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Thread: The Peoples Temple 4 decades later

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    The Peoples Temple 4 decades later

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/w...-a8640906.html

    Yes I can see a Jim Jones incident happen again in our lifetimes but when is the question and who.

    Forty years ago, Charles Krause lay on the tarmac of a remote jungle airstrip in Guyana, shot in the hip, holding still and pretending to be dead.

    A Washington Post foreign correspondent at the time, Krause had come to South America along with California congressman Leo Ryan and his entourage to visit a remote cult compound known as Jonestown.

    Ryan had constituents who had joined the agricultural commune following the charismatic, self-titled Reverend Jim Jones and his California-based Peoples Temple.

    After hearing reports from concerned family members ? who claimed temple members were held there against their will, assaulted and abused ? the congressman decided to fly down to investigate, accompanied by several members of the press.

    But Jones had no intention of allowing the visitors to leave and dispatched several of his armed followers on a flatbed truck to stop Ryan's plane.

    What followed ? the assassination of Ryan and the murder of four others at the airfield, and the mass murder-suicide of more than 900 Peoples Temple followers, including hundreds of children forced to drink cyanide-laced grape-flavoured punch ? would reverberate across the world and leave an indelible mark on American culture.

    Despite his own injury, Krause kept reporting on Jonestown in the days after, filing detailed reports as the first journalist allowed to return to the gruesome site. He later wrote a best-selling book, Guyana Massacre: The Eyewitness Account.

    Krause, 71, who now runs The Center for Contemporary Political Art in Northwest Washington, recently spoke with The Post ahead of the 18 November anniversary of the massacre about his recollections and the lasting lessons of Jonestown. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Q: You have written so much about Jonestown over the years. All this time later, are there still certain moments that stand out most vividly in your mind?

    A: When I first went back, I was looking for some of the people who I remembered were on that flatbed truck. At that point, the bodies were there, but they did not realise that they were stacked on top of each other. So they had counted about 450 people who were dead, but they were missing close to 500 or something. And so we did not know where they were ... I did not find any of them actually. But it turned out that almost everybody was killed.

    Q: You spent time with Peoples Temple members just days before they were killed. Were there any people you met who made a lasting impression?

    A: There were two, a brother and a sister. When we finally got there, each of us was greeted by someone who would come up to us and say, "Hi, I want to welcome you to Jonestown". And it turned out that my minders, that is what they were, were a brother and sister. Their last name was Tropp. Their backgrounds were virtually identical to mine. They were both white, Jewish, both had been educated at Ivy League schools, and we really had a lot in common. They had done their research and they figured out who would present the best case for Jonestown. And I must say, they did. Even after everything happened, I still, because of them, I still have certain doubts. I mean some of the things that were going on there were actually good, if it had not been for the psychosis of one man and the trap he led them into. The Tropps were not there because they believed in miracles or snake oil. They were there because they believed it was a socialist community and a place where different races and religions could be together.

    Q: What has it been like for you to process what you experienced and witnessed at Jonestown?

    A: One of the things that I continue to wonder about is: Why did I survive? I was right next to the congressman, and they were shooting at him for sure. I was not a principal target, but they certainly were there to kill everybody they could. But why did I survive it? And that is a question that has haunted me all my life. You know, there must be a reason. And what I have decided is that that reason is for me to continue to try to do what I can to try to make this world a little bit better. I guess I realised at that point that you have to live your life fully, and you cannot postpone everything until tomorrow, because tomorrow you may not be here.

    Q: We now have generations of people who are too young to remember Jonestown, and are more familiar with derivative pop-culture references ? like the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" ? than the facts of the tragedy itself. But even that phrase is not true to what happened, right?

    A: Right. I remember very distinctly, about three weeks after all of it, I heard from the president of Kool-Aid ? and I was afraid, you know, are we going to start with a lawsuit and all of this? But it was just a very nice note saying, ?Look, we just wanted you to know that as it turns out it was not Kool-Aid, but we understand that Kool-Aid is sort of generic for all kinds of flavoured drinks, and we wish you well.? Apparently, it was Flavor Aid. But regardless, it was mixed with cyanide ? and no, people did not take it voluntarily. In fact, there is a recording that exists, and you can hear the people asking, "Why are we doing this ? do we really have to do this?" And then they had men with guns. So they really did not have much of a choice. And the children did not have a choice.

    Q: What do you think are the lessons of Jonestown, what it ultimately taught us about who we are?

    A: I?m not sure, frankly, that, at the time, the real lessons of Jonestown were very clear. You know, people focused on the mass suicide-murder, the bodies. Anyone who was alive at that time, it was a very striking image, and people may even remember Jim Jones because there was something about him that was frightening. But the real lesson of Jonestown, and I wish our country had understood this: These people followed someone who led them to destruction. They believed in this guy. He lied to them. He cheated. He was involved with the sexual abuse of boys and girls in his temple. He took their money. He really enslaved them. And then he betrayed them, and then he led them to their deaths. I wish we had learned to be more cautious about following people who promise things and then betray the trust that people have given them. And I just hope that it does not happen again.

    Q: Forty years later, in a world that has changed in so many ways, do you think this sort of thing could happen again?

