If anyone wants a perfect example of what the left will do with willing people who follow blindly this is it. The massacre at Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple compound in Guyana, forty years ago today. I say massacre and not suicide because the people who killed themselves were led on that road by Jones — and many followed willingly.
I remember, as an almost twenty-two year old, how horrified I was that so many people would willingly follow someone like Jones. In my dotage, I sadly realize that people with no sense of self or intelligence can be easily led astray by charismatic leaders. The left is full of them.
The “cult of personality” on the left is alive and well. We will never be free of it.
These four excellent pieces recap that terrible event.
“Revolutionary Suicide: The close – and nihilistic – relationship between Huey Newton and Jim Jones,” by Daniel Flynn, the author of a new book about Jonestown titled Cult City:
“We didn’t commit suicide,” Jim Jones insisted 40 years ago this Sunday. “We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.”
The transition from idealism to nihilism that the American Left experienced in a few short years during the 1970s finds expression in that short, peculiar phrase. Apart from encapsulating the decline of the Left, revolutionary suicide also advertises the link between the Black Panthers and Peoples Temple, Huey Newton and Jim Jones, the murder of a cop in Oakland in the fall of 1967 and the murder of 909 communards in Jonestown on November 18, 1978.
Jones utters some variant of the expression four times on Jonestown’s death tape, which concludes with his followers imbibing grape Flavor-Aid laced with less than a penny’s worth of cyanide per serving. The phrase strikes as idiotic as the act it gave its name to. But to Jim Jones, and the ’60s icon who gave him the idea, revolutionary suicide impressed as the next big thing in Marxist thinking. […]
Parents poisoned their children first, which sapped a will to live from the adults. What outsiders later clearly saw as an act of nihilism, the cultists regarded as an act imbued with profound meaning. Jim Jones told them that they gave their lives for the glory of Communism. They did not surrender in laying down their lives. They protested.
“This is not the way for people who are socialistic Communists to die, no way for us to die,” Jones announced as children cried and his followers convulsed and collapsed. “We must die with some dignity.”
No adult, save for Christine Miller, publicly objected (though four African Americans escaped or evaded the fate of the 909 others). The communards shouted Miller down. Several followers expressed gratitude to Jones for allowing them to die for Communism.
“It’s been a pleasure walking with all of you in this revolutionary struggle,” one explains on the death tape. “No other way I would rather go than to give my life for Socialism, Communism, and I thank Dad very, very much.” […]
[…] Perhaps the most persuasive voice for murder rather than suicide witnessed the events of Jonestown in microcosm a hundred miles away in Georgetown, Guyana. Thomas Beikman, after fixing a chicken dinner for Jones devotee Sharon Amos and her family, ceded the knife over to her after the meal. She proceeded to slash her children’s throats in a nearby bathroom.
“I think she thought she was so muckety-muck that everybody would follow her example of what to do,” Beikman told me in an interview for Cult City. “We didn’t realize until after it happened. But people didn’t want to die out there. People didn’t want to commit suicide. You can’t shoot people, cut people, and inject people, and then say it’s suicide. That’s the biggest farce I ever heard.” […]
“Jim Jones’ deadly, leftist strategy still alive and well,” by Jack Cashill:
[…] In 1974, Jones leased 3,000 acres of land in a Guyana jungle and began construction of a commune called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project. Hundreds of his followers were dispatched there to work. What they discovered was a South American gulag equal parts Werner Erhard and Pol Pot.
The buzz about Jonestown persuaded Rep. Leo Ryan, a vestigial Democrat who cared more about people than “social justice,” to check the place out.
When Jones found out about Ryan’s impending visit, he resorted to the ultimate Democratic gambit – race baiting. He denounced Ryan as someone who had “voted sharply in racist terms and fascist terms” and began rehearsing his people for “White Night,” the night when Ryan and other evil white people would come to kill them.
In preparation for visits from outsiders, Jones had earlier issued proclamation No. 75: “Give your original name when guest is here – do not use your socialist names such as Lenin, Che Guevara, etc. …”
On his visit Ryan quickly saw through the subterfuge. When he attempted to fly back to civilization with some escapees, a Jonestown security team murdered him and four others on the runway.
That night Jones put his well-drilled minions through a “White Night” exercise. They had been through this before, drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid and surviving. This time the drink was heavily laced with valium and cyanide.
Everyone who drank it died. Those who refused to drink it were injected with it. As to Jones, he shot himself. […]
“Tim Stoen got out of Jonestown, barely, but still paid a huge price,” also by Daniel Flynn:
Forty years ago [today], Jim Jones orchestrated the deaths of 918 people in Guyana. He blamed one man, also in Guyana at the time, for Peoples Temple’s demise and hoped aloud that his followers would murder him.
“Can they not talk to San Francisco to see that [Tim] Stoen does not get by with this infamy, with this infamy?” Jones asks on the Jonestown death tape. “He has done the thing he wanted to do, to have us destroyed.”
But all these years later, Tim Stoen, Jim Jones’s second-in-command who became his public enemy #1, remains alive and well. The man Jim Jones most wanted dead escaped that fate — but at great price. […]
All these people, led down the garden path of utopia. A cautionary tale indeed…