitcher of beer and Kathleen left Charles on the table for the waitress and exited the restaurant. Only later an uncle came to pick up the young child.
When Charles was five, his mother was sent to jail for robbing a man of $27. While she was in jail, he lived with his grandmother, who, Charles recalled, gave him only one present for Christmas, a hairbrush. She said, “It’s a magical brush and if you brush your hair often you’ll be able to fly.” Charles brushed his hair often and jumped into the air, trying to fly. He was ridiculed by the family and by his peers in school.
His mother got out of jail in three years, and that was when he had the only happy moment of his childhood, according to his later accounts. His mother, for the first time, hugged him. By then he was starving for love. However the moment didn’t last. He described a difficult relationship with her, and by the time he was 13 she put him into a reform school. She kept teasing him by promising to take him back when she had the money. He called her day after day, begging her to take him back. Once he escaped and ran to her house and knocked on her door, but she wouldn’t let him in. His mother told him she couldn’t handle him and sent him back to the school. She never picked him up, although he waited and kept hoping she would.
He ended up running away from the school and living on the street. And years later he formed his cult and displaced all the anger (and probably rage) he had accumulated over the years of his traumatic childhood onto the members of his cult and on the people he had members of the cult kill.
If we could study the lives of all the people, men and women, who act in an “evil” manner, we would find histories similar to Manson’s. “Man is not born evil,” noted the French writer Voltaire. “He becomes so as he become sick.” Men who hate women are taught to hate them by mothers who hate men.