    A: Yes, there is the potential for it to happen again. It has happened again a number of times. We have had Waco, and we have had other incidents where it is not as many people, but it is the same sort of situation. I feel strongly that we need to be more sceptical about political or religious leaders who promise things, who seem to be hypocritical, who talk the talk but do not walk the walk.

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    “I haven’t seen anybody yet (who) didn’t die. And I’d like to choose my own kind of death for a change. I’m tired of being tormented to hell, that’s what I’m tired of. Tired of it.” So said pastor Jim Jones on Nov.18, 1978, in Guyana, right before he perpetrated the mass killing of more than 900 members of his Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ.

    Since then, Jonestown has remained at the periphery of social consciousness. Shocking and visceral photos of the aftermath sometimes catch people’s attention, and the massacre has left a sinister mark on our culture: The phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” entered the popular lexicon as a warning against blindly accepting an idea. But most people know little about the story of the Peoples Temple outside of the 1978 deaths.

    Jones’s path from rural California pastor to power broker to jungle demagogue is an intriguing story even without its harrowing ending. And it raises important questions: Did the members of the Peoples Temple really accept Jones’ instructions without question? What was it about Jones that made people follow him? And how did he get nearly 1,000 Americans to make a pilgrimage to Guyana that ultimately resulted in their death?

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    Born in Lynn, Ind., Jones launched his church in 1954 in Indianapolis and experienced steady, though not spectacular, success in attracting congregants. He preached a message that emphasized socialism and racial equality, ideas that were not necessarily popular in the 1950s Midwest.

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    This led Jones to eventually resettle his Peoples Temple first in Ukiah, Calif., and then in San Francisco, where he turned his congregation into a political force. Its canvassing played a crucial role in the 1976 election of Mayor George Moscone, and national politicians took notice. Rosalynn Carter, wife of future President Jimmy Carter, met with Jones in September 1976, at the height of her husband’s presidential campaign.

    In San Francisco, Jones condemned an oppressive society. Followers were told that they lived under a system that sought to control and marginalize them. Since most of Jones’ parishioners were black and lived in an era known for the murder of civil-rights leaders, violent retaliation against antiwar protests and political corruption, these ideas rang true.

    But Jones weaponized and exploited their fears, promoting distrust of outside authority to the point of paranoia. Even as he denounced oppression, Jones imposed suffocating rules. A 1977 expos? by the magazine New West detailed how “humiliating sessions had begun to include physical beatings with a large wooden paddle.” “Church leaders also instructed certain members to write letters incriminating themselves in illegal and immoral acts that never happened,” the magazine reported.

    Remarkably, even as the Peoples Temple was devolving into a cult, fear drove many mainstream politicians to continue to court Jones. In the words of Harvey Milk, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, “make sure you’re always nice to the Peoples Temple. If they ask you to do something, do it, and then send them a note thanking them for asking you to do it.”

    Jones’ political clout reinforced the message that he alone could protect the oppressed. And the Peoples Temple seemed to serve as a monument to Jones, whose soup kitchens, nursing homes, excellent public speaking skills and natural charisma supported his extraordinary claims. This unique combination turned Jones and the People’s Temple into a beacon for those seeking shelter from racial discrimination and poverty and to members of the professional classes who sought simple answers to these complex problems.

    No discussion of Jones would be complete without mentioning his narcissism, which has been noted by psychologists such as Dr. Len Oakes and Dr. Peter Olsson. In one 1974 sermon, he referred to himself as “the center and circumference of the universe.” Jones sought praise relentlessly and was extraordinarily sensitive to criticism. His reaction to rejection was explosive.

    In 1973, the angry departure of eight college students from his church led Jones to seek a remote site in Guyana where he could exercise more control over his congregation. When New West ran its expose on Jones in 1977, he moved as many people abroad as were willing to travel, but not before enlisting his political allies, including California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally, to insist the magazine stop its investigation.

    In California and in Guyana, Jones practiced suicide drills, instructing followers to drink poison, then telling them that the poison was fake. Jones expected complete loyalty, and the drills were initially a test to see who could provide it.

    Nonetheless, resistance remained. When Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., motivated by constituent concerns, traveled to Guyana to perform a welfare check, 15 Temple members indicated they wished to leave. Jones was humiliated and implemented drastic measures. One member of the congregation, Larry Layton, posed as a defector and led Ryan’s party into an ambush, which killed the congressman and four others.

    At Jonestown, the congregation prepared for its final suicide drill. Contrary to popular belief, the members did not go gently. Eyewitnesses recall many people refusing Jones’ orders and being injected with cyanide. Other members likely noted the presence of guards armed with crossbows and pistols and drank the poison as the least arduous way to die. Approximately 30 resistors managed to escape alive.

    The lessons of Jonestown are as clear now as they were 40 years ago. No single person is a panacea to all the problems, and people who claim they are should be ignored, not worshiped. When an individual promises to fix a broken system, one should look at both the structures they claim are broken and the schema they wish to implement.

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, independent thought persists even under the most severe oppression, and the presence of oppression alone does not warrant blind obedience to any cause. Take a moment to consider the victims of Jonestown humanely and spare your jests for the bullies at the pulpit.
    https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/nat...222119280.html

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    The power he had over all those people is just so wild. I've always found this massacre to be so interesting. The manipulation was pretty impressive.

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    https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/pol...e26a146df.html


    Jonestowns effects on the Western Addition of San Francisco.

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